The Return of the Old Brigade
By 26659 OCdt (III) Danielle Andela
Reunion weekend marks the end of the First Year Orientation Period for the Class of 2018, however the first years are not the only people involved in the weekend. The Old Brigade consists of ex-cadets who graduated fifty years or more ago from the Royal Military College of Canada. These ex-cadets participate in many of the College events such as the Legacy Dinner, Obstacle Course Coining Ceremony, Badging Parade and the Arch Memorial Parade. They wear the Old Brigade tie and beret which were chosen to distinguish the Old Brigade members from the younger ex-cadets.
Lieutenant Commander (retired) Gerald L. Stowe, Adjutant of the Old Brigade took the time to talk a little bit about how the Old Brigade came to be and some of their traditions: “The Old Brigade was created because the annual dinner was getting too big, so the older ex-cadets said that anybody who entered the college fifty years ago or more, we should have our own dinner. The members would have their dinner and the spouses or partners would have their dinner in another room and when they were finished dining they would join. Now we all dine together.
The Old Brigade now is everybody who entered the college fifty years ago or more or in the case of the UTPNCM (University Training Plan for Non-Commissioned Members) at the age of sixty seven. Our first function is the coin presentation after the obstacle course. The coins are fairly new. They were produced when Lieutenant Colonel Doug Youngson was the executive director of the club back in 1990 something. The plan to give them to all the cadets came sometime after that and then, around 2001, the Old Brigade adjutant said: “why don’t we have the Old Brigade give them the coins”. Every time I meet a cadet, I think “gee I was here 65 years ago” so it’s a long time ago that I was a cadet and I remember what my obstacle course was like and what my graduation was like.
Saturday morning we have seats reserved for the badgers in the front row. One will be badging the people who are too sick to go on parade; in fact he has a cane. That’s the real bonding between the old guys and the new guys. Sunday morning, we form up on parade. We have five squadrons with two main ones, the Old Brigade and the recruits of the Old Brigade – we still call them recruits. This is the climax of the weekend and that is basically a memorial parade. Ninety nine percent of the first and second squadrons will be in their beret and tie but after that, it gets a little dicey and the guys who are on their five year reunion will show up in leather jackets and jeans.”
After the obstacle course, several members of the Old Brigade explained how it felt to be chosen to present the cadets with their college coins (these coins have the student number of the cadet engraved on them):
I was following all the squadrons but I always watch the Frigate; I saw the Frigate go over the main climbing wall here. They’re always good going over there; I was a Frigateer as you probably guessed so that’s why I like to watch them. It hasn’t been that long ago since I was on parade since I have only been retired a few years but it was nice to be back on this parade in a different role.
– 8190 Mr. Don Timperon
My problem was that I started with Brock, when I came in here years ago, but I graduated with Pontiac; so I started with Brock, then I went to follow another and a bunch of friends of mine were in LaSalle, so I picked up with LaSalle; these guys move a lot faster than I do. It brings back a lot of memories. You’ll hear all of us say that it’s not the same but it is the same. When you’re so tired and wet and just the mud stuff, lots of memories. We started in the corner of LaSalle, ran across as a squadron, around behind the old hospital and down into, before the engineering building was built it was just a soccer field with a gully, into the gully, under the tarps with mud and dry ice and then right into the lake. Then we went back over and did some stuff in the centre area and then into the Fort; we used to use the Fort quite a bit. I’ve come back a couple of times, but I feel very privileged to be a part of the ceremony. I think it’s a great thing.
– 8037 Mr. David Gregory
After the Badging Parade some members of the Old Brigade took the time again to talk about how they felt being a part of this traditional ceremony:
It feels wonderful [being back at RMC], The nicest thing, of course, is meeting my classmates. It’s been five years and five years since we entered the Old Brigade so it’s nice to be back. It’s painful seeing the cadets on parade; parading was not one of my favourite activities at RMC. It’s good that somebody else is doing it besides me. I think there are a lot of similarities and it’s nice to see the cadets enjoying it and starting their own careers.
– 6305 Mr. Dick Row
It was a big event, lots of parents watching, and grandparents. They needed to learn and they will! We get to the College fairly often so that’s how we keep in touch. I was on a couple of committees for a while. My grandson was out there today with you and I’m very proud.
– 7265 Mr. Lloyd Beverly
The culmination of all the weekend activities was the Arch Memorial Parade and after this ceremony, ex-cadet 6165 Mr. Jack Caverson spoke about the weekend and the ceremony:
It’s good [marching through the arch] but we’ve done it before. When you first come to the College you march through the arch. Mostly, the weekend was to see friends. It has a lot to do with the College but the College is your classmates. I spent four years in the Stone Frigate and it was a great four years. It was a long walk over to all the meals but I enjoyed it very much. After fifty years, they [the first years] are starting to look very young but it’s great to see them and it amazes us because of the number of recruits are huge in comparison to what we saw. My recruit class started out at 75 at RMC, then at the end of our second year we were joined by “Roads” and CMR here. We graduated at one hundred and sixty which was the biggest class ever at that time.
Reunion Weekend was, as always, a time for people to come together. Officer cadet with family, ex-cadet with classmates and officer cadets with ex-cadets. Remembering the past and the people who sat in the very rooms of these new members of the Cadet Wing over 50 years ago is an important RMC tradition and the Old Brigade is a fundamental part of that tradition.