Saw the excellent coverage of Danny McLeod’s funeral in today’s e-Veritas. Congratulations and well done on this. He was a truly incredible man, right up there with Coggins, Birchall, Merritt, Forbes, and others (Miller and Fournier !) who were true examples of the College’s greatest sons. We won’t soon see his like again.
I don’t know whether you were aware, but some years ago in 2005 I wrote a special piece for Veritas commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. A copy of the full draft is attached, and an abbreviated version of this was published in the magazine. The text of the full version was at one time published on the website, but somehow seems to have been lost. In any event, as you will see, one of the people I interviewed for this was Danny McLeod, and if you can use it in some way, you are welcome to do so.
One other interesting story I will share with you. Not long after this piece was written, in November 2005 Barry Winfield and I hosted a group of people for a tour of RMC. While we were there, Danny McLeod came out to a luncheon on a Saturday, and gave an excellent speech that made a huge impression on the group. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this took place on 5 Nov 2005, which much to my amazement turned out to be Danny’s birthday ! It was the only time I ever met him in person, and for sure it was an unforgettable experience.
I am copying this message to Sensei Wayne Donivan, who was the senior person on the tour in 2005. Sensei Donivan came into my life at a very critical time not long after I left RMC in 1977, and much like Danny McLeod was to his cadets, Sensei Donivan was a very important influence in my development, and in a very real sense, my survival. When we visited RMC in 2005, it was the first time we had seen one another in 25 years. We have kept in touch since that time, and recently I sent him Ted Nurse’s biography of Danny.
In any event, thanks again and congratulations on the job you did. My sincere condolences to all of Danny’s friends, family, and former cadets and military colleagues. Hope you will find the attached interesting.
12570 Mike Kennedy
Article for July 2005 Veritas – FINAL DRAFT
The Greatest Generation
By 12570 Mike Kennedy
Victoria Day, 2005
Life is full of coincidences, and sometimes they can come to light in the most unexpected ways.
Last summer, while on holidays in Quebec City, my family and I had the pleasure of being hosted for dinner at the Garrison Club by 4100 Jacques Choquette and H 15200 the Honourable Gilles Lamontagne, who as it so happens was MND at the time my class graduated in 1980. Coincidentally, all three of us are from Quebec, and all of our College Numbers end with a “0”.
An even more interesting coincidence came to light much later on, when I discovered that both Mr. Lamontange and my son Shane share the same birthday – April 17 – and that the two were born exactly 75 years apart, Mr. Lamontagne in 1919, and my son in 1994.
After finishing our meal Mr. Lamontagne very graciously took us on a tour of the Club, and gave us the chance to view all manner of Quebec City military memorabilia that is now on display. Among other things, we saw a photo taken in the summer of 1940 of the officers of the Royal Rifles of Canada, one of the ill-fated units that eighteen months later fought heroically in the defence of Hong Kong, and whose surviving members later suffered the horrors of captivity in a Japanese POW camp.
Here again, another coincidence emerged. In the second row of the photo I saw the likeness of a very young officer, Lieutenant F.H. J. Royal, who surname is the same as the prefix borne by his regiment. Thirty years after this photo was taken, by then POW-survivor Royal was superintendent of the Laurentian Regional School Board at the same time that I was entering high school in Lachute, Quebec.
What I’ll remember most about that evening, however, was something Mr. Lamontagne said to my son just before we adjourned. As we were finishing our tour of the Garrison Club, he turned to Shane and said “You have a great future ahead of you as a Canadian.”
At ten years of age, my son was obviously much too young to understand the significance of what Mr. Lamontagne was saying to him. But as he grows up, one thing I do want Shane to understand is that whatever future he may enjoy as a Canadian was bought and paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of the Canadians of Mr. Lamontagne’s generation.
