The Mystery of College Numbers

Several queries have been received at Panet House regarding the various prefixes attached to College Numbers, so I dusted off the article I wrote in the December 2002 issue of Veritas, which will, I hope, explain what they all mean. The Kingston Branch of the RMC Club is attempting to gather a comprehensive list and explanations of the many and varied traditions (and myths) at the College; the story of College Numbers is only one of many.

Submitted by 5611 Gerry Stowe (Class of ’62)

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The Mystery of College Numbers

On 1 July 1876, 13 A.B. Perry of Napanee, ON, arrived at the newly established Military College in Kingston, along with the seventeen other members of the Old Eighteen. His recollection of the day is noted in Richard Preston’s “Canada’s RMC”:

There was no special ceremony for opening day and there were no distinguished visitors. … On [the recruits’] arrival at the gate they were met by a resplendent figure in the full dress uniform of the British Army, Regimental Sergeant Major Mortimer, an old horse gunner who had served in the Indian Mutiny. At least one nervous young man saluted him in the belief that he was the commandant…. Mortimer led each awed recruit in turn to Captain Ridout who greeted him in a friendly fashion and then conducted him to the commandant [Colonel E. O. Hewett}… .Perry recalled in later years that Hewett said to him, “Your back is a little hollow. You will suit the cavalry. ” Each cadet was given a number based on his standing in the obligatory subjects in the entrance examination.

In a footnote to the above item, Richard Preston stated that “Henceforward college numbers were issued to all successful candidates in the entrance examinations. As some did not take up cadetships, certain numbers remained vacant. Among Ex-Cadets college numbers have great significance. It is the custom for Ex-Cadets to identify themselves to each other by prefixing their number to their name.”

The college number system continued with little change until the opening of Royal Roads as the RCN – RCAF Joint College in 1947. Cadets in this first class at Royal Roads were given numbers beginning with the prefix RRA; for instance, RRA29 Bill Seath. When Royal Roads became Canadian Services College Royal Roads in 1948, the Cadets there were given college numbers in a sequence with those allocated to their contemporaries at the Royal Military College in Kingston. Hence, 2829 Guy Arsenault at Royal Roads and 2840 Don Strong at RMC had numbers very close together. In subsequent years, the Royal Roads Cadets would be allocated numbers after the RMC Cadets had all received theirs. In 1952, upon the arrival of the first class, le College militaire royal de Saint Jean followed the same practice.

When it was decided, by the RMC Club, to offer membership in the Club to those who had attended other Colleges in Canada, the Club acquired members with numbers such as RNCC43 Commander A.C. Wurtele (Class of 1913 Royal Naval College of Canada); RCNC280 Don Currie (Class of 1946 Royal Canadian Naval College); RCNSE100 VAdm D.S. Boyle (RCN Special Entry); and RCNVR3 Commander James Coulter (RCN Volunteer Reserve at Royal Roads).

Over 30 years ago the University Training Plan for Non Commissioned Members (UTPNCM) was established at the military colleges. The members of this group, mostly former corporals and sergeants, became full fledged members of the Cadet Wings at RMC, RRMC and CMR. They were given college numbers with the prefix “M”, starting at Ml R.R. Boychuk. At around the same time, the University Training Plan for Officers (UTPO) was started, with those members receiving college numbers with the prefix “B”, except that at CMR in St Jean, they were given the prefix “O”; one such example is B186 LCoI J.R. Giguere.
The introduction of graduate degrees at RMC started a new series of numbers with the prefix “G”, exemplified by G55 Valerie Keyes, a former President of the RMC Club. This was followed by the “E” numbers, denoting those students who are completing an undergraduate degree as extension students, normally part time. E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) who has been a big part of e-Veritas as a contributor over the past three years is in the “E” category.

It should be noted that people with “M”, “B”, “G” and “E” numbers may see their numbers written as, for example, M1 or M0001, and G55 or G0055.The zeroes are necessary to fill a 5 character computer field, but members may choose to disregard the zeroes.

Three other categories of numbers currently exist in the database of the RMC Club. They are “H” numbers, “S” numbers and “N” numbers. Gentlemen and Ladies who have at any time rendered outstanding and long term service or brought great honour to the Canadian Military Colleges or the Club may be elected to honorary life membership. They shall be granted an honorary college number, in the normal ROTP/RETP number sequence, with the prefix “H”. One such example is the late H8829 Colonel the Hon. George F. G. Stanley, former professor and Dean of Arts at RMC, and former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

Gentlemen and Ladies who have rendered special service to the Canadian Military Colleges or the Club may be offered Honorary Membership in the Club. They are granted a Special Club Number greater than 100 with the prefix “S”. Four members of the staff of Panet House have been so recognized: S125 Bill Oliver, his wife S134 Rolande Oliver, S150 Peter Dawe, and  S160 Mary Darlington.

