This is the sixth installment of our seven part series on The History of the Royal Military College of Canada, by #47 LCol Ernest F. Wurtele, VD. LCol Wurtele graduated RMC in 1882, served as honourary secretary-treasurer of the RMC Club from 1892 to 1913, was the associate editor of the RMC Review, for ex-cadet news, from 1926 to 1936, and was the first honourary member of the RMC Club.
Thanks to E3161 Victoria Edwards for turning up this interesting nugget of College history.
The History of the Royal Military College of Canada, by LCol E.F. Wurtele
Part 6 – High Ranking Graduates
A number of the graduates have risen to a high place in the Imperial Army, and have done work essential to the success of the operations in which they were engaged. One of the most distinguished of the Royal Military College men has been Brigadier-General Sir E. P. C. Girouard, K.C.M.G., D.S.O. This brilliant military engineer began his active career in Britain in 1888 by organizing the railway arrangements of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. During 1896-1898, while Director of Railways with the Egyptian Army, he planned, constructed, and worked some six hundred miles of railway. The laying of the railway across the desert rendered practicable the operations at Atbara and Omdurman which led to the overthrow of the Mahdi.
When war broke out in South Africa and a man of exceptional skill as a military railway engineer was needed there, the man who had made easy Kitchener’s way to Khartum was sent to South Africa to make straight Roberts’ path to Pretoria. His place in Egypt was taken by another graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, Captain A. Adams. In 1906 Girouard returned to England as Assistant Quartermaster-General in the Western Administration of Chester. His stay in England was a brief one; in 1907 he was made High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria and acted as Governor of the Protectorate in 1908 and 1909, being appointed in the latter year Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the East African Protectorate. The work done by Sir Percy Girouard for the Empire cannot be calculated in terms of money, but his engineering exploits in Egypt and South Africa were worth the entire cost of the Royal Military College since its establishment, and he was only one of many men from the same institution who were doing invaluable work for the Empire and Canada.
Major-General Sir W. T. Bridges, who was to meet a gallant death early in the Great World War as commander of an Australian division at the Gallipoli peninsula, was selected as the first Commandant of the Military College of Australia; Colonel (afterwards Brigadier General) G. N. Johnson, C.M.G., D.S.O., was appointed Director of Ordnance and Commander of the Permanent Artillery, New Zealand Defence Forces; Captain G. M. Duff and Captain (afterwards Brigadier-General) H. C. Nanton, C.B., were selected, out of fifty applicants, to lay out the defences of Chitral; Lieut.-General Sir C. M. Kirkpatrick, K.C.S.I., C.B., is Chief of the General Staff in India ; Captain H. B. D. Campbell was appointed Principal of the Thompson Engineering College, Koorkee, India; Captain W. G. Stairs was second in command of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition under the leadership of H. M. Stanley (1887-1890), and in 1891 was in command of the Katanga Expedition; and Captain H. B. Mackay, D.S.O., in 1891 was Acting Administrator to the Imperial British East Africa Company.
These are but a few isolated instances of the work done by the Royal Military College graduates- in the British Army, but naturally much of their best work has been done in Canada. Colonel F. M. Gaudet, C.M.G., was for sixteen years Superintendent of the Dominion Arsenal and was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel F. D. Lafferty; Lieut.-Colonel R. W. Leonard was for a time Chairman of the National Transcontinental Railway, and had as his assistant Colonel Duncan MacPherson, one of the “Old Eighteen”; Major J. L. Weller is the engineer in charge of the building of the New Welland Canal; J. A. Stairs is Assistant Superintendent, Rolling Mills, Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Co. ; F. P. Jones, General Manager, the Dominion Iron and Steel Co.; Roderick McColl, Assistant Provincial Engineer, Nova Scotia; A. R. Wetmore, Provincial Engineer, New Brunswick; James White,
Deputy Minister and Assistant to the Chairman of the Conservation Commission, and formerly Chief Geographer of the Department of the Interior ; Colonel H. S. Greenwood, Chief of Engineering Department of the Canadian Northern Railway; F. H. Peters, Commissioner of Irrigation of the Irrigation and Hydrographic Survey, Calgary.
Many of the cadets are employed as engineers in the different departments of the Dominion Government; several hold offices as City Engineers in important Canadian cities, and two, Captain H. R. Poussette and Gordon B. Johnson, have held appointments as Canadian Trade Commissioners, the one in South Africa and South America and the other in China and Japan.
Unfortunately, Canada and the Empire do not seem to have given opportunity for the energies of all the graduates, and a number of them have found employment abroad : Macdonald, Gibbs, and Lefevre are contractors and engineers for the Chilian Northern Railway Company ; Douglas is in Texas engaged in copper mining and railway enterprises ; and Clapp was for twenty-two years Assistant Engineer and principal assistant with the Engineer Corps of the United States Army and connected with the construction of the Lake Washington Canal. It is worthy of note that three commandants, seven professors, and nine instructors of the college itself have been obtained from the ranks of the graduates. The main work of the graduates and ex-cadets of the Royal Military College of Canada has been with the Regular Army of Great Britain and the Canadian Permanent Force. Honours have been won by them for distinguished services in all parts of the widely scattered Empire. Before the Great World War convulsed the nations, the following decorations and honours had been awarded the graduates of this Canadian institution; K.C.M.G. 1, C.B. 2, C.S.I. 1, C.M.G. 4, CLE. 1, M.V.O. 1, D.S.O. 12, A.D.C. to the King 2, Royal Humane Society’s Medal 3, Diamond Jubilee Medal 3, Kaiser-I-Hind 2, Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration 10, Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal 6, Medjidieh (Egypt) 3, Sacred Treasure of Japan 1, The Nile (Egypt) 1.
The Conclusion of The History of the Royal Military College of Canada will follow in the next e-Veritas.