RMR TEWT: The Battle of Saint-Eustache

Capt Louis-Philip Rousseau-Filteau going over some urban warfare theory prior to discussing the application of this in various locations in Ste-Eustache where combat had taken place. Photo credit: Lieutenant-Colonel Maciej Jonasz

Article written by Second-Lieutenant Yaroslav Krymov

Westmount, Quebec – 13 May 2024: Last Saturday, a group of us aspiring officers had the honour of accompanying the RMR during a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT) in Saint-Eustache, the site of one of Canada’s last rebellions. A Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT) is a military training exercise where commanders and staff practice planning and decision-making on real terrain, but without deploying actual troops. It focuses on understanding the tactical situation, terrain analysis, and the execution of military operations in a simulated environment, enhancing strategic skills and readiness.

The Battle of Saint-Eustache, which took place in December 1837, was a clash between Patriote forces and British troops during the first rebellion in Lower Canada. This final battle of the rebellion culminated in a decisive defeat for the Patriotes, with the church of Saint-Eustache, where they had sought refuge, still bearing the scars of British artillery fire.

During our field trip to Saint-Eustache, Capt Rousseau-Filteau provided us with a detailed history lesson on the events, highlighting the military tactics employed by the British and drawing parallels with modern tactics used by the Canadian Armed Forces. It was remarkable to discover that, despite advancements in weaponry, the fundamental principles of military strategy remain unchanged.

In addition to our regular physical training sessions on Tuesday nights, the RMR conducts numerous classroom sessions where the Depot Platoon learns about the theoretical aspects of military concepts such as the “7 Section Battle Drills” and “Reconnaissance,” among others. Some of these theoretical lessons are then put into practice in our gymnasium, providing us with the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with orders, terminology, physical movements, and the weight of our gear.

Moving from a 2D depiction on a whiteboard to practical rehearsals in the gymnasium helps us visualize obstacles and challenges, but it still leaves much to the imagination. The field trip to Saint-Eustache offered us a firsthand experience of the complexities of urban warfare.

Urban combat poses unique challenges for military forces, including navigating narrow streets, minimizing collateral damage, and avoiding civilian casualties. It demands specialized training, tactics, and equipment to execute operations effectively while achieving mission objectives.

Walking the streets of Saint-Eustache and planning hypothetical assaults on local buildings provided us with a deeper understanding of the complexities of urban warfare. 2D drawings on a whiteboard fail to capture the reality of obstacles such as trees, cars, debris, and concealed threats lurking behind every corner. The physical exertion and mental strain endured by soldiers during hours of obstacle clearance cannot be understated.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as an infantry officer with the RMR. From my first day, every Tuesday and Wednesday night has been dedicated to physical training, classroom lectures, and practical rehearsals. I look forward to continuing my journey as a reservist as I embark on BMQ and further officer training phases this year.

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