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From the Archives: April Fools!

April 2, 2019
Jenny Seeman

April Fool’s Day is traditionally a chance to play some pranks on family, friends and co-workers. This type of cheeky activity was not confined to the first day of April for cadets at Royal Roads Military College.

Life as a cadet was a gruelling routine of early morning “wakey-wakey” calls, tough discipline, intense physical training, long hours in the classroom and necessary private study to keep up with the expectation of excellence in academic achievement. These challenges helped form tight bonds among the cadets and create lifelong friendships, as well as prepare them for the disciplined life in the Canadian Armed Forces. Skylarks, or pranks, were a fun way to relieve pressure and often proved to be great team building exercises.

In the college’s later years, reaching 100 days from graduation became a great reason for a party and for special pranks. The challenge was often to find the most creative place to position a fully made bed, sometimes complete with a sleeping cadet! As remembered by Corey Crosby, a cadet at RRMC from 1991 to 1995: “One [prank] that stands out, a hundred days to graduation, as a first year you had to go after the fourth years in your squadron and do something funny and strange to the bed and it happened to be that the cadet wing commander at the time, Timmy Field, he was part of our flight and so we went into his room, took his bed and hoisted it up the flagpole at the castle.”

Some creative placements of beds, 1983

When the cadet block was built at Royal Roads in 1942, the cannons were installed at the main entrance and remained there until the college closed in 1995. The cannons were an object of affection for cadets, despite the fact that maintaining the high shine on the cannons was a task given as a punishment for various infractions. Naturally, they became the target for many pranks. Robert Peers was a cadet at the military college from 1944 to 1946 and later became the commandant. He only admitted to one skylark during his time as a cadet: “The only [skylark] I was involved in was trying to fire one of the two brass canons that were in front of Grant Block. We filled it full of homemade gunpowder, old trousers and things. All we got was a sort of ‘phooph’ as the smoky mass dropped on the pavement in front of the gun. We thought we were going to be ever so clever and hit the castle with a pair of folded trousers. Didn’t work out.”

Long suffering Grant Block cannons, now at the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum

Perhaps one of the most audacious skylarks carried out by a group of cadets was in the 1960s when a staff member’s car was given a new home. As remembered by Murray Thom: “It was about 1965 and I was on the academic faculty but as a military officer so we still had to do the 'officer of the day' duties. I had done my rounds with the duty cadets and gone to bed. Later that night, I got a phone call from the commissionaire saying that there was a car in the lobby of the Nixon Block. I went down and it was my car so I got the duty cadet and told them to find out who had done this dastardly deed, and to get my car back where it belonged. He reported back to me about a half an hour later saying he couldn’t find anybody that knew anything about it. At the end of the year in my mailbox arrived a photograph and interestingly enough the man that’s sort of supervising the whole maneuver is the duty cadet that I asked to find out who had done it!”

For more information about life at Royal Roads Military College, contact the archives, ext. 4122.