Percy’s Medals come Home

By: 6137 Wyn van der Schee

In a simple, quiet ceremony at the RMC Senior Staff Mess on 20 October 2011, the decorations and medals of 147 Colonel Sir Edouard Percy Cranwell Girouard KCMG DSO were presented to the RMC Museum by Mark Fazio of the EllisDon Corporation. The purchase from an auction house in the UK had the approval of Geoff Smith, CEO of EllisDon, and the ceremony was attended by a number of EllisDon and Defence Construction (1951) employees, as well as members of the RMC Club and the Commandant of RMC BGen Eric Tremblay.

H2859 Dr Jack Pike, Director of the RMC Museum, made an acceptance speech in which he pointed out that Sir Percy’s decorations and medals exemplified the selfless tradition of service that has been the hallmark of RMC and its graduates since 1876. He spoke of the respect that ex-Cadets and graduates have for the history, traditions and reputation of the institution, and how each generation strives to ensure the college’s growth and survival

Percy Girouard was born in Montreal in 1867 into a totally bilingual family. He was admitted to the Royal Miliary College of Canada in 1882 and graduated in 1886; he worked for the CPR for two years before being commissioned into the Royal Engineers. At Woolwich, the arsenal for the British Army, he rationalised the internal rail traffic system, drew up a defence plan for the garrison and later one for all of England. He eventually came to the notice of Lord Kitchener, a former Royal Engineer and the Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Army. Lieutenant Girouard was transferred to the Egyptian force and became Kitchener’s railroad man in Africa in 1896. For his early work on the Sudan railway he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1896.

Lord Kitchener’s aim to reconquer the Sudan was greatly facilitated by the railway built by Lieutenant Girouard from Wadi Haifa to Khartoum. Leading a work force of some five thousand Egyptian and Sudanese navvies, as well as Egyptian infantrymen, he pushed the railroad forward at a prodigious rate in the fierce heat of the desert, and completed the 385-mile stretch of track in a year and three months, on 8 April 1898.

Lieutenant (still not promoted!) Girouard’s next task was to take charge of the railways in the South African theatre in the war against the Boers in 1899. By 1900, he was a Captain, and had three Mentions in Dispatches to his credit, the third from Lord Roberts, Commander in Chief in South Africa. A promotion to Brevet Major came in 1901, followed by two more Mentions in 1901 and 1902. However, the crowning reward was appointment in 1901 as a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) “for services in connection with operations in South Africa.” He left South Africa in 1904 with the rank of Colonel.

He returned to regimental duty in England after the South African War, but his railway building skills were soon needed again. He became governor of Northern Nigeria 1907, with the job of building a railway from Lagos to the interior of the colony. In 1909 he was appointed governor of British East Africa (modern-day Kenya and Uganda) again to build a railway inland from Mombassa, but here he was unable to resolve the conflicts of various interest groups, and was forced to resign in 1912 by the Colonial Office.

He returned to England to become a member of the board of the armaments firm Armstrong Vickers, During the First World War he again served his country in various posts related to munitions and railways. He returned to Armstrong Vickers in 1917, and retired from that firm in 1919. He died in London in 1932

The Commandant, BGen Eric Tremblay, spoke of the need for ex-Cadets and the RMC Club to assist in maintaining the integrity of the College, and to act as the guardian of its traditions and heritage.

Mr Mark Fazio noted that, from an outsider’s viewpoint, the College is a unique and special institution, and that he and his staff have found it to be a very enjoyable work place experience.

Sir Percy Girouard’s orders, decorations and medals include the following:

The neck badge and breast star of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George;

Distinguished Service Order;

Queen’s Sudan Medal;

Queen’s South Africa Medal;

King’s South Africa Medal;

Coronation Medal 1911;

Khedive’s Sudan Medal; and,

Neck badge and breast star of the Order of Medjidie (Turkish).

Also obtained was a copy of The History of the Railways during the War in South Africa, 1899-1902 written by Lieut.-Colonel Sir E.P.C. Girouard, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., R.E. in 1903. It is an extremely scare and valuable book and a very useful addition to the Museum collection.



From left to right: Cpl Gulaski, Pte Duthie, OS Mckinnon, OS Vankoughnett, Pte Moser, and Pte Zaporzan.


Congratulations are in order to the six members of Holding Platoon who have transferred to the ranks of Non-Commissioned Members. They will be posted within a month to places such as Borden, Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School, and Gagetown. We wish them the best of luck in their new careers!


Cadets learn about DART

Last Wed morning (19 Oct), LCol Chris Ayotte, Commanding Officer of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) spoke to RMC 3rd and 4th years about Humanitarian Response and the role of DART as an aid to international Civil Power as part of a whole of Government approach. His engaging 1 hour presentation discussed the structure, composition, and scope of DART Operations. The senior Cadet Wing was exposed to the background, basics, deployment and employment of DART.

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