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Flashback | Rétrospective

 

captain_bindernagel_jpeg1.JPG9318 Capt(N) (Ret`d) David B. Bindernagel (RRMC RMC ’72)
was Commandant at Royal Roads Military College in 1995 when Royal Roads closed. He served as Vice Commandant/Director of Cadets at Royal Roads in 1993-94. He was also a Squadron Commander at RMC from 1980-83. He retired in 1996 and is currently the Chief of Staff/Executive Assistant, Canadian Fleet Pacific Head Quarters (CFPHQ), Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) in Esquimalt. Since 1996, he and Dr. Boutillier have taught RMC undergraduate history courses in Esquimalt as part of their distance learning programme (Continuing Studies Department). When he took the history courses to sea on HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Vancouver in 2001, he also worked in the galley in his spare time. He is also on the Executive of the Vancouver Island Ex-Cadet Club.

When Royal Roads closed in 1995, Capt(N) Bindernagel catalogued the college inventory. The majority of the memorabilia and artefacts went to the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum; the Comox Air Force Museum, the Military Museums in Calgary and some to the Royal Military College Museum in Kingston. Thirteen years later, many of the memorabilia and artefacts have been loaned back to the Royal Roads University museum, located in the basement of the Castle and have been put back on display. Royal Roads University has recently completed an oral history research project exploring the link between RRU & RRMC. Royal Roads University, at which they video-taped several ex cadets from RRMC, using the former Commandant’s office in the castle. This history is particularly important for the cadets who graduated from RRMC, but who never attended RMC or CMR. As a first year cadet, he dreaded going to the castle since cadets visited the administration building only when we were in trouble. Now, he looks forward to the annual homecoming weekends at Royal Roads University, and a trip to the castle is like coming home.

When he was Commandant in 1995, he wanted to continue the academic and military excellence and to keep the cadets away from the politics, discussions and activities which were being conducted to close RRMC. Although there was no first year class, he tried to keep the experience of being a cadet as typical as possible. At the same time, many of the events were special for cadets and staff since this was the last time they would be held at RRMC: the swim meet, regatta, or Xmas ball. To honour the graduating cadets and the college, he wanted to lead a celebration of 55 years of college life, not a wake.

In 1995 Capt(N) Bindernagel held two separate final parades. The graduating class had a graduation parade with then Chief of Defence Staff, 4860 General (Ret’d) John AJG de Chastelain (RMC 1960) as guest of honour. During the final parade and closure ceremony, 450 former cadets marched on the parade square. Mrs Nancy Braithwaite, the daughter of the first Commandant at Royal Roads, Capt(N) Grant C.B.E. (40-42/42-46) was the guest of honour. Capt(N) Bindernagel read a poem which captured what it meant to have attended Royal Roads. Since he found it very moving, 10209 Chris Chance asked e-veritas to publish it again for all of the Roadent community. Capt(N) (Ret`d) Bindernagel found a copy of the poem in the 1995 Log yearbook for Roads.

Royal Roads Military College

We were young and naive during our first years here.
this place called Royal Roads which we hold so dear.
Through the trials of the obstacle course, that recruit term who could ever forget,
our minds were awakened, our bodies abused as we earned the right to be called a cadet

In those early days the training prepared cadets for war,
thoughts were on navy, – seamanship its customs and folklore.
O’er the years we’ve been fortunate to stay that naval course,
though refined by traditions of our kin in the army and air force.

The shrill of wakey, wakey, wakey from the Hall Porter we met with despise,
for his early morning greeting drove us from bed and to rise.
And yes, our skylarks were a challenge and a treat,
and helped us get even with our seniors and showed our spunk at such feats.

The drill on the square, those long hours, the repetition was clear,
brought on by the gestures and commands of the drill staff who kept us in fear.
But the results, oh the results on parades, in front of family and friends,
showed that our pride, our precision and steadfastness would never bend.

