From the Archives: Remembrance Day

Jenny Seeman

Remembrance Day is commemorated every year on November 11. This year in particular, we remember the armistice that marked the cessation of hostilities between the Allies of World War I and Germany. The agreement was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, exactly 100 years ago in 1918.

When HMCS Royal Roads opened in December 1940, the world was at war for a second time, and the cadets entering the college were part of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. After completing 90 days of intense naval training, they joined the Allied war effort on the Atlantic and the Bering Straits.

A cenotaph installed in the Italian Garden in 1972 honours former Royal Roads cadets who lost their lives during the Second World War and the Korean War and is the focal point of the Remembrance Day service here on November 11.   

The names on the memorial are:

Lieutenant M.S. Grant, RCNVR; Sub-Lieutenant R.H. McConnell, RCNVR; Sub-Lieutenant R.L. Ross, RCNVR; Lieutenant J.M. Walkley, RCNVR; Lieutenant H.D.S. Russel, RCNVR; Sub-Lieutenant W.E. Shields, RCNVR; Lieutenant G.B. Wright, RCNVR; Sub-Lieutenant R.I.L. Annett, RCNVR; Lieutenant A.G. Herman; Lieutenant G.A. McLachlan, RCNVR.

A short video vignette created by Dr. Geoffrey Bird tells the story of one of those men. Sub-Lieutenant R.H. McConnell, RCNVR was aboard HMCS Raccoon when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat on September 7, 1942. The entire ship’s crew was lost.

There were also graduates of HMCS Royal Roads who did not lose their lives while serving with the navy. Several received a Mention in Dispatches or other honours for their acts of bravery.

Acting Lieutenant John Jeffrey Coates, RCNVR, serving on HMCS Haida, received a Mention in Despatches in October 1944 “for bravery, skill and devotion to duty in anti-U-boat operations.”

Lieutenant William Simpson Gibson, RCNVR, serving on HMCS Mahone, received a Mention in Despatches in 1944 “for prompt and efficient action in directing the shoring of bulkheads and hatches of his ship after a collision. Following a collision involving HMCS Mahone and S.S. Townsend, Lieutenant Gibson immediately took charge of damage control parties and succeeded in shoring bulkheads and hatches. It is considered that the rapidity and efficiency with which this task was carried out undoubtedly saved the ship from further damage which would have involved total loss. Lieutenant Gibson also displayed great courage in descending through a skylight to remove electric fuses from circuits to the four-inch magazines”.

Acting Lieutenant Commander Douglas Edward Folkes Jemmett, RCNVR, received an Order of the British Empire in 1945 for his role as Canadian liaison officer and acting vice-consul to the administration of the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. “Through his tact and devoted loyalty, he has done much to strengthen the ties of friendship between these Islands and Canada. His work in the diplomatic field has been of service to the Allied cause, and he has been successful in obtaining the cooperation of the French Naval Forces based at Saint Pierre in spite of great administrative difficulties.”

Lieutenant Jack Eardely Koyl, RCNVR, received a Mention in Despatches in 1944 “for gallant and distinguished services and untiring devotion to duty in operations which led to the capture of Sicily by Allied Forces”, as well as a Distinguished Service Cross in 1944 “for good service in the first landing of troops on the mainland of Italy.”

The stories of all the people whose names are on the cenotaph can be found in the museum at Royal Roads University, as well as those who received honours during World War II.

The Remembrance Day ceremony in the Italian Garden at Royal Roads begins at 10:40 on Sunday, November 11. The museum will be open from noon-2pm and the gardens and grounds are open to the public all day.

The photographs in this article are from the Royal Roads University Archives. For more information about the archives, contact Jenny Seeman, ext 4122.