The Militia General Order of September 14, 1866, outlined a reorganization to counter the issues encountered at Ridgeway. Among other changes, it joined five volunteer companies as the 12th York Battalion of Infantry, with headquarters at Aurora. Its first commanding officer, William Jarvis, was a grandson of Queen’s Ranger Stephen Jarvis. The name was changed to the 12th Battalion of Infantry, or York Rangers, in 1872.
Along with a new name, the order also allowed the York Rangers to adopt the motto “Celer et Audax” (Swift and Bold). That motto was an acknowledgement of their Loyalist roots, since the Royal Americans, the first regiment raised by the British in North America, had originally employed it.
The 12thYorks’ first trial came during the North West Rebellion of 1885. That spring an ongoing dispute in Saskatchewan (then still part of the North West Territories) between Louis Riel’s Métis and the authorities had erupted into open clashes. To quell the troubles, Ottawa ordered some 8,000 militia to the area. The York Rangers, who formed a battalion jointly with the 35thSimcoe Foresters, reached Ft. Qu’appelle by train in April 1886.
Since no railroad linked the scene of the fighting to the north, the unit completed the remaining 210 kilometres with a seven-day forced march. One participant recalled the expedition’s rigours, “We had to lie out on a cold night without tents or any covering except a blanket, on eighteen inches or two feet of snow and recommence our journey the next morning without breakfast.” In the event, by the time the York-Simcoes arrived the fighting was largely over, and they saw no action. Nevertheless, 12thYorks were awarded a battle honour for their sterling performance in extremely trying conditions – the first of many for The Queen’s York Rangers. The 12thYorks had passed this test with flying colours, but within twenty years they would face a far more momentous challenge.