10 Nov 2022 / Archive, What's Happening At RMC
Every year for the last decade, students from the Royal Military College of Canada have had the opportunity to voyage overseas and see first-hand some of the most important battlefields of the First and Second World War. The tour serves two main purposes. Firstly, it seeks to provide students with a palpable experience of battlefield locations in order to complement their studies and facilitate their academic development. Secondly, it provides cadets with lessons of leadership and knowledge of our Canadian military heritage.
The Mottershead Battlefield Tour (MBFT) France and Belgium will take place 18-26 February 2023.
Thank you to 5586 Ian and Rosemary Mottershead, Class of 1962, for their support.
This tour was not available when I was a cadet but My wife and I did it a few years ago. We started at Juno Beach in Normandy through Dieppe and Vimy to Passchendaele in Belgium. It was one of the most emotional and memorable trips that we have ever made and I would recommend for all cadets and in fact for all Canadians.
5846 Peter D. Watson
class of ’63
Firstly, I feel that this article should refer to RMC Cadets not Students. They are officers in training not just university studeents.
However, I really want to share a highlight of my short career in the permanent armed forces while I was stationed in West Germany after graduation from RRMC and RMC in 1962. So here it is:
A Memory of Holten Cemetery
Recently, four different friends have sent the attached video to me. It describes the wonderful tribute to the Canadian war dead in the Canadian War Cemetery at Holten in the Netherlands.
This video reminds me of the wonderful experience I had in 1965 when we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian armed forces.
I was a young officer when I was posted to West Germany from 1962 to1965 with my armoured corps regiment, the Fort Garry Horse.
In May 1965, I had the honour of accompanying a fifty men honour guard and a small military band to Deventer which is very near to Holten. We were billeted at a Dutch army barracks for the weekend.
On Saturday morning we trooped through Deventer with our colours and the band. The crowds were cheering us and throwing tulip petals before us. Some of the older women were openly weeping. I could sense the adoration of the people and I literally felt ten feet tall. As shown on the accompanying photo, the salute and inspection were taken by Major-General Folkes who had led the Canadian troops into the area 20 years earlier. We then received the freedom of the city. I had lunch with the mayor and some members of municipal council. That afternoon, the city opened its restaurants, bars and movie theatres for the troops, and everything was free for them.
On Saturday evening, I had dinner with several dignitaries including the Canadian Ambassador. One woman, a former mayor, described some of the war atrocities, including what had happened to members of her own family.
The next morning, we loaded onto the buses and travelled to Holten Cemetery. It contains more than 1300 Canadian soldier’s graves. It is beautifully kept. We had arranged for a piper to play Last Post and a bugler to play Reveille. However, we were surprised to see a local school child standing with a yellow daffodil in each hand between every pair of two graves. It was very moving as they placed the flowers after the playing of Last Post.
But this was not to be the biggest surprise. As the guard commander, I became concerned about a low flying plane that was coming straight at us. As it got closer, I saw that it was a twin engine DC 3 and that the side door was open. And then as it was directly over us it released a flood of red poppies which floated down on us. I was moved to tears. The ambassador had arranged this drop and did not tell anyone about it.
My wife, Heather, and I travelled to the Netherlands several times while we lived in West Germany and noticed that the Dutch people love us Canadians. I will always treasure the memory of that weekend in Deventer. I am so pleased to see the annual tribute to the fallen Canadians as shown in the video. I never met Heather’s father who was killed in Italy in May 1944 as an armoured corps officer.
December 25, 2021
Every cadet should if at all possible spend time at Beny-Sur-Mer in Normandy and, of course, Dieppe. As a major, I found the experience transformational.