5135 Peter Dumbrille recalls his days at both CMR & RMC…

5135 Peter Dumbrille recalls his days at both CMR & RMC…

Long ago in 1952, the experiment in bilingualism at CMR began. In those days, the collective knowledgeable level of French for Anglos who joined from outside Quebec was pitiful, and the day I joined in 1956, it suddenly got worse. French courses were great though, there were four levels of French for the dummies and we only had to go to CMR for three years, so no matter how badly you did, even dropping a level a year, you were in. I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of roommates and French Canadian friends for my survival. Strange how I picked up “Dummy” as a nickname, I’ve never been able to figure that out.

Funnily enough I loved the place, especially the runs ashore in Montreal. We would get bused to the central railway station for a weekend once every three months or so, cram four or five of us to a room and then tackle the nurse’s residences.



How I got through physics, chemistry, and all those engineering courses is beyond me. Luckily, a new General Science course was created on request of the navy so I got amongst that, passed amazingly enough, and overall did not so badly. I became the Cadet Wing Adjutant in my final year there, famous for my meal announcements on the French speaking days. As my French Profs used to say, “We understand you Drumbrille, but we are not sure what language you’re speaking.”

When I read about all the activities at the colleges today, I am amazed, especially the sports. I tried my best to avoid sports, but alas they were mostly compulsory. Boxing was my favourite. The idea was to get punched out on your first fight so you didn’t have to go on. I succeeded.

The on to RMC, in third year we had to assimilate with the Rodents and RMC landlords, but they weren’t really so bad. I actually joined the tumbling team for reasons unknown, but it did keep the vultures away. Then to my surprise, I was again chosen to be the Cadet Wing Adjutant in my fourth year. This was great, as nobody could make me do any sports. Also, I was able to borrow $500 for the graduation ball from my younger brother Paul, who was a recruit at the time. I don’t recall any hesitation over the transaction.

I spent a rather inglorious academic year but on the whole, again I didn’t do too badly, even though GEN SCI was a bone crushing course. It was in that year that I began to understand the importance of it all, especially the leadership challenges. For any of you youngsters reading this diatribe, you had better get right if you are going to rise either within or without the Forces.

Then on to my Navy life. We had ships then Billy. I spent a lot of time on sea duty. Serving mostly on destroyers, I commanded HMCS ANNAPOLIS, the Second Canadian Destroyer Squadron, was on a three year exchange with the United States Navy, one year as Chief of Staff in the NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic, and three years as the Naval Advisor with Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre in Halifax during the First Gulf War. I lucked in, marrying my Halifax bride Carolyn, 52 years ago in Copenhagen during a ship visit there; brining coals to Newcastle they told me. I enjoyed an inordinate time as a Sub Lieutenant under stoppage of leave, confined to ship; but then, one did in those days. 30 days once for nicking the ships jeep filled with some delightful young ladies, burning out the transmission; just for being a gentlemen and returning them to their home. There was also an additional 30 days once for reasons I would rather not say. I lucked in again, I never served in Ottawa. However, I have been frightened out of my two or three times. Once sailing for the Cuban crisis of 1962 thinking it might be all over for us, another time when we nearly lost our Sea King on ANNAPOLIS in terrible weather north of Scotland, once again with a man overboard during refuelling in heavy seas, and twice in close quarters with not so friendly Soviet ships. With that all said however, I’d do it all over again.

I hesitated volunteering to write this but now that I have, I’m glad I did. It brings back great memories, especially of my very good CMR/RMC mates, Dean Smith, Mike Black, Ralph Awry, Dent Harrison, and George Knill. George is ill and has recently lost his wife. I dedicate this piece to him. The very best George, if you ever get to read it.


Peter Dumbrille 5135, CAPT (N), RCN, Ret’d, OMM, CD, ATIW (Also Takes In Washing)


  • Rick Austin

    February 8, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Hey Dummy – pleasure to see that you’re well and still lucid.
    I’m sure you’re aware that Smitty and I have and continue to maintain contact after all these years. Also that I left the Army in ’65 and pursued a business career, mostly with Corning Glass Works.
    Have lived in Southlake, Texas (suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth) since 1983. Finally entered retirement about 3 years ago and enjoying it immensely.
    Diagnosed with bone and lung cancer 26 months ago, but am blessed with a fantastic oncologist and watched closely by my wife Kim who is a nurse. So really no change in lifestyle and activity level.
    Both my sons and families ended up here in the DFW area so I have the pleasure of frequent contact with my six grandchildren.

