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Heritage pieces mark homecoming

August 25, 2011
Amy Dove

Royal Roads Military College heritage pieces are coming home.

It's an apt time too, as Royal Roads University celebrates Homecoming 2011 Sept. 9-11. As part of the formal ceremonies this year, the ceremonial mace used at convocation and a replica plaque of Lord Nelson's quote which used to hang over the entrance to Grant Block will be returned to campus. It's a celebration of the past and an acknowledgement from the current university that the campus has a rich history, says Dave Bindernagel, the last commandant of Royal Roads Military College.

The plaque displays a quote from vice-admiral Horation Lord Nelson (1785-1805) that reads: "Duty is the great business of a sea officer: All private considerations must give way to it however painful it is." The original plaque will remain at Naden Museum.

The brass letters on the original plaque were cut out by students and then carefully hand-filed to the final smooth finish. This work was done by cadets as punishment for any number of infractions.

"This was something that every cadet ... saw as they entered Grant Block," Bindernagel says. While the original quote hung outside of the main entrance, the replica will find a home in the Grant Block near the other historical artifacts recently returned to campus, including the Queen's Colours and the HMCS Royal Roads bell.

"(Seeing the quote return to campus) is rather nice because it tells me that the things that were important to people in the past will continue to be important to people in the future," says retired vice admiral Nigel Brodeur, who attended the college from 1950 to 1952. "I don't think it's a bad motto for anybody ... it makes for good community if you serve others and the country before your serve yourself. It would make for a better country for all of us."

Symbolizing the academic heritage of the college, the original college mace used at convocation will be returned in September. It is currently on display in the Ward Room at CFB Esquimalt. Traditionally a weapon, maces are now used to represent the authority of universities to grant degrees or parliaments to enact laws, says Dr. John Mothersill, the last principle at Royal Roads Military College (from 1984-'95).

"The mace represents the academic excellence the university had," Bindernagel adds.

The mace's four sides commemorate the sequence of institutions at Royal Roads: HMCS Royal Roads, 1940-'42;  the Royal Canadian Naval College, 1942-'47; the Royal Canadian Navy - Royal Canadian Air Force Joint Services College, 1947-'48; the Canadian Services College Royal Roads, 1948-'68; and the Royal Roads Military College, 1968-'95.

It was made prior to the first graduating class from Royal Roads Military College in May 1977. It was last used at the RRMC masters convocation in 1995.

For the ex-cadets that attended the college, bringing these items back is a nice acknowledgement of their history and connection to the place, Mothersill adds. That makes homecoming all the sweeter.

For the cadets who spent up to four years on campus some of it was hell and some of it was not, but the chance to reunite with your compatriots on campus is something they all look forward too, he adds.

Open to all alumni of Royal Roads Military College and Royal Roads University, Homecoming events include class meet and greets, a day sail aboard a navy vessel from CFB Esquimalt, garden tours, dinner and dance and other events. There is a special mast paver stone ceremony to mark an important heritage project and a farewell reception as well.