From 12570 Mike Kennedy: RMC – Forty Years On (Part 3)

Above: Photo of #290 John Edwards Leckie taken sometime during his service with the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), 1914 – 1918.

RMC – Forty Years On

By 290 J.E. Leckie

Originally written in 1933

Transcribed by 12570 Mike Kennedy 

Part III

We had great appetites and could go to the Mess Room during morning and get crackers and milk which was a favorite diet. Would get these from the Messman in the afternoons too. Any grub box was more than welcome. If a recruit got one it was sure to be bayonetted and everything taken by some senior cadet. This was a rotten practice, they would even bayonet the dispatch box which at least should be left alone.

At one time the officer on duty would inspect the barracks sometime after tattoo. On officer, Captain Husskinson R.E., a good man too, reported that a bugle would be sounded softly just after leaving barracks this no doubt being a signal to the cadets that he had left the building. Of course there was an investigation and watch kept but Husky’s bugle turned out to be a peculiar sound in the air spring in eh front door which closed very slowly.

Skinny Clarke (272 W.N. Clarke) was put under arrest for having a bottle of whisky in his room. The bottle was commandeered and held for evidence. There was an old Scot, Mac, who had the keys to the Staff Adjutant’s office and to the cupboards. He was very susceptible to his native wine and that evening was inveighed into a wee talk and a wee drink or two and while so taken up his keys were abstracted. The bottle was procured, emptied and filled up with tea, and replaced.

The next morning Clark was marched in before Major Bayne, charge read out, asked what he had to say and said, “why that is cold tea, Sir, I keep it to drink at night when studying”. Bolly Bayne said “tea, tea” and extracting the cork he took a good swig. “Why God bless my soul, that IS tea.” March the prisoner out and so that was that.

Repairing the wharfs one time they exposed a number of old timbers dating back to the 1700’s, they were perfectly preserved and no doubt are still there doing duty.

One spring morning I was crossing the parade going to the classroom, as I walked across the parade I heard the gun at Fort Henry go 12:00 noon, as I got to the top of the main stairway I heard the gun go again. Going into the classroom I remarked on it and then looking out the window towards the Fort saw a woman rushing frantically about the outer edge of the parapet, she was joined then by a gunner and later I saw the ambulance arrive. It appears that the old gunner, with whom we had many a chat, had fired the noon gun and immediately loaded up for the nine o’clock gun. Having no one to serve the vent a spark remained and lighted the charge. It blew the rammer out, taking off both his arms, and blew him into the ditch 80 feet deep. He only lived for an hour. The rammer came down nearly to the shore of Navy Bay.

Church parades depended on the weather. It was hard marching at times in the winter and we took a short cut across the ice. Other times we marched to the Battery, at “Titty Pont” and on with them and their band to church. There was always rejoicing. If the weather was too bad to go, we had service then in the Mess.

The Sunday Barrack Orderly was a good job, unless you were invited out for Sunday supper. I had a plan of slipping a thin paper novel up my sleeve and during the long prayer and sermon was able to read this. There was always on the last Sunday the copper collection. Many ways were tried to stop it. One time no plates were given out and the Commandant’s young son (Cameron) was bribed to swipe a couple from the back of the church. One time a plate full was upset and what a crash. Franklyn and I were put under arrest though found not guilty as I had not touched the plate. I saw Franklyn in France he was shortly after going to Folkstone on leave, his wife lived there, when missing his way in the dark he stepped over the high side of the dock and was killed.

Had one Professor named Edwards, Captain R.A., very long man. Queer. Big prominent chin, cruel. First fall of snow in the late autumn he and his wife put on blanket suits and snowshoes and walked about Kingston. He quite expected to live in log cabins and see Indians when he came there. A kitten came into his study and made a little mess one day, he seized it, squeezed its neck, rushed into the garden and beat its brains out against a tree. His house he rented, adjoined the Walkers, one day he called on Mrs. Walker and complained that something had been thrown over his fence into is garden. Mrs. Walker said, “Major Edwards, one day I was looking out of the window, I saw a hand come over the fence, in that hand was an old bird cage, that hand was followed by a face, it was your face and you dropped that bird cage in my yard.”

I did not get on well with Edwards, he did not like Canadians anyway. In the gun laying competition, I was good, he gave me the range, deflection, etc. and I was smart about it. He came up, looked at the sight, and deliberately told me that I was wrong on the range, that he had given me a different range. My gun trailer and I knew I was right but what could I do, it was a deliberate method of putting me out of business for the badge or cup, by lying. With big gun drill, one frosty day Sweny was tracing figures on the gun, Edwards threatened to make him lick it off. Edwards picked out the cadet he wished to win the badge and gave him his trials by himself. He was one of the worst types of British officers we had there.

Major English was a R.H.A. officer who came as a professor. A very fine chap and smart as could be. Musgrave and I dining there one night he gave us curry, he had just come from India. I think it amused him greatly to see how the hot stuff bothered us.

Major “Choker” Davidson was an R.E. professor. Limped as he had lost part of his leg by a shell. Called “choker” after the choker used in making fascines. Nice man.

We used gun cotton for demolition practice and used to swipe some it for future use. I had a bright idea and one night was off supper parade and put bits in each glass lamp in the barracks rooms. Of course it made a great flare when lighted and everyone thought there was something wrong with the gas. Thank heavens it didn’t explore, in any case, I didn’t know any better.

Rogers (277 R.P. Rogers), who had a room across from mine, came into my room one night and placing a slab by my head while I slept, lighted it. I awoke and seeing the flare, rolled out and into the corridor yelling “fire”. McLeod, my C.S.M, rushed out but soon all was quiet. Rogers had investigated some recruits’ grub boxes and fearing retaliation while he slept he arranged an alarm, first he “bayonetted” his door. Then if the door was forced there was a friction tube inside a large prism of powder nitro iodide strewn about the floor, a cord attached to the door and this would knock over of liquid in some powder which would make a big flare, and last of all, he had a pistol with some blanks under his pillow.

Such was “Pinch” Rogers, red headed descendent of Rogers the Ranger. He was one of the lot of cadets from Lakefield and Peterborough, Strickland, Freddy Lefevre, English (two Stricklands) and others. The elder Strickland was before my time and he was in the R.N.W.M.P., the other was in my class, “Poly” don’t know what became of him. Freddy Lefevre I last saw in ’18 in North Russia. He was attached to R.E. then having come from railway construction in South America. He used to be a good looking boy and fine big husky chap. We all liked him.

For Part 2 of this series please see here

For Part 1 of this series please see here