RRMC Memories


Derek Davis, 11877 (RRMC 1974-76, RMC 1976-78)

This interview was conducted by Royal Roads University staff person, Karen Inkster, and is part of the Royal Roads Oral History Project, a university initiative to preserve the military history of Royal Roads. Please contact Karen at [email protected] if you would like to contribute photos or stories to the project.

Karen: What did you go on to do in your career?

Derek: I became a marine systems engineer which meant you’re in charge of engineering plants and ships or you work in projects, principally in Ottawa and design and build ships. And then I moved on from there to be a Davis,_Derek_Log_1976naval architect – which is what I started out to do in the very beginning. And fortunately I then got involved in the patrol frigate program, the tribal class update, the submarines, the ones you hear so much about in the news. Actually I’d gotten sent overseas in the mid-eighties because we were thinking of building our own submarines so I worked on those as an exchange officer with the Royal Navy for several years. Came back and ended up working on submarines again in the late nineties, turn of this millennium and then in between that I ended up doing career managing at various times. Fortunately I managed to get back out to this coast again so I could get closer to water again which is rather ironic. You start your career here in Victoria and you finish one’s career – cause I’m almost at the end now so you could say it’s an interesting case of two bookends but it wasn’t intended to work out that way – it just did.

What I really found interesting was, during the mid-nineties when all of the difficulties were going on about what was going to happen to RR we were all wondering. It’s really nice to see it the way it is now because a lot of us knew what a gem this was. Most Canadians didn’t know it because it was “over there” on the other side of the Rockies and who knows what’s in Victoria and it would have been a shame for the nation had it disappeared so when we heard – oh there’s a way out – there was a huge sigh of relief from any of us who’d been here. So nice that you’re doing this today. Because there’s a lot of history in this place.

Karen: What made you decide to come to Royal Roads?

Derek: Well what made me decide to come to RR wasn’t so much me deciding as I actually knew what I wanted to do which was to be a naval architect. Now in those days in order to be a naval architect that meant you had to first of all get an engineering degree and then you had to go and train as a marine systems engineer. Once you’d done that then you could go on and take another course and become a naval architect. So the first part of that was you had to get into a military college – in this case I chose actually RMC and then RR. I was a bit late in the year for a variety of reasons and I remember getting phoned up at home, which was near Kingston, being told, “Well we’ve got good news and bad news and the good news is you’re accepted, the bad news is you’re going out to RR.” And I didn’t have a clue what RR was like, never having been out to this part of the country. And they said, “Look, you’ll do two years at RR and if you get through that then you’ll go to RMC and do your two years there.” So that’s how it all started so it was more or less a serendipitous decision on the part of some bureaucrat somewhere that said the allotment at RMC was full.

Karen: So was it bad news?

Derek: Well at the time I didn’t know one way or the other, I mean RMC was just down the road literally so I’d been there off and on because I went to high school in a place called Gananoque, Ontario which is only 15 miles east of Kingston so you knew what was in Kingston. What you didn’t know about was this strange place on the west coast of Canada. So coming out here was certainly different – I mean you’re arriving out here actually about this time of year cause in those days what happened is you came to the college in the middle of summer, you had about six weeks of what they called “rook term” back then, and you actually arrived before the second years because in those days there’s only two years at RR. So we arrived – at Vancouver airport in those days and then took a bus over and your first sight of this place is well not RR – you sort of came down what was the Old West Saanich Rd. cause the Pat Bay Highway was actually being finished in those days and that seemed very nice, sort of dipsy-doodled in here and then the first sight of RR, you just look at the mountains and the sea and you think, oh this is a jolly nice place to come and do a few days. Well that’s the first part and then of course you’ve got what was called “rook term” and then it was hell on earth for six weeks but it was very nice, it was nice surroundings so in hindsight – once you got through the initial six weeks it was not so bad.

Karen: And did everybody get through?

