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1974 Valcartier Grenade Deaths (gov't action, memorial, etc.)

cjvgar

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rwgill said:
BWATCH,

Have you notified the 3 Cadet Leagues?  The Regions?  DCdts?  Many may still be around, just hiding.

Cadet Leagues Ottawa and Montreal are advised as DCdts?

Can confirm that six cadets in the Ottawa /  Gatineau area have not made up there minds as of today.
 

rwgill

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Charly Gutta said:
Cadet Leagues Ottawa and Montreal are advised as DCdts?

Can confirm that six cadets in the Ottawa /  Gatineau area have not made up there minds as of today.

DCdts = Director of Cadets.

I have passed on the word.
 

wheelerp

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Valcartier 1974

My name is Paul Wheeler and I was a cadet corporal instructor with “D” Company at the Valcartier cadet camp in 1974.

I was recently contacted by a fellow cadet NCO from that summer, Gerry Fostaty. He wrote to say that our former CSM Gutta, was trying to compile a list of those who were part of “D” Company that summer to let them know about the yearly memorial parades that happen at Valcartier.

I haven’t spoken with anyone about that summer for over 30 years – it has been inside me like a black cloud in the distance – always there, but safely far away. Hearing from Gerry after all those years, and knowing that there were others that still thought about that terrible summer, was a surprise. I then searched the web for any items about that summer and found the Black Watch web Meet & Greet.

To see the messages posted there by those who were part of “D” Company was quite emotional. There is obviously still much sorrow, confusion, distress and even anger about the explosion that summer and I felt a sense of sadness to see how this event changed the lives of those who were part of our unit. And there was also a sense of comfort in knowing that I was not alone in living with those memories.

After the explosion happened, I kept some notes and newspaper clippings, thinking that they might be useful some day. They have managed to follow me around for all these years and, after reading the questions that some of you had about what happened that summer, I though I would share some of the information and memories that I have.

“D” Company was Valcartier’s bilingual company, made up of cadets from Quebec. There was one mainly English speaking platoon (#10, if I remember correctly), one fairly fluent bilingual platoon (my #11 platoon) and one mainly French-speaking platoon (#12).

On the day in question, Tuesday, July 30, 1974, the bunk beds in #11 Platoon’s barracks were all pushed together to the back of the room to make enough space to house the explosives safety lecture that the “D” company cadets were going to receive. As I remember, there were approximately 70 cadets, four or five cadet NCO’s and two regular force instructors in the barracks. The cadets were all seated on the floor and the two instructors were at the front of the room, near the doorway to the center common/washroom area.

Myself and Marc Slater, another cadet NCO, were seated on the first row of  bunkbeds, immediately behind the seated cadets. The 70 or so cadets that were seated were quite cramped.

The officer that was instructing, Captain Jean-Claude Giroux, and his assistant, Corporal Claude Pelletier, proceeded to speak about the dangers of unexploded ammunition and munitions and started pulling various ‘dummy’ munitions out of a box, showing the cadets what these various munitions actually looked like. After he showed and spoke about each one, he passed it to the cadets who circulated it around the room.

Midway through this presentation, there was a very powerful “boom” and the room immediately filled up with smoke. Marc and I were stunned by the initial explosion and my first thought was that Captain Giroux must have set off some sort of demonstration explosion – it didn’t seem real.

With Marc and I still sitting on the bunkbeds, the next thing I saw were cadets emerging from the smoke – running past us, between the bunks to get to the exit. Most had a strange expression on their faces and there was a high-pitched muted sound that I could hear. It took a second to realize that my hearing had been damaged with the explosion and that the sound I heard was the cadets’ screams as they ran by.

It started to dawn upon us that something terrible had happened and as I looked to the front, the smoke started to clear and I saw many dark shapes on the floor. The smoke continued to drift away and the shapes became bodies – some moving, some not. And my hearing started to come back and, as it did, the noise level got louder and louder. That sound is etched inside – a combination of crying, screams, soft moans, and calls for help.

We stayed in the room and did what we could. There are some images from that time that are still as vivid as they were that day. I won’t describe them other than to say it was a graphic look at death and at dying.

We still weren’t quite sure what had happened and whether there was danger of another explosion. It started to quieten down and there were three or four of us going around the room to look at the injured and dead. This seemed to last for quite a while, but in fact was only probably a minute or two.

The entrance to the common area was suddenly full of people. Looking in to see what had happened. Then there were yells from many asking about medical help, ambulances, but some were unable to comprehend what they were seeing and simply stared at the carnage.

Finally, the ambulances and medical help started arriving and I was able to leave the building and try to find the cadets in my section.

The rest of the day seemed to rush by in some sort of hazy blurr. The remaining cadets of ‘D’ Company were segregated from the others in the camp. We ate separately, marched separately and had little or no contact with others in the camp. As word got around Valcartier about what had happened, we began to notice the stares and hushed conversations from others in the camp.

