E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed BGen 8684 Peter Holt (CMR RMC 1971) (Ret), one of 13 Ex-Cadets and two cadets who will raise money for the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund by paddling a voyageur canoe from Ottawa to Kingston this September, 2016. Readers can make a pledge or donation at www.rmcclubfoundation.ca.
Victoria Edwards: So here we go again! I’m delighted to have you kick off my interviews of Chasse-Galerie paddlers.
Peter Holt: Thanks for getting touch, Victoria. Good to hear from you – and to know that you are alive and well in the wonderful world of ADM (Mat)! Speaking of the ADM (Mat) gang, one of my claims to fame is that I tried my best to educate MGen Alec Patch and 15677 Col (ret’d) Shawn Myers (RRMC 1986), and gave 14240 RAdm (ret’d) Patrick Finn (CMR RMC 1984) a few pointers as well; So we can probably have a good talk about what a poor job I did there;) My proudest moment was when the final organization I led, DGLEPM, was awarded a CDS unit commendation for the outstanding work we did in support of the Afghanistan mission. Seriously, talking about myself is not one of my favourite things to do. I do have lots of stories, I suppose, but I can’t see where anybody would be interested? However, I will do my best to answer your questions.
Victoria Edwards: This will be your 2nd fund-raising canoe trip down the Rideau. What gave you the idea?
Peter Holt: How I got involved is still the same, I guess my singing was good enough to get me back in the crew. 8788 Geoff Bennett (bourgeois), the instigator of Chasse-Galerie, contacted me in 2001, and again in 2006, 2011, and 2016 to crew. My plans were scuttled by military commitments in 2001 following the Sept 11 terrorist attack on America at the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and The Pentagon in Washington. Then, my second chance in 2006 didn’t work out due to family commitments. I was “third time lucky” in 2011 and I’m looking forward to taking on the ‘singer’ role once more in 2016.
Victoria Edwards: In your role as singer for the canoe trip, how are singing and morale linked?
Peter Holt: In my view singing and morale are closely linked. You can likely figure out what I do on these long, hot walks to keep everyone’s spirits up.
I also continue to sing with “The Army Voices” here in Ottawa, stay tuned for our next performance at the Army Ball in mid-April. I included a couple of photos from our performances at past Army Balls.
One of them is of the solo I sang as General Brock a few years ago- directly to the US Ambassador at the time! He said something afterwards about me not being a very good diplomat, as the words of the song were less than flattering to Americans. I stayed in character with my reply, but did it so that everyone laughed! The Army Voices choir is a mixed SATB (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass) vocal ensemble. I am one of the Bass singers, along with 8420 Colonel (Ret’d) Bill Hawken (RMC 1970) and 8423 Colonel (Ret’d) Jeff Holt (RMC 1970). Its members are volunteers who share a love of music and the desire to showcase their repertoire across the NCR. Through music, the Army Voices promotes the military ethos and fosters morale and esprit de corps, thus projecting a positive image of the Army and the CAF.
Victoria Edwards: I understand you are on the Canadian Armed Forces Sports Honour Roll for your tendency to go on long walks? When we last spoke you were looking forward to your 19th Nijmegen march.
Peter Holt: Yes, I had to go to this big ceremony in 2004 for the CAF Sports Honour Roll. And I continue to go for a little walk every year in Holland. I will be doing my 23rd four-day, 160 Km march this July at Nijmegen. Over the four days of marching 40 km with packs, the Canadian Military Contingent is very well received by the hundreds of thousands of Dutch spectators who line the route. I see it as a different sort of as training for paddling the Rideau?
Victoria Edwards: Do you have any canoeing experience? Any lessons learned?
Peter Holt: Canoeing is something I have done all my life. I have done many canoe trips with Scouts as a Scout leader, including a few up and down the Rideau Canal. Lessons learned? Morale is very important, as it is with any endurance sport (marathons, long-distance marching), so it is key to keep everybody together and focussed. Oddly enough, this is a team sport. Not quite like hockey or football, but a team sport nonetheless.
Victoria Edwards: Why was it important to you to support the Athletic Endowment Fund?
Peter Holt: You have my involvement in sports as an undergrad, and of course the connection with the late Major Danny McLeod. Thanks to RMC, I have had a lifelong involvement with and passion for sports. So it makes sense to me to “give back” in that area, as a way of igniting that same passion in future generations of cadets. I have to use a double negative to maybe get the point across here: I can’t not do my usual fitness and sports routine every day! When I don’t do it, I feel terrible. It is hard to describe, really, but I had a military doctor on one of my Nijmegen Marches tell me that what I have is a “positive addiction” to exercise and sports. Not sure what he meant by that, but it sounds about right.
