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“The History of the College Coat of Arms: What Might Be Found in Your Filing Cabinet”


“The History of the College Coat of Arms:

What Might Be Found in Your Filing Cabinet”

 Researched by 3572 FJN 27 Feb 2016

The Special Warrant issued by order of King George V granted Armorial Ensigns (the Grant of Arms to the College) on 31 July, 1920.  No. H16511 Prof R.A. Preston noted in his first Volume of the History of the College, Canada’s RMC, that the College had used its coat-of-arms without (that) authority since Colonel Hewett’s time. A question of long-standing has been who created the Coat-of-Arms used over the period before 1920, and when, as copies of the full Coat had been used throughout the College over those years – on Mess silver in 1898; on the Memorial Staircase as part of the central, Plumb Window (which memorializes his death through drowning at Romaine, Labrador in 1903); and in The Stone Frigate, 1914, a record of the Class entering in 1911; and elsewhere.

In the formative years of RMC, Colonel E.O. Hewett knew the importance of symbols within the system. On his own initiative, he had begun using the prefix “Royal” (when referring to the ‘Military College’) as early as 1877 and had petitioned the Governor- General to formalize the practice in early 1878. The Governor-General gave permission: however, this resulted in consternation in the United Kingdom because such permission could only be granted by the Sovereign. Accordingly, a formal request was made to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria who gave Royal Assent later in 1878.


We know that Colonel Hewett, an accomplished artist, designed the College Crest in 1878, and he was also the creator of the College Motto of ‘Truth, Duty, Valour’. He explained the rationale for both in a report of a prize-giving ceremony on 11 February, 1878, printed in the Royal Engineers Journal of 1 April, 1878.

Victorian in style, the words still resonate:

“— I now have to tell you Gentlemen Cadets, that a device and motto has been selected for the Military College. The device, a mailed arm bearing a maple leaf; symbolical of the position you, as the future officers of Canada, should hold towards your country as represented by the maple leaf. The motto, “Truth, Duty, and Valour,”- three simple words in plain English – that all who run may read. Truth, the noblest quality of manhood, of god-like manhood, truth unvarnished and fearless at all times, in all places and under all circumstances. Duty, young men, to your Queen, to your country, to your comrades alike, to the humblest and feeblest, as to the greatest and most powerful; duty for its own sake, without thought of gain, without hope of personal profit. Valour, gentlemen, as the heritage of the grand old stock from which we are all sprung, to be handed down to you as history, untarnished, through many generations in this fair land. Gentlemen, if you are true, if duty is your star, you are sure to be brave. Let, therefore, these three words be not only your rule here, but your guide through life, and you will pass through the world respected by your friends, honoured by your country and feared by your enemies; and when the end comes, whether in the strife of the battlefield, or in your quiet homes, it will be but as rest after good work done.”

No mention was made of the full Coat-of-Arms.

Late in 2015, Prof Jim Kenny, Head of History, placed a collection of copies of the Graduation diplomas from No. 1 A.G.G. Wurtele to No.161 J.M. Clapp with the Museum. Incomplete as those who did not graduate are missing, they had been in a special box in his office filing cabinet, signed copies of the original documents. The Wurtele First Class Cerificate is shown (photo), with the signatures of Captain J.B. Ridout as Staff Adjutant  and Colonel Hewett as Commandant. In the upper right hand corner of document is the full Coat-of-Arms, surmounted by a ribbon containing the Motto, the whole supported by another ribbon showing “Royal Military College Canada”. The date is 30 June, 1880.

The design is that of the current Coat, including in the centre of the shield,  “an Inescutcheon of of the Union badge”, long thought to be a special recognition for the service of Ex-Cadets in the Great War. It is highly probable that the whole Coat-of-Arms, Crest, Shield and Motto are, in fact Colonel Hewett’s design, done in 1878 and used formally by 1880, recorded in the College of Arms in 1920 as a Special Grant-of-Arms.

What hides in your Filing Cabinet ?

3572 FJN 27 Feb 2016

Paardeberg Day