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The Castle

The Castle at Royal Roads


Royal Roads
Victoria, British Columbia

A "Roads" for non-nautical types refers to a ship's anchorage. The body of water behind what used to be RRMC was so named because the royal yacht Britannica had anchored there. Hence, Royal Roads. In summer 1996, I went to Victoria on work-related business and had the opportunity to visit Royal Roads for the first time since I left there in 1983. Much has happened since then. Most notably, it is no longer Royal Roads Military College. It is now Royal Roads University. There were blue signs pointing directions all over the grounds that never used to be there. The grass was brown and dry, a condition in which I'd never seen it when I was there. The college was, and to a large extent remains a kind of a park for people to wander through and enjoy the beauty of the grounds. But it wasn't the same. I was surprised at how moved I was visiting the place. I literally had left more than my share of blood, tears and sweat in the two years that I'd been there, living a wide range range of activities from hazing, being totally immersed in cow dung, and almost being released for unsatisfactory progress, to rappelling 90 feet out of a helicopter, playing in the band for the queen, and earning my "bars" as a cadet officer in my second term of my second year.

A big disappointment for me was not being permitted to enter the castle during my visit. I saw in the lobby the last vestiges of the military college: A uniform under glass complete with shiny boots and gators (leather cylinders that went around your legs and over your boots; made you look like you were wearing "Star Trek" boots...) and some old year books. The castle was where the college administration worked. It was also where the band rehearsed. I spent a lot of time in there. You see the turret on the left in the picture - every year during our closing "Sunset Ceremony" a lone piper would install himself up there and from the parade square below, the on-lookers would hear a faint a ghostly refrain of "Amazing Grace" being played on the bagpipe from the turret....

I was puzzled for the longest time during my visit as to why I couldn't hear the screeching of the peacocks. I thought maybe they too had been lost from the surroundings. But there they were, finally, hanging around Neptune Steps, the stone staircase that runs between the Castle and Grant Block where the classrooms, quarterdeck and dining hall were located. Peacocks were integral to our college life. Their mating season co-incided with exam time. So naturally, they made most of their racquet while we were studying. And speaking of racquet, according to a college legend, the fastest cadet to ever get expelled was one who, after a game of tennis, got so frustrated with the screeching of the peacock that he struck it with his racquet, virtually taking the head right off the bird. He was packed and off the campus in 45 minutes. The sound of peacocks will, for me, be forever linked to Royal Roads.

The main reason for visitors to the college was never to watch all the cadets run around in their amusing military costumes. It was always to see the grounds. There were peackocks and the deer to look at and the castle, naturally, but also the gardens. There was the Italian gardens, the Japanese gardens and the Rose garden next to the Commandant's living quarters. I didn't get a good picture of the Rose garden, but this is a picture of the Italian Gardens with the cenotaph in the center. If you look up at the castle behind this view, you can barely see the window and the balcony (highest upon the left) I used to stand out of from the band room when we were taking a break from our rehearsals.

Our first trip to the Japanese Gardens was on Black Thursday. This is the last Thursday of a hellish week called recruit term. Convinced we were all about to go down and polish the parade square with our toothbrushes, (the next year they had us virtually convinced we were about to go to war ... gives you an idea of the mindset) we were instead bombarded with water and water ballons by the more senior cadets. We finished up the exercise by throwing the Cadet Wing Training Officer off the pagoda into the pond. Usually the Japanese gardens were a more sedate area. A lot of the cadets, myself included would come down during exam time to study out doors in the relative quiet.

Click here for more pictures and take the Royal Roads Tour from their official Website

Neptune Steps