On the sports fields we enjoyed both the sweat and the tears.
From the grunts on the rugby pitch to those boxing ring fears.
We were fierce against Venture, our sister Colleges and teams from afar,
and through it all we were proud of our team spirit and each and every scar.

There were other great moments, ones each of us can recall,
at mess dinners, flight parties, on the spit and in the dormitory hall.
True friendships we formed though we came from four corners of this land,
and we shared all our hardships and good times with each other in hand.

Many parts of this grand site as cadets we hold a view,
which is much different than most visitors who daily pass through.
The circle, for example, morning runs and the word doubling it conveys,
and punishments handed out by seniors in too many ways.

The QD we saluted, revered and gave the respect it was due,
and on its walls are located our class photos and appointments too.
The dormitories hold so many of our secrets in its walls,
and the ponds to cadet officers are places for getting wet with cat calls.

Many moments of inspiration there’s no doubt we all could relate,
at Carol services, Spring concerts, the formal Balls, in the Gunroom with our date.
These events had their own music and shared laughter that kept us sane,
and brought us together as a family, a feeling we know will never ever wane.

A peacock’s call during exams or the deer that freely roam,
birds on the Lagoon, jogging paths, beautiful gardens these formed part of our home.
The band kept us in step, the activities and clubs on our toes,
all reminders of the fun and good times we’ve had at Royal Roads.

Now these are some memories, I know there are more,
for we each have got many that we’ve lived and adore.
But the College is closing, and we’ll mark something new,
and pray that the memories are good for those attending RRU.

Over 5 decades of Roadents, each one of us proud,
and we’ll swear by our motto, and shout it aloud.
For it’s part of our life, something we’ll never renounce.
Truth, Duty, Valour: Verite, devoir, et Valliance

Capt(N) Bindernagel had earlier wrote a poem when he was the Squadron Commander of the Frigate at RMC: ‘When I was a Rook…’

When I Was a Rook by: Lt(N) Anonymous

When I was a rook, a phrase often used
To compare, to relate, to you the confused,
In seeing how easy it appears now to be,
And how tough we all had it, when we were rookies.

The past is brought forward to remind all of yore,
When doubling was everywhere, and hair was longed for;
When cars were a dream, which everyone knew,
Since cabs or a walk were the means from and to.

The drill, the parades, we held every day,
B’fore breakfast, b’fore lunch, and b’fore we could play,
We marched as a group; everywhere we were led,
To classes, to meals, and even to bed.

You think you’ve it rough when it comes to PT
Try doing it all in a room ’bout nine by three.
Modules you’ve got for academics and French,
Boy all we ever got was a new wooden bench.

Ah the spirit has changed, we all seem to say,
For to us college was home, every night–everyday.
A pass was a gift not too often used,
And more often rescinded, but never abused.

Your games are all wrong, your skylarks a mess,
However did you lose that gift called finesse.
We tell you what’s been, we tell you how come,
And still you react like someone whose numb.

Now don’t get us wrong, it’s natural you see,
To compare what’s our past, with what is to be;
But listen and learn from that which we’ve seen,
As we did for others, since the old eighteen.

So come forward all ye poets, philosophers and clowns,
And inspire us with tales of college renown,
And we will be ye judge- how true or how fake,
To the former the spoils, to the latter the lake.

E-Veritas: Your brother, 8094 Ken Bindernagel(RRMC RMC 1969) studied at RRMC RMC two years earlier. Did he have any advice for you?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: No, none that I would repeat. Although he gave me a black book full of phone numbers of local girls, but over two years had passed and none of the numbers worked out. When I arrived, my squadron leader, 8555 BGen (Ret’d) Roy K Mould (RRMC RMC 1971) asked me if I was related to Ken Bindernagel. When I said Ken was my brother, he announced `I disliked him, welcome to my squadron!` Fortunately, I later found Roy Mould to be a fair and nice guy. At the time, RRMC did not issue degrees so cadets studied there for only two years before transferring to RMC or CMR. Fortunately my life at RRMC was certainly easier than if I had gone to be a recruit at RMC where my brother was a senior cadet.

