Memories…RRA 15 BGen (Ret’d) Barry A. Howard, CD

e-veritas: I understand that you were in the first Royal Canadian Air Force class at Royal Roads when it became the RCN-RCAF Joint Services College in 1947.

BGen Barry Howard: Yes, I joined the college with 32 other Air Force cadets and given unique numbers with the prefix RRA and assigned alphabetically. I was the 15th on the alphabetical list. The Naval cadets in our class retained their unique numbering system with the prefix RCNC. Our class was the first class to require Grade 13 for entrance and our seniors (all Navy) had entered with a Grade 12 requirement. Therefore, we were the same age category as our seniors who took delight in trying to cut us down to size.

e-veritas: Describe your flight training.

BGen Barry Howard: Being the first Air Force class we had to adjust to the Naval “at sea” training periods so we were sent in February of 1948 to CFS at Trenton to commence our flying training. The Naval cadets enjoyed this period at sea in tropical waters while we prevailed in sub-zero morning temperatures. Learning to stay warm competed with the learning how to fly. The training aircraft were Harvard II’s which had a 600 h.p. engine so it did not take long to get them to a tolerable cockpit temperature. The only problem was that we were equipped with fleece lined jackets, overalls and boots that became a hindrance after the aircraft warmed up. Combined with the anxiety of our flying instruction the winter clothing produced profuse perspiration. The college year was based on September to January and March to July with the intervening months given to flight and sea training.

e-veritas: Do you recall any memorable skylarks?

BGen Barry Howard: The most memorable ones were at graduation when “Nelson’s Cannons” at the entrance to the cadet block were charged with rubber boots, old clothing, and miscellaneous junk and fired toward the Castle. The gunners had overestimated the powder required to create a short and safe trajectory so the resultant blast sent everything through the stained glass windows above the main entrance. As a result, we were not permitted leave until financial restitution was made. In retaliation, the vice commandants car (Austin) was placed on the raft in the lagoon. Likewise, we remained confined until the Austin was returned ashore undamaged.

e-veritas: Do you continue to cross paths with any of your fellow cadets?

BGen Barry Howard: Our class has kept in touch through our class secretaries (our most recent and longest serving is RRA 29 Bill Seath) and have arranged 5 year reunions since graduation. We were able to have a strong turnout when we entered the “Old Brigade” in 1997. Mini-reunions have taken place in the intervening summers so we have nurtured the strong bonds forged at the college. At the end of this month (May) our class is returning to the college to celebrate 60 years since graduation. Of the 66 cadets who entered the college, we expect only 20 who can attend. Over the course of my military and personal life, I have had the pleasure of renewing acquaintances and friendships with many of our juniors and seniors such as H2951 Gen (Ret’d) Ramsey M. Withers (RRMC RMC 1952, 2897 MGen (Ret’d) Herbert C. Pitts (RRMC RMC 1952) and 2851 A. Ben Young (RMC 1952). In addition, RCNC261 Walter B.Tilden (RRMC 1948) and 2364 Air Commodore Leonard. J. Birchall (RMC 1933) became fast friends. My wife and I enjoyed many flying vacations in my aircraft with the Birchalls, traveling throughout Mexico, the Bahamas, Haiti, the Caribbean and Venezuela. In total, we vacationed over 95 days together over the years and the Air Commodore drew upon his repertoire of his stories and jokes which we enjoyed at cocktail hour every evening……without a repetition throughout. We miss this great friend.

e-veritas: Describe your memories of physical education at the college.

BGen Barry Howard: The normal pattern of movement at the college was “at the double” whether alone or in formation. In addition to the many athletic activities in which all cadets were required to participate, the morning routine commenced with “the Colwood Run” which was approximately 3 miles long. This was done in double time in formation (and in step) early in the morning. In the winter months, we started out in the dark with flashlight equipped seniors leading the way. We wore only navy blue shorts with white singlets, short athletic socks and athletic running shoes. Shivering ceased within the first 100 yards. Because it was dark on some mornings, some defectors were able to drop out without detection and were later found having their hot chocolate (kye) behind the piano in the gunroom (cadets’ mess). Seldom were any caught to my recollection but if so, punishment was tolerable.

e-veritas: Describe the college dormitories.

BGen Barry Howard: We were quartered on the top floor of the Cadet Block. The Nixon Block had not yet been built. The accommodation was dormitory style with built-in cupboards adjoining each bed. I do not recall any heating whatsoever and the windows were opened fully at night so it was chilly even though we had Hudson Bay style blankets. The fetal position was the choice for heat conservation in bed. The adjoining communal washroom where we “shaved, shined and shampooed” were adequate although there was always competition for space. The floor was divided into two large sections with its own washroom, one for the senior class and one for the junior class.

e-veritas: Describe the cadet uniforms.

BGen Barry Howard: The Naval cadets wore Naval officers’ uniforms and the Air Force cadets wore Air Force officers’ uniforms. Rank for cadets was denoted on both with a buttoned white stripe on both lapels. On graduation the stripe was replaced with a white patch for Naval grads as midshipmen and the Air Force grads removed the white stripes and had an Air Force thin blue and black ring on the lower sleeve denoting them as flight cadets. Our juniors were given the cadet uniforms that prevail today with the exception that they were not issued “scarlets” until they went on to RMC for their final 2 years.

e-veritas: Were you paid as a cadet ?

