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What’s Happening At RMC

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Photo by: Steve McQuaid

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Model ship docks at RMC; HMS St. Lawrence was built at site of college and sunk nearby

By Ian Elliot – Kingston Whig Standard

The largest warship ever built to sail the Great Lakes returned home to where it was built yesterday, just a few kilometres from where it lies to this day.

A painstakingly detailed model of the HMS St. Lawrence, a massive first-rate ship-of-the-line built at the naval dockyards where Royal Military College now stands, was presented to RMC yesterday.

Built by master modeller Louis Roosen, a Dutch naval veteran of Korea who has lived in British Columbia for 40 years, the model took four years and 4,000 hours to build from scratch. It was presented to RMC Commandant Brig.-Gen. Tom Lawson yesterday morning.

“This will reside in a place of honour at the college,” Lawson said, adding it would remind cadets of the history of the college site, as well as illuminate a little-known piece of Canadian military history.

Built to fight the Americans in the War of 1812, the St. Lawrence was finished just as the war was ending. It was formidable, mounting more than 100 guns and with 700 crewmen, it was larger than the flagship HMS Victory that Lord Nelson sailed into the Battle of Trafalgar nine years earlier. It cost a staggering $500,000 to build, which is more than $20 million in today’s currency.

Little was actually known about it when Roosen started his work as a way to pay tribute to his adopted country.

RMC museum curator Ross McKenzie had to piece together the history and the specifications of the ship through often-contradictory records and historical accounts.

At one point, he had the painful task of telling Roosen that the dozens of long guns he had crafted from brass piping along the top deck of the ship were wrong and had to be replaced with smaller and lighter carronades – short cannons used at close quarters to clear the decks and wreck the masts of enemy ships and whose recoil would not unbalance the vessel the way a heavy gun would.

Everything on the model – from the hull made from a cherry tree in Roosen’s back yard to the rigging that was woven from small pieces of cord – was handmade. Nothing was store-bought.

McKenzie said the ship, largely lost to time until now, is a reminder of Kingston’s place as a major British naval yard – Fort Henry and the fortifications that were recognized as a world heritage site by the United Nations last year were not erected to protect Kingston or the Rideau Canal, but to fend off an attack on the naval facility and the adjacent British army camp.

“This is symbolic of the major role Kingston played in the War of 1812,” he said.

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RMC to parade for Copper Sunday and the Battle of the Atlantic

Officer Cadets (OCdts) of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) will participate in the Battle of the Atlantic Service of Remembrance and Copper Sunday Services at local churches on Sunday, May 4, 2008, in Kingston. Starting at 08:45 a.m., OCdts will first march from RMC’s Memorial Arch to City Hall, exercising their Freedom of the City. At City Hall at 09:15 a.m., His Worship Mayor Rosen will address the entire parade.

To commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic, approximately 100 OCdts will march to the cenotaph at Navy Memorial Park at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes on Ontario St. at 11:05 a.m., joining a contingent from HMCS Cataraqui, Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and Navy League Cadets, members of the Naval Veterans Association, the Cataraqui Association, Merchant Navy Veterans and the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service Association.

As part of RMC’s Copper Sunday tradition, approximately 800 OCdts will attend morning services at St. George Anglican Cathedral, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Sydenham Street United Church, St. Mary’s Cathedral (RC), Saint Fran├žois d’Assise (RC), Chalmers United United Church of Canada and St-Mark Barriefield.

“Copper Sunday” was established as a sharing tradition circa 1880 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church where RMC OCdts first took handfuls of copper pennies, throwing them towards the offering plate to make as much noise as they could. The tradition continues today but gone is the boisterous racket of the earlier years: OCdts now pour their accumulated pennies into the plate from military-issued black socks.

Freedom of the City was granted to the Royal Military College in 1976, on the occasion of its centenary. This privilege was granted “until such time as the Cataraqui runs dry.” Freedom of the City is a privilege granted by a city for a specific military unit to march through the city “with bayonets fixed, colours flying and drums beating” for all times.

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RMC cadets to beautify city parks

The RMC Class of 2009 will work to beautify city parks in the-Kingston area on Saturday, May 3, 2008 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cadets will rake leaves, paint benches and buildings and perform general clean-up duties in Lake Ontario Park, City/Breakwater Park and Confederation Park.

Third-year RMC cadets will participate in a tree planting ceremony at Lake Ontario Park at 3:00 p.m. The event is part of a series of RMC class projects to benefit the Kingston community.

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