Royal Roads Ex-Cadet Heritage Initiatives: Of Kye & the Hall Porter

Of Kye and the Hall Porter

By: Karen Inkster

Thanks to those who responded to my request for information last week. As always, I learned a lot and had a few laughs. Here’s what I found out…

KYE – What was it? How was it made? What are its origins? Was it served at the other military colleges? How long did the tradition of drinking kye last? Do you have any anecdotes or recollections related to drinking kye in the gunroom? Did it taste good?

It seems that RRMC was the only military college that had the tradition of serving kye and toast (or cookies) in the evening, and this tradition started in 1940 when it first opened. Here are some excerpts explaining the tradition:

“As served at RRMC when I was there, this was merely hot chocolate made the old way by dissolving cocoa and sugar in a mixture of hot water and milk. The staff in the kitchen made two pots every night before they departed and left it on a stove on low heat. It was the responsibility of duty flight to carry these two pots over to Nixon Block to the junior and senior gunrooms at the end of evening study period (10 PM). It is an old Royal Navy tradition going back to the middle of the 19th century. At the time it was believed that a ship could only be properly conned from an open bridge, which tended to get a little cold in the North Atlantic in winter. Bridge watchkeepers were supplied mid-watch (2 hours into a 4 hour stint) with a cup of kye. It was sweet cocoa to which had been added shaved unsweetened bar chocolate and a dollop of rum. The mixture was like thick cream, slightly bitter and extremely warming when drunk. The kye at Royal Roads was a poor substitute for the real thing! None of the other colleges had it (RMC had an actual snack bar/soda fountain instead).”

Col (Ret’d) Layne R. Larsen, 5573 (RRMC 1958-60)

“We did have kye (although I didn’t know how it was spelled until your interview with Don Lovell). I don’t recall hot chocolate. I think we had coffee and tea and a quick bite, perhaps toast or a pastry. I had forgotten all about that tradition until your article. We did not have kye at RMC. What I recall more than kye was the white van that would drive up to the door between 10 and 11 and we’d run down to buy sub sandwiches. I find it hard now to believe now that we needed another meal but I guess being 18 is like that.”

16107 Michael Loader

“Kye was purported to be cocoa, although we had some doubts about that! By the time it arrived at the Junior or Senior Gunroom (lounge or common room to you) it was covered in a thick skin much like what you see on old paint. It was usually accompanied by buns which were like rocks and may have been infused with raisins, or some other black objects! Never-the-less, we eagerly consumed both kye and buns—-a Royal Roads Officer Cadet never turned down free food!”

R. A. L. (Robin) Carter, 4586 (RRMC 1955-57, RMC 1957-59)

And, if any of you feel like reliving your Royal Roads days, Victoria Edwards even found a recipe for it at the Imperial War Museum site: http://www.iwm.org.uk/upload/package/20/lifeinww2/eat/eat7.htm

HALL PORTER / CASTLE COMMISSIONAIRE – Other than wakey, wakey, what did the Hall Porter do? Did this position last throughout the duration of the college? Was this a military position? Any further anecdotes?

“Again, this is another old Royal Navy thing going back to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. The job was essentially that of barracks warden and was open filled by a retired senior enlisted man. At RRMC, it was simply the title given to the commissionaire shift boss. In addition to blowing the various bos’n’s calls (actually the hall porters never mastered the correct calls, they merely blew on a whistle) to signal wakey-wakey, lights out, etc., he remained in a small cubbyhole on the ground floor of the castle and took reports from the other commissionaires on duty as they made their rounds.”
Col (Ret’d) Layne R. Larsen, 5573 (RRMC 1958-60)

“We did not have hall porters when I was at RRMC. There may have been a commissionaire in the castle but if so, they weren’t the one who called wakey in the morning. If I recall correctly, that was a cadet working in the office to the left of the front door of the dorm who used the PA.”
16107 Michael Loader

“The Hall Porter also blew “out pipes” when it was time for lights out a the end of the day. In 1955 when we still lived in dormitories, rather than in rooms, we were not allowed to get up before the Hall Porter blew “up pipes” but we still had to have our bed made, be dressed, clean shaved and on parade in 20 minutes! Thus we learned to awake at the sound of the intercom being switched on so we could hit the deck before up pipes was finished! Thanks for keeping the spirit of Royal Roads alive. Once a Roadent, Always a Roadent!”
R. A. L. (Robin) Carter, 4586 (RRMC 1955-57, RMC 1957-59)

For more information about military heritage initiatives at Royal Roads University, or to contribute to the projects, contact Karen Inkster, Alumni and Heritage Projects: [email protected].

Did You Know?…

That the Royal Roads Military Heritage Committee was created in 2008? The committee is chaired by Rear-Admiral (Ret’d) Russell Moore, 7151 (CMR 1962-64, RMC 1964-66) and consists of ten other ex-cadets and university staff members committed to preserving the military history and artifacts of RRMC. The eleven members meet at Royal Roads on a quarterly basis to discuss heritage projects, events and fundraising. Recent and future projects include the restoration of the mast and creation of a memorial garden and wall of honour, return of the HMCS Royal Roads bell, creation of the DVD documentary Coming Full Circle: Remembrances of Royal Roads Ex-Cadets and restoration of the brass plaques.

Members are as follows:

RAdm (Ret’d) Russell Moore (Chair), 7151 (CMR 1962-64, RMC 1964-66)
MGen (Ret’d) Dave Wightman, 3334 (RRMC 1950-52, RMC 1952-54)
Capt (Ret’d) Don Lovell, 10263 (RRMC 1970-72, RMC 1972-74)
Capt (N) (Ret’d) Dave Bindernagel, 9318 (RRMC 1968-70, RMC 1970-72)
LCol (Ret’d) Richard (Rick) Young, 7454 (RRMC 1963-65, RMC 1965-67)
Cdr (Ret’d) John Miller, 10277 (RRMC 1970-72, RMC 1972-74)
Mr. Reg Bird, 6593 (RRMC 1961-63, RMC 1963-65)
Dr. John Mothersill, 3237 (RMC 1950-54, Principal RRMC)
Mr. Paul Longtin, Senior Development Officer, Foundation, Royal Roads University
Ms. Karen Inkster, Alumni & Heritage Projects, University Life , Royal Roads University
Mr. Dave Rutherford, Manager, Grounds & Gardens, Royal Roads University

Keep posted for further updates about Royal Roads heritage projects and how you can help out. In the meantime if you would like further information, contact Karen Inkster: [email protected]

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