We spoke quietly among ourselves about who we knew had died, who was injured, and who was missing. As the day wore on and it became apparent how terrible the tragedy was, cadets from our group would break down, start crying or shaking. And the others would comfort them.

We were moved from the barracks to a separate building – a chapel, I think. There were beds brought in to sleep and the lights turned down. The memories from that night were so very clear. Many of the cadets were unable to sleep. Some needed to talk, some needed to think, and some simply had to weep. There were some who, once sleep came, tossed and turned and mumbled. Some who cried out.

I can remember CSM Charles Gutta, a man we respected and believed to be ‘super-tough’, speaking quietly and gently to one of the distraught cadets in the sleeping area. Trying to comfort him as you would a baby.

And our CO, Colonel Whitelaw, trying to ensure that everyone was comfortable and doing what he could to not make the cadets feel alone, even for an instant. There was a moment that night, when I was watching him and saw him let his guard down for a second and there was such sadness etched across his face.

It was a sleepless night for many of the cadet NCO’s. There was a sense of responsibility for ‘our cadets’ and, at the same time, a sense of helplessness. We talked for a while, then drifted off into our own thoughts.

The days that followed were a jumble of trying to figure out what had happened, trying to contact familes to reassure them and to seek reassurance and trying to move forward from the state of shock we all seemed to be in.

There was an inquiry and all cadets present in the barracks were questioned. It was very upsetting for some and some others became very angry.

In the end, there was an official Coroner’s Inquest and blame was placed on Captain Giroux and three other Armed forces personnel. The coroner also blamed the higher authorities of camp Valcartier, saying that “apathy or detestable routine seem to have fostered a climate of negligence and carelessness”.

It was determined that a box of 19 live green-colored M-61 grenades were being returned from a practice range in the same truck as the box of blue-colored dummy demonstration armaments. The live grenades were being transported in a cardboard box that was too small to hold all 19. Two of the grenades fell out of the box. One of the two grenades was seen mixed yup with the dummy ammunition and returned to the original box. There was no search made by the driver or the warrant officer in charge to see if any other grenades had fallen out of the box and there was no count made of the live grenades to see if any were missing.

When the box of dummy armaments made it to the classroom, both Captain Giroux and Corporal Pelletier assumed that the lone green colored grenade in the box of blue-colored ammunition must have been a ‘dummy’, simply because it was in the same box.

The grenade was passed to the cadets by Captain Giroux and soon after exploded in the hands on Cadet Eric Lloyd.

I stopped following the case after that point and never found out what had happened to those implicated. Frankly, I didn’t want to know anymore. What had happened, happened and I just wanted to get on with my life.

Today, 34 years later, I can look back at the events of that summer without becoming upset. There is just a sense of sadness, quiet sadness, that the lives of such wonderful, young men whom I knew were ended so tragically.

The following are the names of those who died in the Valcartier cadet camp explosion:

Yves Langlois, 15 years old
Pierre Leroux, 14 years old
Eric Lloyd, 14 years old
Othon Mangos, 14 years old
Mario Provencher, 15 years old
Michel Voisard, 14 years old

There were over 30 others injured in the explosion. There was one cadet in particular, Yves Senecal, who suffered brain damage from the blast and his life changed forever. And after looking at the Black Watch web Meet & Greet posted messages, there seems to be a few with suffering from stress disorder and the memories of that fateful day. They are the ones who need our support.

Now that I know about the yearly observation, I am planning to go next year (2009) to the 35th memorial parade. Perhaps this is the opportunity for all of us who were a part of this to come together…

Paul Wheeler
 

cjvgar

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This is to inform all the readers of this site that the Memorial Parade that is to be held for the deceased cadets of "D" company Cadets Camp Valcartier in 1974 has been now modified to to be held on Saturday the 26 of July at 10.00 hours and not on the Thursday the 31 of July 2008. The committee apologies for the inconvenience that this may cause.
 

Morris

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wheelerp said:
Valcartier 1974

My name is Paul Wheeler and I was a cadet corporal instructor with “D” Company at the Valcartier cadet camp in 1974.

Colin Caldwell here. I was sitting about 6 feet away from Lloyd that day. Mangos I believe was directly in front of me. Only luck saved me from serius injury because had the live grenade been in my hands I would have pulled the pin as quickly as anyone else. One of the lads to my left, Vallee I think was about to pull it but was stopped by (and I'm struggling to remember a name...Korean guy) ...? and siad if the pin was loosed he wouldn't get it back up and he would get in trouble...I let that green grenade pass by because I had a dummy that was cut open so I could see the internal works. Soon I got bored of that so I was ready a rather hot love letter one of the boys got....my head was tucked low cause I didn't want to get caught not paying attention. What a ****** up way for a young teenager to spend a summer.

