• Home
  • /
  • Remember When
  • /
  • IMPRESSIONS OF A NEW “OLD BRIGADIER” – 27 September, 1963

IMPRESSIONS OF A NEW “OLD BRIGADIER” – 27 September, 1963

“On a toujours vingt ans dans quelque coin du coeur”

Bishop and Leonard and Templeton were the founders of the “Old Brigade” and they builded better than they new. For those of us who, in the Thirties, made occasional pilgrimages to the Stone Frigate where we used to freeze, to the Parade Square where we sweated, and to the Educational Building where we absorbed the rudiments of a military career, the annual ex-cadet parade was a pleasure, even though we noticed that it was quietly being infiltrated by friends of ours wearing nice blue berets and badges. They had a certain air of mystery about them when questioned which implied that they were in on something a little distingué in being members of the “Old Brigade”. As they did not enlarge about it, the feeling spread amongst their juniors that here was something to aspire to, something a little secret, a little mysterious to which in God’s good time we should be admitted and would then also march at the head of the parade at a pace that would be sure not to fatigue the young lads bringing up the rear.

Well now, that time has come. We all did not make it – no Class ever does – but something less than half our Class, the Recruits of 1913, have ploughed through vicissitudes of life and are now entitled to the salutation of “Old Brigadier”. What a happy club it is to belong to. It has something of the eternal about it. RMC Classes are noted for their solidarity, they remain one. However, with the passing of time, they feel the ravages of War and Peace, the numbers decrease, the survivors find the ring growing smaller. It’s all a bit sad; but not with “Old Brigade”. We are taken out of the ruck by all those young faces and slim waistlines. And so, each year, are gathered the crême de la crême of the ex-cadet body; les anciens laden with rank and honours and accomplishments in peace and war; the sires and grandsires of able young people trained for this swift new age. We become merged with those who, themselves no longer burdened with responsibility, from a group, in age spanning three decades, who are mellow and who are understanding of the physical frailties which beset us all, a group to which there will be no end so long as the College flourishes. New recruits will pour in to join us. The casualty lists are high – not unlike Vimy – but our reserves more than fill the gaps each year. There is always someone to talk to, someone mature, born in the reign of good Queen Victoria, who knew the Empire, who remembers when the red on the map covered over a quarter of the globe. Here is the gathering one can always go back to – even to the end. Its ranks are continuously reinforced by men home from the ends of the earth.

This is a Club within a Club at RMC. Everyone is sought out and invited to be on parade, thanks to No. 599, Leary Grant who has acted as adjutant so ably and has borne the brunt of the detailed work for so many years. Great and sincere are our thanks to him for carrying on after No. 487, Fred McParland and No. 647, Bob McKnight passed on.

And it was under his auspices that the Recruits of 1913 sat down to a delicious dinner. Ten of us out of 22 above ground, No. 1012, Cochran, No. 1028, Harrower, No. 1029, Morrisom, No. 1019, Murchie, No. 1003, Mitchell, No. 1005, Pope, No. 998, Ross, No. 1006, Turnbull, No. 990, Wurtele, and No. 1026, Wardrope, were introduced to our worthy seniors by Shrimp Cochran in a memorable little speech. Significant later events were the presentation to the College of the Class gift of an oil painting of the old “Stone Frigate” by Captain H. E. Cochran, C.B.E., M.C., on behalf of the Class, and received by the Commandant, No. 2364, Air Commodore Len Birchall, O.B.E., D.F.C., C.D., A.D.C. the saviour of Ceylon; the conferment of Lieut.-General J. C. Murchie, C.B., C.B.E., C.D., our most distinguished classmate and a former Chief of the General Staff, of the honorary degree of Doctor of Military Science at the Fall Convocation; and the presentation of a completely equipped 25-Pounder Gun by Mrs. H. O. N. Brownfield in memory of her husband, our late classmate, No. 1022, Major-General Hal Brownfield, C.B., C.B.E., M.C.

It was a pleasure to have with us Gerty Wurtele’s brother, CDR A. C. Wurtele, RCN (Retd.), who had attended the Royal Navy College of Canada at Halifax while we were at RMC, and it is a pleasure to single out Marjorie Turnbull from among the wives present for being our honorary photographer and presenting us with such a happy record of our Fiftieth Anniversary. The whole affair was a grand show. It was particularly inspiring to see and to feel the solidarity of cadets and ex-cadets in a world that seems bent on splintering itself apart. I shall be happy to go back and meet the “Old Brigade” again.

No. 1029, Brig. Morrison, was presented with this short poem by a young veteran; it sums up our thoughts:

 

Fresh are the thoughts of memories old,

Stirred by the trumpets blare;

Out come the medals and old beret

Of the marching legionnaire.

 

Back to the tread of marching feet,

Back to the beat of the drum;

For many it won’t be as brisk a pace,

But still withal they come.

 

Hail the march of the Old Brigade,

Pilgrimage of the Vet;

Now hear the thanks of a silent grave,

“They’ve not forgotten yet”.

 

No. 1003, A. M. M.

2 Comments

  • Mike Houghton

    September 3, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    An excellent reminder of the value and importance of the Old Brigade. My father’s dream (2428 Jim Houghton) was to enter the OB but sadly missed it by one year. Luckily I, and so many of my mates, did and extremely proud to have done so. TDV

    6475 Mike Houghton

  • Mike Kennedy #12570

    September 4, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    The men in this photo would all undoubtedly have served in the Great War, it would be interesting to have more information on who they are, and what they did in the war, and during their subsequent lives and careers.
    As an interesting aside, the recruit class of 1913 (the last to enter before the Great War was declared) had 46 members, ranging from #985 H de L Panet, to #1030 J.A. Chesnut. In that era, College numbers were assigned not in alphabetical order, but rather on the basis of the recruits’ standing in the entry examination. Just three years later, the recruit class of 1916 had swelled to 118 members. Over the course of the five entry years 1914 to 1918, the College admitted a total of 463 recruits, almost half as many as had been admitted between 1876 and 1913.
    By 1919, the recruit class had dropped back down to 47 members, almost exactly the same as 1913. The recruit class would not reach the 100 mark until the admission of the “Last War Class” in 1940.