Running Circles at Royal Roads Military College

The photo is of a cadet giving a chit to the senior cadet to ask permission to run the circle (c. 1961-63).

Running Circles at Royal Roads

I was recently given a copy of the CADWINS (Cadet Wing Instructions) from 1965, and as one uninitiated to military life, I was completely astounded at the degree of precision there was to every aspect of cadet life at Royal Roads. I can’t imagine what it was like to arrive here and be expected to learn all the rules and traditions almost overnight!

Reading the CADWINS really helped me understand daily life and routine at Royal Roads, and showed how every aspect of life was regimented – from the order of clothing hung in the cabin wardrobe – Cape, Raincoat, Jacket (recreational), Trousers (recreational), Tunic (Scarlet or blue), Trousers (blue), Jacket (battle dress), Trousers (battle dress) – to deportment and how to address each other.

In this article I wanted to share an excerpt from the CADWINS about running circles – which is something everyone I interviewed remembered well – and was unique to Royal Roads. During Homecoming Weekend in September we now have the Ceremonial Circle where the returning classes march around the circle led by bagpipes.

I’ve included a couple of stories about running the circle, and I’d love to hear if you have any additional anecdotes. Were circles run as punishment until the closing in 1995? Does anyone have a copy of the circle chit that was handed out?

Kind regards,

Karen Inkster

Alumni Relations Coordinator, Royal Roads University

[email protected]

(250) 391-2600 ext. 4405

From CADWINS 1965


5.24 Behaviour which is inconsistent with the Code of Service Discipline and College Orders, but does not appear to be an intentional breach or defiance of them, may be dealt with by Summary Correction which shall take the form of doubling around the Circle.

5.25 Authority to carry out Summary Correction shall be subject to the following maximum limits:

Cadet Wing Commander 5 circles

Deputy Cadet Wing Commander and 4 circles

Cadet Squadron Leaders

Cadet Flight Leaders 3 circles

Cadet Wing Warrant Officer 2 circles

(Slate of Honour)

Cadet Section Commanders 1 circle

5.26 Except as provided in Article 5.28, Summary Correction shall be carried out in the hours prescribed and within the 24 hour period in which it is ordered during the Recruit period. After the Recruit period Officer Cadets may accumulate circles during the week and run these off at one time. Officer Cadets with circles not run off by 1700 Saturday will be charged accordingly. The following times are authorized for this purpose:

(a) * 0615-0630 (Monday – Friday)

(b) 1300 (Saturday only)

(c) 2140-2200 (Monday – Friday)

* NOTE: This Parade will require a minimum of four Officer Cadets to sign the Circle Parade List and the Duty Cadet Squadron Adjutant will announce if this Parade will be held.

5.27 An officer Cadet who accumulates more than seven circles in a given 24 hour period will have the eighth and subsequent circles converted to a charge.

5.28 An Officer Cadet who is prevented by duty, punishment routine or on medical grounds from running circles awarded shall run them off upon his return to normal duty.

5.29 Dress for the running of circles shall be as follows:

(a) No. 7 dress – black runners.

(b) Blue denim trousers – singlet – turtleneck sweater and black runners in cold weather.

(c) Raincoats as necessary.

The Duty Cadet Squadron Adjutant shall order the wet or cold weather dress for circles.

5.30 Cadet Officers and Cadet Section Commanders, ordering circles, will give the names to the Duty Cadet Squadron Adjutant who will be responsible for checking attendance. After the Recruit Period, the supervision of circles will be the responsibility of the Duty Cadet Squadron Adjutant and the Cadet Section Commanders from the Duty Flight.

5.31 An Officer Cadet shall have the right to refuse Summary Correction and request that he be dealt with formally, in accordance with the procedure set out in Articles 5.33 – 5.35.

5.32 A record of circles is to be kept in the Circle Book provided for each Squadron by Cadet Squadron Adjutants. Circle Books, with completed entries up to and including the previous Friday, will be submitted to the Wing Office by Stand Easy Monday morning.

Memories of the Circle

Larry Hamilton, 4912 (RRMC 1956-58, RMC 1958-60): Well the circle, as you’re probably aware, was a form of minor punishment that was dealt out by the seniors to the juniors for having “froust” or dust on your clothes or having an improper haircut or a sprung “spiffy” – a “spiffy” was a wire device used to keep the collar of your shirt straight and there were little prongs that were stuck into the collar and they would jump out and that was known as “sprung spiffy” and that was worth a circle or three. And in regards to the circle…after I’d been here about six weeks, one Sunday morning on parade, Captain Charles noticed that I hadn’t got a haircut that week and he just said: “Haircut” and the person behind him said: “Four days defaulters” and so that was extra parades and punishment. And in the process of those four days defaulters I acquired a fifth day and in the process of those five days I acquired 52 circles.

