Article by 12570 Mike Kennedy
October 19, 2020
Like everyone in the Recruit Entry Class of 1976, I was deeply saddened by the passing of 12616 Colonel (ret) Christopher Guy Simonds this past week. I don’t know too much about the details surrounding his untimely death; my understanding is that he would have celebrated his 62nd birthday only about a month ago. What I can confirm is that all of his classmates were shocked by the news of his demise, and judging by the comments that have been made in the wake of the announcement of his death, it would seem clear that when we lost Chris, we lost a giant among men, in more ways than one.
Chris was the product of a lineage with a distinguished tradition of military service; I once recall him describing himself as being “a seventh-generation artilleryman, and a third-generation RMC Cadet”. My understanding is that his great-grandfather, Major Cecil Simonds, resigned from the British Army in 1911, and moved the family to Canada, where he worked as a surveyor. When the Great War broke out in 1914 Cecil returned to service, where he was wounded, and eventually ended the war as a Colonel.
Cecil’s son Guy Granville Simonds was destined to become one of the most famous and accomplished graduates that RMC ever would produce. Guy Simonds entered the College in 1921 as No. 1596, and when he graduated four years later he won the Sword of Honour, the Victor Van Der Smissen award, and the Governor General’s Silver Medal. Commissioned in the artillery, by 1939 he was a Major, and had served at RMC as an instructor in tactics. Over the course of the Second World War he made a meteoric ascent up the ranks, and played a key role in directing many of the operations the Canadian Army participated in. By the end of the war he had reached the rank of Lieutenant General, and he was reportedly the only Canadian General who was ever truly successful in earning the respect of Field Marshall Montgomery.
Guy Simonds’ son Charles followed him to RMC, which he entered in 1952 as No. 3521. Like his father, upon graduation in 1956 Charlie pursued a career in the artillery, where he eventually rose to the rank of Colonel and was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Military Merit in 1989. I believe Chris Simonds was the second of Charlie’s four sons, and he entered RMC on August 22, 1976 after graduation from high school and service in the Princess of Wales Own Regiment, where he had attained the rank of Corporal after ten months’ service.
Chris began life at RMC as a member of K Flight, 4 Squadron, whose members finished first at the end of Recruit Camp under the very capable leadership of their highly respected CFL 11348 Brian Clements. Chris himself went on to a successful career at the College, attaining the rank of CSTO for the graduation parade and receiving a degree in Chemical Engineering as a member of the class of 1980. Like his forebears, upon commissioning Chris went on to pursue a career as a gunner, and over the years that followed he held a variety of increasingly senior positions in the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, including a tour as Commander of the RCA’s Home Station in Shilo during the early 2000’s. As did his father, Chris eventually attained the rank of Colonel, and I seem to recall seeing a picture of him throwing out the first pitch in a Toronto Blue Jays’ game to mark the occasion of his retirement a few years ago.
Because we were in different squadrons, I got to know Chris only in passing during the year I spent at the College. We became much better acquainted in the summer of 1977 when we were assigned as roommates in the same platoon at BOTC in Borden. Chris was a very serious and dedicated cadet who set high standards for himself, and I’ve heard some say that he bore an uncanny resemblance to his grandfather. I never had the opportunity to meet General Simonds in person, but from what I have read about him, my impression is that the two also shared much in common in terms of their personalities.
It’s true that at times Chris could be seemingly demanding and impatient with others, but one of the things I soon came to recognize and appreciate was the fact that underneath it all he had a huge heart, and was the kind of guy who would always be willing to do whatever he could for a friend in need. One classmate put it best when he described Chris as being someone who would always be prepared to “give anyone an even break”.
After I left the Canadian Forces in the summer of 1977 I lost touch with Chris, although I did periodically hear reports about his whereabouts and career progress from classmates and mutual acquaintances. I was pleasantly surprised to run into him on Ex-Cadet Weekend of 2016, on the occasion of his grandfather’s installation on the Wall of Honour. Forty years after we both joined the Wing as newly-minted cadets on October 2, 1976, there was a touch of irony in being able to sit together to watch the parade from front-row seats in the VIP section !. After the parade we retired to the Senior Staff Mess, where we had a very cordial chat and I had the pleasure of meeting Chris’s wife and two of his sons, both fine young men.
As we look back on the unforgettable early days that followed our arrival at the College, I think the members of our Recruit Class would all agree that Chris was one of those flamboyant and colourful characters whose friendship and sense of humour helped to make it all worthwhile. Truly, he was one of those people who in their own unique way exemplified the best of the best of what RMC was really supposed to be about. He was taken from us far too soon, but I know he will be fondly remembered, and dearly missed, by all who knew him, and especially by his fellow recruits from 1976.
Rest in peace, Chris, and thank you for everything. Over the course of your lifetime you rendered exemplary service to Canada, to your College, and to your Regiment that lived up to the highest traditions of RMC and the Simonds family. You have departed this world in body, but you are at peace now with God, and will be us forever in spirit. Know that our memories of you will always be an inspiration to those your fellow recruits who remain here in this world, and who each in their own ways still hope to make this country a better place for Canadians.