Flashback: Laying Up the College Colours in 1942

Above: The laying up of the Colours, 20th June, 1942. Top: H. E. The Earl of Athlone taking the Salute. Middle: The Colours on the Altar of St. George’s Cathedral. Bottom: The Cadet Battalion marching off, gives “Eyes Left” to His Excellency.

Editor’s Note: The following is taken from “The Seventh Decade,” as found in the 1947 RMC Review.

The year 1942 was perhaps the saddest in the history of the College. The year started off much as usual; in March Lieut-General A.G.L. McNaughton, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., lunched at the College and inspected the Cadet Battalion, in and in April No. 816 the late Lieut.-General K. Stuart, C.B., D.S.O., M.C., C.G.S., visited the College. His portrait and foreword appeared in the June number of the Review. The International Hockey Match with West Point was renewed after a lapse of three years, and the U.S.M.A. won by a score of three to one. Boxing, Track and Field Sports, Squash Racquets, etc., were still carried on, but a good many changes were being effected gradually in the College life and buildings. The last member of the R.C.M.P. was withdrawn from the College in January after nearly ten years’ connection with the College, and a little later some of the Veterans’ Guard arrived as Mess Waiters at the R.M.C. The R.M.C. Hospital was closed and a Medical Inspection room put into operation. Part of Hogan’s Alley was converted into quarters for the C.W.A.C., and many non-structural alterations were made in the interior of the buildings as required for the 220 officers who were to be in attendance after the Cadets left.

Then came the most sorrowful and most crowded day in the history of the College – the 20th of June, 1942. Precisely at ten o’clock, in perfect weather, His Excellency the Earl of Athlone and Her Royal Highness Prince Alice were received by the Battalion in line. Following the Royal Salute, His Excellency, accompanied by the Commandant and Major-General H.F. Letson, M.C., Adjutant-General, inspected the Battalion. At the close, for the first time in our history, the whole Battalion marched off the Square in slow time behind the Colours while the band played Auld Lang Syne. After a photograph had been taken, His Excellency presented the diplomas (eight with Honours) and the prizes and then gave a short address.

The R.M.C. Club of Canada had arranged its Annual Meeting to coincide with the Closing Exercises. Immediately after the prize giving the Ex-Cadets paraded on the Square under the command of No. 203 C.W. Bermingham, Esq., with No. 1707 Lt.-Col. J.G.K. Strathy as Adjutant. No. 75 Lt.-Col. A.T. Kelly Evans took the Salute. They then marched to the Arch for the annual Memorial Service, conducted by Lt.-Col the Rev. W.E. Kidd, M.C. A wreath was placed at the base of the Arch by No. 803 Major-General J.V. Young, C.B., C.B.E., M.G.O.

Following lunch, a motor-cycle, physical training and gymnastic display was put on by the Cadets, after which the Battalion paraded again on the Square with its Colours. At sixteen hundred hours the Parade was handed over to the Commandant, Major-General H.F.H. Hertzberg, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.C., who with the Staff Adjutant as Second in Command, marched it to the Cathedral Church of St. George in order to lay up the Colours.

On arrival at the entrance of the closely-packed Cathedral, the Commandant advanced to the closed doors, on which he knocked three times with the hilt of his sword and asked permission of the Churchwarden, Prof. W.R.P. Bridger, to lay up the Colours in the Cathedral. The request was conveyed to the Vicar, Archdeacon J.H.H. Coleman, and permission was granted. On the arrival of His Excellency and Her Royal Highness the most impressive service began. His Excellency rad the lesson, the Lord Bishop of Ontario delivered a short address, and the old College Colours, having been placed on the altar, were delivered for safe-keeping to the Cathedral. After the service His Excellency, standing outside the Cathedral with the Church Dignitaries, took the Salute as the Battalion marched back to the College.

On arrival at the College Square, the Battalion, having been handed over to the Battalion Sergeant Major, No. 2747 N.B. Corbett, presented Arms to the College Flag which was broken at the Saluting Base. After three cheers had been giving for His Majesty the King, the Battalion was dismissed for the last time. The only event remaining was the final June Ball, which, with its customary pageant, brought to a close this most eventful day.

We close these brief annals of the first period of the College history with the thought of the next Battalion of Gentlemen Cadets of the Royal Military College of Canada which, at some date in the not too distant future, would once again fill the halls and parade on the old College Square.

– W.R.P.B.