Flip Trihey and The Irish Rangers (of Montreal)
On 2 February 1916, General Order 69 authorized the 55th Regiment “Duchess of Connaught’s Own” Irish Rangers with recruiting starting in mid-March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
In fact, to help drum up recruits among ethnic Irish in Quebec for the Overseas Battalion, the Montreal St. Patrick’s Society and the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society held a concert for the nascent unit on March 17th. It followed in the wake of the 110th Irish Regiment (now the Irish Regiment of Canada), which had been stood up the year before in Toronto.
Another public draw for recruits was the fact that the unit’s commander was Lt. Col. Henry Judah “Flip” Trihey, O.C., a lawyer and well-known center forward and team captain with the Montreal Shamrocks when they won the Stanley Cup back-to-back at the turn of the century.
Trihey’s name was printed on all of the recruiting posters, and a special “Sportsman’s Company” was raised, drawn from local lacrosse, track and hockey enthusiasts.
Added to the unit’s leadership was Capt. William James Shaughnessy, the son of Canadian Pacific Railway president, Lord Thomas Shaughnessy, the latter an important donor when it came to funding Canadian units. Lord Shaughnessy had already lost his younger son to the Germans, Alfred, who fell in France with the 60th Battalion just a month after he arrived.
The unit shipped out as the 199th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), aboard the liner/troopship RMS Olympic on 20 December, consisting of 33 officers and 860 enlisted.
Arriving at Liverpool on Boxing Day, the only “service” performed by the unit as a battalion was to take time off of training for a rambling two-month tour of Ireland, where it was used to help drum up additional recruits to “take the King’s shilling” and show goodwill.
It should be remembered this was just after the April 1916 “Easter Uprising” and finding either was hard.
Returning to England, the Irish Rangers were basically dissolved, amalgamated into the 23rd Reserve Battalion, CEF on 11 May 1917, forming the disingenuous 23rd Canadian Reserve Battalion (199th “Duchess of Connaught’s Own” Irish Canadian Rangers), and would never uncase its colors in France. Its men were sent out piecemeal as replacements for other Canadian units on the Western Front, resulting in Triley and several of the other senior officers resigning their commissions in protest.
Officially disbanded on 15 September 1919 and then reborn intermittently as a militia battalion, the unit’s history, along with several others created over the years in “The City of Saints,” is somewhat perpetuated by The Royal Montreal Regiment, whose flag carries 28 Great War, four WWII, and one Afghan battle honor.
As for Trihey, after the war he remained affiliated with assorted Canadian hockey teams and served as Commissioner for the Montreal Harbor Commission, passing in 1942, aged 64. He was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950 and is recognized as “the first man to utilize the three-man line and he also encouraged defencemen to carry the puck.”