Derek: No… your question, did everybody get through – very good question. Within the first year we usually lost about half the people who started. In those days – and I’m going back to the mid seventies – RR had the reputation of being the toughest of all three military colleges, that was CMR, RMC, and RR. And people at RMC might well take issue with that but at the time RR was looked upon as being much more military and hard discipline so yes in the first year we usually lost about half the people we started with but sometimes more. So we came in here with upwards of well probably 150, 160, and by the end of the year you’re down to less than a hundred. And then a few more left every year after that. And actually if you started with ten people you might get one out at the end. So that was sort of the degree of attrition in those days. That was actually interesting because that was at the height of the Vietnam War when the military in Canada was not seen as a very desirable place to go – in fact I was the only person from my high school that went into the military – and that was a high school of 700 people.

Karen: So what was it like in those days then to be a cadet and going in your uniform and so on?

Derek: Being a cadet in uniform in Victoria – a very good question. When we got to Victoria – because in those days we were in the back of beyond – don’t think that now with the Western Communities, and Langford being so close, but in those days it was about a $40 cab fare into Victoria. And in those days we got paid I believe it was a grand total of about $100-$120 a month before they took off your board and lodging so the only way you got to Victoria was if you happened to get a bunch of guys together – or – as happened in some cases you had some of the guys whose parents had given them a car so if you palled out with the right people you could get into Victoria. So we didn’t get in that often but when we did get in….the first time we were out we were out in CF Greens and you look a whole bunch of gawky sort of teenagers all sort of meandering on Victoria like a bunch of lost lambs, not sure what to do. And then during the first year we went out in what they called “fours” which is essentially a British uniform – well you can see it still if you go to RMC in Kingston. It’s a tunic with a belt and a high collar, a very high collar – it comes up to here and cuts your circulation off – and a little pillbox hat. And blue trousers with red piping down the sides. This is how you meandered around downtown Victoria.

So, again, at the maximum in those days the college here had about 200+ students so you think of that little drop in the bucket compared to – even in those days UVIC was several thousand – we were sort of seen as odd people to be around. Then later on in first year and into second year you could actually wear a blazer with yes, we were allowed to wear blue shirts and that was quite something – not white shirts – and grey flannel trousers, so you looked very preppy but you could walk around downtown Victoria and that, you didn’t quite feel such an oddball. But the craziest thing, there’s actually various stories told about what happened to cadets in uniform in downtown Victoria and the funniest one in my year was one time, I forget the reason but we were downtown on some kind of official business, we were actually wearing our scarlet tunics and we were in the Empress and one dear old lady came up to one of the very senior cadets cause you know you can tell who’s a senior cadet by the number of bars he had on his tunic and I think he had three or four, and asked this young man if he could take the bags up to her room. And he tried to protest, then he thought more of it, and just took it up the stairs – and he got a tip out of it! So we all thought that was good and we’d all stick around there if we could get more money that way to add to our $100-120 a month! (chuckles) These things happened but a different time I think now people would actually recognize you because like I say it was back in the bad old days of the seventies and military was not well looked upon by many people – particularly in Victoria. You know, lock up your daughters if you were coming in that direction….yes. (laughs)

Karen: That’s just what I was going to ask you – about dating.

Derek: Oh – the question of dating at RR in the seventies…ah yes. If you can think back to those days – fashion and what young men were like and ladies were like and all the rest – well your typical non-military chap usually had hair down to his shoulders or beyond – and actually when a lot of people showed up here they had hair down to their shoulders and beyond so we stuck out like a sore thumb when you’re going around Victoria. And depending on who you’re with, in some cases young women didn’t want to be with someone that stuck out like a sore thumb and in other cases it was alright. So dating was – depending on who you were – some people from the local area came with ready-made girlfriends. Other people then sort of cobbled on and said well does your girlfriend have someone who’d go out with you and then one thing led to another. Because when you got close to Christmas there was going to be a Christmas ball and then there was always a graduation ball so you weren’t going to be the wallflower without a date so it almost got to the point where there were one or two senior cadets who took it upon themselves to ensure that all the junior cadets – ie the first years – had a date – good, bad, or indifferent but there was a lady there so that gentleman could go down the stairs on to the Quarterdeck as it was then known and somewhat cause you had to have a date for the night you know it wasn’t going to be done otherwise. So the other thing was you know people’s sisters if they were in the local area, would come down. So…it was difficult because of course what happened is people dated here for two years and then they went off to RMC usually for two years. And that sometimes worked and it sometimes didn’t. If I go to what happened in those days at RMC, about half of the people got married at the end of fourth year and I’d say probably about half of those marriages were to nurses out of Queens University, yeah. Just the way it is. So if you meet an ex-cadet and probably a good chance his wife’s a nurse or in the medical field. It just happened to work out that way. So what happened is a lot of the romances here sort of tended to sort of fizzle out a bit which was just life at that stage.

