Flashback: Focus on RRMC

The Mainguy Report

REPORT on certain “Incidents” which occurred on board H.M.C. Ships ATHABASKAN, CRESCENT and MAGNIFICENT and on other matters concerning THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY

In October 1949, the Mainguy Commission, chaired by Rear-Admiral E. Rollo Mainguy, R.C.N., Flag Officer Atlantic Coast, reported on controversial matters concerning the Royal Canadian Navy.


We visited Royal Roads, formerly the Royal Canadian Naval College and now the Tri-service College. At the present time potential Naval Officers are admitted to Royal roads by examination. Senior matriculation is a precedent to entering. Cadets may enter at any age between 16 and 20. The instructors appear to be men of high quality and qualification. The accommodation and surroundings are most desirable. The courses are divided into executive, engineering, electrical and supply. After two years’ course, the Cadets in the executive branch spend two years at sea, generally with the Royal Navy. Their professional and academic training are both less extensive and intensive than the training of their contemporaries and counterparts either in the United States Navy or the British Navy. Officers entering the electrical branch spend two years at Royal Roads and two years at the Royal Military College at Kingston. They then go to sea, either in the Royal Navy or, where possible, in the Royal Canadian Navy. Most of them serve with the former. Officers training in the engineering branch study for two years at Royal Roads and four years at Keyham College, Devonport, England. They then go to sea, generally with the Royal Navy. Officer candidates in the supply branch are trained for two years at Royal Roads and two years’ special training on shore in Canada. While the following observations have some general application, they are particularly directed to the executive branch, which, in our opinion, is the weakest. The year’s curriculum is divided into seven months of academic work and three and one-half months of practical professional work. During the three and one-half months of professional work, students go to sea in Canadian ships as Naval Cadets. In this capacity they are given opportunities of learning something of practical seamanship and of observing the workings of a ship, its officers and men. They, of course, exercise no authority. At the end of their two years’ course at Royal Roads, it has been the general custom for them to serve in British ships as midshipmen. There they learn what they can of divisional duties and the principles of leadership, while receiving their first real experience of the intricate human relationship upon which command and discipline depend. At the end of their two years’ training as midshipmen in the Royal Navy, they either continue their service with their British comrades or return for their first commanding of Canadian men.

This is not the place to estimate the difference between Canadian sailors and British sailors nor to comment on the educational and social systems of Britain and Canada. Without assuming any superiority on the part of the Canadian sailor, all are agreed that he is not the same kind of man as the British sailor. It must, therefore, be concluded that a young Canadian officer rejoining the Canadian Navy after the sort of training outlined above, is (unless he is a remarkable personage) not equipped for the task which he is called upon to perform. Whatever lessons in leadership, in Naval tradition and in seamanship are learned at Royal Roads can only be regarded as scanty and insufficient. Whatever training an officer may have received in these branches of essential knowledge in the Royal Navy can only be considered remote from the Canadian scene and somewhat alien to the Canadian method of life. It is not within our purpose nor our competence to offer well-founded criticisms on the Tri-service training at Royal Roads. It is in any event a new experiment under observation and trial. In view of the particular problems of the Navy, of the peculiar and almost unique relationship between officers and men at sea, it is not unfair to state that Naval training, as such, has received greater disadvantages and less advantages from the institutions of the Tri-service system than any
other branch of the Armed Services. While it has been the pride of both the Canadian and British systems that practical application of mathematical and navigational principles should be founded upon a thorough basic knowledge of theory, a greater effort should be made, if it is feasible, to integrate theory and practice in professional training throughout the year.

While we are not always impressed by the technical refinements of the professional psychologist, we believe also that a good deal more can be done to teach officers more that they at present learn, of the duties, the responsibilities, the principles and the practice of disciplinary leadership. The same observations apply to the University training that is given to those officers in the Canadian Navy who are trained outside Royal Roads at other educational institutions. We would like to make this further observation also. The educational opportunities which are given the young men at Royal Roads are expensive, exclusive and privileged. We were surprised to hear that there is no definite obligation upon those who enjoy these advantages to make a career in the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. Every man who enters Royal Roads thereby excludes another potential entry. No man, in our opinion, should be allowed to receive the advantage of this training at the expense of the State unless he is obliged to make the proper and expected return in the form of patriotic and professional service in the defence of Canada. Royal Roads was established for officers of the Navy, Army and Air Force and not for lawyers or business men.

For the Full Text of the Mainguy Report click HERE.


