Victoria Edwards In Conversation With Ches Brown CWC 1967-68

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2005) interviewed 7637 Dr. Daylor O. Chester Brown M.D. (RMC 1968), who was the RMC Cadet Wing Commander (CWC) in 1967-8. Dr. Brown holds a B.A. (Hons) Royal Military College (RMC), M.A. from Carleton University in History and M.D. from Queen’s University. He recently retired as the Senior Medical Advisor Health Services Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) in Kingston, Ontario. Prior to taking on those responsibilities, he acted as a consultant to the Ontario Ministry of Health for a number of years. He is a former naval officer retiring as a Surgeon Commander C.D., a former Medical Liaison Officer at the embassy of Canada in Washington D.C., and he has experience as an emergency medicine physician and family physician.

E-veritas: What name(s) did you go by at RMC?

7637 Chester Brown: Firstly, I go by Chester not Daylor and am known to family and friends past and present as “Ches”, at RMC I was also known as ” D.O.C.” because of the initials of my name on the nametag and not in reference to my future profession.

E-veritas: What are your memories of being CWC?

7637 Chester Brown: I could tell you many good stories and have many memories of being CWC. Some like this one seem hysterically funny in retrospect. Before Christmas I had the cadet officer of the day call the first year class senior up to the head table in Yeo Hall. He very nervously approached and reported. I turned to him and said “Christmas is coming and I would like to come in here for breakfast one morning and find a fully decorated Xmas tree standing in that corner. Do you think the first year class could arrange that?” He replied “Yes, Mr. Brown that would certainly be something we could arrange.” Not long after I came into breakfast and there it stood a beautiful evergreen very festively decorated. At lunchtime the Director of Cadets (then LCol.) 2908 MGen (Ret’d) Alan Pickering (RMC 1953) joined us at the head table and at one point he turned to me and said “The Commandant is very upset. Sometime during the night somebody came and chopped down the evergreen tree in front of the Commandant’s house. He’s absolutely livid!”

E-veritas: What are your memories of 2576 Commodore William Prine Hayes CD (RMC 1930), who was the Commandant of RMC in 1967-8?

7637 Chester Brown: Commodore Hayes was a gentleman. I liked him very much. We were both Navy and both from small town backgrounds. He was from Swift Current, Sask. and I from Cochrane Ont. My clearest memory of him – shortly after a cadet was expelled because he was married. Commodore Hayes told me that he had expelled the cadet only to hear that marriage amongst cadets was not that rare. He asked if that was true and if I had any idea how many others might be married. I told him the truth. It was Commodore Hayes who then took action to provide a process whereby cadets could get married and remain cadets. He was very upset that he had felt compelled to expel the cadet in question and was very near tears when he had it confirmed that there were a number of others and that it was generally well known. Commodore Hayes was very human, good natured and soft spoken, a kind and good man. He loved the College and the cadets.

E-veritas: What are your memories of H8829 Dr. George Stanley, an educator and historian who was officially recognized as the father of Canada’s flag?

7637 Chester Brown: I met Dr. George Stanley, then RMC`s Dean of Arts, at the end of my first year at the College. When Dr. Stanley asked me to see him in his office, I wondered what I had done wrong. Although Dr. Stanley was not one of my teachers in first year, he had read my work and thought I had a gift for history. He mentored me and encouraged me to study the Arts at RMC. He was a mentor to many of his students. He stimulated thought and discussion and encouraged one to think for oneself. Of all the professors I had the pleasure to study under, and there were some very good ones, he was the one who motivated me to learn and to examine presumed facts with a critical eye. What I learned from Dr. Stanley prepared me very well for medical school where the subject matter required very similar analytical thinking.

Dr. Stanley showed his drawings to the Honours History course in Canadian Constitutional Law. There were third and fourth year cadets in the class. His design for the Canadian flag, which was eventually selected as one of the final three designs for consideration. Dr. Stanley asked the cadets in the  class `what do you think?` My classmates and I weren’t overly impressed with his design, which was inspired by the College’s red and white tri-bar flag, but with a maple leaf rather than a fist in the middle.

After leaving RMC, I didn’t keep in touch with Dr. Stanley although I followed his career. He returned to Mount Allison University in 1969 and was there until he retired in 1975. He served as Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick from 1982 to 1987.

E-veritas: What was it like being an Art vice engineering student at the College?