Karen: And what about yourself personally?

Derek: Oh – very complicated. (laughs) No, the girl I went out with here, she went off somewhere else and then the lady I’m married to now I met in England on a training course several years later. So I’m actually an anomaly cause I didn’t actually get married to anyone I met at either of the colleges. Much later. But there are some people I guess. But I’m still married and that’s the same one. (laughs)

Karen: What do you recall of the staff people who worked here.

Derek: Including Jim Boutilier? What did I think of the staff people? Um well it was a mixture of military and civilian staff and was also amongst the civilian staff we had some people here who also taught at UVIC. So I would say that the staff were a rather eclectic mix. For example, we had an English professor who came from UVIC who would be seen probably as the classic flower child, you know, long hair, talked in a very soft, flowing voice, would quite often be late to teach his class because he was all the time coming from Victoria – very nice man but about as far as you can get away from being military. Well he was our English teacher for the first term. The second term we had an army major who taught us English who had waxed handlebar moustache, spit-shine combat boots and his trousers were more highly pressed than those of the cadets! And if you dared be sort of ten seconds late for a class you were charged. So you went from night to day, and back again with the various staff you had. Most of the staff were really nice people, I mean you didn’t see all of them but any of the staff I had here – they loved the place – it was sort of like everybody worked here I think they probably appreciated it more than we did because they actually got to walk around and sort of take time to smell the roses where the rest of us were doubling and double-quick time everywhere. So they were all nice people and they would help you – that was the big thing I found

When I talked to my friends who went somewhere like Queens or U of T or York, the difference here was people knew you as an individual. Because I can remember I came back here in the early nineties when I was a career manager and I used to look after some of the staff who were teaching at the college and we’d actually come for lunch and then for dinner and I was up in the dining room which is where you now have your cafeteria and this is almost 20 years after I left the place and one of the waitresses came up and said, how are you Mr. Davis, how are you doing, how is life? Now that was actually a big difference between RR and RMC. RMC in those days was three to four times the size of RR – they had a student body of anywhere between 600 and 700 where we were like around 200 and less by the end of the year. So yes it was family here, it was more like just a big school when you went to Kingston. Big difference.

Karen: So even the general staff –

Derek: Yeah. Yeah it was much different. You didn’t realize it at the time but at RR you were actually more a person I think where you were recognized for being a person whereas when you went to RMC, yes, they had all this wonderful stuff about being the preeminent military college but I didn’t get the feeling that the staff really realized who you were – as much.

Karen: And Capt(N) Peers was the commandant?

Derek: Yes. Yes. And yes and in our day Capt(N) Peers was the commandant but you can go back to two or three of your questions because first of all his daughter was dating one of the cadets who actually was the cadet band master. One morning – this will give you an idea of the sort of thing that happened – we realized it was the cadet band master’s birthday. Now the cadet band master used to live at the very top of the building next door to us and he didn’t realize that we knew it was his birthday, nor that he was going out with Lorna Peers, who still lives in Victoria, by the way. And we woke him up, threw him in a laundry basket, and then proceeded to march down to the commandant’s house which as you know is down that way – with him in the laundry basket but what I forgot to tell you was he was naked in the laundry basket – and marched down to the commandant’s house, perched ourselves in front of the doorstep and then blew reveille. Now you have to understand this is like a 20-piece band and at which point Captain(N) Peers, being the nice person he was, came out to see us and then saw what it was all about and one of the members went up and explained that we’d brought down the cadet band master for his birthday and for breakfast – at which point he invited said young gentleman in – after he had got him a bathrobe – and then we left and went home again – marched home, playing loudly as we went. And that was the sort of thing that went on at RR. And Capt(N) Peers, being a good sport he was, he’d just accept it and say, oh nice to see you this morning Gord and how would you like to join us for breakfast? So he was a real gentleman and we were lucky we had him. I don’t know how the commandants were like after that but we always felt kind of blessed by Capt(N) Peers.

