E3161 Victoria Edwards in conversation with 3010 Peter McLoughlin (RRMC RMC 1952), who served as the RMC Club President from 1987-88.
Peter McLoughlin: My father S/Ldr. Joseph McLoughlin had served in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1916, spending 2 years in Bagdad (Middle East) in the 1920s. After he left the service in 1928, my parents married and considered immigrating to New Zealand, Australia, Rhodesia, Argentina, or Canada searching for a better climate and a pleasant life. On their way to New Zealand, they stopped for a visit in beautiful British Columbia and stayed. My two siblings and I were born in Victoria; As a child I played tennis on the grounds of Hatley Park, now Royal Roads. My father was recalled to active service with the RAF during World War II (1939-1945). Since my mother had died, my two siblings and I spent the war years in Ireland; I attended Glenstal Abbey, in the depths of County Limerick, Ireland with a number of other allied kids. I was later educated at Downside, Bath, Somerset, England. A pre-war family friend, RCNC273 LCdr (Ret’d) Hamish Bridgman (RCNC 1946) sent me a copy of his Royal Roads Log which included a photo of a recruit pushing shoe polish by the nose across the parade square during initiation; I thought it was the sort of place I’d enjoy. I applied at the High Commission in London. Although RMC had closed during the war, several ex-cadet families were major factors to get it going again in 1948.
Although my interviewer found me an arrogant fellow, I was accepted for some strange reason. When I arrived at Canadian Services College Royal Roads in September 1948, a week late for the start of class and dressed like a typical English guy, the seniors ‘saluted’ the new recruit, until they found out who I was. Although I was born in Canada, I felt like an outsider at school in the UK. I loved military college, and Canada’s relatively egalitarian classless society. I moved over to RMC in 1950-2. Although I initially hoped to become an engineer, I wasn’t much of a science student so I switched to General Arts. At the time, RMC did not issue degrees, so cadets had to often spent a year at Queens University.
e-veritas: Any notable skylarks?
Peter McLoughlin: Sure. At RMC, the cadets hauled R.S.M. Coggins’ car to the top of the tower on the parade square.
e-veritas: You competed in the West Point weekend of 1952.
Peter McLoughlin: In 1952, we travelled to West Point by train for a competition, (hockey, debating, shooting). We then took the train from West Point to New York. There a group of us strode into the Russian Tea Room, a famous spot, charged up to the bar and said ‘vodka’ as we thumped the bar with our fist! Wearing greatcoats and astrakhan fur hats, we hoped the staff would assume we were Russians who didn’t speak English. The owner, spotted us and clicked his heels while informing this strange bunch, that he was a 1910 graduate of the Imperial Military College in Russia; nevertheless he welcomed us with free drinks. Considered us honoured guests, and threw out a few patrons who had pestered us.
e-veritas: How did you get involved with military personnel issues and RMC Club business? How did you end up as RMC Club president?
Peter McLoughlin: As a junior Air Forces officer, I was concerned that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) seemed to have no career promotion plan for Ex-Cadets in the 1950s. I wrote a letter to the Air Vice Marshall suggesting that Canada look at adopting a system of progression involving training, education, employment and professional development like the RAF or US Air Forces, rather than lose our best people to private industry. As you might expect, this suggestion was not appreciated. So, after being advised that junior officers simply do what they are told –period, I opted to retire from the Air Forces in 1959 and focus on a civilian career in the pharmaceutical industry. I was interested to learn, however, that around five years later, the Air Force developed a career system like that of the RAF. Unlike many ex-cadets, I didn’t have to spend a year at a civilian university to complete my degree. In 1959, RMC retroactively issued degrees to graduates in Commerce, Arts, Chemical Engineering, Civil engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
By the time I reached my mid fifties, I realized that my time on Earth was limited (sure I’m a slow learner) and I wanted to make a more definite contribution to society. The RMC and military ex-cadet club was as good a niche as I could find. I served on the executive as the President of the Montreal branch for many years, then as RMC Club President from 1987-88.
e-veritas: What were some of the biggest challenges during your tenure as Branch and Club president?
Peter McLoughlin: Throughout the1980s, some of the biggest challenges in the Canadian Armed Forces, Military Colleges and Club seemed to relate to biculturalism, the integration of women and graduate research programs. There was a lot of grumbling (and ranting) in the Club, and military communities about these changes.
French Canadians, of course, had been integrated since the College opened in 1876, although the addition of CMR helped get the numbers up. The integration of non European Cadets all reflected the changes in socio-demographic composition of the Canadian population with respect to sex, age, mother tongue, ethnic origin, and educational attainment; the Club’s role was to support the College’s recruitment, enrolment and retention efforts. In time, the Club’s composition and leadership became more diverse.
