H3536 LGen Jack Vance, (ret): “Never Pass a Fault”

Note: We are pleased to present, for consideration by readers of e-Veritas, some very thoughtful remarks made by the late H 3536 Lieutenant General Jack Vance during his time as Colonel of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

Colonel of the Regiment’s Address

PRO PATRIA 2001

By: H3536 LGen Jack Vance,  (ret), Colonel of the Regiment (1997-2002)

More

I have now entered my last year as Colonel of the Regiment and had intended to talk about challenges which we as a regiment have not yet addressed. In fact I can find none, on my list at least. To be sure, there are in train a number of initiatives to be completed and there will always be problems to be resolved and things to be set straight. After all, our slogan urges us to “Never Pass a Fault”. Indeed, I thought I would use this space to spend a few minutes thinking about that old phrase.

I confess that, when I joined the Regiment in the 1950’s, it took a long time to get over a sense of embarrassment about our slogan: having been coined before 1900, it was at the least quaint and out-dated; it spoke of Victorian rectitude and little tin soldiers; more to the point, it was frequently being used as an excuse for abuse delivered in the loudest voice possible. Rightly or wrongly, it gained for The RCR something of a reputation for favouring shiny brass more than fighting.

I am not embarrassed today. I am not embarrassed because that slogan has served The Royal Canadian Regiment well for so many years. In the past four years I have had several senior officers, including the CDS, hold up “Never Pass a Fault” as the slogan to be emulated across the Canadian Forces. It’s worth contemplating why that should be so.

In the first place, our history tells repeatedly of battles fought and won. The fact that we shone our brass in the assembly area simply meant we went into battle mindful of the need for preparations, humble in our determination not to besmirch the Colours, proud of our heritage and confident in ourselves as soldiers.

That confidence, in turn, is founded on the understanding that “Never Pass a Fault” is not an order – it’s an exhortation, a challenge that we must always strive to improve, to “be all that you can be.” When seen as an order the slogan has sometimes been taken literally and followed slavishly. Not only does a mindless attitude develop in representing what the Regiment stands for; but also rigid and impossible standards are established which can lead us astray from time to time.

Leaders in the Regiment have always had to stop and think before invoking the slogan. In the first instance it is important to decide what a fault is. Too strict an interpretation could make a man run back to get his helmet in the middle of a firefight. Too slack an interpretation could turn an honour guard into a shambles. To follow the slogan properly, we have also had to consider carefully what we mean by passing a fault. It’s one thing to fail to tell a man to get a haircut; it’s quite another to tolerate failures of integrity or loyalty.

In the final analysis “Never Pass a Fault” is best said in front of your shaving mirror because it needs to be addressed chiefly to ourselves individually. It should remind each of us that self-discipline is the cornerstone of professional soldiering; that there are standards which set the Regiment apart; and that striving to meet those standards should be a sources of humility, inspiration, and quiet self-confidence. It’s not so much the standards which identify The RCR – it’s the striving to maintain them.

I am proud of our regimental slogan. You should be proud of it too.

Pro Patria,

LGen Jack Vance  (ret)

Colonel of the Regiment

4 Comments

  • 10910 Greg Banman

    January 5, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Just a friendly note. The ret’d designation is for the person, not the rank. The rank does not retire. There used to be a MARCORD regarding ranks, abbreviations, etc. Within this order was the explanation and examples of use of “ret’d”.

  • 13789 Darren Rich

    January 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I worked with LGen Jack Vance after he had retired from the military, during my time at RMCC. In every encounter I found him to be the consummate professional to a “T”, prim, proper, cordial, friendly, engaging, concerned, energetic, and the list goes on and on. I’ve taken many of his leadership tools and have put them in my leadership tool box, although I’d be hard-pressed to use them as effectively as he did.

    I feel very privileged to have met and worked with him.

  • H3550 Muray Johnston

    January 7, 2015 at 10:25 am

    General Vance was elected an Honorary Life Member of the RMC Club circa 2005. His College number, therefore, should be written as H3536.
    Reinforcing the message in his above-quoted regimental address was the rationale for electing him to that Honorary Life Membership. It reads in part, “#3526 Lieutenant General (Retired) John Elwood(Jack) Vance, CMM, CD lead the Committee for the Leadership Book Collection donated by the Class of 1956 to the College in 2002 on their entry into the Club’s Old Brigade. He led a team effort, which included members of the College staff that developed the concept and brought the Collection into being. From concept to fruition he dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and energy to the project over the past decade. The result of his leadership in this project gives the College a leading-edge resource for teaching leadership in a hands-on manner well suited for the Canadian Forces in the 21st Century.”

  • M.McNeil

    September 28, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Thank you sir, firstly for your service, and equally, for the claification, and the eloquence and clarity with which you have in my opinion: illiterated perfectly the most direct and proper use, and interpretation of one of the most, abused and misinterpreted phrases/slogans in the English language.
    My uncle served SSF RCR , and I will be forwarding this to him. For all his good intentions,
    And all my love and respect for him, this he definitely has failed to grasp the use and propriety of this statement surely.
    Health and happy days to you sir,
    B.M. McNeil