Karen: He seems very friendly almost.

Derek: Yeah. The staff were friendly to the cadets. The cadets were friendly to the other cadets – which means – the year I was here, the first year you only had two years. When I got in the second year and that was then RR got degree granting status so we started to have – well we had a very unique situation for one year we’d had senior cadets were third years and senior cadets were second years. And the curious thing was if you were one of those cadets who were senior to us in our first year you would then be senior to us every year up – you would always be at the top so I’m not sure how many of those guys are left but yeah it was a very odd arrangement. I think it was less than 20 when it started off. That was when they started physics and physical oceanography so that would have been ’75-’76 when I first started.

Karen: So they had a good advantage.

Derek: Oh they had a big advantage. Well actually yes in some ways because the second years did some of the work for them so the third years were the senior barmen and then in ’75 through ’76 they were the very senior barmen and then the second year was sort of the next one to them. It all worked.

Karen: So what other sorts of skylarks would you play

Derek: Well, very good question. Well we suspended a – do you know what a whaler is? A whaler is say about a 20-foot boat that you row which usually weighs about ¾ of a tonne. There used to be a bunch of them which were down at the sailing club. Well we brought one of those up in the middle of the night and then we suspended it on ropes between the two parts – you know how the two parts of Grant Block – I’m getting my Blocks mixed up here – how they jut out? We suspended it in mid-air by the Neptune steps with the name of the squadron that did it underneath. Of course the trick was if you did something like this you had to make sure it was taken down and put back the next day. Normal things were just stealing apples out of the commandant’s orchard in the middle of the night. Other things were say when we had a race, if you look in the Esquimalt Lagoon, you’ll see this little island and part of the thing when we had a regatta and we’d have a race, that you take these whalers and row them around the island. Well one squadron had an idea that what they’d do is they’d put divers down and the divers would swim underneath and put grappling hooks to the bottom of one of the other people’s boats and slow them down. Not so much a skylark, that’s more getting in on the opposition.

We also did things with the University of Victoria when they did things to us like they would come and steal our canons because there used to be two canons out front and then we’d have to ransom them off. Then we’d go up there and we’d go in their buildings, put black shoe polish on the toilet seats of all the men’s toilets and do things – you know it was just went back and forth, strange things like that. We had junior and senior mess dinners during the year, primarily to get you used to doing mess dinners when you got older and more grown up. But the idea was the seniors would go away and they’d have their mess dinner and then while the seniors were gone the juniors would end up doing terrible things to the rooms. Well that was the established way of doing business but we thought we’ll be a bit different. It’s better if you indulge in psychological warfare and don’t take the brute force approach. So what we did is we went in and we got all the parade boots – and parade boots were your pride and joy because people spent hours and hours and hours polishing these things so they had a glass-like shine. And we took all the parade boots out of the rooms. They thought we were going to do terrible things to their rooms, they were all locked and bolted or some of them just said, oh yeah, I’ll leave it unlocked because I know you’re going to break the door down anyway. But anyway so we just got all their boots and then we went to the Quarterdeck and we just lined up all their boots as they were on parade. So when they came out of dinner all they saw were all these boots – or their best set of boots – all lined up in perfect rows with their names in front of them and all the positions as though they were on parade and they came out and they looked at it and they thought, oh my heavens, what else have they done?! Then they got back to their rooms and found nothing was touched so you know the psychological part was to put the fear of god into them and actually all the seniors said that was probably the best thing they’d ever heard done because it had the psychological value but it was actually pretty smart because we didn’t want to destroy stuff.

