5023 Dean Smith: Colours, a Wedding and the Cold War

5023 Dean Smith: Colours, a Wedding and the Cold War

I joined the Army as a ROTP Cadet on 6 Sep 56 at CMR. My plan at that time was to earn a degree in Civil Engineering, do my 3 years of compulsory service, take my release and go back to the Maritimes to practice engineering. The transition from high school teacher to Prep year cadet was a bit of a shock. However, the prize at year end was to spend the summer of 1957 touring Canada from Quebec City to Vancouver to Fort Churchill by bus, train and plane. We were courted by almost every Army training establishment. My choice was the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering (RCSME) near Chilliwack, B.C. If accepted I would get to travel across the country and back for each of the next four summers! I became a Canadian on that tour and also made some lasting friendships.

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Although I had to work hard, I enjoyed my 3 years at CMR and third year at RMC. Prior to departing RMC in the spring of 1960 to attend my Third Phase of summer training, I learned that I would be appointed Cadet Wing Training Officer for fourth year. I was pleased with this news but somewhat apprehensive at the challenge it presented. This apprehension increased when on my return to RMC, I was summoned to meet with the College RSM, WO Class1, Sininger whose previous appointment had been as RSM of the RCSME. He explained that he and I faced a huge challenge – RMC was to be presented with new Colours in spring 1961. My job, after he had trained me, was to ensure that the sword drill of the Cadet Officers was of a very high standard, he would look after the rest.

RMC had it first Stand of Colours presented in October 1919. When the college was closed to Cadet Service in June 1942 these Colours were laid up in St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston. The new Colours were presented during our Graduation Parade on 2 June 1961 by His Excellency the Rt Hon General Georges P. Vanier, PC, DSO, MC, CD, the Governor-General of Canada. There have been several presentations of new Colours since 1961. Those interested in the history of the RMC Colours should read the Monograph on the subject prepared by 3572 MGen (Retd) F.J. Norman. It can be accessed on the RMC Museum website (www.rmcmuseum.ca) and click on Heritage Papers.

My recollections of the grad parade are blurred by the passage of time and the fact that I was somewhat distracted, as I was to be Best Man, at my best friend, Mike Black and Joan Marshall’s wedding on 4 June in London. Since Mike was to wear his Air Force uniform for the ceremony, the rest of the RMC gang – Ralph Awrey, Hugh Colquhoun, Al Germain, Dent Harrison and I were to wear ours service uniforms as well. When I arrived in London in the early afternoon of 4 June it had been discovered that Mike’s uniform had somehow gone astray. The groom simply could not wear “civvies” at his wedding, so a suitable uniform had to be found for him in very short order. What to do? Dent was in his navy uniform and I in my new Army Dress Blues, so we were of no help. However, Al, Ralph and Hugh were all in Air Force summer dress – could Mike wear one of these? Al was quite a bit shorter than Mike and Ralph was noticeably slimmer, Hugh had a build similar to Mike’s although just a bit shorter. Looking at the photo of the wedding party one would never guess that Mike was not wearing his own uniform. Hugh was, indeed, a friend in need! With the benefit of hindsight, I, as best man, should have transported Mike’s uniform to London. However, all is well that ends well, Mike and Joan celebrated their 55th on 4 June 2016.

My first posting, after getting my degree from the University of Alberta in the spring of 1962, was to 1 Field Squadron, RCE at Camp Gagetown, N.B. where I expected to end my military career in 1965. However the Berlin Wall had gone up in 1961 and USSR missiles were discovered in Cuba in the fall of 1962. The cold War had become quite hot and the Army had decided that all units in our NATO Brigade must be brought up to full strength. As a consequence I was posted to 4 Field Squadron, RCE, near Werl in West Germany in July 1963. When the time came for my release in 1965 after two years on the “front line” as part of the British Army of the Rhine, a civil engineering career in the Maritimes seemed quite tame when compared to being a Cold Warrior.

My last posting, 1988 – 1991, was to HQ Allied Forces Central Europe at Brunssum, NL. The Berlin Wall had been breached in 1989 and in 1991 I reached Compulsory Retirement Age (CRA) so had to go. The 30 years between graduating from RMC and reaching CRA were great. I have never forgotten that those 30 years were made possible by the 5 years of learning and the people I met at CMR and RMC.