Commandant Series – Stuart, Cunningham & Avant

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XV Commandant of RMC

816 Lieutenant General Kenneth Stuart, DSO, MC, ADC was  born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec on September 9, 1891. He studied at  Royal Military College of Canada from 1908 until he graduated in  1911. He served with the Royal Canadian Engineers overseas 1915-18.

He returned to RMC as an general services officer 1 from 1934  – 1937. He then served as a professor of tactics at RMC from 1937-8. He  delivered a lecture to the senior class in 1937 on the origin and  practice of recruiting (hazing). He suggested that by 1925, the recruiting at RMC was a hybrid of customs from RMC, the Naval College  which had been located on college grounds and West Point. He argued that the senior cadets were abusing their priviledge in administering discipline and in the conditioning of recruits. He found that petty bullying might attain superficial results in training such as smartness on parade but it was out of date and should no longer be tolerated. He argued that discipline should be based on confidence, respect and loyalty to one’s self and one’s comrades and one’s superiors, not on fear of punishment. The lack of judgment and abuse of privilege was potentially prejudicial to the future of the college and the career of the commandant. As a result of the hazing, some cadets had run away and some parents had proposed to withdraw their sons. Incidents had been the subject of letters to the Commandant, to NDHQ and to members of parliament. By 1938, Stuart believed that they had succeeded in reducing the severity of the recruiting and in eliminating some of the hazing practices.

As Director Military Operations and Intelligence in NDHQ from 1938-9, he was editor of the Canadian Defence Quarterly and an elected memberof the Royal Military College club. After the Canadian declaration ofwar in 1938, he attended a meeting with the Chief of the General  Staff, Major General TV Anderson, previous commandant Major General Matthews and present commandant Brigadier Harry Crerar to draw up apolicy for the college. The group recommended commissioning the top two classes of the college and recommended that the first and second
year continue until they were commissioned in spring 1940. RMC would then become an officer’s training establishment for special war courses of a year’s duration rather than gentlemen cadets. Brigadier Stuart suggested that the Royal Military College club prepare a list of ex-cadets who wanted to serve as officers.

Brigadier Stuart succeeded General Crerar as commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada from 1939-40. To suits the needs of theshortened courses and to meet the requirements of the war, he made  several changes to the college. The remaining two classes at the college were reorganized into four companies. As there were no recruits, there was no recruiting. As the permanent force member of  the staff left for the front, the civilian members of the staff were  called out as members of the Non-Permanent Active Militia to give military instruction.

A new intake class of 100 recruits arrived in Kingston in August 1940 for a two year course with a longer academic year and higher military content. Instead of being issued the traditional blues and scarlets, they were issued khaki battledress and officer’s barathea.

He was succeeded as commandant by Major General H. Hertzberg on 5 July 1940.

Brigadier Stuart served as Deputy Chief General Staff (1940 -1) followed by Vice Chief of the General Staff (1941) and Chief of the General Staff (1941-1943).

Lieutenant-General Kenneth Stuart briefed the Royal Commission which examined the Hong Kong operation on the Canadian Expeditionary Force to the Crown Colony of Hong Kong on 1  March 1942. (Link to the Hong Kong Enquiry)

He served as Chief of Staff Canadian Military Headquarters, England from Dec 1943 to Nov 1944. He served as Acting General Officer Commanding, 1st Canadian Army, England until November 1944.

The Government of Canada imposed Conscription in November 1944 in part, due to his General Stuarts’s forecasts of infantry casualties. He was awarded the Order of the Bath, the Distinguished Service Order andthe Military Cross. He died on November 3, 1945 in Ottawa, Ontario.

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XVII Commandant – RMC

douglas_gordon_cunningham2.JPG1841 Brigadier General Douglas Gordon Cunningham  CBE DSO ED QC was born in Kingston, Ontario (ON). He was the son of Arthur Breden Cunningham and Katherine (Gordon) Cunningham of Kingston. He was educated at Kingston Collegiate, Upper Canada College, Toronto ON. He graduated from the Royal Military College, Kingston in 1929. He studied at Osgoode Law School, Toronto. In 1933, he was called to the Bar of Ontario and he had a law practice in Kingston.

In November 1939, he married Isabelle Simpson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Huntington Simpson of Kingston. They had two sons; John Douglas and Ian Simpson.

