History - RMC Museum


The Dockyard


RMC is situated on Point Frederick, a small peninsula just to the east of the City of Kingston, Ontario. This scenic location, at the junction of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, is one of great historic importance.

Purpose Before 1812

It has been occupied as an active military site since 1789 and during the War of 1812 it served as the main naval station in Upper Canada. Ships of the Royal Navy were built and based here and it was because of these ships that the British army was able to preserve Upper Canada from American occupation.

Purpose After 1812

Following the War of 1812 the strategic importance of Kingston in the defence of Canada was recognized and over a period of time the military and naval facilities were strengthened. The Rideau Canal was built to provide a safe logistic link from Montreal to the Dockyard. Fort Henry was rebuilt in stone, as were several dockyard buildings, and somewhat later, a series of Martello Towers were constructed to augment the harbour defences. The fortunes of these military works varied with the state of relations with the United States and British Colonial policy. The Dockyard, operating at reduced capacity since the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817, was closed in 1853. The British garrison was withdrawn from Canada in 1870-71.

The College

Bulding a Canadian Defence

The creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867 and the withdrawal of British troops from Canada in 1870-71 brought about the need for the new Canadian government to see to its own defences. Two batteries of artillery were created in 1871 to man the fortifications in Quebec and Kingston, the North West Mounted Police were formed in 1873 to garrison and police the west, and, in 1874, an Act was passed in Parliament by the Government of Alexander Mackenzie to establish a Military College " for the purpose of imparting a complete education in all branches of military tactics, fortification, engineering and general scientific knowledge in subjects connected with and necessary to a thorough knowledge of the military profession".

Creating the College

The College opened in June 1876 with its first class of 18 cadets (soon known as the "Old Eighteen"). The first Commandant, Lt-Col (later Lt-Gen) E.O. Hewett of the Royal Engineers, served for eleven years, and it was he who chose the College motto, "Truth, Duty, Valour" and selected the College badge. The title "Royal" was granted by Queen Victoria in 1878. The education provided was designed to prepare graduates for civil as well as military careers. Canada's standing ( or regular ) army was very small at the time and provided only a limited opportunity for service. The British army offered four (or more) commissions each year to graduates and these were eagerly sought by those seeking an active military career. This practice was retained until 1940.

Contributions of Graduates

Since 1880, when the first class of cadets graduated, ex-cadets have distinguished themselves in many areas. They have seen service in the North-West Campaign of 1885, in the South African War, on the North-West Frontier of India, in the First and Second World Wars and in Korea. More recently, ex-cadets have participated prominently in Canada's peace-keeping commitments worldwide - serving in the Middle East, Asia, Central America, Africa and Eastern and Central Europe. In peacetime many have achieved elevated positions in government, academic, business and professional spheres.

College's Billingual Status

"The Royal Military College Degrees Act, 1959", passed by the Ontario Legislature, empowers the College to confer degrees in Arts, Science and Engineering. RMC became institutionally bilingual in the mid-1970's and began to offer many programmes in both languages. Co-education was introduced in 1980. Between 1948 and 1995 RMC shared with Royal Roads Military College and College militaire royal de Saint-Jean the responsibility of educating officer cadets. In 1995 these two sister Colleges were closed, leaving RMC, once again, as Canada's only military college. The curriculum was restructured at that time and all options at RMC became available in both English and French.

Martello Towers

In the early 1840's rival claims on the Pacific coast resulted in the "Oregon Crisis"of 1845 and a threat of re-newed war with the United States. As a result it was decided to increase Kingston's defences and four stand alone redoubts (or Martello Towers) along with two ditch towers at Fort Henry were built between 1846 and 1848.

Their Names

  • Murney (located on Murney Point)
  • Victoria or Shoal (located in the water in front of the Market Battery and City Hall)
  • Fort Frederick
  • Cathcart or Cedar Island

Their Purpose

Together with Fort Henry and the Market Battery these Towers provided arcs of fire covering the entrance to Kingston harbour and the Rideau canal.

Fort Frederick

The original Fort Frederick was built on this site in 1813. It was levelled in 1846 to make way for the present fort. As a consequence of the Oregon border dispute, 1845, the Kingston harbour defenses were augmented. As part of this improved defense system, the present Fort Frederick was built between 1846 and 1847.

The other Kingston towers are Cedar Island Tower, Shoal Tower, Murney Tower and the two ditch towers at Fort Henry. Within a few years the introduction of modern rifled guns (such as the Armstrong Gun), with their longer range and greater accuracy, rendered these forts obsolete. Although obsolescent as fortifications, the towers were used as barracks. British troops lived in this tower until 1870.

Find out what Fort Frederick would have looked like in 1860 .

Did You Know?

  • Fort Frederick is the only 3-storey Martello tower in Kingston.
  • It is unusual for a tower to have more than 2 stories.
  • Thickness of the wall facing lake - 15 feet/4.6m
  • Thickness of the wall facing land - 9 feet/2.7m
  • Exterior diameter - 60 feet/18.3m
  • Height from foundation to top of parapet - 45 feet/13.7m
  • The snow roof would be removed before the battery went into action.


Fort Frederick was to be the most heavily armed of all the Kingston Martello towers. It was capable of firing over the parapet of the main battery into Navy Bay and the commercial harbour, and of sweeping most of low-lying Point Frederick.

The tower had three 32 pounder guns, each with an effective range of approximately 2,000 yards/1830m. They could fire solid shot, hollow shell, or hot "shot". Each gun was manned by one officer and six men, and could be fired and reloaded again in 90 seconds.

Did You Know?

  • The 32 pounder carronades could fire grape or solid shot to a distance of 400m.
  • The 8" Armstrong Gun could fire a 100 pound/45.4 kilogram round to a range of approximately 4.5 miles/7.3 kilometers.
  • The ramparts had six 32 pounder guns, two 5 1/2" Howitzers, two 24 pounders, and the 8" Armstrong Gun.
  • The Fort was not fully armed until 1863.

Old Eighteen

  1. AGG Wurtele,
  2. HC Freer,
  3. HE Wise,
  4. WM Davis,
  5. TL Reed,
  6. SJA Denison,
  7. LH Irving,
  8. F Davis,
  9. CA DesBrisay,
  10. VB Rivers,
  11. J Spelman,
  12. CO Fairbank,
  13. AB Perry,
  14. JB Cochrane,
  15. FJ Dixon,
  16. GE Perley,
  17. HW Keefer and
  18. D MacPherson

The first class of Cadets, eighteen in number, entered the College on 1 June 1876. They dubbed themselves the "Old Eighteen". A tradition of RMC


College Badge

The Badge of RMC is based on the College's Coat-of-Arms and consists of the crest (the mailed fist) and the motto.The motto, 'Truth, Duty, Valour', was chosen by the first Commandant, Lt-Col. E.O. Hewett.


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