(L to R, back row) Ron James, Jim White, Dick Cobbold, Jean de Grasse, Jim Watson, John Bird, Jon Legg, Georges Bernier, Mike Ellis (Front row) Kent Foster, Mel Brown, Moe Corbett, John Hunter, Bill Claggett, Ken Stefanson, Ted Butler, John Akerley (Absent) Jim Wilson (Photo courtesy of Neil Johnstone)
It all happened on a Friday night in November 1958, after the annual Third Year mess dinner. As usually happens at times like this, nobody really remembers how it started, just that someone suggested that it would be a good idea to make a trophy run on one of the lady residences at Queen’s, in retaliation for their visit to the Stone Frigate a few weeks earlier during which quite a few rifle barrels and breeches were inundated with a considerable amount of baby powder. No one really knew which dorm these girls came from, but it was decided to carry out the raid on Adelaide Hall, probably for no other reason than it was the most prominent of the girls’ residences at Queen’s.
So, the word went out, and after a fair amount of discussion on who should or should not participate, and how we should proceed so as to avoid the police, a large number of Third Year cadets, probably all a little tipsy, gathered just inside the Memorial Arch, and in small groups made their way into Kingston, rendez-vousing at the Martello tower in MacDonald Park before scuttling over to Adelaide Hall. Although there was no one leader of the group, as we went running in the door en masse, Ken Stefanson was in the forefront.
One individual was designated to prevent the residence proctor from phoning the police but, unfortunately, she was at the reception desk just inside the door, and as we all ran by, she was immediately on the phone before any preventative action could be taken. We dispersed throughout the building with a great deal of noisy glee, looking for interesting souvenirs, and generally scaring the inhabitants. Although there were a few yells, the girls were by and large fully cooperative, and even handed over some of the “booty” themselves! On the second floor, one of the cadets (Camille Blais) was being held hostage by the girls, and had to be “liberated”, much to his chagrin. When the word went out about the police call, most of us made our way back out through the front door before their arrival, except for a small group who broke out through an alarmed fire door at the far end of the building (resulting in the fire department also becoming involved). Unfortunately, one of this group (Ken Stefanson) severely injured himself breaking out, with his hand in a bloody mess, requiring medical attention. As a result, the authorities, at first believing the raid to be a Queen’s students’ prank, were suddenly on the trail across the causeway.
Anyway, we all (or most of us) made our way back to the college as quickly as possible. One cadet (Brian Weatherhead) was seen pedaling furiously down King Street. on a bicycle C where it came from, nobody asked. The rest straggled in later, but all made it in time for morning parade.
Early the next morning the Cadet Wing formed up and went through the usual two-hour drill practice for Sunday morning’s formal parade. At the end of the parade practice, instead of the normal dismissal procedure, all cadets who had left the grounds of the college the previous evening were ordered to take one step forward while the remainder of the Cadet Wing was dismissed. Then came a second order: those who were off the grounds with a valid leave pass were to take a step forward, and they too were dismissed. The remaining group, all 30 of us, became known as the “Dirty Thirty”.
Later on that Saturday, it was agreed to return all of the souvenirs, and the items were all brought to one room and placed in a big cardboard box, with a large note “WOW” taped on top.
We were subsequently questioned by Kingston police detectives, and the OCCW, CDR Mills, and confined to the college until further notice. Because of the involvement of the Kingston police and fire departments, the affair made its way into the press, and there were even unfounded rumours of the events having been discussed in Parliament, with some Members demanding dismissal of all involved.
In the end, we were all “sentenced” by the Commandant to 30 days CCD (Confined to College with extra Drill) plus 30 days RLP (Restricted Leave and Privileges). This was an unheard of punishment, as 30 days of CCD was the maximum that had ever been given to any cadet previously.
While all the other cadets and their dates were enjoying the Christmas Ball, we were on parade inside the entranceway to Currie Hall. Some of the boys on parade had been into the sauce. The inspection was taken by the Duty Officer, Capt. Joe Crow, who slipped over from the festivities in his mess kit, and was considerably upset by some of the outlandish remarks emanating from the rear ranks. Anyway, if I recall correctly, he recognized the situation and while he was quite irritated, he gave us a chance to redeem ourselves by announcing that he was terminating the inspection, but would be back in an hour, and expected a better result at that time. Several of the guys had to forcibly drag the most belligerent of the rear-rankers back to the barracks and throw him in the shower, but even then, when we got back for the later inspection, he was still a bit over exuberant. Others rinsed their mouth with the foul-tasting liquid hand soap in a nearby rest room.
We also lost most of our Christmas leave since our travel arrangements were made for each of us so that, depending on our home towns, we had only enough time to arrive home on Christmas Eve and return on Boxing Day. As well, a letter was sent home to our parents explaining why we had such a short leave period. I must say that explaining this letter to my parents was the most difficult of all of the punishments.
Back at the college when everyone else was gone, we still had to carry out the CCD punishment and each day we were obliged to take part in a cross-country run up and around Old Fort Henry and the College grounds.
In the evenings, however, though we couldn’t leave the college, we were allowed visitors, and spent a few enjoyable evenings in Yeo Hall with some members of the fairer sex, including several from Adelaide Hall. We were even allowed to hold a New Year’s Eve party, and to go out to collect our dates. The Duty Officer was in attendance at the senior staff Officers Mess party, but came to verify our punch, which he approved even though it was spiked with vodka.
Written by 4650 Jim White with help from others with equally dwindling memories.
Here is a reproduction of a letter sent out to the parents of the thirty offending cadets.
