Heritage alumni memories

Former cadets at the Royal Roads Military College shared their memories with our Alumni Heritage oral history project. Here's a taste of what it was like on campus in decades past.

Richard (Rick) J. Young, 7454 (RRMC 1963-65; RMC 1965-67)

"Every morning and every evening here on the grounds you had Sunrise and Sunset. There was a ceremony — a small one, but it was done every day. And what would happen is that you would have the officer of the day, and you would have a bugler, and you would have the duty cadet and two assistants if you like, and the two assistants brought down the flag that was in front of the castle.

They would stand at the bottom of the mast and the duty cadet would look at the officer of the day and say: "Five minutes to sunset sir." "Very good." And so we'd stand there and you'd wait for another five minutes and then: "Sunset sir." "Make it so."

And the bugler would start playing. If it was sunrise they had a tune they'd play in the morning, and then at night they had the sunset theme, and as he's playing the flag would be lowered and folded and all that sort of thing and the officer of the day and the duty cadet would be saluting as this is happening, and anybody that was in earshot — if you heard the bugle and if you were outside, you stopped whatever you were doing, came to attention and saluted — in the direction of the sound — towards the flag pole. So that happened here every day."

E.G. (Ted) Dillistone, 3118, (RRMC 1949-51; RMC 1951-53)

"There was the final morning parade of the cadet wing on the parade square right in front of the Cadet Block in May 1950. This was just before our seniors (the first tri-service entry) graduated and left Roads for good.

As the whole cadet wing (about 150 of us) stood rigidly at attention, and as the cadet officers and permanent military members of the staff saluted, the bugle played while the college ensign (still wrapped in a bundle) was hoisted to the top of the flagstaff.

As soon as the bundled ensign was at the top of the staff, and the bugle call ended, the duty cadet tugged at the lanyard to snap open the bundle. Instead of the college military ensign flying in the breeze, it was a pair of Dan Loomis's, 2861, long underwear!"

W.S. (Bill) Laidlaw, 3552, (RRMC 1952-54; RMC 1954-56)

"There was a cadet wing parade on the square opposite the main entrance to the Cadet block (Grant building). It consisted of an inspection by the Commandant, Col. Ware, raising and saluting the flag and a march around the circle.

The flag was on a jackstaff directly in front of the castle. The drill was to raise the flag to the end of the jackstaff to the accompaniment of the band. The commandant and cadet wing saluted the flag as it was raised.

The flag was to be raised when the music started, and no sooner, no later. It was to reach the tip of the jackstaff at the precise moment the music ended, no sooner, no later. In first year, Ray Gray, 3667 and I were doing penance on colour party duty as part of our slack party routine. This particular morning, the party consisted of me, Ray and the flag officer, Lt. Peterson.

Ray and I had not perfected previous colour party duties, so a repeat performance to hone our skills was deemed appropriate. Tiring of the extra duty, we vowed to do better. I was located below the jackstaff with the flag folded in my arms; Ray was at the base of the flagpole holding the lanyard used to raise the flag.

Ray was the largest in our class at about 230 pounds; I was on the small side at about 140 pounds. The band played. Ray heaved on the lanyard. The flag began a too speedy ascent skyward.

In the hope of avoiding another day of duty, I clamped down on the lanyard as it sped through my hands. Ray perceived this to be the result of a sticky pulley, fixed his attention on the pulley at the tip of the jackstaff, and pulled all the harder.

He did not notice my feet leaving the ground. At an altitude of about six feet, I bailed out from my increasingly tenuous position by releasing my grip.

Ray lurched backward. He landed in a heap in the flower garden at the base of the pole. I landed in a heap under the jackstaff. The flag came gently to rest on top of my prone body — all to music — very impressive. Lt. Peterson broke into convulsions of laughter. I can't recall the punishment."

Garry Hollingshead, Class of 1955-57

"The principal punishment seemed to be 'individual circles' and 'term circles.' I think there were other little exercises in the drawing rooms where our sports gear was drying and we were doing push-ups suspended from the drying racks, basically. But my biggest memory is of the circles, and not so much individual circles, which we accumulated because of our own misdeeds, supposed or otherwise, but the term circles, when they had the entire junior class, all 60, 70, 80 of us doubling around the oval between the Grant block and the castle for some supposed misdemeanour, either by an individual unknown or by the class as a whole.

And then, periodically, we had the odd joker in the class, usually towards the tail end of the squadron or the junior class who insisted on pulling the rope on the bell over the front door of the castle when we went through, and that automatically meant another five term circles or 10, or whatever as the case may be. That's something I'll probably never forget either."

Ken Perry, Class of 1950-52

"You did a lot of class circles. And usually when you did a class circle at two in the morning, the thing that made you happy was that some of the seniors were out there with you, and just as you finished the last one, somebody would ring the bell, and you'd do another five circles. That was fun. We were in good shape [laughs]."

Jim Vanstone, Class of 1964-66

"There was nothing that was hilariously funny that I was involved in. I can remember going out and stealing apples from the commandant's orchard that night. I wasn't part of it, but I can remember that there was a prank where some cadets had lured the hall porter — the hall porter sat in the castle here and controlled the PA system that ran throughout all the buildings and in the dormitories where we slept, and the hall porter every morning would wake us up with what was called a 'wakey-wakey' call, or this whistle would blow and he'd have his little wakey-wakey and a spiel that followed.

There was a bell just outside the castle main door here, and some cadets one night had gone out and attached a string to the bell and rang the bell, and when the hall porter came down to investigate they slipped in and locked the door behind him and then ran up and called wakey-wakey about, I don't know, at two or three o'clock in the morning."

Do you have a memory to share? We'd love to hear it.