At the annual FHGCC Awards night on August 27, 2019, Peter Radley, FHG 351, was the featured speaker. Peter’s speech, about his time with Ronald L. Way and the Guard’s 1963 visit to the Royal Tournament in London, was a big hit, and we’re happy to share it with those who couldn’t attend the event.
Madam President, Executive Members and Members of the Fort Henry Guard Club of Canada, present members of the Fort Henry Guard whom I hope will be future members of the Guard Club, invited guests, and in particular this evenings Award Recipients.
It was an honour for me to be invited to speak at this evening’s event, and in preparation l contacted several people who have been accorded this honour to ask what they spoke about. I realize that there is always a turn over each summer and many of the present Guard may never have heard those previous speakers. However, I decided not to dwell on tales of the Guard’s visit in 1963 to the Royal Tournament in England, the topics of previous speakers. It was suggested the I speak for 10 or 15 minutes on my experiences with the Guard. I decided to say a few words about my relationship with a gentleman l greatly respected named Ronald Lawrence Way.
Mr. Way passed away on February 14th, 1978, over forty years ago. Soon there will be very few people alive that actually worked with him at Fort Henry and knew him personally. In 1956, I was a high school student at Regiopolis College in Kingston, when the Rector received a call from Fort Henry offering interviews for summer positions at Fort Henry for 1957. I am not sure what the criteria suggested was but, Frank Tindall Jr., Peter Wityk, Henry Knotek, and l, all members of the senior football and basketball teams, were sent on a cold winters evening to the Fort.
We were interviewed by three people: Ronald L. Way, FHG 24, who did most of the questioning; Mrs. Beryl “Taffy’ Way, FHG 26; and Major Joe Brais, FHG 102. Following the interview, which included questions and some military drill, we were told that they were looking for some area high school students to form a group to be known as the Fort Henry Guard Cadets, and we would be advised if we were selected. Mr. Way was polite, friendly but all business.
Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from the Minster of Highways, MPP for Kingston , W.M. Nickle, advising that I had been successful and to immediately contact the Fort for more information. Unknown to the Honourable Minister I had accidentally met Mr. Way two weeks before in Bert Smith’s Barber Shop on Princess Street. He remembered me and advised me personally that I had been approved. Incidentally, all four from Regi were hired that year along with students from KCVI, Mr. Way’s secondary school alma mater, and students from Brockville and Belleville Schools. I was given Guard number 351 and so began my years with the Fort Henry Guard which ended in 1963, as a Colour Sgt. at the Royal Tournament in Earls Court London, England – at that time the largest Military Tattoo in the world.
In my first year as a Cadet l was often the welcoming guard at west gate to the Fort, as cars were parked in the Advanced Battery in those days, not out on the hills as today. Mr. and Mrs. Way lived in the two units above the gate, now I believe souvenir shops, and each morning shortly after 9:15 Mr. Way would emerge, chat with me, and proceed to his office on the second floor inside the Fort. Mr. Way knew the names of all the Guards and Cadets, where they went to school, and where they were from, since he had personally interviewed almost every member. He met regularly with the Officers, Guard members and Cadets, all of whom he often referred to as ‘his boys’.
I remember several incidents of many, one occurred during a meeting with the Cadets, he informed us that he wanted us to form a Gun Crew to take on the three Guard Crews. We did, and the Cadet Gun Crew won the competition that year, much to his delight. Mid-summer some of the Cadets were issued Guard dress uniforms and were posted to sentry duty on the drop bridge into the Fort to relieve the Guard for other duties.
A second occurred at a meeting with Sgt. Ron Kirkwood, in charge of Cadets and the Cadets, when Mr. Way asked for suggestions and I suggested that we all should be given a briefing on Military Ranks and insignia so we could recognize and salute Canadian and U.S. Officers who often attended the Fort. His reply to me with a smile was, ‘Radley, anyone in a uniform ranks higher than you’.
Later I was selected for sentry duty and issued a full guard uniform. One morning, that I can still remember, l was posted as first sentry of the day. That morning several U.S. bus tours arrived as the Fort was opening, and the visitors entered the Fort for the first tour of the day. Tours in those days began inside the Fort beside the stocks, in front of the cells (the stocks are long gone).
Shortly thereafter l observed a man in uniform coming down the ramp and entering the ditch area to enter the Fort, and about 15 paces behind him was Mr. Way making his morning walk to his office. As the uniformed gentleman approached me l presented arms and he smiled and walked past me into the Fort.
Mr. Way, who was always observing everything in the Fort, slowed and as he walked past me, said, ‘Radley you made your point, the uniformed man was a Greyhound bus driver’. Mr. Way never mentioned the incident again.
In December of 1962, my first year at Queen’s Law, l had been away from the Guard for a year, when my father, who knew Mr. Way, received a call from him, asking where I was located. When he was informed that I was in Law School at Queen’s he asked my father to have me call him. I did the next day and Mr. Way asked me if I would return to the Guard for the 1963 season, because the Guard had been invited to appear at the Royal Tournament in the Spring of 1963 and he wanted to bring back several former members of the Guard and Drums with experience to combine with the returning Guard.
I accepted, and spent my final year at the Fort as a member of The Fort Henry Guard, which the London newspapers described as ‘a group of Canadian university students who stole the show’. That trip was an unforgettable experience and is still spoken about at the Reunions by the 1963 Guard. Mr. Way accompanied us everywhere in London, and often made it known that his boys had made Canada proud and measured up well with the other Tournament units that year – among them The Royal Marines, The Royal Naval Gun Crews and the Gurkha Rifles from Nepal.
Mr. Way never turned down an opportunity to showcase his boys, and when he was unexpectedly requested to supply the Honour Guard for the Queen and the Prime Minister of India, at the Opening of the State of India Exhibition in London, he accepted. As a result, a difficult task was assigned to the Drums: learn overnight the national anthem of India. A photo taken by Peter Owen at that event was pictured on the Way’s Christmas card for 1963, and that picture is also located in the Guard Memorial Room inside the Fort.
I considered Mr. and Mrs. Way friends, as did most Guard of those days. A graduate of Queen’s University, he is remembered primarily as the founder of the Fort Henry Guard, a visionary of the concept living history. He has been described as shy, brilliant, innovative, stubborn, and determined. He saw the potential of historical sites as both economical generators and educational tools well in advance of mainstream thought. An Executive member of the Kingston Historical Society which had begun advocating for the restoration of the ruble on Point Henry in the early 1930’s, he was hired in 1936 to oversee that restoration.
One night in February 1938, while living at the Fort, the concept of the Fort Henry Guard came to him. In his 1968 address to the Guard at that year’s Reunion, he stated that, ‘it is impossible to live alone in the Fort as I did without coming to the realization that unless life was breathed into the reconstruction, the reconstruction would amount to no more than a pile of stones’. In a 1961 Report to Parks Canada, he stated among other things, ‘Historical restorations achieve maximum effectiveness when the principal of “ living museum” is applied and life is breathed into the restoration’. Mr. Way advanced the theory that the educational value of the restoration could be argued to be as important as its original military use.
In 1974, Ronald L. Way received an Honourary LLD from his alma mater, Queen’s University. The citation read in part, “a pioneer in thought and action, he developed the idea of living history and living museums, uniting physical restoration with the re-enactment of lifestyles and brought this concept into vivid reality. If you seek his monument, you need look no further than across the Kingston Harbour”.
Peter Radley, FHG 351