E-Veritas: What skylarks (practical jokes) do you recall?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: The Colleges have a rich history of skylarks. Before my time, some cadets lifted a Volkswagen Bug on top of the Nixon dorm building.

When I was at RRMC, most of the skylarks were done by first year cadets to impress 2nd years with their spirit. For example, we would steal apples from the Commandant’s trees at 2am and bring the apples back to the doors of the seniors we liked. Some of the practical jokes reflected the competition between Navy dockyard & RRMC. One night we took a whaler to dockyard and stole their flag, and ran it up our mast. Another time, we strung a dingy up the mast in front of the Castle and left it there.

As a cadet, I helped in a practical joke on the Director of Cadets. Royal Roads leased property to a farmer who raised cattle. As a first year cadet, we grabbed a cow and chained it to the top of Neptune stairs where the Director of Cadets held his morning parade. It was quite a sight.

As Cadet Wing Commander during one of the second year terms, I played a practical joke on the 1st year cadets at RRMC. I had the 1st year cadets muster in the common rooms. While I gave an address to the 1st year cadets, my fellow 2nd years took their rooms apart, moved their mattresses out and ran their sheets from building to building. When I received the signal, I wrapped up my address, indicated that I was disappointed with their lack of spirit and announced that in 15 minutes, there was to be an inspection of their rooms. The cadets scrambled back to their rooms to find no beds. Spirit improved a bit after that!

I believe that staff members only find out about half of the skylarks that go on since the point is not to get caught. As I explained to cadets when I was the Director of Cadets, skylarks are fine as long as the skylark is in good taste, there is no damage, no embarrassment and no one gets hurt.

Royal Roads held up the tradition of 100 days to grad parties, in which the 4th years were not allowed to sleep in their dorm. Instead, the 3rd years took their beds and moved them around the college. Cadets might find their bed – up a tree or in a hall. My wife and I came home to find one bed in our DCadets residence and another in the yard. Hours later, 19008 Greg GP Johnston (RRMC 1993), a 4th year cadet asked permission to sleep in our house. I think the cats kept him up most of the night but we did feed him breakfast in the morning.

E-Veritas: What do you recall driving cadets crazy on campus?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: The noisy peacocks, who had been residents at RRMC since the 1950s, annoyed cadets, particularly during exams. Of course we could not get rid of them, although there were ingenious ways of keeping them moving. Peacocks are worse than geese in wanting their right of way on the road, and as a driver you best be very patient. As commandant, I found the peacocks incredible creatures, they really were special features at Royal Roads. During the turnover to RRU, we discussed the peacocks with the provincial staff since we wanted the peacocks to be looked after. The provincial government administrators definitely understood that the peacocks were part of the deal. They continue to be a special feature of RRU.

E-Veritas: Did you participate in any RMC clubs?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: As a cadet, I started a drama club as Royal Roads and later at RMC. Since all cadets at the time were male, there were opportunities to ask girlfriends, girls from local high schools, or the daughters of staff to play the female roles. I recall putting on a classic favourite, Charlies Aunt, and 2 man show by American playwright Edward Albee. I also competed on the debating team.

E-Veritas: How did cadets wake up (cadet period, commandant period) e.g. some cadets were woken by a duty cadet yelling `revele` while others recall `rock` songs playing on a tape deck.

Capt(N) Bindernagel: At RRMC, the staff hall porter had a booth in castle which had a communications set up with the dorms. At 5:30 or 6, the hall porter would blow his bosun whistle and yell, `wakey wakey.` Some of them took particular delight in being creative with their announcements. When I came back to RRMC as Director of Cadets, the hall porter was gone. Instead, cadets played rock music, like Led Zeppelin to wake up.

E-Veritas: What skill did you learn to do as a cadet that you still do well?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: I can get up, dressed, shaved, showered and be ready to go in ten minutes. My wife deliberately did them incorrectly, so that I would take over the ironing. I still press my pants today.