I would sorely want to be at the memorial but I just found out about it today. Instead I will open the Scapa and drink a toast.
 

GerryF

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Regarding the reunion that took place on July 26 2008.

A memorial parade was held on July 26th 2008 at CFB Valcartier to commemorate those that pass on as a result of the grenade explosion that took place at D Company in the 12 Platoon barrack area on July 30 1974. Below, you will read the thoughts of members present.

We have been slowly gathering those of us that were a part of that company, and there were a number of people that were scheduled to be present.  Unfortunately, the camp administration changed the dates of the event a few times with just a few weeks notice and the majority of us could not make it there, although we were represented by a small number. There will be a larger event next year to commemorate the 35th anniversary, and we were going to use this year's event as a walk-through, or rehearsal, for next year. (2009)

Besides the changes in dates, this year's event proved to be a disappointment.  There were schedule, timing and communication issues resulting in guests being treated a bit like gatecrashers. 

Here are a few comments of members present at this year reunion…

"Thirty four years and it seems like it’s not a big deal for the D.G. Ligue des cadet de L’Armée (Québec) putting the memorial together.  It's that they didn't care for us back then and they still don't care today."

"For what should have been a serious and respectful day, the events leading up to, during, and afterwards, left a bit of sourness.  What a sad testament to the memory of the deceased and remaining "kids" that the D.G. Ligue des cadets de L’Armée (Québec) showed on Saturday.  Hopefully next year, the D. G. Ligue des cadet de L”Armée will go out of its way to honor these "kids» properly."

"The one good thing about the get together, though, it was nice to finally have a face to the names of the people that John has been talking about for awhile. Pleasure meeting everyone."

“ …Going back to the location that I had locked away for many years was good for me.  I remember that day like it was yesterday.  Reminiscing with the boys was a good remedy. Seeing them again gave me closure. I would have liked to see more at this event, but next year will be better."


A disappointment yes, but rehearsals are for working out the bugs, and we will treat this as a learning experience.  We are much better prepared for next year when more of us will be together.

With the way the group is growing, we hope to have a substantial representation of our company members there next year.  There are plans, also, to keep everyone informed about the event.  The group is growing 'virtually.'  That is to say, we have been communicating via email.  Some of the members of the group have been able to come together in person to shake hands, but for the most part, we have been communicating from city to city and country to country across the wire.

If you are a member of D Company, and would like to take part in next year reunion, be informed, of the progress, or you would like to be in touch with your old friends, we would like to hear from you.  You can post a reply here or email Charles at:
rcmpao@videotron.ca

 

bwatch

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I was not able to make it myself. I had booked my Vacation already for Sept, made a trip to Dublin Ireland, London England and a side trip to Paris. I even missed our own Black Watch Cadet Reunion for the first time.
 

Geek60

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I know that actually we are in 2009. I remember this day like if it was yesyerday. The cadet who died was from ''Corps de Cadets des Fusilliers du Mont-Royal 2802 Dieppe'' in Montreal, Quebec. At this time I was on cie ''B'' in Gagetown, New Brunswick. When we came back to BFC Vakcartier it was the barrack right behind ours. glehner@sympatico.ca
 

mariomike

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I just wanted to say thank you for reminding us of this incident. I recall hearing  about it at the time. I was reading about it today here on Milnet and also in the Toronto Star history online. It seems a 7th boy died of his injuriess about two years later.
 

cjvgar

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Yes, Approx 2 years later; if you go to www.mylosttrails.com, Members story, you will get to read the tribute to D company Cadet Camp Valcartier 1974, post your comment after the read. Thanks Charlie.
 

Servicepub

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Wow! Talk about memories. Although I was not there in '74 I had been a cadet in "D" Coy as well as a "Cpl Call-out" (the term used then for Staff Instructors) as both a Corporal in '72 and a Sergeant in '73. I had joned the Militia that Fall and was doing Public Duties on Parliament Hill as a young officer in the GGFG the day of the explosion.
I recognize some of the names and remembr Gary Kelso (Black Watch) who was the Platoon officer. Col Whitelaw was, as a Major, the CO of "D" Coy in 73.
I am currently in Haiti with the RCMP and probably won't make the 2009 parade but my thoughts are with you.

Clive M. Law
 

cjvgar

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Clive M Law

Good evening to you and your comrades in Haiti, just want to say stay safe as you and your comrades are brothers, I retired from the force in 1996 and never looked back, your mesg. has been sent out to all members of D company 1974 and I am sure that some will remember you.

Regards.


Charles
rcmpao@videotron.ca
 

cjvgar

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Mesg for Clive from David Huddleson

Do you have any contact information for Clive Law, who wrote that note?  I know him from here in Ottawa (about 15 years ago), but not from the Cadets. I would like to contact him. 