The Club has assigned deceased members’ college numbers to their widows and widowers, with the prefix “W”. This initiative has proven to be well received by the surviving spouses.

One final category, as of this writing, is that of Associate Member, which category comprises those who wish to be members of the Club but do not fit any of the groups listed above. Members of the Senior Staff of the College, members of the Board of Governors, staff officers of the Club or Foundation, and others who feel a strong affinity with the College or the Club may be offered such membership. Their numbers are 100 or greater with the prefix “A”, as in the example of A118 Raymond Dignum, former professor in Electrical Engineering.

So there you have it. We have members with numbers prefixed by RNCC, RCNC, RRA, RCNSE, H, S, G, B, 0, M, E and A; and we have the “regular” numbers with no prefix, which started at 1 A.G.G. Wurtele on to the current “last-named Officer Cadet in the First Year Class. There really is very little mystery here, but there is often confusion. Let it suffice to say that we are delighted to have any and all, regardless of prefix, as members of the Royal Military Colleges Club of Canada.

Footnote: There has long been a custom whereby someone with a higher number, with the last two digits matching a lower number, is expected to host the lower numbered person with a suitable libation. Such was the case at the Old Brigade Dinner on 5 October 2002, when one of the guests, 22512 Cadet Wing Commander Blair McNaught, was introduced to 2612 BGen Mike Webber, Adjutant of the Old Brigade. It was the “12” that cost Mr. McNaught.

6 Comments

  • 3857 Dick Patterson

    April 27, 2009 at 9:33 am

    There was a corollary to this “drinks for the last two match” in my time, and that was the number of drinks the junior was to provide was based on the number of hundreds his number was higher.

    For example, in the early ’70s, I was visting the 3PPCLI Officers’ Mess at Workpoint Barracks and in conversation with 5557 Jack English. A none-RMC officer started going on about the number thing and Jack discovered that his number was 1700 higher than mine. He immediately ordered up 17 drinks! I invited Jack (and others) to help me out.

  • 4104 Murray Thom

    April 27, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Gerry has done a good job of explaining college numbers, but there is one error that I noted (but did not comment on when his article first appeared). In the entry of 1951 the allocation of numbers went in sequence from being selected to attend either RMC or RR. In the entry of 1952 this was also the practice for the CMR entry, but in 1953 a separate allocation for CMR followed the combined RMC/RR entry. In 1956 separate allocations for RMC, then RR, then CMR were made. I am not sure for the change in 1951 unless it was because of the introduction of the ROTP and the ending of entrance examinations. I was always aware of the the combined allocation because of my number was 4104 (at RR) and 4106 was Peter Meincke (at RMC). I never did what happened to 4105. Also of note is that with the separate allocations from 1956, there appears some missing numbers, as in 1956 the last entry to RR was 4983 and the first entry to CMR was 4987.

  • 3334 Dave Wightman

    April 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks for re-running this article. What a dog’s breakfast! The article mentions “N” numbers but doesn’t explain what they mean. I’ve noticed the odd reference in EVeritas to Nxxxx referring to current cadets. What does it mean?

  • Ron Capern

    April 28, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    The class entering in 1952 had numbers issued in sequence from 3502 (Charlie Gunning at RR) through 3681, for the 180 Cadets in both RR and RMC – followed by the cadets entering CMR for the first time, 3682 onwards.

    At the earlier Royal Roads (when it was the Royal Canadian Naval College) numbers were issued in sequence (alphabetically by a cadet’s family name)each year from RCNC 001 onwards. This continued until 1947 (the Joint RCN – RCAF College) when both RCNC numbers (for Naval Cadets) and RRA numbers (for Air Force Cadets) were issued. In 1948, the first tri-service year at Roads, “normal” Canadian Military College (CSC)numbers were issued.

  • 5611 Gerry Stowe

    May 1, 2009 at 9:25 am

    The “N” numbers query above can be explained by the vagaries of Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Instead of typing out the old article from the 2002 December Veritas, I scanned it, and the “A” in the original was changed to “N”, which event I did not notice when I proof-read the version above. I try not to make the same mistake twice, but I make a lot of mistakes once.

  • Colonel (Ret'd) Richard Bowes

    September 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I came across this interesting article on the origins of RMC college numbers. I am particularly interested in the convention used for UTPM candidates. For the record, I am an RMC grad and also UTPM (Serving Airman) but have a regular college number (9211). I joined RMC as a an RCAF Corporal in 1968 and was the ONLY UTPM in residence throughout my 4 years at RMC. There was absolutely no difference in the manner I was treated compared to other RMC cadets, except that I had vested rights for pay (and was the only cadet old enough to legally drink). I believe the norm after 1974 was for UTPMs to attend Military College and that is when they started the number convention to differentiate the UTPM cadets from the remainder. Quite frankly, I’m pleased that I attended prior to this formal programme being established. I would have missed out on a very important learning experience.

    Richard Bowes
    Colonel Ret’d
    9211

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