Victoria Edwards: What sports did you participate in at Military College?
Peter Holt: As a cadet at CMR, I tried various sports for the first time; competed in fencing, soccer, football; officiated various sports and even tried to coach epee. I met H25917 Major (Ret’d) Danny McLeod when I completed my graduate degree at RMC in Kingston. A few years later when I was on staff as Director of Administration at RMC from 1992-94 the Director of Athletics reported to me.
Victoria Edwards: What did you study at RMC? Outline your career progression since leaving the College. Any highlights?
Peter Holt: What I studied was Mech Eng. My story is that I joined the class mainly to keep 8788 Geoff Bennett (RMC 71) and 8833 John Leggat (RMC 71) out of trouble!? Both my undergrad (RMC ’71) and post-grad (RMC ’81) degrees were in Mech Eng.
My career was in the Army with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, I served 39 years in the Regular Force 1966-2005, then over 6 years as the RCEME Corps Colonel Commandant, 2008-2014. I served in Canada and in Europe, commanded a few times, ran a number of interesting Projects, rose to the rank of BGen and was DGLEPM for the first three years of the Afghanistan conflict. Highlights? All I can say is that it was a great career, I was blessed with excellent troops, and we accomplished everything that was asked of us – and more.
Victoria Edwards: You presented on “To Seek Justice and Resist Evil: Making a Straight Path for the Lord” at a United Church conference. I understand you have strived for 39 years in the Canadian Armed Forces to be a soldier of Christ as well as a soldier of the military.
Peter Holt: I am a soldier of Christ; I like to say that I always work for the Highest Command! And I may have reached a General’s rank in the Canadian Army, but I am very happy to be just a private soldier in the Army of the Lord.
Victoria Edwards: You are back in uniform again.
Peter Holt: I don’t do retirement well, evidently. I’m back in uniform again since last July as the Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel for 33 Service Battalion, a local Reserve Army unit. 33 Service Battalion provides second-line Combat Service Support to 33 Brigade units, including Transportation, Supply, and Maintenance for domestic and deployed operations. 33 Service Battalion has served Canada for almost 50 years and has generated part-time and full time soldiers for domestic and expeditionary operations. The Battalion began in Wallis House Armoury, 589 Rideau Street and moved to its current location at Holland Armoury, 2100 Walkley Road in 1990.
Victoria Edwards: Any lessons learned from serving a long career, including six years as RCEME Corps Colonel Commandant?
Peter Holt: I was appointed on 1 September 2008 – for a three year term! As often happens in the Army, the plan changed in 2011 and I was fortunate to extend for another three years. After six very busy years as RCEME Colonel Commandant (2008-2014), I handed the reins to 6560 Colonel (ret’d) Andrew Nellestyn (RMC 1965). I crisscrossed Canada many times during my tenure as Col Cmdt, never shying away from an opportunity to foster our rich traditions with the Corps family and greater community. In July 2014, I witnessed the official handover of Director RCEME responsibilities from Col Sébastien Bouchard to Col Kelby Hamilton. So if I have any parting words of wisdom after 45 years of service to the Corps, they would be the following: “Our true strength lies in the skill, determination and “let’s get it done” attitude of everyone in The Corps of RCEME, from Craftsman to General.”
Victoria Edwards: I understand congratulations are in order in your personal life.
Peter Holt: The most important thing in my personal life is that my wonderful 34 year-old daughter Norah is about to make me a grandfather (finally!) in March. She and her husband live only 15 minutes away from us here in Ottawa. I can hardly wait until her due date (20 March) to start totally spoiling this soon-to-be little person! If it sounds like I am crazy about kids, that is absolutely true. Ask anyone who knows me. One of my many weaknesses…
Our aim at e-Veritas is to conduct one-on-one interviews with all 15 participants (in no particular order) over the next few months of e-Veritas editions.
5893 Tom Gee; 8725 Fergus McLaughlin; 8788 Geoff Bennett; 8833 John Leggat; 8836 Clark Little; 8926 Ray Hook; 9143 Bruce McAlpine; 12192 Tom Lawson; M0288 Roxanne Rees;15519 Sandra Sukstorf; 15566 Helga Grodzinski; 22461 Claire Bramma; RMCC Cadet (TBA); and CMRSJ Cadet (TBA).