There were times though when people’s rooms were completely filled with confetti or the nastiest one I suppose was if you take Dixie cups and you staple Dixie cups right across someone’s floor and then you fill each Dixie cup up to the brim with water. (pause, chuckle) Yes it’s rather hard – it takes a long time to take each little Dixie cup out, empty it down the sink and move on to the next Dixie cup. So there were little things like that going on all the time.

Karen: How did people think of these things?

Derek: A lot of young minds with fertile imaginations trying to come up with other ways to sort of do the other guy up. Well then we took a horse up to the third floor and left it in somebody’s office. But he was an army officer – each squadron had a squadron commander and one of those squadron commanders was a regular force army officer and I forget what led to it but something about he was cavalry or something so they went out and borrowed one of the horses that used to be down in the fields down there cause the commandant’s daughter rode. So we just went and borrowed a horse for the night, took it up the stairs and left it in the office for when he came in the morning. I don’t know if it left anything behind but he was quite impressed apparently that we would go and do that. Yes elevators were probably abused in those days. The cannons I mentioned previously were also taken up and left in various people’s offices as well.

Karen: Those cannons saw a lot of action.

Derek: They did see a lot of action. It was most difficult when we had to get a ransom back from UVIC though. That was a different day. Yes. Those are the skylarks I can remember and actually a major difference we found between skylarks at RR and skylarks at RMC was because RMC was much closer to Ottawa and there was something called the Ex-cadet Club in Kingston, often skylarks at RMC were perhaps less tolerated. At RR you could get away with more so it was sort of rather a shock when you went to RMC and some people tried the same stunts and the wrath of the commandant came down on their head. Because there was a different atmosphere between the two colleges. Like I said we were very much on the other side of the Rocky Mountains and in our own little world out here – probably more so than it is now. In those days like I said at the beginning it was a lot more difficult to get from here to downtown.

Karen: Did everybody pretty much get along in your class?

Derek: Well I think everyone got along much the way human beings usually get along. There are some people you just ignore; there are some people you’re really good friends; and then there’s other people that are just in the middle. And I’ve been fortunate that I met friends here who are still friends of mine now – I mean even though they’ve been out of the military for 30 years – we still go back and forth, we still talk all the time even though they’re 3,000 miles away. And the big thing you also found is those people you went to RR with? You come across them in the military now or in private life and they’ll still just come up and talk to you. It’s sort of you had this strange bond which is having been to RR – what you went through and that makes you slightly different from normal human beings and you recognize it and one another. I think it’s like any sort of group like that. You know what they’ve gone through, you’re probably prepared to trust them more in some cases.

Karen: So what kind of an impact do you think RR had on your life?

Derek: A huge one because first of all it allowed me to see another part of the country and understand – having grown up in central Canada and Quebec and Ontario you get thinking that that’s all there is. I hate to say it but one can easily fall into that mindset and you came out west and you discovered people – they’re still nice people but they think differently. That’s not a good thing, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just they have different views on things. And you also bumped into people from all across the country which was a very different thing. I mean – one of the things in those days – I think we still try and do it now at RMC – is you try to take people from all across Canada. You wanted to get people from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, all the prairie provinces, the north – as well as people from BC. And just the fact that you were talking to all those people meant you got to appreciate their point of view. Also the fact that you met a lot of really nice people that later in life you bumped into and sort of helped or they helped you and also the fact that you really learned to work rather hard here. I think everyone who went through RR – this is going to sound terrible for those people from RMC – but we found RMC actually a bit of a letdown. Remember I was saying at the beginning, the military colleges way back then, the three of them had various reputations but RR had the most militaristic one – good or bad. What that meant was that when we got to RMC we found that things where people thought they’re being hard done by at RMC say in terms of military and number of parades and stuff. I hate to say it but we all felt rather superior in life – what are you worried – what are you complaining about – this is all pretty small beer. So there was this sort of superiority complex about people from RR I think when they went to RMC and other colleges.

Karen: Why do you think RR was more militaristic?