As previously stated here is a member that would like to have news of you.

Charles
rcmpao@videotron.ca

 

cjvgar

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Clive, Here is David e-mail Add. dhuddleson@sympatico.ca send him some news and were he can contact you don't forget to send me your e-mail add. as well

Charles rcmpao@videotron.ca
 

cjvgar

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The 35 th annual Memorial Ceremony for our fallen cadets in 1974 will be held on the 30 July 2009 at 10.00 hours. at the Canadian Army Cadet training Centre - Valcartier, Québec, Canada.

For information on this activity contact Charles at rcmpao@videotron.ca
 

the 48th regulator

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http://www.montrealgazette.com/Like+black+cloud/1843403/story.html




'Like a black cloud'

In July 1974, a 'dummy' grenade exploded, killing six young soldiers.; The event is being marked as 'the worst tragedy in the history of the cadets'

Former cadets reunite to recall 1974 grenade blast

By ANDREW HALFNIGHT, The Gazette


Thursday, July 30th, 2009 | 1:30 am

Canwest News Service

MONTREAL – At 1:30 p.m. on July 30, 1974, an instructor at the Valcartier cadet camp passed out what he believed were “dummy” grenades to 130 teenagers for a lecture on bomb safety.

Cadet Eric Lloyd, 14, was seated near the front when he pulled the pin from an M61 anti-personnel grenade.

Today, 35 years after six boys were killed and more than 40 people were injured at the camp north of Quebec City, the explosion is still remembered by Canadian Forces officers as “the worst tragedy in the history of the cadets.”

For the young cadets of D Company who were there, the blast is not just “history” – it haunts them to this day.

Former platoon Sgt. Charles Gutta, 70, was in the room when the blast went off. He has suffered symptoms of stress for decades but only recently confronted his memories.

“I just carried on,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

In early 2008, Gutta embarked on a mission to reconnect with survivors of the blast using “411, Facebook, the Internet, word of mouth.”

He spoke to 57 survivors and was surprised to find many were still struggling with post-traumatic stress.

Paul Wheeler, a former instructor at the camp, posted his testimony online.

“I haven’t spoken with anyone about that summer for over 30 years,” he wrote. “It has been inside me like a black cloud in the distance.”

Gutta’s months of work will culminate at 10 a.m. Thursday when at least 35 members of D Company from across Canada and dozens of family and friends will assemble to honour the dead and finally grieve together at Valcartier’s annual remembrance ceremony.

Platoon Sgt. Gerry Fostaty was also in the barracks that day. He recalled how little counselling was offered to the teenage survivors after the blast.

“It was business as usual at the camp for the next three weeks,” he said. “Even our parents didn’t really know what happened. Then once we left, we were gone. We were on our own. Nobody ever said, `How are you?’ ”

Speaking in a room animated with the chatter of reunited cadets, Fostaty said many survivors have been suffering in silence for decades.

“Most of these guys have not spoken to their families about this. It’s just too painful.”

A coroner found authorities at Valcartier were to blame, saying that “apathy or detestable routine seem to have fostered a climate of negligence and carelessness.”

Maj. Carlo Deciccio, public relations officer for the cadet program, said the memorial service will be a learning opportunity for the camp’s 1,300 teenage cadets.

Deciccio said the camps no longer offers any kind of course on explosives.

The victims who will be remembered Thursday along with Lloyd are: Yves Langlois, 15; Pierre Leroux, 14; Othon Mangos, 14; Mario Provencher, 15; and Michel Voisard, 14.

Montreal Gazette

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette


1844431.bin


Platoon Sgt. Gerry Fostaty (far left, with clipboard) with members of D Company. "It was business as usual at the camp for the next three weeks," Fostaty said. "Even our parents didn't really know what happened"
Photograph by: ., Photo Courtesy of Gerry Fostaty





dileas

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Suggest you try the armycadethistory.com web site. I had friends from my cadet corps at the incident. A very tragic accident. Chuck Beattie MWO (Retd)
 

stealthylizard

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On our BMQ course in 2008, one of the OSIS volunteers, teaching us about stress injuries and PTSD was telling us about this incident as he was there.  It, was to him, the first step down the long slide into PTSD.  Unfortunately I cannot recall his name.
 

bwatch

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From the first day I posted this notice to help the CSM and the one on the Black Watch site, I have to this day, still been thinking about all of you guys and praying that you all stay strong. I know it is not easy to do, but it is something you need to do so you can help your Brother when he is down. I'm still here, just not as much as I use to be, but I still have an ear that is still willing to listen and if any of you do with to talk, I have no problem giving any of you my phone number.  If any of you are in Vancouver Nov 11th, I'm on the Color Party with the Commissionaires and I'm going to be in my Papa Smerf Uniform in the Santa Clause Parade and that should be fun.  By the way, the Seaforths Mace was stolen.
 
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