We all recall, no doubt with mixed feelings, the summary punishment known as ‘circles’.  These were awarded for minor infractions of a trivial nature that all recruits were (and no doubt remain) inclined to commit on a regular basis.  Most during the Recruit Term found themselves on that same regular basis attending ‘Circle Parade’ early in the morning for a little extra exercise.  I attended Royal Roads and our ‘circle’ was the road linking the academic and accommodation buildings with the Castle wherein resided the military gods of whom we did not speak nor wanted to see.  It was, and so remains, a picturesque route that helped pass the time as we trotted around the road dealing with whatever number of circles we had accumulated from the previous day.  The most that could be run off on a given morning was four circles – about one and a third miles at Roads.  The conduct of the Circle Parade involved mustering in the change room in the basement of the academic building and then dashing out to fall in on the roadway.  The practice at Roads was for the hard cases (i.e. those enjoying the requirement to run off four circles) to form a small morose squad at the front, followed by the slightly more alert with three, then a platoon or more with two and finally those in company size formation with but one.  The Duty Cadet, a second-year, would come out and inspect the previous day’s ‘criminals’, and then send everyone off to run in formation at a pace set by the bad boys with four circles to deal with.  It was not unheard of for the inspection process to result in another circle or two for some poor sod that would have to be run off the next day.  Sad.

I should mention that there were various classes of recruits at Royal Roads in that halcyon summer of 1975.  Some were untrainable and so had often received multiple circles several times a week.  By the end of the Recruit Term such stalwarts – our good friend Gerry Horel springs to mind – had over 100 circles to their credit.  Others, your correspondent among them, had relatively few – in fact only four in total in my case – so naturally there was a lack of familiarity with the process due to the absence of practice.  Great was the joy in Hudson Flight when Yeates was finally nailed with something and so was obliged to get up early with a goodly number of mates to run off his unfortunately detected ‘crime’.  That morning I went to the change room along with many confreres from our recruit class and braced myself for the unusual obligation of atoning for my singular misdemeanor.  Naturally, I had only one circle to run – why bother really – but I unselfishly went out with everyone else as an act of solidarity.  It was a lovely morning as I recall – sunny with the promise of a fine day.  Idyllic almost.

Alas, I noted one small flaw in my turnout after falling in with the ‘one circle’ squad.  No beret.  A small thing to be sure, but nonetheless everyone else’s head was visibly sporting their beret and I was not.  Clearly, I was doomed to run more circles the following morning and my nearly spotless record further besmirched as a result of unintentionally displeasing one of my seniors.  Well, nothing else to do but take my lumps – one could hardly depart a parade to correct a deficiency without causing a commotion.  Stoically I awaited the arrival of the Duty Cadet and braced myself for a lengthy harangue about how to turn out properly for the circle ceremony, followed by the inevitable assignment of a circle or two for my trouble.

And then a miracle!  These don’t often occur, hence the term ‘miracle’, but the Duty Cadet was clearly a little weary and gave but a perfunctory glance at his morning’s collection of military misfits and declared himself satisfied with our turnout.  A brisk right turn followed, and we were sent on our way.  At the conclusion of my one circle, we were halted and dismissed, while the more criminally minded of our peers went on their way to finish their day’s allotment.  You may be assured that Yeates was at the front of the one-circle mob on the dash back to the change room on dismissal and the eventual return to our quarters for the commencement of the day’s festivities.  I did offer a mild remonstrance to a fellow sufferer or two that it would have been nice to have been told ahead of the Circle Parade that I had forgotten my beret, but all’s well that ends well.

And of course, I took a moment to wave at Gerry as he continued his set of four circles that morning and then returned to my quarters to change for breakfast.

My other trio of circles during Recruit Term were more conventionally conducted, with beret, and without untoward incident.

Editor’s Note: Having been at RMC and having probably among the fewest number of circles in our recruit term, I still recall having run at least 20 or so, making it difficult for me to understand how Ian could have gotten away with so few. However, after finding a photo of Ian in the RRMC photo album, I think I may have figured out why: