Royal Roads University’s past and present come together yet again next week, as the school and a group of former military college cadets gather to remember those who fell defending the freedoms of this country and others.
On Remembrance Day, the university and the Vancouver Island Ex-Cadet Association will co-host one of three such ceremonies on the West Shore.
Given the history and traditions continued on the site, this Nov. 11 event in Colwood has an even more tangible connection to wartime.
Chris Pratt, a retired navy captain who was part of Royal Roads’ first naval college intake in 1942, is one of nearly 50 former cadets who have annually attended the memorial ceremony since it began in 1995. He’ll lay a wreath as the honourary president of the Ex-Cadet Association.
“It’s nice to see that serving members of the Armed Forces gather at that ceremony in uniform,” he says.
Pratt notes that the plaque in the Italian Garden beside Hatley Castle contains the names of 12 former cadets who died in wartime; all of their names will be read aloud at next week’s ceremony.
“Since it became a civilian university, (Nov. 11 events have) been supported by the ex-cadet club,” he says. “The ex-cadets thought they would pick up on Remembrance Day and carry on that tradition.”
Wayne Strandlund, chancellor of Royal Roads University and a five-year member of its board of directors, says tradition is one of the most important elements tying the two eras of the school’s existence together.
“The culture of Royal Roads and the tradition of it … that’s all very important to the underpinnings of the establishment we have today.
“I feel strongly that the success that Royal Roads is experiencing now as a public university is very much a part of being able to stand on the shoulders of 55 years of its military college existence,” he says. “Even the physical premises really dates back to the military tradition, and anyone who walks through that campus can hardly avoid seeing its military background.”
Given that fact, he says, “If there weren’t a celebration on Remembrance Day I’d find myself very perplexed.”
Pratt likes that Royal Roads continues to focus on leadership, something that was central to the school’s days as a military college. It reflects the importance of leadership in civilian and business life,” he says. “They’ve kept that motivation alive.”
The ceremony begins at 10:40 a.m. Parking is free at Royal Roads lots.