E-Veritas: Who did you meet as a cadet whose friendship you kept up?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: I met my wife while I was a cadet at RMC, and we married shortly after I graduated from RMC. There are so many good friends today that I met at the college. There are so many good friends today that I met at the college. Many of the friendships have endured the test of time.
9319 Doctor Bill RWP Blake (RMC 1972), of Champlain flight at RRMC, and one room over, was the best man at my wedding. He is currently the Associate Dean responsible for MBA programs and is a professor of Organizational Behaviour at Queen’s in Kingston. Others I call good friends and who were in my recruit class are: … 9395 Colonel (Ret’d) Donald C Matthews (REMEC RMC 1972) who lives in Calgary; 9413 MGen (Ret’d) Cameron H Ross (RRMC RMC 1973) was in my recruit class and also lives in Calgary; I still work with 9364 Capt (N) Michael H Jellinek (RRMC RMC 1972), who is A/COS P&T at MACPAC in Esquimalt and with 9403 Commander Norm Nicolson (RRMC RMC 1972) who is working with Joint Task Forces Games (2010). There are a few good friends who unfortunately have passed on as well.

When I was a cadet, I found the quality of cadets, professors and staff at RRMC and RMC to be incredible. When I returned 25 years later, I found the same quality, for example the principal Dr John Mothersill was incredibly professional and immensely helpful in the closure of RRMC.
In addition, Dr. Jim Boutilier (the Special Advisor Policy on Asia Pacific to the Commander Maritime Forces Pacific) and Dr. Peter Dunnett, current professor at RMC in Kingston, also contributed greatly to the closure of RRMC. Today, I try to get together with former academic staff, for example, Doctor Peter Smart, who also taught me as a cadet, for lunch at Royal Colwood Golf Course. This monthly luncheon is coordinated by a former professor, Doctor Roy Snell.

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E-Veritas: Where did you live at the College(s)?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: As Squad Commander at RMC, I lived in PMQs and worked in the Frigate. I can add that although there were lots of spiders at RRMC, they were nothing compared to the spiders at the Frigate. As Squadron Commander, I bought a brass navy clock that works backwards from a nautical store and gave it as a parting gift or the Frigate. You can read the clock if you look at it in a mirror. I understand that the clock was put back up after the recent renovations to the Frigate. The clock is on your left as you enter the Frigate. I have a similar clock in my home, although it is only plastic.

As Vice Commandant, my wife and I lived in the DCadets residence, around 100 yards from the Commandant’s residence at RRMC. When I was promoted to Commandant, we opted to remain in the DCadets residence. It did not make sense to move 100 yards down the lane. At the time, the RRMC site included a chaplain house and several PMQs, although the majority of staff lived in Victoria. The Commandant’s residence is currently used as a conference facility and for office space.

E-Veritas: How were cadets punished? (e.g. unit punishments, extra drill, running circles at night).
Capt(N) Bindernagel: At RRMC, the infamous circles were well and truly tested. Cadets would run circles at 5 or 6 am on the roadway in front of castle past the Nixon & Grant block. At the time, senior cadets wore rank bars and could assign as many circles as they had bars (2-5). A cadet could be assigned 2 circles, for example, for slacking. At most, cadets ran perhaps up to 8 circles in the morning so they would have to finish them off the next day. A senior cadet would ensure we ran the circles right: arms parallel to the road, go fast. If we didn’t do it right, we would do another one.

E-Veritas: How did cadets raise money for charity?

 

bindernagel_headshaving_small.JPG

Capt(N) Bindernagel: Lots of ways were used but one I remember was when I was DCadets in 1994, I agreed to auction my beard which I had worn since 1976, so the cadets sold tickets and on the day I drew five tickets to allow five cadets to shave off my beard. I expected to grow my beard back while I was on vacation in Hawaii with my wife, as we were scheduled to leave the next morning. My wife took a photo in which my face was as white as a sheet. Although the cadets thought I was miserable because my beard was being shaved, actually I was sick. I never made it to Hawaii; instead I spent 5 days in hospital after being diagnosed with viral pneumonia.

