John Rayner

As a child of nine, I “attended” Royal Roads, not as a cadet but as the son of the Commandant. My father was Captain Herbert S. Rayner D.S.C & Bar, R.C.N. and his mission was to transform the Naval College into a tri-service institution that fed officer cadets into the final two years of the Royal Military College. This was quite a change from his wartime experience as Captain of H.M.C.S. Huron, one of Canada's fighting ships.

The family arrived in Victoria in the summer of 1948 after a train trip across Canada. Royal Roads was a paradise for children. When the cadets were away, we played in the gym, learned to row in the lagoon, and were able to ride our bikes up and down the roads and on to secret passages that we built in the forest. There were always pheasants in the long grasses bordering the driveway, and one day my brother and I acted as retriever dogs for Father when he shot a pheasant that was creating havoc in the vegetable garden.

Indeed one could say we were part of the teaching staff of the college in the manners protocol division. After the cadets' Sunday church parade, four cadets had the honour or misfortune of being invited as guests of the Commandant for Sunday lunch. The cadets were expected to be spit-polished in uniform and shoe shine and marched from the Cadet Blocks over to the Commandant's house. There my mother had created a first class course of forks and knives surrounding the meal. My mother being English thought it was very important for the cadets to learn how to handle a formal dinner in case the King or Queen should invite them to Buckingham Palace. Our job as children was to act as role models and assist the cadets in choosing the right fork and knife combinations.

Other memories of Royal Roads were of our schooling. My brother and I attended Glenlyon school in Oak Bay and were transported to school by duty wagon. Once the wagon failed to appear and we decided to hike home. We were about three miles from home when we were apprehended by the RCMP and escorted the rest of the way. We had been reported as “missing in action”. My sister faced a more difficult trip. She had to walk through a forest and cow pasture to Colwood Public School. She was always concerned to make sure that there were no bulls among the cows. Once a cougar was seen in the forest and the daily slog stopped until the cougar was killed. The pelt eventually ended up under the big drum of the Cadet Band.

As for the Commandant's house it is very much the same as 60 years ago, despite its remake as a professorial office compound. However, the wild bantam roosters that used to parade up and down the garden wall screaming at visitors have disappeared.

John Rayner

Media Partner

Anniversary Partner