Flashback | Rétrospective

Number IX in our series on former Military Colleges Commandants.

XI Commandant – CMR

By: E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC ’03)

col-charles-savard.JPG3759 Colonel (Ret’d) Charles Eugene Savard (CMR ’57) OMM, CD, ADC was born in Hull on 8 July 1933. He enrolled in 1951 as part of the first group of officer cadets accepted at CMR. He served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in Petawawa and with the 8th Canadian Hussars in Canada, in West Germany and in the middle East. He also served with the 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada of which he became the second commanding officer. He studied at the National Defence College in Kingston in 1978. He served as the 11th Commandant of the College Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean (CMR) from 21 July 1978 until he retired in 1981. On the 5th of May 1979, Honourable Jean-Pierre Cote, the lieutenant governor of Quebec presided over the presentation of the new CMR flag. In December 1979, the Council of Canadian Military College authorized CMR to distribute bachelor degrees in military and strategic studies. In 1980, archaeologists from Parks Canada, helped by a group of officer cadets from CMR performed research with a view to repair the ruins of Fort Saint-Jean, which were constructed in 1748 and consolidated by the Marquis of Moncalme in 1757. The first 21 lady cadets in the officer-cadet program arrived at CMR on the 10th August 1980. After retiring from the Canadian Forces on 8 June 1981, he worked as the executive director of the Terry Fox youth centre from 1987 to 1998. He organized the “Mondial des Montgolfiers” in Saint-Jean, Quebec. He is currently a recruiter for the chamber of commerce.

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e-veritas: What skylarks (practical jokes) do you recall?

Col. Savard: I remember many skylarks as cadet – several of which I participated in.
As Commandant, however, most of the skylarks are hidden from you.

e-veritas: What do you recall driving cadets crazy on campus?

Col. Savard: While the Regimental Sergeant Major’s voice during a drill session was not unpleasant, it was certainly carrying. “Cadet” “Left Right” “Droit Gauche.” If the drill session was not going well, we would hear “Gentlemens…My shattered nerves…” from staff sergeant Reg Fawey.Although the Regimental Sergeant Majors CWO Jean-Yves Lauzier, MMM CD (79-80) and CWO JR Maurille Bélanger, CD (80-82), both fine gentlemen were the last two RSMs under my command.

e-veritas: On the 5th of May 1979, Honourable Jean-Pierre Côté, the lieutenant governor of Quebec, presided over the presentation of the new CMR flag.

Col. Savard: During the ceremony for the new flag, the Roman Catholic and Protestant padres offered various prayers in blessing the new flag. The Roman Catholic padre took the opportunity to share his philosophy… at length. Having spotted some huge rain clouds, I said “Padre Amen!” to which the spectators replied likewise.

e-veritas: The first 21 lady cadets in the officer-cadet program arrived at CMR on the 10th August 1980.

Col. Savard: Colonel Guay, a female psychologist, came from to CMR from Ottawa to advise the staff about how to respond to the lady cadets. In inspecting a group of 20 or 30 cadets, only two or three would be lady cadets. She advised us to treat everyone equally, not to spotlight the lady cadets, not to embarrass them and not to comment on their physical attributes. Unfortunately, she did not tell the older staff in Ottawa how to behave. A then retired Admiral came to Saint-Jean to inspect the troops: “Hi Joan, I knew your dad in the Navy. I remember how he …. My, you have pretty eyes like your mother’s.”

The dating practice adopted was almost immediately found unworkable. The peers from the same year could date but cadets from different years were not supposed to date. Of course, one 4th year male cadet began secretly dating a 1st year cadet and by the end of the year they were inseparable. Soon after, I left the military and bumped into the male cadet, who was then secretly dating a different lady cadet. A few years later he married and had a family with a third lady cadet.

e-veritas: On the 9th of May, 1981, the Honourable J. Gilles Lamontagne, Minister of National Defence, presided over the end of the year ceremony.

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Col. Savard: Hon. Lamontagne and I sat with our wives. There is a series of photos of us smiling in a friendly way and an angry photo with me almost touching the nose of then Minister of National Defence, Hon Lamontagne. He was trying, unsuccessfully, to convince me of a plan. A few weeks later, I decided to leave the Canadian Forces and I took a job as executive director of the Terry Fox Centre in Ottawa. Two years later, when Hon. Lamontagne was no longer in politics, he agreed to head a fundraiser for my youth center at the Citadel.

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e-veritas: On the 15 of September, 1952, you were among the first 125 officer cadets who arrived at CMR. In time, an officer cadet from RMC and three others from RRMC were added to this list.

Col. Savard: I started as a cadet at CMR on the opening day of 1952. I served as acting chief cadet in November 13, 1952 during the official opening of the College. Governor General Vincent Massey and the Honourable Brooke Claxton, Minister of National Defence, presided during the opening ceremonies.

e-veritas: How did cadets (try) to impress the opposite sex or each other?

Col. Savard: I think that impressing each other was as much a matter of willpower as ability. I wasn’t the best or the tallest officer cadet. I came to CMR with strong military skills, a good command on parade and a good voice from my experience from Cadets Canada. Since all Cadets are obligated to reach the functional standard in their second language before graduation, my fluency in English and French was beneficial and rare in those days. One of the drill instructors, who was a friend of my father, helped me to be a leader.

e-veritas: How did cadets wake up?

Col. Savard: 3735 Mr Jean J.W. Lavoie (CMR RMC 1957) played the bugle and trumpet. He was the most unpopular officer cadet in wing – the other cadets would play tricks on him. We had three minutes after the bugle call to have our bed made and to be dressed in shorts and t-shirt for gymnastics followed by mess hall. When I returned a Commandant, there was no need for everyone to get up and exercise at the same time. The different sections had academic courses, sports periods and activities at various times.

e-veritas: What skill did you learn to do as a cadet that you still do well?

