Major WJ (Danny) McLeod


Royal Military College of Canada lost a great warrior when – The Major WJ (Danny) McLeod passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning, 14 Jan 2014. Rolande and I lost a dear friend.

Major McLeod arrived in 1960 and became the first Director of Athletics at the college,  For the next 11 years he accomplished what it would take most of us 40 years to complete. No one would argue that he is rightfully known and is considered the father of athletics and physical fitness at RMCC.

It is not the intent of this writer to cover the many, many accomplishments of his remarkable life. For those who have not already done so , can learn everything there is to know about “The Major” in the recently released book – “Always A Leader -The lives of Major Danny McLeod” – By Ted Nurse which is available in the RMC Club Gift Shop, located in Panet House.

I have yet to meet anyone who has read the book that did not enjoy it. Further, everyone has remarked how much they learned new about the man. If you think you knew Danny McLeod, you will be humbled by what you read in – The lives of Major Danny McLeod.

From the start, The Major was put on a pedestal by cadets who with very few exceptions displayed an overwhelming feeling of reverence to him which has lasted a lifetime. Why were they so enthralled? Was it his wartime record? Was it the aura of confidence and competency he displayed day in and day out? Was it the fact that he seemed to connect with everyone – I, II, III, & IV years – intramural warriors as much as the varsity athletes? Members of the faculty were likely not in awe of him but he certainly had their respect; gained their confidence and support from the get-go.

I don’t profess to know the answers to the questions but I’ve been around the college long enough to know that he was in a league of his own.

Over the years RMCC, as an institution, has recognized Major McLeod’s contributions with a number of  special awards including:

  • 2000, the Graduating Class of 1971 created the “Danny McLeod Endowment Fund” with the RMC Foundation and organized in different years 4 canoe trips from Ottawa to Kingston on the Rideau Canal, manned by Ex-Cadets, as fundraisers for the Endowment Fund
  • 2003, he was granted an Honorary Doctorate in Military Science
  • 2007, the Royal Military College Club of Canada awarded him the Air Commodore Leonard Birchall Award for Leadership

In addition he is an honouary member of the Class of 1970 and an honouary lifetime member of the RMC Club – H25197.

I believe it is safe to say that the vast majority of ex-cadets from EVERY class from 1960 to 70 held a special affection for The Maj. None more so than the Class of 1969. Somewhere along the line, a number of ’69 buds and he connected again.

They would meet-up at least once a year – usually at the Toronto Branch Dinner often held the last Friday of April. Danny would arrive during the afternoon; they would meet-up at the same downtown hotel. After catching up on the news for a couple of hours they would leave for the formal dinner held at the Canadian Forces College.

Following the dinner they would return to the hotel late in the evening; gather again in one room and talk until the wee hours of the morning. As the chauffeur for a few of these visits, I was invited to attend. What amazed me was the absolute attention and respect everyone in the room had when The Maj was talking – which was most of the time.

In the morning they would all meet up again for breakfast. Following the hugs and handshakes (what a firm handshake, he had) every one headed home – some as far as California; British Columbia; different part of Ontario and beyond.

Because of declining health, Danny was unable to make it to the 2013 Toronto Dinner. Instead his ’69 friends brought the Dinner to Kingston – the night before. The photo above includes Doug Hargreaves (sitting left) another much beloved former member of the RMC athletic department from the 1960s. Jim Simpson (back right) from the Class of 1970 also attended.

As was mentioned previously the cadets were aware that he was a highly decorated WWII veteran; he was awarded the Military Cross for distinguished and meritorious service in battle.  Cadets in those days like the present day cadets could quickly see through BS and a phony. If anyone ever walked the walk – it was Danny McLeod.

Besides the recognition and honours he has received at RMCC – many more were bestowed on him at the local, regional, provincial, national and international levels.  The Ted Nurse book not only has the complete list but the why, when & where too.

Simply stated, Major Danny McLeod was a remarkable individual. He was an absolutely competent military officer, a professional in his trade, an involved civilian community and solid family man. The Major, by definition was a leader!

He epitomized the qualities of Truth, Duty and Valour in his personal and professional life. This was quickly recognized by everyone of us who came in contact with him.

On a personal side, as previously mentioned, Danny was a dear friend and mentor. We could fill these pages with a 1001 “Danny” stories. But now just doesn’t seem like the right time.

Rest In Peace – Major.

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