5135 Peter Dumbrille recalls his days at both CMR & RMC…
Long ago in 1952, the experiment in bilingualism at CMR began. In those days, the collective knowledgeable level of French for Anglos who joined from outside Quebec was pitiful, and the day I joined in 1956, it suddenly got worse. French courses were great though, there were four levels of French for the dummies and we only had to go to CMR for three years, so no matter how badly you did, even dropping a level a year, you were in. I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of roommates and French Canadian friends for my survival. Strange how I picked up “Dummy” as a nickname, I’ve never been able to figure that out.
Funnily enough I loved the place, especially the runs ashore in Montreal. We would get bused to the central railway station for a weekend once every three months or so, cram four or five of us to a room and then tackle the nurse’s residences.
How I got through physics, chemistry, and all those engineering courses is beyond me. Luckily, a new General Science course was created on request of the navy so I got amongst that, passed amazingly enough, and overall did not so badly. I became the Cadet Wing Adjutant in my final year there, famous for my meal announcements on the French speaking days. As my French Profs used to say, “We understand you Drumbrille, but we are not sure what language you’re speaking.”
When I read about all the activities at the colleges today, I am amazed, especially the sports. I tried my best to avoid sports, but alas they were mostly compulsory. Boxing was my favourite. The idea was to get punched out on your first fight so you didn’t have to go on. I succeeded.
The on to RMC, in third year we had to assimilate with the Rodents and RMC landlords, but they weren’t really so bad. I actually joined the tumbling team for reasons unknown, but it did keep the vultures away. Then to my surprise, I was again chosen to be the Cadet Wing Adjutant in my fourth year. This was great, as nobody could make me do any sports. Also, I was able to borrow $500 for the graduation ball from my younger brother Paul, who was a recruit at the time. I don’t recall any hesitation over the transaction.
I spent a rather inglorious academic year but on the whole, again I didn’t do too badly, even though GEN SCI was a bone crushing course. It was in that year that I began to understand the importance of it all, especially the leadership challenges. For any of you youngsters reading this diatribe, you had better get right if you are going to rise either within or without the Forces.
Then on to my Navy life. We had ships then Billy. I spent a lot of time on sea duty. Serving mostly on destroyers, I commanded HMCS ANNAPOLIS, the Second Canadian Destroyer Squadron, was on a three year exchange with the United States Navy, one year as Chief of Staff in the NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic, and three years as the Naval Advisor with Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre in Halifax during the First Gulf War. I lucked in, marrying my Halifax bride Carolyn, 52 years ago in Copenhagen during a ship visit there; brining coals to Newcastle they told me. I enjoyed an inordinate time as a Sub Lieutenant under stoppage of leave, confined to ship; but then, one did in those days. 30 days once for nicking the ships jeep filled with some delightful young ladies, burning out the transmission; just for being a gentlemen and returning them to their home. There was also an additional 30 days once for reasons I would rather not say. I lucked in again, I never served in Ottawa. However, I have been frightened out of my two or three times. Once sailing for the Cuban crisis of 1962 thinking it might be all over for us, another time when we nearly lost our Sea King on ANNAPOLIS in terrible weather north of Scotland, once again with a man overboard during refuelling in heavy seas, and twice in close quarters with not so friendly Soviet ships. With that all said however, I’d do it all over again.
I hesitated volunteering to write this but now that I have, I’m glad I did. It brings back great memories, especially of my very good CMR/RMC mates, Dean Smith, Mike Black, Ralph Awry, Dent Harrison, and George Knill. George is ill and has recently lost his wife. I dedicate this piece to him. The very best George, if you ever get to read it.
Peter Dumbrille 5135, CAPT (N), RCN, Ret’d, OMM, CD, ATIW (Also Takes In Washing)