This time out I want to begin by promising that every column I write will not be about a trophy held in Shilo. Having said that, this article is about a saint, a hockey game and a trophy on display in The RCA Museum.
The Saint: The Patron Saint of Gunners, Engineers (normally called Sappers) and all who deal with explosives is St. Barbara. She lived in the third century and was the daughter of a wealthy man named Dioscorous (it is appropriate to "boo" when you hear his name). St. Barbara converted to Christianity and, as a result, was killed by Dioscorous.
As she was about to die, she prayed that all who henceforth requested her aid might be given what they asked. At the moment Dioscorous beheaded St. Barbara, a huge storm arose. Fire fell from the sky upon Dioscorous and consumed him utterly. Due to these events, St. Barbara became the Patron Saint to be invoked for protection against lightning and accidents arising from explosions.
Dec. 4 is St. Barbara’s Day.
The Game: Canadian Gunners and Sappers observe St. Barbara’s Day with church parades, open houses, mess functions and sports days. Since the mid 1870’s, A and B Battery of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (the oldest full-time military units in the Canadian Forces) have played a game of hockey on or about the 4th of December to celebrate St. Barbara’s Day. The annual game between A and B Battery is one of the oldest continuing hockey championships in Canadian history.
The Trophy: After World War 1, A and B Battery were stationed in Kingston, Ontario, as part of 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA).
In 1927, a local citizen named Wallie Cusick, who enjoyed attending the annual game, donated a silver cup to be presented to the winner of what was then a 50-year-old tradition. He named it the Kingston Cup. After World War 2, 1 RCHA left Kingston for garrisons across Canada and in Germany during the Cold War.
In 1992, 1 RCHA began calling CFB Shilo home. The Kingston Cup has been played for by A and B Battery almost every year since 1927, in peace and war, with exceptions being made for circumstances such as one of the two Batteries being at war in Afghanistan while the other was back in Shilo The game was even played on the frozen Imjin River during the Korean War.
The 2012 Kingston Cup game goes at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4. If you don’t already have other plans for St. Barbara’s Day this year, you are welcome to drive out to Gunner Arena at CFB Shilo and watch the game. As an added bonus, The RCA Museum will be open free of charge 10-5 that day.
I was the Battery Commander of B Battery 1997-99 and I am pleased to report that we won the Kingston Cup both years. Regardless of which Battery you back (I know who I will be cheering for), you are most welcome to come out and be part of a hockey tradition almost as old as Canada itself.
Wishing you all a happy St. Barbara’s Day!
» Marc George is a retired soldier who served 25 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently the director of the RCA Museum in Shilo. For those of you familiar with CP Style, we are allowing Marc to utilize some military terminology. His column appears monthly.