Off to war: The way it was for RMC senior cadets Oct ’39

The Special Graduation of October, 1939

Excerpt from the ‘Review’ – December 1939

Perhaps without the pomp and circumstance usually pertaining to a regular graduation, without the crowd and the glamour, but yet more solemn, more significant of the purpose of the existence of the Royal Military College, a Special Graduation took place on October, 13th, 1939. Forty-three gentleman cadets in slow time marched off the Square, with the Colours. They had been inspected by Brigadier H. D. G. , D.S.O., the Commandant who for these ceremonies of an extraordinary Closing, was representative of the Minister of National Defence.



This Graduation was the R.M.C.’s immediate response to Canada’s declaration of war with Germany on September 10th. Every one of the forty-three graduates was accepting a commission in the C.A.S.D. for service at home or abroad in the defence of Canada. The ceremony will long remain in the memory of those who witnessed it. It was not a duplication of 1914 for the War was declared while the College was closed. The term opened in September, 1939, with the Empire at peace, but a peace that could only be maintained by a miracle. Within ten days Canada was at war, following the lead of Great Britain, for the defence of the treaty obligations and the international justice for the defence of the principles of liberty, the rights of the individuals and the peoples.

In the Currie Hall, after the ceremonial, diplomas were presented to all members of the Class, eight of them “with Honours” by the Commandant. Brigadier Crerar spoke very earnestly to the Special Graduating Class as follows: “I find myself again on this platform, this time, owing the Hon. Norman McL. Rogers’ enforced return to Ottawa, presenting the diplomas at his request and on his behalf to another graduating class of 1939. Nobody can feel more deeply than I do over the departure of the 1939-1940 year’s First Class from the College. With cadet non-commissioned officers of such character and ability I looked forward to confidently to another year of advancement and success. But due to the circumstances that face this country and the Empire to which we belong, it could not be otherwise than that, the College should be in the forefront of war service, freely offered.

“As Canada’s only military college, providing commissioned entry into our army, navy, and air force, it was inevitable, as it was only proper, that we should be amongst the first to feel the full effects of war.

“I have never had other than the greatest satisfaction in the manner in which the senior class as a whole has conducted itself, and manipulated the traditional steadiness of the cadet battalion. They leave behind, even in their foreshortened period as cadet non-commissioned officers, a standard which the College will be proud to remember.

“The circumstances of a foreshortened course have made it necessary for me to amend the previously established wording of the diploma of graduation. I do not consider, however, that the diplomas I am about to give to the graduating class lose either in distinction or in future value on that count. The phrase now recorded on the diploma reads: ‘That Gentleman Cadet ________ having completed the basic general course of instruction for three years, and having volunteered for active service in his fourth year, has been awarded this diploma of graduation’. To my mind, no more worthwhile diploma could ever be given to any graduate of this College.

“I can appreciate the feelings of the members of the graduating class perhaps better than most people because I am leaving the College with them. It is not an easy thing to do. But wherever out paths may lead us, though I may still be superior in rank to the fellows I have known here, I should like to think that there will continue in the future nothing less than equality in the manner of our friendship.”