Second World War & the Ex Cadet Connection

Second World War & the Ex Cadet Connection

We wish to thank the RMCC Heritage & Museum Committee, in general and 3572 Major-General (ret) Frank Norman specifically for compiling this very compelling summary of the Second World War and the Royal Military College of Canada (Ex Cadet) connection.

NOTES FOR VE DAY – 8 May 1945 – 70 years ago.

College records show that a total of approximately 2,200 Cadets who entered the College between 1900 and 1940, 1,359 Ex-Cadets served in the Armed Forces during the Second World War, with 72 others engaged in special war work outside the Forces.

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Of those who served, 114 lost their lives, killed in action or dying from other causes:

  • the first two were both killed at Dunkirk, both Royal Engineers,  No. 2279. A.F. Galloway, and No. 2311. D.E. Bradford
  • the most senior in rank was No. 1983. Brig J.N. Lane, the Commander Royal Artillery of 4 Canadian Armoured Division, killed when his jeep was blown up by a mine  on 10 Nov 1944 near Bergen-op-Zoom;
  • there were three Non-Commissioned members – No. 1964. CPO J.G. Drew, No. 2638. Midshipman F.L.L. Jones, and No. 2729. Private J.L. Armitage
  • the most senior by College Number was No. 500. K.C. Folger, who entered the College in 1899; the most junior No. 2827. V.S. Allan, a member of the Class entering in 1940.

The highest honour to be won on active service by an Ex-Cadet was the Victoria Cross awarded to No. 1866.Lt.-Col. Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt for the part he played in the Dieppe Raid. He became a POW after the Raid in August, 1942.

No. 1815. Air Cmdre Dwight Ross earned the George Cross for ‘great bravery not in the face of the enemy’.

In a 1946 listing of those serving in the Senior ranks of the Canadian, British and Indian Forces, Ex-Cadets held the following ranks – one General, five Lieutenants General, 21 Majors General, 83 Brigadiers and 87 Colonels, of whom 162 were in the Canadian Forces, and the balance in the British and Indian Forces.

All the wartime Chiefs of the General Staff (CGS) were Ex-Cadets, the last three in the rank of Lieutenant-General – No. 433. T.V. Anderson, No. 749. H.D.G. Crerar, No. 816. K. Stuart (both former Commandants), and No.1019. J.C. Murchie.

Senior Army operational appointments held during the War included:

  • Gen  Crerar as the GOC-in-C First Canadian Army;
  • No. 1596. Lt Gen G.G. Simonds and No. 1032. Lt Gen E.L.M. Burns as Corps Commanders, both having been Divisional Commanders in Italy along with No. 1633. Maj Gen Chris Vokes:
  • No. 1661. Maj Gen H.W. Foster, No. 1341. Maj Gen R.F.L. Keller, and No.1080. Maj Gen C.R.S. Stein as Divisional Commanders in NW Europe, with No. 1623. Maj Gen C.C. Mann as Chief of Staff, HQ First Canadian Army.

In the RCAF:

  • No. 943.Air Marshal Billy Bishop, VC, was the senior Ex-Cadet Air Force officer serving, involved in recruiting throughout the War;
  • by 1945 there were eight Air Commodores, at least two of whom had held senior operational appointments, – No. 1780. A/C M. Costello,  and A/C A.D. Ross, GC:
  • amongst the Group Captains appear No. 2034. G/C P.T. Davoud, DSO, DFC and No. 2474 G/C W.F.M. Newson, DSO, DFC (and Bar); and
  • No. 2364. W/C L.J. Birchall was named ‘the Saviour of Ceylon’ by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the British House of Commons, for having warned of the approach of the Japanese Fleet to Ceylon. Shot down, he spent most of the War as a POW of the Japanese, as Senior British Officer in at least three camps, was sentenced to death on three occasions, yet was later to become the Commandant, RMC.

The RCN had fewer recognized in the 1946 listing as most of the senior appointments were graduates of the Royal Naval College of Canada, such as Rear-Admiral L.W. Murray, the C-in-C Canadian Northwest Atlantic (the only Canadian Forces member to command a Theatre of War), and Vice-Admiral G.C. Jones who was the Chief of the Naval Staff at the end of the War.

However:

  • four did receive a Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the Naval decoration for ‘gallantry in operations against the enemy at sea’ – No. 2184 Cdr D.W. Piers, RCN; No 2397. Lt Cdr J.R.H. Kirkpatrick, RCNVR; No. 2520 Lt Cdr D.R.B. Cosh, RCNVR (who was killed in action), and No.2620 Lieut C.J. Benoit, RCN, and one from the Royal Navy, No. 1779 Captain W.S. Clouston, RN;
  • No. 2210. Lt Cdr J.B. Caldwell, RCN and No.2321 Lt Cdr D.T. Forster, RCN, both received decorations (MBE), and eight received a MID.

Amongst the many POW were Col Merritt with other survivors of Dieppe, & W/C Birchall as shown above, but also:

  • POW from the Defence of Hong Kong where six Ex-Cadets had served in the ill-fated Canadian ‘C Force’, ‘the first Canadian force to get into action, and the last to get out of enemy hands’; and
  • No. 1059, Maj G.B. Mathewman of the 9th Gurkha Rifles was made a POW at the Fall of  Singapore in 1942

By the end of the War, Ex-Cadets again had earned an amazing number of awards for leadership and gallantry, given the numbers who had served:

  • the Victoria Cross by Lt Col C.C.I. Merritt for his leadership at Dieppe, in Aug 1942;
  • the George Cross, by A/C A.D. Ross for saving the lives of two crew members of a Halifax Bomber at RAF Tholthorpe in North Yorkshire, in 1944;
  • 78 Distinguished Service Orders (DSO) (with three receiving a bar for a second award);
  • five Distinguished Service Crosses (DSC)
  • 27 Military Crosses (MC) (with two awarded a Bar);
  • 15 Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFC), (with two earning a bar);
  • 11 Air Force Crosses; and
  • two George Medals (GM) – No. 2319 Maj D.G. Cunnington; and No. 2497 Maj H.W. Mulherin;
  • Mentions-in-Despatches (MID) – the number of individuals mentioned once was 212, twice 16, and three times 3.

 FJN 28 Apr 2015

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