E-Veritas: Describe your recruit orientation.

Capt(N) Bindernagel: I left high school after completing grade 13 in Ontario. The first time I saw the Castle at RRMC, with the Olympic Mountains and the water in the distance, it was a high. A few seconds later, however, the bus stopped and the 2nd years started yelling orders at us, sorting us into squadrons and flights so the high became a low very quickly. At the time, there was no summer training, so the cadets went straight from home to college, where we underwent six weeks of basic recruit training. We then had summer training at CFB Chilliwack between first and second year, where we lost almost 40% of our class.

The obstacle course was an incredible coming of age. It was designed to be challenging. When I was a cadet, the scoring was based on an average of the entire flight’s time. Consequently, I was fortunate to run ahead with one of our fastest runners 9370 Al JA Kimick (RMC 1972) and we completed the obstacles on our own. There is no doubt that the obstacle course is an excellent opportunity to release energy, and to display spirit and motivation.

When I returned to the Colleges as staff, the scoring had changed; cadets display teamwork by running the course together and staying to help each other when they get in trouble. I think that was a good idea. At RRMC, I turned down many requests by staff and ex-cadets who wanted to run the last obstacle course at Royal Roads. Although I was concerned about insurance and injury, I also knew that the obstacle course was a tradition for first year cadets. Nevertheless, one of my staff and I completed the obstacle course the week before, in slow time, to make sure the course was safe.

E-Veritas: Do you have any ghost stories?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: No. If there were ghosts, I did not know of them, and they never met me!

E-Veritas: What do you recall about the College?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: As DCadets and Commandant, I often brought visitors and their families for a special tour to the top of the Castle. The panoramic view of the college grounds was breathtaking and always impressed the children. I hoped it was a special part of their visit; although today this is not done due to safety. Another memory is that the pool room across the hall from my office had a completely different ambiance from any other room in the castle; it was like lingering cigar smoke and aged wood. We enjoyed playing billiards in that room; while on other pool tables we played without pool cues, known as good fun crud, or no holes barred combat crud. Crud was a team game, in which each player had 3 lives. If you missed a billiard ball, or someone sunk it before you could hit it, you lost a life. It was quite a game, even more so after a few rum and coke.

E-Veritas: What do you recall about previous Commandants?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: Two in particular help and mentored me immensely, particularly for that final year: 8241 LGen (Ret’d) Michael V Caines (CMR RMC 1970), RRMC Commandant 91-94, and 2444 RAdm (Ret’d) John A Charles (RMC 1935), RRMC Commandant 54-57, founder of the Friends of Hatley Park Society. Both are very good friends.

E-Veritas: Did you play on a RMC sport team/were you a fan of any RMC sport teams? S125 Major (Ret’d) William WJ Oliver, the editor of E-Veritas, remembers you as a fierce goalie in hockey.

Capt(N) Bindernagel: Sports were an integrate part of life at RRMC and RMC, used for relieving pressure and stress. As a cadet I played hockey (left wing), soccer and European team handball (goalie). As a 1st and 2nd year, at RRMC, I participated in tournaments with the other colleges, RRMC and CMR. We looked forward to West Point Weekend at RMC, and to a sport weekends with United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Colorado Springs at RRMC. I remember watching football at USAFA Colorado where there were 80,000 fans in the stands. When I returned to RRMC in the 1990s as Vice-Commandant, the College tournaments and sport weekends with USAFA Colorado weren’t on anymore.

As Squadron Commander in Frigate at RMC, the staff often competed against cadets or officers versus NCM. At RMC, I played goal for the first time. I had never played goal before but asked myself, how hard can it be? In my first game, I played goal with regular skates because I didn’t realize that goalie skates have extra protection on the feet. Stopping pucks with the side of your foot hurts, and I soon got goalie skates. I may have been fierce – my view as goalie was that if I moved and you hit me with the puck, that was your problem. I found that sports not only provided opportunities to get to know cadets, and to relax but also to exercise old grudges. I certainly learned to keep my head down when playing as a forward, since cadets or NCMs might take the opportunity to hit me. As I got older, I didn’t want to risk injury, so I became a goalie – with a much bigger stick.

