John Clyaton 1

By way of introduction, I entered College Militaire Royale in September 1963, almost exactly sixty years ago.

In short, as a young officer cadet at CMR, I wrote more than sixty letters to my parents throughout my Preparatory Year.  My mother kept the lot of them in numbered sequence.  Then, after she passed away several years ago, my sister in Vancouver mailed them back to me.  Upon opening the small box of hand written letters just recently and reading many, I was struck that these notes, which describe college life and the recruits’ experience in some detail, might be of interest to younger generations of cadets for comparative purposes and to older generations for sheer nostalgia.

Eighth Letter 

Postmarked around 4 November 1963

Dear Mom and Dad,

I haven’t written for two weeks for many reasons.  Initiation week is the first and foremost, so here is a brief description of what happened.

As you probably know, it all began on Sunday, October 20.  We then ate our first “square” meal.  It was an unusual experience because you never knew what you were eating, until you got it to your mouth  That is if you ever got it to your mouth.  Usually you would lift your fork to find absolutely nothing or half an enormous steak.  Rarely, if ever, did you get a reasonable piece as far as size is concerned.  Soup was also a great difficulty.  Often you ended up wearing more than you had eaten.  Then, of course, if you wanted a glass of milk.  Oh boy!!  What fun!!  No one could judge by ear whether a glass was full, half full or empty, so there were many wet table cloths.  To make life a little more interesting, the juniors made us do some pretty stupid things at dinner.   I had a most delectable dessert one night — Chili sauce and blueberry pie.

Of course, the juniors were not restricted to meals.  They could do whatever they wished from 10:00, after study period, till 11:00, lights out.  They decided to ensure that we would be in top physical condition all year.  They gave us so many exercises that we would either become physically fit or collapse.  Unfortunately, by the time we were finished, we were too tired  to get physically fit.  To give you an idea of our little exercise period, here is a short description:

10:00 — the juniors rush up shouting at us and telling us we have 2 minutes to get into PT dress.

10;02 — we are outside our doors in the hallway running on the spot.

10:07 — we have a 15 second rest, if we are lucky, then we do push ups.

10:12 — another rest, maybe, after which more running on the spot.

10:15 — sit ups.

10;18 — more running on the spot.

At 10:30 we have a 5 minute respite for tattoo, then away we go again until about 10:45.  The ‘kind’ juniors give us, or at least force us to take a shower, a nice cold shower.

When we got back to our rooms, we found our beds overturned and dismantled.  Then we were told to be in bed in five minutes.  Guess what — I bet you think we weren’t — we weren’t.  We were lucky if we got to bed before 11:30.  This went on every night: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, not Wednesday, and then again on Thursday.  On Wednesday, we had a room inspection, by juniors, of course.  One nasty fellow with an Aussie bush hat came into my room, opened every drawer, screamed how horrible it was, and dumped all of it on the floor,  He looked at our beds (mine and my roommate’s) and tore them to shreds.  He then gently threw all my books, almost fifty, on the floor.  Surprisingly enough, he barely touched my roommate’s stuff; he only emptied two or three or five or was it six drawers?  When the ‘inspection’ was over, we were given all of ten minutes to clean up, which was a little bit difficult.

Friday afternoon we were told that we would have no exercises that day.  So we went to bed very contented and happy that we would have some sleep before the initiation race.  However, at midnight, when ‘today’ ended,we were rudely awakened by bugle playing, bagpipe playing, shouting juniors.  The noise was ear-piercing.  They had ‘Reveille Rock’ played over the PA system at full volume.  Needless to say, we woke up.  After this, we were dressed in PT gear again, equally rapidly.  This time, we were told to pack our chairs over our heads and run outside onto the parade square.  Just as we ran out the doors, they got us with the fire extinguishers.  Then we were run around the parade square while holding the chairs high.  If they weren’t high enough, we were given ten or more push-ups before we began to run even faster.  When we had run for half an hour or more, we were formed formed up.  Then we were marched into the Richelieu River up to our knees or necks depending  upon whether or not you were first or last in line.  I was sure that I was going to be last until a nasty junior booted me in the posterior and told me to hurry up, so I was thoroughly soaked.  When we got out as far as we could without drowning the guys in front, we were told to sit down.  Well, we got peeved and charged the juniors, and chucked one or two into the river.


Marching down the boat ramp into the Richelieu followed by a ‘rest break’ sitting on the chairs in the frigid water.

About the initiation race, well I won’t say anything because I’ve ordered twenty pictures which will give you a much better idea of what happened. Since then, however, a lot has happened.  First of all I was picked for glee club of all things.  I have to go to an hour and a half practice every Tuesday instead of sports.  The glee club is really a college ‘rep’ team.  That means that we may be entering competitions later in the year if we are good enough.

Another thing is that I am on the, or at least one of the Prep football teams for our Squadron.  We had our first game yesterday and we won 6-1 on a very close game, but still we won.

As for other things, I’ve found out that I will get almost two weeks leave at Christmas, and I will probably fly home on the twenty-first of December.  However, it is not yet definite, so don’t count on anything.  At least don’t count the days like I am (48 to go).  Well I’ve lots to say, but it will have to wait cause I have a lot to do.

Love, John.


  1. Ian Sanderson on January 17, 2024 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing – brings back many memories.
    I remember lots of similar events from that week, and the “square meals”, but I don’t remember marching into the river.
    I was in Champlain squadron and am guessing that you were in one of the other squadrons.

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