The Western Reunion

The Western Reunion, Kelowna, April 2009

Article by Murray Johnston

” . . . and it was exactly fifty-five years ago to-day that the Royal Roads graduating Class of 1954 marched off the square at HMCS Royal Roads”, noted Bill Fraser to the participants of the 2009 Western Reunion of the RMC Class’56 during the formal dinner held on the second evening (see photo). Bill, the reunion organizer, was speaking from notes prepared by Ron Capern, the primary organizer, who could not be there.

Participants in the 2009 Western Reunion of the RMC Class’56 in Kelowna, left to right: front row, kneeling; Doreen Girling, Marcia Beare, RR3550 Murray Johnston, Louanne Sherwin, Margot Carson. middle row, standing; Joan Johnston, 3620 Pat & Anne Thompson, Joan Laidlaw, RR3559 Dick Girling, Maureen & S102 Jim Moran, RR3585 Al Sherwin, RR-W3651 Ramona Wainwright, RR3578 Bud Rud, Lee Fraser, Barbara Rud, RR3584 Archie Beare, RR3524 Gary Hunt, RR3652 Bill Fraser, RR3643 Frank Carson. back row, standing on a chair; RR3552 Bill Laidlaw. Absent in body but present in spirit; 3673 John Jory, Dot Lawrence and 3506 Ron Capern. The Reunion coincided with the 55th anniversary of the Royal Rodents in the group graduating from and marching off the square at Royal Roads, April 29, 1954.

The “Pure Bloods” of the group were on parade in the fall of 1952 when #13 Major- General A.B. Perry, the last surviving member of the Old Eighteen, visited RMC for the last time and took the salute at the Ex-Cadet parade. General Perry passed away in 1956, the year we all graduated from RMC. RR3625 Art Wade attended his funeral as representative of the College Commandant, Staff and Cadets.

The two-day reunion was held in Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna, April 29-30. The reunion location, the Okanagan valley and its 82 wineries, and the hotel’s warm hospitality made for a great location for the reunion. Location and hospitality were complemented by Al Sherwin’s reason for coming. He wanted to be, as he noted in his bio in 50 Years Later, with the “best brothers one could ever hope for” – and that was the mood of all of the 22 reunion participants.

Unfortunately there were three absentees. John Jory who was driving from Regina had possible heart problems as he and Dot were going through Calgary so he was hospitalized there and Ron Capern had a visa (as in passport) problem and so was grounded in Ecuador. Nevertheless all three were with us in spirit.

The reunion had two events, a meet and greet buffet on the first evening, and a formal dinner on the second. This gave us all time to relax and discover a winery or two in the area. It was easy to see that everybody was in a party mood as aches and pains were not mentioned. The main topic of conversations seemed to focus on our cadet activities, skylarks and defaulters parades and other good times we had as cadets. Perhaps the recent issue of Veritas with its cannon firing stories was the start of that with other stories and embellishments thereof soon following.

One conclusion that could be drawn from all of that was that the story of the cannon on the stairs should be the subject of a definitive article in Veritas. It seems that it has been a well kept secret for over half a century and no one knows what the plaque on the wall beside the step signifies. It would seem that our girls are part of this too as Lee Fraser noted that she had been grilled by Air-Vice-Marshall Bradshaw one evening in Europe a few years after we graduated and that she had not broken faith.

We were a very distinguished looking group on the formal dinner night (see photo). During the reception beforehand Gordon Campbell, the Premier of BC, dropped in to wish us well and to tell us that RMC #13 Major-General A.B. Perry was one of his great-great-grandfathers. We thanked the Premier for coming and informed him that in 1952, our recruit year, we had been on parade when General Perry visited RMC for the last time. So we too had a direct connection to the first cadets entering the College.

The next morning some left early for points afar and the rest had brunch at ten before setting out home relaxed, enthused – and ready for the next reunion. Well done Ron Capern, Lee and Bill Fraser. Thanks for organizing it all. We had a great time. TDV.