Sunday, 7 October 2012

I have been to ... The Quebec Citadel, Quebec

The Citadel at Quebec is the largest British-built fortress in North America. (It occupies an area of 37 acres/2.3 sq. km). It is situated on the cliffs above the Saint Lawrence River on Cap Diamant (Cape Diamond), the highest natural landscape feature in the city of Quebec, and was nicknamed ‘The Gibraltar of America’.

The present fortification is star-shaped and built along the lines of a traditional Vauban-style fortress.

It was built between 1820 and 1831 under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Elias Walker Durnford as part of a series of such fortifications that were intended to protect Canada from any possible invasion by the United States of America.

The Citadel remains a military post to the present day, and since 1920 it has been the home base of the Royal 22e Régiment (known as 'The Van Doos'), a uniquely all-French-speaking infantry regiment in the Canadian Forces Regular Army. Because it is still occupied by the military, tours are guided and keep to a rigid timescale.

We began our visit by walking along the wooden walkway (with its three hundred plus stairs) from the Dufferin Terrace to the Plains of Abraham, (it is the thin white line running along the bottom of the photograph shown above) and then around the Citadel's walls until we reached the entrance (shown at the top of the photograph). The entrance is guarded by two Land Service Mortars.

We then made our way through the outer defences to the main entrance into the central part of the Citadel.

Once we had paid our entrance fee we passed through to the parade ground ...

... where we were met by our guide. He took us past a number of barrack blocks, each of which is named after a Canadian Army battle honour.

The first destination of our tour was the Building 15, which is also known as the Powder Magazine, and which houses the Museum of the Royal 22e Régiment. Outside the entrance to the Museum was a Sherman M4A3E8 Tank armed with a 76mm gun.

Our time in the Museum was somewhat limited (seven minutes!) and I only managed to have a cursory look at each of the exhibits, hence the large number of photographs I took!.

The Museum told the story of the French Army in Canada and then the history of the Royal 22e Régiment. The first display case contained a number of French uniforms ...

... and this was followed by a number of well executed dioramas that depicted major historical events of the war between Britain and France for possession of Canada.

The remainder of the exhibits then told the story of the Canadian Army in general and the Royal 22e Régiment in particular.

Like many infantry regiments the Royal 22e Régiment has a mascot. In the case of the Royal 22e Régiment the mascot is a goat who is traditionally named Baptiste (the current mascot is Baptiste X), and who has the honorary rank of corporal. The Royal 22e Régiment has links with the Royal Welsh Regiment, who also have a goat as their mascot.

On leaving the Museum we saw a trophy from the First World War ... a Krupp 5.9-inch/150mm Howitzer.

We made our way up to the parapet to the Prince of Wales Bastion overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. This was the location of a very well preserved example of a RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) 7-inch Gun that was cast in Woolwich.

From the parapet we made our way down towards the parade ground again, passing a M2A1 105mm Howitzer (known in Canadian service as the C1) on the way.

Our walk took us past another barrack block ...

... and in front of the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal 22e Régiment ...

... over the door of which is displayed the Regiment's badge.

We eventually came to the parapet (known as the King's bastion) that runs along the cliff edge above the Saint Lawrence River. This is lined with a number of smoothbore guns mounted on traversing carriages. (It is interesting to note that the pivot points around which the carriages traverse are actually the buried barrels of old, worn-out smoothbore cannons.)

Mounted at the end corner of the parapet in the King's Bastion is a well-preserved example of an Armstrong RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) Gun.

It was designed to fire Palliser armour-piercing shot. These were made of cast iron and the head was chilled during the casting process to harden it. The shot were also fitted with bronze studs that engaged the rifling grooves in the gun's barrel.

Our walk then took us back to Building 10, which was constructed in 1842 to act as the Citadel's final redoubt, but which actually served as the fortress's Military Prison before it was converted into a Museum annex.

One of the old prison cells has been retained so that visitors can get some idea what it must have been like to be incarcerated there.

The loopholes still provide some natural light to the building, even thought they have now been fitted with glass.

Most of the building is devoted to telling the story of the Canadian Army up until the present day, including a display of the small arms carried by Canadian soldiers during the nineteenth century, ...

... information about Canada's recent involvement in operations in Afghanistan, ...

... and a selection of the uniforms that have been used over the years.

We then moved back onto the area around the parade ground, where we saw a preserved example of a Universal Carrier ...

... and a 25-pounder Field Howitzer and limber.

We ended our visit at the Citadel's chapel and memorial to the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The chapel was originally a magazine, and the Regiment's Book of Remembrance is kept in one of the small buildings attached to it.

Next to the Chapel is the Vimy Cross ...

... and the Regimental Memorial that bears the motto 'Je me souviens' (I Remember).

We left our guide back where we started, by the edge of the parade ground near the entrance.

It was only as we were leaving the Citadel that we saw any soldiers ...

... and very smart they look too!


  1. Fantastic series of reports from your recent cruise Bob!

    You are making me think ahead to 2014 when my wife and I are hoping to go on a decent cruise. Your cruise experiences have been a great eye opener for us.

    Thank you for publishing them.


  2. Jim Duncan,

    I am glad that you have enjoyed reading them, and if my experience helps you choose a cruise that suits you, all the better!

    I would write about my cruises even if no one read my blog because I find that it helps me to think about what I have seen and the experiences that I have had. I also 'save' my blog entries (including the images I use) in the form of a diary so that I will be able to look back at them at some time in the future to remind me about where I have been and what I have seen.

    All the best,


  3. Bob,

    Today (Monday, October 8) is the Canadian "Thanksgiving" holiday . . . with all of the traditions attached to such holidays (i.e., we will eat too much and watch sporting events and eat too much, etc.).

    May you enjoy your day with thanks as well, sir.

    -- Jeff

  4. Bluebear Jeff,

    It sounds like a good idea to have a day devoted to enjoying yourself ... and I wish that we had something like it in the UK.

    Have a great day; eat, drink, be merry ... and play some wargames!

    All the best,