So one Sunday afternoon I thought I’d just bite the bullet and go out and run those 52 circles. So the good news was that on the weekend you could use gym gear rather than your boots and uniform to run. The bad news was that you had to give an eyes right to the visitors – every time you passed a visitor you had to drop your hands to your side at attention and turn your head to the right or left to look at the visitor. And some of the visitors stayed there forever on the circles, parked in cars or whatever. And around and around I went and after a while I guess some of the visitors got quite concerned about this, this lad that seemed to be out there forever, just going round 13 circles completed, 27 circles completed. So they went into the castle here and summoned up the duty officer and said, “What is going on with this lad – why are you treating him like this?” He said “Well that’s the way things are done around here” and they said “Well we think you should probably look into this because he’s not looking so good.”

And so they phoned the Grant Block, the cadet duty officer, and said, “Go check him out.” And so they came and they said, “How are you?” And I thought, now this is a wonderful opportunity to perhaps get even with these buggers and so I said, “Well I’m fine, I’m fine, I’ve got a bit of a headache and a pain in my chest and my left arm’s a bit numb but other than that I feel fine.” So he said, “Oh okay”, and so went back and told the duty officer and the duty officer said “You asshole – he’s having a heart attack out there!” So the duty officer came out and he was running beside me and said “You must stop!” and I said “Well I cannot stop because I was asked to run 52 circles and I must run the 52 circles” and he said, “Well how are you feeling?” And I said, “Well I’m fine, I’ve got a bit of a headache and pain in my chest and my left arm’s a bit numb but other than that I’m fine.” And he said “You’re having a heart attack” and I said, “Well perhaps but we’ll manage.” So they all got quite concerned of course – but I did finish the 52 circles in 2 ½ hours and got back to my studies. That’s what I remember about the circle.

Reg Bird, 6596 (RRMC 1961-63, RMC 1963-65): I think the class would be over at say 10:30 and you were given 15 minutes for what they called “kai” where you got and had hot chocolate or morning coffee but that was the time also they reserved for you to run circles if you had received any circles the night before for any transgression you did such as having a bit of lint on your uniform or whatever and some senior had caught you and given you circles. You then jogged out, put your books down, jogged out to the dias out there in front of Grant and walked up to the duty officer and asked permission of him to run four circles or three circles or however many circles you’d got. And in full battle dress with boots and everything you’d run these circles and at the end of each circle you’d say, “One circle completed Mr. Smart” and “Two circles complete” and then you went back…and he’d sign off and you watched your watch – you had to be back at class cause you couldn’t run more circles than there was time. Then you’d go back into class and the other cadets would come in from their coffee break. Mind you most of the rookies are out running circles. Because when you were given a circle you were given one week to run them if you went over that I think they doubled or something so you had to make sure you ran them.


  • Andre Mech

    March 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Good for you Larry. Those guys who were on duty probably learned something from your example and took good care of their men throught their careers.

    For the first few weeks at Roads circles were a pain because everyone was keen keen keen! After that things became more realistic as 2nd 3rd and 4th year Cadets got into the demanding academic rountine and the recruits were just getting into the shock of accademics. Everyone was in fantastic fighting shape so the actual physical effort of a circle was minimal. Running a kilometer or two in any geer was a joke. Circle fun came sometime after the third week. It was at that time we learned the trick of hiding in the western most bushes at the bottom of the hill after the second circle and then rejoining the group on the third circle or later. Duty staff kind of knew what was going on but with so many running it was hard to tell who was deeking and who was still in the group without doing a full roll call. Time was ticking so a full roll call was not possible in between cirlces. “A Mexican stand off of sorts.” A week or so later I did the West Bush Bash and ended up having a great chat with a third year who was waiting in ambush. “Mr Mech, you get three circles for deeking circles”. Not to be outdone by the system, I decided to run the circles the next day and I did a few circles in advance, four I think… and I did it again the next day. Sort of banking circles as a credit against future offences or to trade with buddies. I gave banked circles to budds so they could get a few more minutes in the rack. When questioned by seniors I would quote some part of CADWINS that didn’t exist and then tell them that thier old copy was out of date etc. When seniors figured out the accounting it was considered innovative and it almost worked but alas was rejected outright. Not “officerly like conduct” you see. So I got circles for running circles and for not knowing CADWINS. I remember having to explain to some tired 3rd year duty cadet “Yes sir! GOOD MORINING SIR!” “This circle is for that circle, sir” and “That circle was for this buddy and not this offence by me sir!” :-) Then I got circles for not running in an officerly like manner, “circles for silly circles”. Staff would demonstrate how to run… and I would not quite get it and over act back… I even got circles “for running in a too proper manner”, with my 46″ chest, abdomen and arms flexed like rock (I was all muscle at the time) and legs moving like “Robocop”. Eventually academics took over the college and the school got into the grind. Everyone realized that nobody, not even seniors wanted anything to do with circles. We just wanted to pass our courses. The best part was months and now years later now that the division between our classes has gone… we can have great long howl. What a fantastic memory. The the blues sky of the early morning reflecting off of the led windows of the ivy covered castle, the sound of gulls in distance over the Straights of Juan de Fuca, the cool mist in the air, the West Coast smell of the dew on the manicured lawns and the impecably trimed shrubs and the sound of “You #$%* bag &@%^@%#^&#@! What the bloody &#^$%#&@ hell do you think you’re doing?” Hah! Hah! Hah! What a fantastic memory!

