96 Trinity College School Cadet Corps

Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario sponsored one of the oldest Cadet Corps – 96 Royal Canadian (Army) Cadet Corps, founded as a military drill team in 1866.  The Corps became the first Air Cadet Corps in 1936, affiliated with No. 110 “City of Toronto” Squadron, RCAF, but was disbanded in 1972.

In 1988, a group of students headed by Christopher Brown and Travis Adamcryck approached Headmaster Rodger Wright was the idea of re-establishing the Cadet Corps.  Headmaster Wright was always supportive of student initiatives and activities, and had been a teacher at Upper Canada College, where he had seen the value of Cadets.  Therefore, the Headmaster strongly supported the re-forming of the Corps in March 1988.  His message to students and parents stated that “the special emphasis of the Trinity Corps will be on the understanding and development of teamwork and leadership, in support of efforts already underway in many other aspects of life at TCS.  This is not the stuff of ‘Rambo’, rather, it is using the military to provide an opportunity for more boys to learn self-reliance and leadership skills.”

96 Trinity College School Rifles Cadet Corps circa 1987

Lieutenant-Colonel Rayment of the Queen’s Own Rifles was quick to provide regimental affiliation for the Corps.  The TCS Corps was not new to the Queen’s Own Rifles, having contributed two significant leaders to the regiment: Colonel J. G .K. Strathy OBE, ED, VD (Director of Military Training (Infantry) in Britain during the Second World War and later Colonel of the Regiment in the 1960s) and Lieutenant-Colonel J. G. B. Strathy CD (Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion 1969 to 1972 and Chair of the Regimental Trust Fund).

Headmaster Wright was fortunate in being able to recruit Captain John Stephens, a former Commanding Officer of the Upper Canada College Cadet Corps, to take command of the TCS Corps.  Captain Stephens was able to recruit James Lutz, former Training Officer of the UCC Rifles, and Philip Benson, a former UCC Cadet, to join him as Civilian Instructors, with CI Lutz becoming Training Officer.  Ms. Eileen Skillen, secretary to Headmaster Wright, also joined as an Officer (Cadet Instructor Cadre), bringing her outdoor skills to the Corps.

Outdoor Lecture c. 1986. Cadet Captain Chris Brown and Travis Adamcryk standing.

The re-formed Corps retained the historic number “96”, and was titled the “Trinity College School Rifles” in honour of their Queen’s Own Rifles affiliation.  The unit’s nickname was the “Black Bears” – Black for “rifle black” and Bears being the school’s team name.

In March 1988, the Corps held a formal Induction ceremony, with Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Fairclough of the Royal Regiment of Canada as guest of honour.  Each Cadet was handed the band mace from the old TCS Corps and pledged, “As I follow them, so follow me”.

The new Corps numbered over thirty Cadets.  In April 1988, the Corps paraded with the Queen’s Own Rifles for the first time, participating in the regimental birthday parade as Moss Park Armoury.  Headmaster Wright attended the parade, and Lieutenant-Colonel Strathy welcomed the new Corps from his old school.

In May 1988, the Corps held its first annual inspection, and was inspected by Brigadier-General C.L. Kirby, Honorary Colonel of the Brockville Rifles and Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles (Regular Force) from 1965 to 1967.)

96 Trinity College School Rifles Cadet Corps May 1988 Annual Inspection reception.
L-R Queen’s Own Rifles Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Ed Rayment CD, Headmaster Rodger Wright, Reviewing Officer Brigadier General Kip Kirby, CD

The Black Bears focused their training on leadership, developed through experiential learning.  The training program was balanced among the Cadet Star Program, field exercises, marksmanship and biathlon.  Fortunately, TCS had a firing range where the Cadets were able to fire their .22 caliber Lee Enfields.  An Old Boy of the school and a Second World War veteran, Bancroft Svenningson, kindly offered his large farm acreage near Port Hope as a training ground for the Corps’ frequent field exercises.  Several Cadets attended Cadet summer camps including Geoffrey Reeves to the Leadership and Challenge Camp and Jesse Jones to the Arctic Indoctrination Camp.

At their May 1989 annual inspection, the TCS Cadets were reviewed by Squadron Leader Hadley Armstrong, a revered former teacher of the school who had served with distinction in the Second World War.

Lieutenant-Colonel Rayment served as inspecting officer for the Corps’ 1990 annual inspection.  At the mess dinner that followed, Colonel Rayment spoke of “duty, honour, country” and said that the Cadets had been outstanding in inspection, one of the few units he had seen that looked the reviewing officer confidently in the eye while passing in review.

The Corps sent a team to the annual Cadet Biathlon competition.  The team performed very well, with Cadets Austin Dumas, Peter McKenzie, Jesse Jones and Chad Ito winning the first four places in the 1991 Eastern Ontario Biathlon.

In the spring of 1991, Captain John Stephens handed the command of the Corps to Lieutenant-Colonel Kenneth Reeves, a retired officer of the Canadian Forces who had assisted with training the Corps.

The Corps prospered for several years, but by the fall of 1992, student interest waned.  Despite the efforts of committed Cadets, the students were not able to maintain the enthusiasm or support for the Corps that had been created by its founders in 1988.  Corps activity was suspended, and the Corps was formally disbanded in January 1993.  It was a sad end for the Corps of a distinguished school, but the former Cadets maintain contact, and several have continued in the Canadian Forces.

A number of cadets from the TCSR went on to serve in the Canadian Forces:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Chris Brown, CD served with the Governor General’s Horse Guards and later became Commanding Officer of the 1st Hussars in London
  • Lieutenant Colonel J. R. W. Jones CD became Commanding Officer of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Toronto
  • Major Edward Stewart – first joined the 48th Highlanders of Canada and is currently with Land Force Atlantic Headquarters
  • Sergeant William Davidson and Acting Sergeants Michael Davidson both served with the Bermuda Regiment
  • Bartholomew Spiewak served with  1 Royal  Canadian Regiment Battle Group including a tour in Kosovo

The true legacy of the Corps is reflected in the tale told by one former Cadet, who related the story of him and some friends becoming lost on a snowboarding trip in the Rockies.  One friend panicked in this stressful situation.  The Cadet recounts that he applied the leadership he had learned in the Corps and took charge of the emergency, establishing calm and a plan to deal with the situation.  Such leadership among its alumni is the legacy of Trinity’s Corps.

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