The Grand Tour
Keeping the Peace
By Tom Lessard, C.D.
My military career of 18 years took me to many places I probably would never have gone on my own. When I joined the RCOC in 1953 at the age of 16, I was sent to Montreal, where the ordnance corps school was located. For a kid that young who had never been away from home, it was quite an exciting experience. One of the best times was when we had to do our qualifying on the rifle. We had to take a bus to Mt. Bruno off the island and into the Gatineau hills. Beautiful country.
After completing my training, which took almost two years, my first posting was to 27 COD on Highbury Avenue in London. For the first two months, I was living in Wolseley Barracks, but was told that I had to move out and find a place on the economy (in other words, an apartment or a rooming house). One of the older guys showed me a rooming house on Hale Street, just a ten-minute walk from work. The lady who ran the place had two small children and 21 boarders whom she fed and housed. She found room for me on the third floor (at one time the attic) with seven other tenants, all army. We ate and lived – and caroused – together. It was a very interesting time. They certainly taught me a lot, about half of which they shouldn’t have.
A little more than a year later, the Suez Crisis occurred. Up on the notice board, a request for volunteers was posted. The first name to be entered was yours truly. Off I went to Egypt for the better part of a year. Six months after I returned, there was a request on the board for a storeman to go out to Wainwright, Alberta, as increment attached to the RCEME workshop for a three month summer exercise. I got the job, but when I reported in, I was told that I would be the C.O.’s batman-driver. That was a pretty cushy duty. It was a surprise for me to find out that my brother-in-law Sam was stationed in Calgary with the Queen’s Own Rifles, at whose camp we bunked before heading north to Wainwright. I didn’t realize until then that my sister was living there; they showed me a great time.
Back to London. The next year I was back to Alberta again. Another good summer.
I wanted to go to Germany and the only way to get there was to get posted to the 1st battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment stationed at Ipperwash. I didn’t even know where that was. I soon found out and was pleasantly surprised to experience one of the best camps I was ever to live in. The other in consideration was Lizard Flats in Cyprus.
While with the battalion, I had three years in Germany, two tours in Cyprus, two summers in Petawawa, one in Gagetown, winter exercises up north, and a month in Jamaica. If not for the army, I wouldn’t have gone on an upgrading course in Montreal, where I met my future wife. She travelled with me to Germany, where we married and had our first two boys. Rita turned 69 earlier this month (happy birthday).
Happy birthday this month to Bob and Jessica. I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful spring weather. It’s nice to be alive.