Between 1939 and 1945 Mr. Lamontagne, my son’s grandfather – also, coincidentally, an RCAF veteran – and over one million other Canadians like them demonstrated extraordinary courage and determination in their crusade to bring one of the most evil regimes the world has ever known to its knees. Their efforts helped to bring freedom, hope, and new opportunity to millions of people who suffered under the oppression of the Axis powers, and at the same time, profoundly transformed Canada’s sense of identity and her role on the world stage.
In 1914, the first time Canada went to war as a nation, patriotic fever spread like wildfire and men from all walks of life clamored for the opportunity to participate in what many of them thought would be a glorious adventure. In the first weeks of the Great War recruiting offices across the country were flooded with volunteers eager to fight for King and Country. It was widely expected that the war would a short-lived affair that would be over by Christmas, and certainly no one could envision the gruesome carnage that over the next four years would devour millions of lives, 60,000 of whom would be Canadian.
When war came again in 1939, Canadians were much more circumspect about the prospect of what lay ahead. For some, taking up arms once again was an obligation to be borne, a duty that was part and parcel of being loyal British subjects. For others, the outbreak of war offered an opportunity to escape the grinding poverty and despair that were the legacy of ten years of the Great Depression. No one, however, greeted the advent of the new conflict with the same naïve enthusiasm that had washed over Canada 25 years earlier.
By the time that victory was declared six years later, the Second World War had become the defining event in modern world history, and a period which was to have a profound influence on subsequent developments throughout the remainder of the 20th century. Out of a population of just fourteen million people – roughly equivalent to the current population of Moscow or Manila – nearly 1.1 million Canadians served in uniform at some point during the war. Of these, 55,000 were wounded, 9,000 were taken as prisoners-of-war, and 42,000 made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Ex-Cadets figured prominently among the ranks of those who led Canada’s soldiers, sailors, and airmen to victory. On land, the Canadian Army owed much of its success in Italy and Northwest Europe to the leadership provided by Generals such as 749 Harry Crerar, 1596 Guy Simonds, 1633 Chris Vokes, and 1032 Tommy Burns. During the ill-fated Dieppe raid of 1942, 1866 Cecil Merritt of the South Saskatchewan Regiment earned the Victoria Cross for his heroic leadership under fire, one of two Canadian VC’s to be awarded on that tragic and terrible August day.
At sea, Rear Admiral Leonard Murray (a product of the short-lived Royal Naval College of Canada) directed all naval forces involved in protection of North Atlantic convoys, and earned the distinction of being the only Canadian officer to command an Allied theatre of operations during the war. Young naval officers such as 2184 Desmond Piers and 2576 William Hayes guided convoys across the North Atlantic through the deadly gauntlet that had been laid up by the U-boat crewmen of the Kriegsmarine, and kept secure the vital lifeline that sustained the British through the darkest days of the early war years.
And in the air, 2364 Leonard Birchall averted what could have been a second Pearl Harbor when he detected a Japanese fleet poised to attack Ceylon. His extraordinary fortitude and leadership during three years of captivity subsequently proved that perhaps more than any of us, it may be the “Slashers” who are destined to rise to true greatness.
Today, 60 years after the end of the Second World War, it is estimated that only about 250,000 veterans of that conflict remain alive, all of whom are now well past the age of 80. Were they really the greatest generation of Canadians ? Apart from the handful of Great War veterans who are still alive, and those who are survivors of the Korean War, certainly the men and women who served in the Second World War are the greatest generation whose members still remain with us. In a society that has become obsessed with materialism, instant gratification, and the illusory trappings of “success”, oftentimes it is all too easy to forget that everything we have in Canada today, we owe to the gallant lads and lasses who risked everything to stand and deliver during those six perilous and pivotal years.
Here, in their own words, are the stories of four members of the RMC Club who experienced the horrors and the triumphs of the greatest conflict mankind has ever known. They are four true Canadian heroes whose actions in battle reflect great credit upon the Royal Military College and the unique place it occupies in Canadian history.
Click here for their personal story…
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