BGen Barry Howard: All entrants were required to pay a tuition fee of $550 for the first year and a lesser amount for the second year. During our practical training periods we were paid as LACs. The exception was the cadets who had been in the ranks and had been accepted to the college. They received free tuition and additional stipend. Although the pay for the practical phase was meager, it was sufficient to look after the tuition.

e-veritas: Describe a typical date.

BGen Barry Howard: Because the majority of us were from distant parts of Canada we did not have the social connections for a date in Victoria, so most dates were “blind” dates which were sourced from the University of Victoria and student nurses as well as a fortunate few who had personal referrals. I must commend all those young ladies who took a chance with us and made our time so enjoyable. As a member of the A Team (Rugger) in my junior year, I was invited to attend the Seniors’ mid-term dance. A date was arranged for me with the daughter of the Director of Studies who had a pugilistic appearance and I dreaded the prospect of his daughter being of the same likeness. To my pleasant surprise she turned out to be an attractive and delightful young lady. Many of my classmates married their blind dates and are retired in the Victoria area.

e-veritas: Do you have any college ghost stories?

BGen Barry Howard: I recount the following with tongue in cheek, although the event described is authentic. As we were not permitted to have cars at the college, all mixed social functions required a car rental from downtown Victoria. In one occasion, 4 of us rented a car and we shuttled our dates home sequentially with the last one (after drawing the short straw) having to return the car to the rental agency. It was impossible for him to return to the college before his leave had expired so we arranged to have his “liberty card” submitted to indicate that he had returned. We also had tied a rope to the fire escape so he could get back without detection. The unlucky “short straw” was RCNC326 Lt-Cdr (Ret’d) “Jake” Kennedy who was very tall with feet to match. He succeeded in getting back into the changing room in the cadet block where he commenced to change into his pyjamas. The Duty Officer that evening was Chief Gunner’s Mate Abbott and he was doing his rounds when he heard some noise which reinforced his conviction that the college was haunted. Being brave, he went to the changing room door turned on the light and remained motionless for an eternity. Jake’s locker was behind the open door and he awaited Abbott to leave without detecting him. Finally, Jake looked around the door to see what Abbott was doing and found him staring down at Jake’s toes which were protruding from under the door. Jake served his number 16 punishment with grace. Abbott still thinks the place is haunted even though this incident didn’t prove it.

e-veritas: Were the college rules strictly enforced?

BGen Barry Howard: College discipline was strict and enforced. Because the naval cadets of prior years were young, some being but 16 years of age, the system was based on their age. However, cadets generally played it cool. There were occasions when a few cadets skipped out after “lights out” and went to the Colwood Inn for a couple of beers. This could have been a cause for dismissal but none were ever apprehended to my knowledge. In later years after my time the system was relaxed to reflect the maturity of the cadets. On the whole, it was firm but fair.

e-veritas: Did you serve during the Korean War?

BGen Barry Howard: I served during the Korean War but I was never in Korea. To my recollection there were only 2 post WW2 trained pilots assigned to the USAF as exchange pilots.

e-veritas: Were you still involved with the Canadian Forces after your retirement?
What are you up to today?

BGen Barry Howard: After completing a degree in Mechanical Engineering (Engineering & Business) at the University of Toronto, I undertook an M.Comm. graduate degree. I transferred to the Reserves and after commanding a squadron (400) and Wing (14 Wg) I was promoted to serve as the Air Reserve Commander. After my service, I immersed myself in many military support activities, namely Chairman of the Conference of Defence Associations, National President of the RCAF Association, President of the RMC parent Club, co-founder of the Air Reserve Association and as a member of the Minister’s Military Colleges Advisory Board. In my personal life, I have been in my wife’s hair since selling my business, Wheel & Rim Company of Canada in 1994. Colleen and I have four children and ten grandchildren. I continue to fly and now have downsized to an amphibious Murphy Rebel which I keep at our lake home.

e-veritas: What were the key challenges of serving on the Ministers Advisory Board for the Military Colleges? Do you have any tips?

BGen Barry Howard: Serving on the Minister’s Advisory Board was akin to serving on a university board of governors with the exception that it was advisory and not legislative. The board was populated with a variety of members having diverse knowledge and interests in academia, industry and to a lesser degree, the military. Because of the nature of this constituency, this body was heavily politicized. It appeared to be ineffectual and I am distressed to say that I never saw any advice being heeded. Fortunately, it was disbanded and replaced with a Board of Governors which should have some greater influence. My motive for service was to ensure that there was an effective voice to advocate the role of our military colleges as trainers of leaders with the emphasis on military leadership. It should be defined as a university with a difference and not just another university. The raison d’etre must be focused on the training regular and reserve officers on our four pillars, i.e., academics, athletics, bilingualism and leadership. No other institution provides this.

RRA 15 BGen (Ret’d) Barry A. Howard, CD  was interviewed by E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) in May 2009.

One Comment

  • Chris Herriott

    July 9, 2015 at 10:23 am

    i met the general when we were both receiving medical attention as out patients. Ordinarily time drags but having the opportunity to talk history with someone who actually lived through one of the eras was amazing. Our time together flew by, I was actually disappointed when it was time to leave.
    Chris