From the Archives: The Commandant's House

Jenny Seeman
Commandant's House

The two large houses within the garden walls were built in early 1941 and were among the first new structures to be built when the navy moved in to Hatley Park to open a training institution. The earliest inhabitants of the houses would have been Captain J.M. Grant, first Commander of HMCS Royal Roads, followed by Captain Cherry in 1946, Captain Rayner in 1948 and Captain Millward in 1949. It was essential that the Commandant and family live on site as they not only hosted many important visitors to the college, but also had to be available to oversee college activities at all times. 

The Vice-Commandant’s house was originally designated for the Director of Studies. This position, which later became the college Principal, was the most senior non-military instructor’s role, although the first two incumbents in the position were also military men: Commander Ketchum and Captain Ogle. As Director of Studies, they had the responsibility of overseeing the academic program for the cadets and ensuring that they were actually learning all that was required of them.

The Commandant and Vice-Commandants’ homes were rarely visited by cadets, except for the occasional dinner by invitation. No doubt a great honour for the chosen cadets, it was also a very formal event and required strict adherence to protocol. Nervous visitors would often take cues from the amused children of the commanding officers, who were well practiced in dinner table formalities and could offer surreptitious little pointers to the sweaty-handed cadets, unsure of which utensil was meant for which course!

Visiting U.S. Air Force Academy cadets trying their best with a cup of tea. 1967-68

The apples trees surrounding the Vice-Commandant’s home were also the source of a traditional recruit term skylark. Senior cadets would drop heavy hints to the recruits that if they wanted to please their squadron leaders, they should deliver them the best apples from the orchard inside the walled garden. Since recruits were not even allowed out after dark, and had yet to meet the most senior officers, an excursion into the sequestered area was no doubt a nerve-wracking venture. Ever anxious to please, the enterprising recruits would succeed every year in stripping the apple trees bare of their fruit under the cover of one gloomy, autumn night.

When the university first opened in 1995, the Commandant’s House was made available to the President but it was soon reallocated to provide necessary teaching and office space. Today the Commandant’s House is home to the School of Communication and Culture. The Vice-Commandant’s House is home to the School of Humanitarian Studies.

Do you have any questions or stories about buildings on campus? If so, contact Jenny in the archives on ext. 4122.