Col. Savard: I learned as a cadet how to iron clothes well and to recognize a bad crease. I do two or 3 loads of laundry and the pressing one time in twenty at home. Living with nine people in tight lodging taught me how to get along with others. I remain very good at adapting to change and dealing with adversity: changing beds, or sleeping on the floor. I also discovered that peanut butter could be an excellent substitute for all or any of my three daily meals.

e-veritas: Who were your roommates in first year?

Col. Savard: I had nine roommates in first year. CMR had three buildings, with ten cadets in each of tweve dorms. In addition, eight or nine cadets lived above the officer’s mess. There were 10 single beds in my room. I slept against one wall. I have seen many of the cadets at reunions.  857 LCol (Ret’d) Reginald N Patterson (CMR RMC 1957) was from Nova Scotia. 3807 Mr AJ Lawson (CMR 1957) became a prominent insurance broker. 3776 VAdm (Ret’d) Hugh MacNeil (CMR RMC 1957) served in the Navy. 3760 Mr Loїc Pagé (CMR 1957) was a skilled hockey player. 3706 Mr Robert Robillard (CMR 1957) returned home to St. Thérèse at Easter.

e-veritas: Where did you live? What do you recall liking about/being irritated by the housing?

Col. Savard: My wife Doris and I lived in the Commandant’s residence at CMR. It was a large two-story wood frame house on a lovely location by the Richelieu River. It lacked central heating and air conditioning but served to host a number of senior staff and graduating cadets.

e-veritas: When you were a cadet, your commandant was Commandant Brigadier-General M.L. Lahaie, DSO, CD.

Col. Savard: On 23 April, 1953 the British Field Marshall B. L. Montgomery, Viscount d’Alamein visited the College. The officer cadets, under the direction of 3697 LCol (Ret’d) Donald AL Lefroy (CMR RMC 1957), paraded in his presence under a heavy rain. Montgomery said that he had never before accompanied soldiers wearing raincoats and he would inspect us once we were in proper attire. We broke off for a couple minutes and left our soaking wet raincoats in the #1 barrack. After the inspection, we accompanied Montgomery to the barrack inspection. Instead of going to #2 barrack as planned, he insisted on inspecting #1 barracks which was filled with wet raincoats. I recall the Commandant Brigadier-General M.L. Lahaie’s red neck bristling under Field Marshall Montgomery’s remarks.

e-veritas: When you were Commandant, one of your cadets was General Walter Natynczyk, the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Col. Savard: I was delighted to hear that General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, took over command of the Canadian Forces during a change of command ceremony on 2 July 2008. I ran into him recently. He is a fine officer who offers strong leadership and expertise. He holds a Business Administration Degree from Royal Roads Military College and Collège militaire royal.

e-veritas: What do you recall about social aspects of cadet life?

Col. Savard: The cadets were not permitted to own a car on campus. 3805 Mr Marcel M.E. D’Anjou (CMR 1957) hid his yellow convertible nearby at his girlfriend’s home in Iberville. The car was our get away cottage. I remember that Marcel had an extremely natty mustache, and he knew a lot more about women than we did.

e-veritas: Please comment on big changes at RMC?

Col. Savard: Although 126 officer cadets started at CMR the first year, only 26 graduated. I raise my hat to the cadets who tough it out and decide to stay. A military career is a hard way of life and it is not for everyone. In the first year, there were problems with the buildings, accommodations, uniforms and textbooks as opposed to well established times. When I returned as Commandant, the academic component was more important since CMR courses were at a university level. Initially, sports, academics, military, and bilingualism were more evenly balanced.

e-veritas: Do you have any practical tips to share?

Col. Savard: In 1952, I joined the army as officer cadet at CMR and I retired 30 years later as Commandant of CMR. The military establishment is filled with warm hearted people. Saint-Jean is a pleasant place. If you get a chance, visit the museum. The museum prepared a video featuring all of the commandants.

Source: Jacques Castonguay Le College Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean.

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For this edition we are starting what we hope is a regular series on families and their connection with either RMC; RRMC & /or CMR.  We invite readers with “family” connections to contact us with the “connection”.  william.oliver@rmc.ca


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The morning after, 1 June 1963: Fred, Dennis and Ann

SISTERS LINK RMC FAMILIES

5675 Dennis Apedaile and 5721 Col (ret) Fred Carpenter CD, Class of 1963, are soon entering the Old Brigade as their fathers did before them. They met on the football field at CMR in September 1958 when Dennis helped Fred, a lineman on the opposing team, to his feet after breaking up the play.
In the half century since, they have married sisters Ann and Charlotte Hodgkinson from Cheshire, England. Both families raised three children each, one of whom, 25276 Ben Apedaile, entered RMC this year, thus extending the Apedaile family’s connection with the college to a third generation.
The late 1884 Leo Apedaile, Class of 1926, began the tradition. Following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps, 6727 Mark Apedaile entered CMR in 1961. Dennis served on the Executive of the RMC Club in the early 1970s and remains engaged with activities of his Class.
With the commissioning of 23736 Lt Adrian Carpenter, Class of 2007, the son of 9044 Cdr D.C.Carpenter CD, MD, Class of 1971, Fred’s family has also had three generations of RMC graduates serving in the Canadian Forces. His father, the late 2368 MGen F.S. Carpenter AFC, CD, began the tradition in 1933. Fred attended the college a second time to complete an MA in War Studies in 1970. His sister, Capt Gillian Carpenter CD, is currently a staff officer at RMC.

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English sisters, Ann (L) and Charlotte with their RMC husbands Fred (L) and Dennis 1 June 2008.