National Archives on the Royal Military Colleges

The first naval training college in Canada was the Royal Naval College, established at the Halifax Dockyard in 1911. In 1917, after the Halifax harbour explosion had destroyed most of its buildings, the College was transferred briefly to the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, and then in 1918 to Esquimalt, B.C. In 1922, after graduating 150 naval officers, the College was closed as a result of the reduction in size of the Canadian Navy after the end of the First World War. However, in January 1941 the Department of National Defence established HMCS Royal Roads at Hatley Park in Esquimalt as an officer training establishment designed to support Canada’s naval war effort. During the following eighteen months, Royal Roads produced 600 officers for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR), many of whom served in the Battle of the Atlantic. In August 1942 the Royal Naval College of Canada was re-established at Royal Roads for the purpose of training Naval Cadets. The College was formally opened on October 21, 1942.

The new College was located on a property originally purchased by former British Columbian Premier and Lieutenant-Governor James Dunsmuir in 1902. The Hatley Park Estate originally comprised 650 acres, to which the Dunsmuir family added Hatley Castle, completed in 1908. The name Royal Roads refers primarily to an anchorage located in Juan de Fuca Strait between the city of Victoria and Albert Bay. In 1947 The College began accepting Royal Canadian Air Force Cadets, changing its name to RCN-RCAF Service College – Royal Roads; in 1948 Royal Roads became a tri-service college, its name being changed to Canadian Services College – Royal Roads. Finally, in 1968, after the merging of the three main branches of the armed forces, Royal Roads adopted the name Royal Roads Military College (RRMC).

Originally, academic instruction at the College included English, French, history, mathematics, mechanics, physics, chemistry, and astronomy, as well as an introduction to engineering appropriate to the needs of a naval engineer officer. Practical and military training included seamanship, pilotage and navigation, gunnery, torpedoing, and signals. In 1947 military studies courses were added. Also in 1947, professional training for the Navy or Air Force was separated from academics and scheduled during the summer, the academic year being shortened to accommodate this training. In 1950 the programme for naval cadets was extended to four years; on graduation cadets became Acting Sub-Lieutenants, and after slightly more than two years of sea training they qualified for the rank of Lieutenant. In 1952 the College began offering a Regular Officers’ Training Plan (ROTP), under which cadets enrolled as regular members of the armed forces and were under obligation to serve as commi ssioned officers in either the Navy, Air Force or Army. The College later added RETP (Reserve Entry Training Plan) and UTPNCM (University Training Plan/Non-Commissioned Officers) programmes.

In 1959 the Province of Ontario gave a charter to RMC in Kingston to grant degrees, after which Royal Roads began to act as a feeder college, offering two-year courses of studies transferrable to RMC. By 1960 the College was offering programmes leading to RMC degrees in general science, honours science, engineering physics, and electrical, mechanical and civil engineering. In 1967 the military studies courses were replaced with a new academic programme entitled Military Leadership and Management, and in 1970 the College began an arts programme, with the class of that year including 20 cadets specifically working toward arts degrees. Finally, in 1975 Royal Roads was given degree-granting status by the provincial government, awarding its first Bachelor degrees (in physics and oceanography) in 1977. In the following years the college added undergraduate degree programmes in physics, computer science, general science, and military and strategic studies. Royal Roads began accepting female recruits in 1984. In 1987, the College initiated a two-year degree programme for Master of Science in Oceanography and Acoustics. The College also developed a strong second-language training programme which attempted to ensure that each cadet graduated with the ability to communicate in both of Canada’s official languages. Due to budget cuts the Department of National Defence closed Royal Roads and Le Collège Militaire Royal à St-Jean in 1995.

The Chancellor of Royal Roads and the other Canadian military colleges was the Minister of National Defence; however, all three colleges were responsible to the Chief of Personnel Development in the Department of National Defence. The College’s Vice-Chancellor and commanding officer was the Commandant. The College was divided into three wings: the Academic Wing, headed by the Principal, which was responsible for all academic activities of the College; the Military Wing, headed by the Vice-Commandant, responsible for military and physical training as well as all other activities involving cadets which were not of an academic nature; and the Administrative Wing, under the control of the Director of Administration, which carried out various support functions. Subordinate to the Military Wing was the Cadet Wing, headed by the Cadet Wing Commander, consisting of a Cadet Wing headquarters and three squadrons of ROTP/RETP Cadets and one of UTPM Cadets, which organized much of the practical military and leadership training of cadets.