Text comes from the 'Customs & Traditions' annex of the book "The Royal Montreal Regiment 1945-1989" (affectionately known as "Volume 3"), written by Allan Patrick, & Lt.-Col. R Jarymowyez, CD, published by The Royal Montreal Regt., Westmount, 1991.
Sheet music for ÇA IRA
Sheet music for ÇA IRA

The Regiment boasts its own bugle call and march. The Regimental March “ca Ira” is a composition containing ( in order) God Bless the Prince of Wales, ca Ira, and since 25 April 1958, the Yorkshire Lass.

The Regiment’s first years in France and Flanders during the Great War did not allow for much marching to the accompaniment of music – although there was a band on the strength of the 14th Battalion. Refinements of a unit’s character, such as a Regimental March, were put aside until the end of the hostilities.

In 1920 the Regiment was allied to a British regiment that had also borne the number 14: The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire. Their march was “Ça Ira” and to mark the affiliation it was approved as the march past for the RMR.

Ça Ira” originated in the summer of 1790, during the French Revolution as a chant used by workmen celebrating the storming of the Bastille.

“Ah, Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, La Liberté s’établiera, Malgré les tyrans, tout réussira”

As popular as the “Marseillaise” and the “Carmagnole”, it was often played by French military bands, the music based on a dance tune called the “Carillon National” composed by Becourt. However, during the Reign of Terror it received sinister lyrics more fitting the spirit of the times;
“Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, Les aristocrates à la lanterne, Ah, ça ira, ça ira, ça ira, Les aristocrates on les pendra, Si on n’ les pend pas, on les romp’ra, Si on n’ les rompt pas, on les brûla”

At Famars, near Valenciennes, France, on May 22nd, 1793, the 14th Foot, part of the Duke of York’s Army stormed a French force holding an entrenched camp. They were at first repulsed by a body of the enemy whose Regimental music spurred them on by playing “ca Ira” to raise in fervor the patriotism of the revolutionaries.

Lieutenant-Colonel Welbore Ellis Doyle, Commanding the 14th, rallied his men and ordered the drummers to strike up “Ça Ira”, saying “We’ll beat them to their own damned tune”.

They did, the covering forces were broken, and Famars fell. The Duke of York gave express orders that this air was to be adopted as the 14th’s Regimental Quick-step.

After the Battle of Tournay (1794), the 14th’s Brigade, found itself behind the French lines. Tradition has it that while waiting for nightfall, the band of the 14th played “Ça Ira”; until all the men rallied to their Colours. The enemy assumed they were simply another unit reforming. When dark came, the band played the march, and with Colour flying, the Brigade passed safely through the French lines and regained their own.

It has not always served the Regiment so well. In 1795 the Regimental Band played “ca Ira” while marching through the streets of Dartford. The Regiment was stoned by the populace; “eager to express their detestation for republican doctrines”.

With the integration of the West and East Yorkshire Regiments, in the early 1960’s, their three marches were amalgamated. Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lloyd-Craig, the Commanding Officer of the RMR, adopted the two other marches associated with the reorganized Allied Regiment. The result, though still known as “Ça Ira”, has these marches (played in the following order);

“God Bless the Prince of Wales”, “Ça Ira”, and “The Yorkshire Lass”.

The whole is led by a solo coronet playing the Regimental Call.

Also see Captain (ret’d) Hamilton Slessor’s article posted 23 May 2015