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À l’approche de l’entrée de notre promotion dans la Vieille Brigade, plusieurs souvenirs remontent à la surface. Je vais tenter d’en écrire quelques uns; certains en français, certains en anglais.

As the date of entry of our Class into the Old Brigade approaches, many memories resurface; I will try to write some of them – in French or in English.


The recruits used to do “circles” as a penalty for poor performance; sort of a menial punishment that senior Cadets could impose on recruits only during recruit camp, for example for a poorly made bed (I actually got a circle for “Extraneous lines on your pit” – CFL Hugh McEwen was a master of the English language), for dust in your sink (how is that possible when you use it everyday to shave and wash?), railroad tracks in your shirt, or some other such travesty of discipline. Senior Cadets could “award” a number of circles equivalent to the number of bars they wore: two, three, four or five. A circle (and I ran many) was a quarter-mile run (once around the track) in no less than 90 seconds. Circles were run in the morning before class. If you had a circle to run, you had to get up, put on your shorts, t-shirt and issue-runners (in those days, they issued flat-footed runners like Converse All-Stars, which we commonly called gravity boots) and form up in three ranks to be inspected by the Senior Cadet Duty Officer at 6 AM. Your shorts had to be pressed (!) and your runners white…or you could be awarded more circles. Sometimes it was very cold in September mornings and I remember many times my kneecaps bobbing up and down while I was being inspected, I was so cold.

Circle runners would form up in front of LaSalle building, in the dark under the light of the lampposts. After inspection, the group would start running in three ranks around the track under the watchful eye of the Duty Cadet Officer. Now, the maximum number one could run in one day was four circles so that Cadets had time to get ready for class at 8 AM. However, if the formed group did not run the circle in less than 90 seconds, it did not count: the entire group would have to go around one more time. So the guys who only had one circle to run that morning would usually try to be at the front of the group so they could set a quick pace and not have to run more than once around the track. Those who had four to run wanted to conserve energy and run no faster than 90 seconds so you would hear a lot of “Hey! Slow down in front!”

Once you were finished running the required number of circles, you had to present yourself to the Cadet Duty Officer who usually stood on a bench back in front of LaSalle. You had to report to him (College number, name, initials, Squadron, Flight, etc) standing perfectly at attention, and explain that you completed your X circles until he said “Carry on!” then run back to the barracks for a two minute shower and change for breakfast where you continued to sweat for an hour.

To be continued

Pour la partie 1 de cette série, veuillez voir ici. / For Part 1 of this series please see here.

Pour la partie 2 de cette série, veuillez voir ici. / For Part 2 of this series please see here.


  • 10982 Chuck Oliviero

    April 21, 2020 at 10:08 am

    Ah, the memories! What Michel has not mentioned is that many of us INEVITABLY failed the initial inspection and would get MORE circles. Thus, if you got 2 from your CSC and got 3 (stained singlet, crease on your PT shorts, shoes not white enough), you got a return visit at 0600 the next morning. This vicious circle (pun intended), would last until you got a sympathetic Cadet Duty Officer who didn’t add to your circle count.
    One wonders how we made it to Second Year . . . .

  • Mike Kennedy

    April 21, 2020 at 10:42 am

    An interesting historical commentary about the role of circles as a punishment for all manner of trivial offences, both real and imagined. As a recipient of 133 of the best, this article struck an obvious chord with me.
    When I was a recruit a few years later in 1976, things had apparently changed. Circles could be awarded not only during recruit camp but also all throughout first year, though the number awarded declined dramatically as the recruits acclimatized to life at the College. Circles were run at night after study hours, the maximum number to be run in one day was eight, in two blocks of four, with a short rest break in between.
    In addition to be awarded by cadet officers based on their number of bars, circles could also be awarded by commissioned officers, up to a maximum of eight in total.In practice, I can recall only one instance where this took place, the eight circles being awarded by a much-unloved R22eR Captain who was a Squadron Commander (perhaps not surprisingly, he was not an Ex-Cadet).
    One of the worst things that could happen to a recruit would be to suffer an injury that rendered him unable to run. In this case, the unlucky recruit would continue to accumulate circles, not unlike compound interest. Once recovered, the recruit would be required to run off the balance due. I know, because this happened to me, and one late winter day in 1977 I was informed by our CSTO that I had a huge number of circles outstanding.
    I’m not sure when this practice eventually ended it. Over the years I have heard some Ex-Cadets defend the practice of running circles on the grounds that it “built character”. In my view, that’s debatable. it is true that the awarding of circles (or more precisely, the desire to avoid them) did provide some incentive for new recruits to more quickly master the intricacies of their new life at the College. However, it was also a practice that at times left itself open to abuse. In fairness, most senior cadets were relatively judicious in exercising their power to award circles. But there were always a few who used every possible excuse to hand out prodigious numbers of circles, and who used their authority to deliberately target individual recruits they did not like.
    I would be interested in the thoughts and recollections of other Ex-Cadets on this issue. Certainly, in today’s Canadian society, I think the practice of awarding circles would be highly unlikely to be tolerated – the College would have a major human rights case on its hands in no time.
    Other comments ?

  • 7108 john penney

    April 21, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    I was at CMR as a recruit in 1962. We ran circles for the entire Prep year. We ran the circles at 10pm in full No 5 uniform (yes with great coat in winter). We ran around the parade square (1/3 mile) and could run up to 6 a night.

  • Réjean Landry

    April 21, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    On the question of some cadets giving excessive number of circles, understanding how authority and power could get to some people’s head was an important lesson to learn, quite cheaply in the context of the military colleges. And you improved your fitness as a bonus!

  • Layne Larsen

    April 21, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    At RRMC you could run circles several times per day, but as individuals which meant that you could run as fast or as slow as you liked, and they lasted all year. I don’t recall ever having a day that I had less than two–except once. My CSC used to give me two every day for some problem with my room, so one day I went out and ran two and it was a day that, for whatever reason, he didn’t give me any! As a result, the CFL gave me three more for running circles I didn’t have to run!

  • 3334 Dave Wightman

    April 21, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    The running of circles originated at CSC Royal Roads and may even have been used during the RCNC days during the war. I was in the Class of 1950-1952 and we ran and awarded plenty of circles. The Circle at RR was not a prepared running track but was (and is) an elliptical paved driveway between the Castle and the Cadet Block about 400 metres in length (I’m guessing.)There was a fairly significant grade between the Castle and the Cadet Block so it was not an easy run. Senior year cadets (not just Cadet Officers) could award circles to Junior year cadets whenever they wanted. Improper turnout on parade (froust!) and showing impertinence towards a senior, along with any number of other sins were licence to award circles. I do not recall any limitations on the numbers of circles that could be awarded but the Cadet Officers usually made sure the system was not abused. The worst penalty was called “B Punishment” and this was only given by a commissioned staff officer after a disciplinary hearing. This involved running the circle in battle dress uniform wearing web belt, boots and gaiters and carrying one’s rifle above the head. This was tough, especially the uphill segment! Some juniors were so prone to shortcomings that they would be on the circle almost every day. At least one of my classmates left the college after suffering too much of this punishment. There were only two years in residence back then so we only endured circles for one year. By today’s standards it would probably be a violation of the Charter but back in the fifties it was just run-of-the-mill hazing. I hope there is no such summary punishment still in use!