Derek: Partially because it was smaller. I mean there’s a good and bad point about only having two years in that when you’ve got that few people you do tend to sometimes overdo it whereas at RMC they had four years so people gradually got used to responsibility whereas at RR in those days was, first year, you’re nothing; second year you’re everything. So I think when you became “everything” you sort of maybe tried to overdo it. I’m not sure how RR changed in the eighties when they got four years here. It was probably a different kind of a place. But I think in the sense of – militaristic perhaps is the wrong term – in the sense of pomp and circumstance and doing – if you’re going to do something, do it the right way. Because for example when we got together for drill, you would find – believe it or not the three military colleges all taught drill in different ways and it actually showed up my first summer when we went to Borden and that was probably would have been a drill sergeant’s nightmare. He had three military colleges, each of whom was taught by a different regimental sergeant major or a different system of drill. Plus he had direct entry officers who didn’t know drill and they’re all in the same parade square and in those days the way drill worked was – we at RR – this is just a small example – they’d say “halt”, we’d stop on that when the “halt” came down. The people from RMC would take another step and they’d stop and the people from CMR would take two steps and stop. So you can imagine this rather huge, very slow moving sort of worm and the drill sergeant major would call “stop” and sort of a core of the people stopped, another core of the people take another step onwards, another core of the people take two steps onward, another bunch of the people would do something in between. And yeah I remember that summer because we spent I think it was of our eight weeks in Borden – we probably spent four weeks unlearning everything we got taught here – only of course to learn it when we got back here in the fall and our drill sargeant major asking us what on earth had gone on during the summer. But I guess you could say that the place I saw it – we used to have something called “Weiser Cup” which was a drill competition and it was run on the basis of each squadron would go out of their way to do something spectacular and you’ve probably seen things like the United States Marine Drill Corps. They were doing things sort of at that level. Now these guys are going to classes and they’re doing sports and doing everything else and so I think they prided themselves on doing drill and what they saw here is the military part to a much higher standard.

Karen: So what was the “right” way to do drill?

Derek: (chuckling) Well it all depends you see we were taught by the PPCLI where as the people in Kingston were taught by the RCR and well if there’s anyone in PPCLI they’ll tell you theirs is the right way to do drill.

Karen: Talk to me about the sports program.

Fencing Club from Log 1976Derek: The sports program? Oh. What would you like to do? You could do it all if you came to RR. The sports program was pretty heavy duty because we’re blessed with such wonderful weather you can do sports here which in Kingston you could only dream of. We were playing rugby in down in the fields down there in January and yet in Kingston it’s sort of three or four feet of snow; same with soccer. We had our own pool here which was actually better than the pool we got to when we got to Kingston. The number of clubs we had here – I was on the fencing team and we used to fence UVIC quite a lot and various people on the mainland, plus there were shooting teams, the rifle team, the pistol team, we had a flying club. We didn’t do lacrosse here. RMC because it was bigger it had a bigger selection of sports but sports were big here; they were huge. Now sports were a big thing because we did them – well every evening you had an hour, hour and a half of sports and you could do that – that was on your own or with the teams you were with. And then we also had intramural sports where we would – depending on which team you were on and how well you did we would end up playing against UVIC or UBC. Now of course the funny thing was we would sometimes have the United States Air Force Academy up here. Well you’d think for 200, there were about 6,000. So they’d come up here you know to play soccer or something like that and then we’d wonder why we’d get whipped royally by USAF as it was then known and then we realized that of course they have the cream of the crop down there. In order to get into USAF in those days you’d have to have a congressman or senator or you’d had to have done something really big so just given the population it’s no wonder that they outshone us every time I’m afraid. I don’t think we ever beat them.

Karen: So what were some of the most memorable moments here at RR?

Derek: The most memorable moments I think the first day when we arrived here having got off the bus, driven down through what was a much smaller Victoria then and then just coming through the gate and you arrive in this place and you look out and you see the ocean and you think, you know we’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy! This really looks like an interesting place! Well what I forgot to add is you also saw the deer who were sort of grazing in the fields by the upper soccer field and the peacocks that were screaming as you came down the hill and you sort of didn’t realize that there was a place like this in Canada. It was so outside one’s experience level; it was just fascinating. I’d say that was one of the most interesting day was when I arrived.

