This is the seventh and final installment of our seven part series on The History of the Royal Military College of Canada, by #47 LCol Ernest F. Wurtele, VD. LCol Wurtele graduated RMC in 1882, served as honourary secretary-treasurer of the RMC Club from 1892 to 1913, was the associate editor of the RMC Review, for ex-cadet news, from 1926 to 1936, and was the first honourary member of the RMC Club.

Thanks to E3161 Victoria Edwards for turning up this interesting nugget of College history.

The History of the Royal Military College of Canada, by LCol Ernest F. Wurtele

Part 7 – Those Who Have Fallen

While honours and awards have been won by the graduates, suffering and death have likewise been their lot. The first to die in action was Captain W. H. Robinson, Royal Engineers, who on March 14th, 1892, was killed while, with conspicuous bravery, blowing in the gate of the stockaded village of Tambi, near Sierra Leone ; and since he fell the toll taken by death from the graduates and ex-cadets of the Royal Military College of Canada has been a heavy one.

Above: Two of the three ex-cadets who commanded divisions of the Canadian Corps in WW1. Maj Gen Sir A.C. Macdonell, left commanded the 1st Division.

Maj Gen Sir. H.E. Burstall, right, commanded the 2nd Division. 

When the Great World War broke out and the British Empire was threatened, graduates and cadets flocked to the colours and from the commencement of the conflict played an important part in both the Imperial and Canadian forces. The military efficiency of the Canadian Corps in the field was in no small measure due to the work of the men who had received their training in the college. Of the five original Canadian divisions three were commanded by ex-cadets: the 1st Division, by Major-General Sir A. C. Macdonell, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., now (1920) Commandant of the Royal Military College; the 2nd Division, by Major-General Sir H. E. Burstall, K.C.B., C.M.G.; the 5th Division, by Major-General G. B. Hughes, C.M.G., D.S.O. After the Armistice was signed the commanders of the 1st and 2nd Divisions had the satisfaction of leading their forces into Germany.

At the close of hostilities, on the college books were the names of 1,493 cadets, of whom about 150, although accepted, did not take the college course. Over nine hundred graduates and ex-cadets served in the war. Between August 4th, 1914, and November, 1918, 355 men were granted commissions direct from the college and 43 others enlisted with a view to obtaining commissions. The graduates played their part in all fields of action, – France, Russia, Italy, Greece, the Dardanelles, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, and South Africa. They paid a heavy price for the Empire’s integrity and the liberty of the world, one in six being killed in action or dying of wounds.

The coveted Victoria Cross was won by a graduate of the college, Lieut.-Colonel W. A. Bishop, V.C, D.S.O. and Bar, M.C., D.F.C. Three other graduates were recommended for this decoration: Captain E. D. Carr-Harris, Royal Engineers, killed in action in East Africa in November, 1914; Major F. Travers Lucas, 54th Kootenay Battalion, C.E.F., killed in action in France, March 1st, 1917; and Lieutenant (Acting-Major) G. A. Trorey, R.F. Artillery, missing and reported killed, March 2nd, 1918.

The list of decorations awarded graduates and excadets of the Royal Military College for distinguished service in the Great World War is a long one. It is as follows: C.B. 17, C.M.G. 50, C.B.E. 1, O.B.E. 9, D.S.O. 115, D.S.O. with one Bar 7, D.S.O. with two Bars 2, M.C. 118, M.C. with one Bar 10, D.F.C. 3, D.C.M. 1, 1914 Star (approximate) 50, 1914-1915 Star (approximate) 100, A.D.C. to H.M. the King 1, Legion of Honour (France) 18, Croix de Guerre (France) 9, Ordre de Leopold (Belgium) 3, Croix de Guerre (Belgium) 7, Ordre de la Couronne (Belgium) 1, Crown of Italy 1, St. Maurice and St. Lazarus (Italy) 1, White Eagle (Serbia) 5, St. Sava (Serbia) 1, Karageorge (Serbia) 1, St. Stanislas (Russia) 3, St. Vladimir (Russia) 1, St. Anne (Russia) 2, The Redeemer (Greece) 2, Gold Medal of Merit (U.S.A.) 1, Order of Lafayette (U.S.A.) 1. In addition there were Mentioned in Despatches (approximate): 127, once; 57, twice; 25, three times; 6, four times; 7, five times; 2, six times; 2, seven times.

This ends our series on LCol Ernest F. Wurtele’s History of RMC. Keep reading e-Veritas for future series on the College. 

Source: Ernest F Wurtele (RMC 1882) ‘The Royal Military College of Canada’ 351-262 in Marie Bashkirtseff. ‘Canada in the great world war; an authentic account of the military history of Canada from the earliest days to the close of the war of the nations (Volume 5)’. Toronto, United Publishers of Canada Limited http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/marie-bashkirtseff/canada-in-the-great-world-war-an-authentic-account-of-the-military-history-of-c-oro-347.shtml

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