    Drop a note when you have a moment. eMail is [email protected].


  • JR Digger MacDougall

    February 8, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Nice bit of history
    Thanks for sharing.
    Like Rick, I went through the cancer thing, but I am still on this side of the grass thanks to outstanding medical professionals and staff at the Ottawa General !
    We are in “the zone” and too many of our classmates are “leaving” early.
    See you in the circuit.
    Stay well
    Best regards

  • Dennis Reilley (5438)

    February 8, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Peter,

    As you recall I was one year behind you at CMR and RMC. I always enjoyed your dry wit which seems to still thrive. So amongst other things in the RCN, I did a two year stint as Vice Commandant at RRMC which gave me a total of seven years in the milcol system…great times on both sides of the divide.

    Regards, Dennis

  • Paul Dumbrille (6170)

    February 8, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Hi Peter

    For the most part, I can correlate the memories contained in your article. While I was still in high school when you were at CMR,I recall the stories you regaled our family with when you came home at the few times you were allowed out of Quebec for short periods of sanity. I do recall your inability to learn French, which lasted throughout your career, and which persists to this day.
    When I arrived at RMC as a recruit on the fall of 1960, you were the Cadet Wing Adjutant, and when we were mustered on the parade square for the first time on the our very first day as a cadet, I was greeted by one of your classmates with “Dumbrille, we have been waiting for you!” It went downhill from there. I inherited the nickname “Dummy” and now I know why. I was never able to match your military bearing and ability to impress the college military staff, but I was able to play football, water polo and gymnastics, which were clearly beyond your ability and interest. I obtained an Electrical Engineering degree at RMC, a feat I know you would never have wanted to achieve. Between the two of us, combined we would have made an ideal RMC cadet!

  • Carl Bird Lt(N) Ret'd 14184

    February 8, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Well this was a blast from my past as well. I served on Board GATINEAU and RESTIGOUCHE when you were Squadron Commander. What a great career you had. Very exciting. It has been a long time but I asked Angie about you and Carolyn quite often when I would see her in Yellowknife over the past 21 years.

    I hope you are doing well.


    Carl Bird

  • 3982 Doug Yuill

    February 8, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Peter; Thought we haven’t met, I understand your comments. Having been at CMR as a serving soldier 53-56, and being completely unilingual when I arrived and only a little better when I left, I still treasure many of the memories of my three years (even though my academic records from that time would not be a source of happiness).

    W.A. Douglas Yuill, OMM, CD 4 BGen (retired).

  • Les East

    February 9, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Ah Peter … What other kind of mate would take an RMC junior’s very pregnant wife, who was visiting her Sea King husband’s NATO ship’s visit to Norfolk, to a USN party there and introducing her to guests as his mistress? So cool…

    Your diatribe was well received – even if the good stuff was obviously left out.

    Yours Aye 5554 Les East

  • Gerry Stowe

    February 9, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Hi Peter,

    I recall the good times we had in HMCS SAGUENAY as midshipmen. I also served at sea with your brother Paul in MACKENZIE for almost two years. I remember several of my classmates in the Class of ’62 remarking that it must have been difficult for him with his brother as Cadet Wing Adjutant, a position that held a certain reverence and fear even for those of us not related to you. I enjoyed your article, especially the candour re stoppage of leave, which was suffered by most of us in those days.

    Best wishes, Gerry

  • Bill Shead

    February 9, 2016 at 12:19 pm


    Two thank yous! First for overlooking your guard duty assignment in Corwallis to ensure that a young Cree did not run amok again. Second, for your role in having Hosaqmi returned to Canada. I also remember and am grateful for your assistance in getting an MTB emblem for WWII Veteran in Winnipeg. BZ.


  • Susan ( Eldridge) McCutcheon

    March 16, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Peter,
    I was looking up old friends and came across this post. What a wonderful life you have had and an exciting career…though very scary at times! I have had a great life too, living in Australia for 11 years and now living in Vancouver, near my kids and grandkids…life is good! Take care and all the best to you and Carolyn.
    Sue (Eldridge) McCutcheon