RMC cadets were no longer just studying for undergraduate degrees; by the mid 1990s, the College had a vastly increased educational scope; a graduate research program, and an emphasis on Military Professional Education and lifelong learning.
e-veritas: What are you most proud of as RMC Club President?
Peter McLoughlin: I managed to achieve a US/Canadian Alumni association, which has worked ever since. The Canadian Military Colleges, like all other military and civilian universities, require significant private support to maintain their status as elite institutions.
As RMC Club President, I brought the leadership of 5 United States Federal Service Academy Alumni Associations and 3 Canada Military College Clubs together for annual study tours. We alternated travel in Canada with US Military Academy; US Naval Academy; US Coast Guard Academy; US Merchant Marine Academy; US Air Force Academy. This US/Canadian partnership provided opportunities to adopt best practices, such as making giving back quick and easy; corporate sponsorships and business advertising opportunities. The general theme was getting your business’ name and mission in front of some of the most important military and business leaders in the country!
e-veritas: What do you know of the Club business today? What are the Club’s/College(s) biggest challenges?
Peter McLoughlin: In light of shrinking defence budget dollars, increased private funding is essential to help the Military Colleges achieve the standard of excellence expected by Canadian citizens. Although government owned and operated institutions of higher learning, we depend heavily on private funding to support military, academic, athletic, and character development areas of excellence along with a few institutional advancement and support programs. The RMC Club is responsible for coordinating efforts among organizations, ensuring standardized recognition of friends and donors and proper stewardship of generous philanthropic gifts and gift properties received. Through endowments, the Club provides funding for various academic and cadet programs; educational grants and the endowment of academic department chairs. The Club solicits and maintains valuable historic collections and provides private funding in support of the College Libraries, Museums, Athletics, Bands and Clubs.
e-veritas: Would you advise cadets/Ex cadets and former students to get involved with the RMC Club?
Peter McLoughlin: Absolutely. It is essential to become involved; otherwise the organization will rot. The Military Colleges and RMC Club not only need generous donors, but also independent, free thinkers and a broad geographical base of contacts in industry, military and academia. The RMC Club honors the heritage, history, and legacy of the Military Colleges and its accomplished graduates. Honoring fallen comrades is an important part of the RMC Club mission and we ask to be notified as soon as possible of the death of any graduate so that we can take appropriate actions. Through our events, publications, and services, the Club helps keep alumni and friends connected with the Military Colleges and each other.
e-veritas: What are you up to these days?
Peter McLoughlin: My wife Helen (nee Lacy) and I recently attended the ex-cadet reunion in Sept, 2012. We have lived on Rigaud Mountain, Quebec on a four acre forested lot for 39 years. We have retired long since from the pharmaceutical business we co-founded in 1979: Dormer Laboratories Inc. is a dermatology specialty outfit in Toronto. We have four adult children: two live in Toronto, one in Kitchener and one Aberdeen Scotland. Until recent years, we sailed a Mirage 33 around the Thousand Islands as members of the Trident Yacht Club. As an amateur romanticist, historian, and genealogist, I enjoy searching records from Canada and around the world to uncover my ancestor’s stories (1300 onwards). I write articles for the Quebec family history society.
e-veritas: What genealogical highlights have you dug up?
Peter McLoughlin: I can truly dig up over a hundred ancestors (just my luck!), so here are a few:
- Henry VIII ordered my youngest uncle Sebastian Newdigate (a court pal of his) hung, drawn and quartered on June 19, 1535, because he had become a Carthusian monk, a Roman Catholic religious order.
- Henry Digby was one of Horatio Nelson’s captains at the Battle of Trafalgar (October 19, 1805). Digby served as Captain of The Africa, an old 64 gunner. He also ended up as the richest officer in the navy, because of his earlier bounty rewards.
- I lost four ancestors at the Battle of Towton, out of 7 fighting, in the bloodiest battle in British history. (29 March 1471)
- Willy Wilberforce, an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade was another connection.
- On the Irish McLoughlin side, the most interesting was Martin Murphy, who got involved in the rebellion of 1798 in Wexford. He immigrated to Frampton Quebec, where he settled for 20 years. He then moved to Missouri, where he led a wagon train of seventeen wagons & 51 people from Council Bluffs, Missouri to California – walking 1975 miles in 7 months across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They added two babies and did not lose a soul; they became the first wagon train to ever make it over the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Dec 1844. Later, assisted by 159 Miwok Indians, two of Murphy’s sons dug up over 2 million dollars of dust in nine months during the gold rush of 1848; – not bad, eh! Sadly, easy come easy go, so I’m told. The Martin Murphy Historical Park is in Sunnyvale, California.