7637 Chester Brown: I thought we had it made. The cadets in the arts program balanced 15-20 hours of classes a week with their extracurricular activities in contrast to 30-35 class hours in the engineering program. Arts students were and are, of course, still required to take a number of math and science classes. Engineering students were and are required to take a number of arts classes. Several of the RMC professors including Dr. Stanley, Walter Avis (English) and Dr. Sherman (history) recruited cadets into the Arts program. At the time, the College emphasized engineering since the military needed engineers. By someone with an engineering background, the Artsmen were considered slackers and second class citizens.

E-veritas: As a historian, you appreciated the RMC collections.

7637 Chester Brown: I vividly recall coming across a historical treasure trove in the basement of the Lasalle Building. The Douglas Arms Collection was purchased in 1938 from the Diaz family by ex-cadet, 249 Walter Douglas (RMC 1886), who acquired it for RMC. [The Douglas Arms collection was amassed by General Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico, in the period 1870-1880 and 1884 to 1911. It consists of over 400 pieces, many of significance. In the RMC Museum’s online gallery, you can see Boutet Flintlock Pistols; Miquelet Belt Pistol; LeMat & Girard’s Patent Percussion Revolver; Merwin & Hulbert First Model Army Revolvers; Colt Model 1889 Double Action Revolver and a Dagger, c. 1845/50.] http://www.rmc.ca/cam/mus/gal/douglas-01-eng.asp

E-veritas: What are your memories of your uncle Major (Ret`d) Francis Joseph Donahue (RMC 1925)?

7637 Chester Brown: I was raised by an uncle and aunt and my uncle, Francis Joseph Donahue, was an RMC grad. My uncle graduated circa 1928. 1976 George Hees (RMC 1927) was a classmate and I think 1800 The Honourable Harland Molson (RMC 1924) was too. My memory says his College number was 1945 but that’s probably incorrect. Uncle Frank was a four bar cadet and on the boxing and equestrian teams. He served in WWII as a Major with the New Brunswick North Shore Regiment.

Uncle Frank was even more astounded than I, when he learned that I was to be the CWC. It seems the CWC truly was God in his era. When they came to graduation and watched the parade my uncle was so very proud of me. He would have been proud of me for just graduating but my being CWC really meant something to him. He is deceased.

E-veritas: You have mixed feelings about being CWC.

7637 Chester Brown: Even today, years later, I have very mixed feelings about the CWC thing. It’s hard to explain. There were a number of classmates who probably would have been a better choice and I never really understood why I got the appointment and not someone else.

E-veritas: What was the process of becoming CWC?

7637 Chester Brown: In my case they probably threw the names into a hat and drew one out. Actually, I do not know for certain. My understanding was that the Commandant, Director of Cadets, the senior service officers, the squadron commanders, the Athletic Director, the academic Deans and maybe some others reviewed all the third year cadets who had been “leading cadets” in the few months prior to the end of the year, reviewed all their assessments, including summer training, academic performance and College sports and activities. Prior to graduation there was an announcement of the Cadet Squadron Leaders (CSLs) and the CWHQ appointments, including CWC and D/CWC. I remember hoping that I might get CSL of 2 Squadron and being quite honestly shocked to hear I was going to be CWC. I think many were surprised. We had so many outstanding people in our class and I don’t believe I was ever a frontrunner for the position.

E-veritas: What are your memories of the Deputy Cadet Wing Commander, 7602 Doctor Thomas Smallman (CMR RMC 1968)?

7637 Chester Brown: The DCWC was Tom Smallman, who is an orthopaedic surgeon in Syracuse NY. Tom is brilliant and was a superb athlete – hockey, golf, cross country running. He could have played professional hockey. Tom was a cheerful guy’s guy. He made popcorn every night in his room in Wing HQ and you could smell it throughout Fort Haldimand. Tom is very competitive. He was CWC at CMR. I was very grateful and appreciative of his friendship, loyalty and support. He would have been the popular choice to be CWC and he would have been my choice as well. Tom was always in my corner and there were times when I needed him in my corner.

E-veritas: Comment on the key issues at RMC in 1967-8 e.g. wearing civilian attire…?

7637 Chester Brown: I don’t think [4th year cadets being permitted to wear civilian attire out on leave] was a key issue at all. The College was clearly moving towards more liberal policy in general and more recognition of the need to retain those traditions that had meaning and made sense. The Cadet Wing was generally aware that progress along these lines would be slow but eventually would come. Things like civilian attire, owning cars, cadet lounges which served beer etc. were not going to change the principles embodied in “Truth Duty Valour”. To a degree the absence of those things was what distinguished RMC from a civilian university but at a very superficial level. You have to remember that this was the sixties and was the Vietnam War era. Society in general was being rapidly changed. We had U.S. general officers coming up to tell us about winning the war in Vietnam and we knew all about body counts! We weren’t in Vietnam but we thought we might be and we certainly knew from our parent’s generation that there could be a high price to pay for serving one’s country. Wearing civilian attire on leave was not a key issue.