I always felt that going out to sports and cheering teams on was part of my responsibility. As Vice Commandant and as Commandant my wife Pam and I were loyal fans and attended as many sport games as we could. My wife and I took great pride in attending cadet events, and we were even adopted by ladies field hockey team and were invited to be part of their team photo. We travelled out of town, up island to watch games.
Once as DCdts at RRMC I even lived up to my nickname, which was Blackbeard — I dressed as a pirate (with an eye patch and parrot) at the swim meet and did a cannon-ball into the pool – points for participation, not much for skill.

E-Veritas: What do you recall about social aspects of cadet life?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: As first year cadets, we were confined to college for 6 weeks prior to classes – this was the recruit term. For our first social function, the second year cadet then organized a dance for us. We wore our best recruit clothes (#6s I believe). The seniors lined us up and handed us a card with a number on it. A few minutes later several buses pulled up and the girls got off, each with holding cards with numbers. And we marched smartly forward to meet our date for the dance. Of course, many future dates were established that night!

As DCadets, my wife Pam and I invited 4th year cadets to our residence by flight for supper, and stories. It gave Pam an opportunity to meet the 4th year and to relate stuff about me to them. Some of the cadets thought I was human after all!

E-Veritas: Please comment on big changes at RRMC/RMC?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: In the 80s, while I was RMC squadron commander, lady cadets were admitted at the military colleges. I felt that it was the right decision, and we should get on with it. I found the lady cadets were tough and they did a great job adjusting to the college. The 4th years seemed to find the most difficulty to adapt to having lady cadets since they were used to the traditions of an all male college. The first and second year cadets were more comfortable since they had recently studied with girls at high school. We had some initial growing pains but it is a success story for the colleges.

As Director of Cadets, I ensured that male and lady cadets were given the necessary appointments and honours based on their performance and credentials. I recall that 19472 Captain (ret’d) Bonnie BW Blocka (RRMC 1994) was a superb cadet wing commander during one term at RRMC as was 19520 Captain Michael MA French (RRMC 1994), who currently flies with the Snowbirds.

E-Veritas: What was your favourite special event?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: There were special events throughout the year. Since I am from Kitchener and have a German background, I enjoyed Oktoberfest celebrations in October. In winter, I enjoyed the carol festival in the Castle with singing, dancing and bells ringing. There was a choir and a nativity scene. At the Christmas dinner, we followed the tradition of having the officers trade jackets with the cadets.
The spring concert was a great time to listen to the bands. Formal mess dinners, gave us the chance to dress in scarlets and share stories and a good meal, followed by an opportunity to retire to the social room for drinks, songs and some good fun!

E-Veritas: What did you do with the cadet wing instruction manual you were issued as a cadet containing college rules & regulations?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: I can’t remember but I am sure that I threw out cadet wing instruction manual as soon as I left my room in the Nixon Block. As a staff member, I updated and corrected it. We could not continue in the 90s with practices that were common in the 50s, 60s, 70s. In the intervening decades, advances in training and learning techniques had impacted the college. Earlier manuals, for example, reflected unit punishments that were potentially demeaning or embarrassing to cadets, and so changes had to be made.

E-Veritas: Do you have any practical tips to share?

Capt(N) Bindernagel: My tips are to emphasize teamwork and camaraderie; to play hard, work hard and let bygones be bygones. Keep the motto in the forefront.

 

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“The last one that left…turned off the lights”

 

One Comment

  • Chris Chance

    August 7, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Thanks very much to you Ron, and to Dave for re-publishing your Ode to Roads. I had requested it (and misplaced it) in the past. I have now printed it, made e-copy of it and will NOT lose it again. I think that it really captures the spirit of what Royal Roads represented. Thanks again

    Chris