I can think of other strange days when for example, the library you have now, was completed in late ’74 and up to that time the library was here in the castle and I’m not sure how it ended up but they didn’t get a moving company to do it, they just lined up all the cadets one weekend and we moved every single volume out of this building and into that building. One continuous stream of manpower, and that’s what we did. We did it, just everybody pitched in, it didn’t matter whether you were first year or second year, everybody just pitched in and got it done and yeah that was rather a memorable day or two days we spent doing that. Also I can remember the great snowball fight during exam routine. I forget which year it was but you know what snow’s like in Victoria, well it was in the middle of exam routine and exam routine tended to be everyone pretty much locked down; normal life as you knew it just didn’t exist anymore because everyone was studying like mad and we had to get through exam routine and then we were going on to the Christmas Ball so it was almost like you’d worked really steadily up to that point sort of early to mid-December then you were getting ready for the ball which meant you were decorating all the quarterdeck and at the same time you were trying to get through your exams. Then we were doing the sports as well. So everybody was about up to here and I don’t know what it was that led to it but it snowed and we had about almost a foot of really, really, wet snow. Well before you knew it there was a couple of guys out in the courtyard behind the block and then one thing led to another and if you can picture 200 people having a snowball fight – people in sort of back behind the block, people on the roof of the block, people in the windows, throwing snowballs at one another and it probably lasted for an hour and a half before it all came out. And then I think we sort of all got it out of our systems and then we went back in.

The only time it wasn’t quite like that but it was also another exam routine, something silly in the sense of we started making paper airplanes out of our exam papers and anything else we could get our hands on. And if you can think of this snow of little paper airplanes coming out of the back of the building and falling everything and on anyone – just because we were trying to get it out of our systems and blow off steam. So yeah. It was quite the interesting place. And then you go back to the normal life.

Karen: Well what do you think the importance is of preserving the history of Royal Roads?

Derek: From the point of view of the thousands of people who came through here from when RR became a naval college and then a military college there’s a lot of history in those people who’ve moved and shaped and done things to the country as a whole. And now I think you’re doing that again but from a different point of view you know you’re perhaps influencing things more internationally – whether it’s Asia-Pacific, whether it’s making sure that the voice of the west is heard in the centre of the country. If you’re managing to shape those kinds of minds then you’re continuing to do I think what this place is meant to do.

Karen: Any final thoughts?

Derek: Well I’ll give you an interesting story. My son was born and brought up in Ottawa, then we moved overseas so he’d never actually seen Victoria. Well we were in a theatre in London and we were watching one of the X-Men movies and my son had been asking me questions about what’s Victoria like because we knew at that time that we were going to start to come back to Canada and we’d be coming back to Victoria. And we were watching the pictures that were filmed from the castle and I said to my son, “Well that’s in Victoria.” “No! That sort of thing’s in England, it’s not in Victoria.” There wasn’t anything like that in Ottawa or Toronto or anywhere he’d seen. I said “No that’s in Victoria, that’s where I went to school.” “No!! (chuckling) We don’t have schools like that in Canada.” “Well there is one, I went there and I’ll prove it to you when we get back.” So when we got back here I took him down, I said, “See, I wasn’t lying. Your father was not telling you a fib. The place actually does exist.” So you know from that point of view it’s just that yes, this does exist, it’s a wonderful place, please keep it up.


  • 4586 R. A. L. Carter

    January 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    In my era (1955-57) the dating problem was solved by the existence of a mythical group of girls called the “Wing Office Specials”. Attendance at balls was compulsory and if you didn’t have a date you were threatened with having to take one of the Wing Office Specials to the ball. We assumed these girls must be pretty unattractive. But one night I was Junior Duty Cadet in the Cadet Wing Office when the Senior Duty Cadet offered to let me see the list of Wing Office Specials. They were some of the most beautiful girls in Victoria, including the Vic College Queen!

  • 8092 Ken Benoit

    January 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Well congradulations to Derek and Karen for a very interesting article on RR during the seventies (sisties in my case). Derek explained very clearly the reason that Royal Roads was so much more challenging than RMC or CMR..that being the fact that an OCdt went from being a rookie to possibly CWC in one year.

    It certainly brings back many fond memories.