E-veritas: What were your responsibilities?

7637 Chester Brown: One can name responsibilities which were generally all Cadet Wing functions and activities; however, the CWC set the tone and “policy”. The CWC reported to the DCDTs 2908 then LCol Alan Pickering (RMC 1953) (photo left) and to the Commandant 2576 Commodore William Prine Hayes CD (RMC 1930) and met weekly with them. My biggest personal responsibility was being an example to all cadets and that’s a very tough order.

E-veritas: What kind of leadership did you favour?

7637 Chester Brown: The kind that listens and respects the views of others and then provides clear direction, which is going to be understood by all and accepted because it is supported by common sense and good judgement. My classmates had a lot of talent and ability. I never had to worry about their responsibilities being carried out. I favour quiet leadership that focuses on teamwork and brings a team to consensus on what needs to be done and how best to do it. Some of my classmates have been very successful by any measurement and are acknowledged leaders in their fields in Canada. At the RMC I had the best team anyone could ask for.

E-veritas: Anything you would do differently today?

7637 Chester Brown: Hindsight is wonderful but it is a very poor tool for altering the past. Whatever decisions I made as a very young man I made honestly based on what was available both in terms of my own experience, qualities and attributes as well as the situation as it appeared to be. Could I have done a better job, probably, yes. If I could go back and do some things differently, would I do a better job? Not necessarily! The result might only be different and not better.

E-veritas: What were the lessons learned and experiences obtained that were put to use in later life?

7637 Chester Brown: The lessons learned were very personal. It was pretty heady stuff back then to be CWC. When CWHQ was coming to inspect recruits we told them that God was going to visit them and he had 5 gold bars. You and your date were in the receiving line for the Balls. You had coffee with the Commandant. The Admiral in Halifax boasted that you were Navy and he called you by your first name. You got to address the ex-cadets on Ex-cadet weekend etc. etc. I often remark that my military career peaked at 22 years of age! So the best lesson learned was “Get over yourself!” Other lessons were also personal. If in this life you make a few close and good friends then cherish them and keep them close.

E-veritas: Do you have any photos from RMC days E.g. with dignitaries, parades or events?

7637 Chester Brown: Unfortunately, all the photos I had from RMC days were lost in a flood. I hate the old yearbook photo but I was sure playing the CWC role in it!

E-veritas: Any mentors or friends that you have stayed in touch with?

7637 Chester Brown: I remain in touch with 7602 Doctor Tom Smallman (CMR RMC 1968) and I have three very close friends in Ottawa – 7679 Major (Ret’d) Ken Mansfield (RMC 1968), 7678 Doctor Bill Macmillan (RMC 1968), and 7669 LCol (Ret’d) Robert Jones (RMC 1968). We play in the Ottawa Branch golf tournament together and we stay in touch by email. Our class secretary – 7812 Mr Reg Shortt (RRMC RMC 1968) – has done a great job over the years of keeping many of us in touch and getting us back for reunions. We have lost a few classmates and when there is news we share our thoughts on line. Although the number of my currently active contacts is small it is not that some are out of my life they are simply temporarily absent and when we hook up again it is like they haven’t been away at all. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that being in Kingston I have had on-going contact with ” the Major “, Danny MacLeod, my former hockey coach and past Athletic Director. Danny kicked me off the senior hockey team a record 7 times in my college hockey career. Every time I had to miss a game or a practice because I was representing the College debating Danny would give me the boot. He and I have had a good relationship over the years. Another former Athletic Director, Jim Gebhardt (photo left), who was a Physical Education Recreation Instructor (PERI) in my time, is a good friend, and I see him often. Danny and Jimmy, like Commodore Hayes, love RMC and cadets both past and present. Although he was not at RMC in 1967 – 68, the former Commandant, 4459 Commodore Ed Murray (RRMC 1959) is a good friend and a man for whom I have the greatest respect.

E-veritas: What are you up to today?

7637 Chester Brown: I very recently retired. So far I’ve been too busy to actually figure out what if anything I’m going to do in retirement. I do want to improve my golf game and some of my former staff gave me a T shirt with the logo that says “Retired. Know lots and has the time to tell you about it”.

______________________________