  • 4586 R. A. L. Carter

    March 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    In 1955-57 circles were run each day in the evening in lieu of kai, which was no loss given the quality of the buns and cocoa. They were always run in duty dress, boots and all. On Sunday afternoon Term Circles were run. These involved the whole of the first year and were awarded for such offenses as: not enough skylarks (pranks) during the previous week, skylarks which lacked originality, generally poor turnout by the junior class or boredom on the part of the senior class.

  • 5870 Don Codling

    March 15, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I suspect the class of 63 set a record on graduation day in our first year. A staff member whose beard and especially his mustache were memorable was duty officer that day. After he left at the end of breakfast, one table of first year cadets sang the Gillette blue blade commercial (I think I remember that right). Unfortunately for us, he returned in the middle, and instructed the CWC to give each of us the maximum 5 circles (one per bar he carried). Thus Dick Waller probably issued more circles at one time than any other cadet in RR history, and our class got more circles on the last day than had ever been heard of – 95 circles to the 99 culprits in that skylark.

  • Len Gibson

    March 18, 2010 at 12:45 am

    #5870 Don Codling was my senior and I think he remembered all the circles he got and was therefore quick to assign them to us – his junior year! It was perhaps for that reason that I remember feeling justice was done when “Don went down with his rifle” in fainting and falling face first to the asphalt parade ground during one Sunday parade. We had always been instructed that if you dropped your rifle, or felt faint, to make sure you hit the ground before your rifle struck
    Yes, most first year cadets ran a lot of circles and doing so in the wool pants we were required to wear produced some pretty ugly inner thigh rashes (crudely referred to as “crotch rot”). I recall one of my classmates (Rob B.) being raw down to his knees and simply not able to run circles for medical reasons.
    The discipline was good for character formation.
    6247 Len Gibson RRMC/RMC 1964

  • Paul M. Lazenby 10436

    March 19, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Much as I enjoyed the stories, ‘Cicles’ were not unique to RRMC. Speaking from the humility of too much experience, they were also doled out at CMR. Winter conditions meant running in boots and great coat in the snow, and as AO (acedemics only) was no excuse,it was not uncommon to see cadets (ok, maybe just me)hobbling around the circle on crutches. My most memorable circles were in the winter of 1971 when I managed to coerce a team of cadets to pull me round on a toboggan. (I had given the CWC’s chair to my CFL as a Christmas present from Santa, and someone was less than impressed) While ‘Circles’ may have helped develop character, from the stories posted from RRMC, and my own experience at CMR, ‘Circles’ were often more a badge of individuality in a highly regimented life, than a punishment.

  • Rohan Maxwell

    December 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    The photo and comments make me realise that running circles in PT strip was not so bad. But I still didn’t like it…

    Rohan Maxwell
    (RRMC 82-87; and yes, that does mean 5 years to complete a 4-year degree!)

  • John Campbell

    February 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    RRMC 1980-82 14534
    RMC 1982-83.5

    And Andre Mech’s second year room mate. I can say from alot of experience that running cicles was not an enjoyable experience. Unless you were a deeker like Andre(->RETP). for those of us who stood out and achieved a significant number of cirlces it meant alot of missed Kia. If my memory serves me well that if they did not run the circle within a week then they were doubled. Luckily as Rohan points out that if you got up early enough cirlces could be done before breakfast and after morning inspection (6:30am).
    Let’s just say that my badge of individuality was quite large at RRMC but I would never have changed a thing. great friends, great memories.

  • Madonna MacIsaac (Mushrow)

    September 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Circle parade was only held in the early mornings at CMR and the limit was four per morning Unfortunately I twisted my ankle during the Recruit Camp obstacle course and spent the next two months on crutches. By the time I returned to regular duty I had close to one hundred circles. I became a regular at circle parade each morning. Many mornings were spent alone in the cold, -30 running circles, I had my ears frostbitten more than once. If you think it was bad for me, it was worst for the senior cadet who had to stand in the cold and wait for me. I was a slow runner and on cold days many of the senior cadets would just give me the credit for the four circles so that they would not have to stand there.
    I never complained and gladly took their offer.
    Madonna MacIsaac (Mushrow) 17223 CMR 1985-1988,RMC 1988-1990