It is with regret that I inform you that your son has been involved in a serious incident which has required the imposition of severe disciplinary penalties by me.
On the evening of Friday, 21 November, the Officer Cadets of the Third Year, of which your son is a member, held a formal Mess Dinner. Following the dinner, a group of thirty of these cadets got themselves secretly organized and proceeded into Kingston, improperly dressed and without permission to leave the College. This “gallant gang” ended up at Adelaide Hall, a girls’ residence for Queen’s University, at about 12:30 a.m. They then carried out was is commonly known as a “pantie raid”. Many of the girls in residence were in bed at the time, and several of their rooms were entered by the invading Cadets.
This unfortunate incident has had very serious repercussions, and brought RMC into understandable disgrace. The matter was reported locally by radio and television, and a brief mention of the incident was carried by Canadian Press to newspapers all across Canada. At Queen’s University the penalty for any Queen’s male student who enters a girls’ residence improperly is instant dismissal from the University. In the present circumstances dismissal action would have been taken against any individual Cadet, but, in view of the large group involved, dismissal was obviously impracticable.
My initial punishment meted out to each of the thirty Cadets concerned was to confine him to the College for a period of sixty days, consisting of thirty days defaulters with drill and thirty days restrcited leave privileges, and to reduce hir Christmas leave from fourteen days to seven days. With all the Cadets studying hard for examinations during December, and defaulters with drill being in abeyance during this period, the first thirty days of this punishment would gave very little significance to the guilty ones.
In order that you, the parents, may not be unduly penalized as well, I have relented somewhat of the restriction of Christmas leave. In view of difficulties in arranging transportation home at the Christmas season, I will now allow the thirty Cadets concerned to leave the College on Saturday, 20 December, which is the normal time for the remainder of the Cadets to proceed on Christmas leave. They must, however, leave their homes and return to the College by the first available transportation on Monday, 29 December. In no circumstances will they be allowed to remain over New Year’s.
A copy of the transportation schedule given to your son is attached hereto. Any failure on his part to comply with this schedule would be considered a most serious breach of confidence and discipline.
Please be assured that I am greatly in favour of high spirits and good fun on the part of all Cadets. I must insist, however, that they exercise discretion and a sense of responsibility in their pranks. On this occasion the thirty Cadets concerned were guilty of a shocking breach of both, and I have no course other than applying the above-mentioned penalties.
Apart from this current difficulty, the conduct of your son at RMC has been entirely satisfactory.
D.W. Piers Commodore, RCN Commandant
Recollections of the Dirty Thirty Panty Raid by a Queen’s Girl
Most first-year female students at Queen’s were housed in residences. The University in the 1950s felt its duty to protect these young innocents, especially with a university male-female ratio of 3 to 1. RMC, across the bridge, increased that ratio.
The main women’s residences, Ban Righ and the newer Adelaide Hall, were solid limestone bastions. Students had limited evening curfews and were required to sign in and out at the desk. Our hawk-eyed guardians were older women, who promptly locked the doors at midnight, making late arrivals ring the doorbell before they signed in. One of these women the girls nicknamed “Earmuffs” because she wore braids that circled around her ears.
For some reason, on that November evening, my roommate Marg and I, who lived on Adelaide ground, did not have dates, and so decided that we would make an early night of it. Those were the days when there were no locks on the doors and of course we had our guardians, at the ready, to intercept anything untoward.
Marg and I had just turned off the lights when, suddenly, we heard our door thrown open and a hand searching frantically for the light switch. The sound of a great many boots and male voices resounded down the hall. Failing to turn on the light, and suddenly hearing “Who’s there?” our intruder quickly vanished. Ruth, the Proctor of our floor, lived in the next room; she was a highly motivated student who was working on some assignment late into the night. When the men with darkened faces rushed into her room, not only was she shocked, but as they opened her dresser drawers she kept trying to close them.
Next morning the Dining Hall was all a twitter. Nothing so exciting had ever happened in these hallowed halls. Many of the students had been out that night and came back to rooms that were dishevelled. It turned out that Adelaide Hall was the only residence invaded as “Ear Muffs” had promptly locked the door and phoned the police.
Some of us were privy to learn the story from the RMC end, so we were able to add details to “our panty raid.” Our raiders, aided by one of their members who punched out the glass in an exit door, quickly escaped. Medical treatment to the injured hand had the unfortunate effect of unmasking the perpetrators, and RMC handed out swift consequences to the thirty members of that evening adventure. This also meant that some of the Queen’s girls didn’t get to see their sweethearts until the new year.
Probably the most amusing part of this whole caper was the day that a large duffle bag arrived at Adelaide. Starting on the third floor, a group of girls with a great assortment of panties and bras tried to find the original owner of each piece. There was great hilarity during this process. Rumour had it that the girl who owned the bra with the largest cup was to have a date with one of the cadets. Ruth was bestowed this honour.
In light of present-day university activities, and the recent Queen’s Homecoming celebrations that got out of control, the Dirty Thirty Panty Raid seems an innocent prank, by a few daring – or should I say drunken – young men that harmed no one.
Written by Leith DeTracey
The Dirty Thirty is explained on page 263 of ‘Biographies: College Militaire royal de Saint-Jean, Royal Roads Military College and Royal Military College 1955-2006’ compiled and edited by 4669 Toivo Roht. Biographies 1955-2006 is available at the RMC Gift Shop by calling 1-888-386-3762.
The book is $85 and all proceeds go to replenishing the Class of 1960 Administrative Fund. email@example.com
Article suggested by E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003)