He served as adjutant of the Princess of Wales Own Regiment. He was brigade major of a Canadian infantry brigade which took part in the Dieppe raid in 1942. He served as General Service Officer 1, 1st Canadian Corps in 1943. At the beginning of WW2, Captain Cunningham commanded the Camerons of Canada and as brigadier, commanded the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade in 1944. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry and distinguished services in the field of battle. He was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (Canada). He was a member of the Order of the British Empire. He returned to the Royal Military College as Commandant in 1944-5, but this was now a wartime training establishment. After retiring from the military in 1945, he returned to his law practice and he was a director of several companies. In 1946, he was part of a deputation which interviewed the Minister of National Defence about the proposal not to reopen RMC. He was a member of a subcommittee of the RMC Club which urged the reopening of the college in 1946. He served as president of the RMC Club of Canada in 1946. In 1946 he was created King’s Counsel which later became Queen’s Counsel (QC) when Elizabeth II ascended to the throne. He died July 18 1992.

Source #1: Preston “Canada’s RMC: A history of the Royal Military College”

Source #2 Source #3

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Group Captain Alan Frederick Avant DSO DFC C BME 8th Commandant of RRMC

Group Captain Alan Frederick Avant DSO DFC C BME was born in September 1922 in Haughton, Saskatchewan and was educated at Haughton and the University of Saskatchewan.

In March 1941 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and was trained as a pilot. He received his commission as a Pilot Officer and in February, 1942. Avant completed his training overseas and joined 115 RAF squadron, flying Wellington bombers until June 1943 when he was posted as an instructor to 6 RCAF Group. He was transferred to operational duty as a flight commander with 426 Thunderbird Squadron. He was Mentioned in Despatches – No.115 Squadron – Award effective 20 April 1943 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 2198/43 dated 29 October 1943. Avant was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC): One night in March 1943, this officer captained an aircraft detailed to attack Berlin. Whilst over the city his aircraft was held in searchlights and subjected to intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire . The bomber was repeatedly hit and one of its engines was damaged. Undeterred, Flight Lieutenant Avant executed his bombing run exactly as planned, releasing his bombs with precision. By skilful evading tactics he then succeeded in piloting the bomber out of a perilous situation although, in so doing, it sustained further damage and lost some height. Almost as course was set for the homeward flight, the damaged engine burst into flames. Efforts to extinguish the fire were successful and displaying fine airmanship, this captain flew the damaged bomber to an airfield in this country. Whilst over the airfield, one of the port engines became defective but Flight Lieutenant Avant effected a masterly landing with two engines unserviceable. This officer has at all times displayed high courage and outstanding determination in the face of the enemy.

Avant served as an instructor to 6 Bomber Group RCAF and then completed a second tour with 426 Squadron RCAF, for which he was awarded& n bsp;a Distiguished Service Order (DSO): This officer has completed numerous sorties on his second tour of operational duty. He is a highly skilled and fearless squadron commander, whose gallant leadership has been well reflected in the fighting qualities of the squadron. His devotion to duty over a long period has been unfailing.

After the war Avant resigned from the RCAF to earn a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (BME) degree at the University of Saskatchewan. After several senior appointments, which included a stint as the 8th Commandant of Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, B.C. (1960-63),

Avant served as CO of No. 1 Wing of the NATO Air Division in France from August 1963 to August 1966. He retired from the Canadian Forces in December 1976 with the rank of Group Captain.

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A quick – Who Am I?

major_general_charles_stein.JPGI was born in 1897. I earned a war certificate from RMC in Kingston in 1915. I served in the Royal Canadian Engineers.

I returned to RMC from 1936-40 as Lieutenant Colonel staff-adjutant. In May 1939, I announced to the Royal Military College on behalf of the Commandant 816 Brigadier K. Stuart that the present class would not be offered commissions until June 1941. This decision was made because the government had decided that an applicant for a Canadian commission had to be at least 20 years old. Ex-cadets were delighted by this policy. The largest recruit class since World War I, one hundred cadets, arrived in Kingston in Augusy 1940.

I was promoted to Brigadier, General Staff, army headquarters in 1943 and Major-General Commanding Officer of the 5th Canadian Armored Division from Jan 1943 to Oct 1943.

Who am I?

a) 1119 John JH Price (RMC 1915)

b) 1089 Charles RS Stein (RMC 1915)

c) 1131 Stanley PAS Todd (RMC 1915)

Answer: b) 1089 MGen (Ret’d) Charles Ramsay Stirling Stein (RMC 1915)

Commandant Series – Researched by: 3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC ’03)