Aussie Hero Quilts Thank You Dinner – RMC Tour by Clarissa Luxford……

Written by AHQ

17 October 2017

An enthusiastic group of AHQ sewers, accompanied by a handful of husbands, gathered in the beautiful grounds of Duntroon House at The Royal Military College Duntroon (RMC-D) last Friday.

The afternoon started with a much appreciated cuppa and generous table of afternoon tea delights. We were joined by a good number of RMC-D staff, many of whom were recipients on recent deployments and who appreciated the opportunity to meet the AHQ volunteers.
Host Major Will Orgill welcomed the tour party and made special mention of AHQ founder Jan-Maree Ball who was able to be present.  Laundry bags were presented to our hosts as is now the customary AHQ “thank you”.  

As it turned out, the Commandant of RMC (on the left)  is a recipient of Jan-Maree’s from 2012/13 along with a few others present in uniform.  

Jan-Maree just happens to be friends with this fellow’s father (below) and this photo was taken especially to show “Dad” that she and his son, a quilt recipient himself, that they had finally met. 

Major Orgill expressed appreciation for his AHQ laundry bag, noting that it would soon be packed in his bags as he is deploying on just after Christmas!

Formalities over and afternoon tea consumed, we then gathered on the Duntroon House lawns for the much-anticipated tour.

Major Orgill started off giving us a history of the House, the Campbell family and RMC Duntroon.
The house, built in 1825, is the oldest residence in Canberra and has been included as part of the National Estate by the Australian Heritage Commission. Overall RMC Duntroon is valued as a heritage landmark feature of Canberra.

The Duntroon Estate was a large sheep station on the Limestone Plains. Duntroon House, the family home of the estate, is now part of the Royal Military College. The property was established in 1825 by Robert Campbell, a Sydney merchant 1769 – 1846, who also built St John’s Church and Schoolhouse. At that stage it was one of only six properties in the area.
A two story extension was added in 1862 as well as the outbuildings. Further changes and additions were made to Duntroon House in 1876. The house stood empty until the development of the Royal Military College commenced in 1910.  In 1902, the first Commander of the Australian Military Forces, Major-General Sir Edward Hutton, recommended that a military college be established. The government instructed then Colonel William Throsby Bridges to visit and report on the military colleges in England, Canada and the United States. As its first Commandant, with the rank of Brigadier-General, Bridges chose the sheep station at Duntroon, then owned by the Campbell family, as the site for the Military College. By June 1911, the essential buildings had been constructed, the staff appointed and the first intake of 32 Australians and 10 New Zealanders admitted. Duntroon House became the officer’s mess.
On the 27 June 1911, the Governor-General, Lord Dudley, opened the college and announced that it would be called the Royal Military College of Australia (RMC). The curriculum at RMC was designed as a four-year course, with half military and half academic subjects. Due to the outbreak of the First World War, the first intake was specially graduated for overseas service. The next three intakes were also shortened and the majority of cadets in the first four intakes served with either the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) or the New Zealand Army. Currently direct entry training for Staff Cadets is 18 months duration.  ADFA students receive six months ‘credit’ following completion of their undergraduate studies.
At the start of the First World War, Major-General Bridges was given command of the 1st AIF Division. He died at Gallipoli and his body was returned to Australia and buried on the slopes of Mount Pleasant, overlooking the college. In total, forty of the 117 Australian graduates died in the First World War – their names are listed on one of the five flagpole memorial tablets.

In 1931, the Royal Military College was transferred to Victoria Barracks, Sydney. With the new location in Sydney, the Royal Military College became known as ‘Duntroon Wing, Victoria Barracks’ but the college returned to Duntroon in Canberra on 27 June 1936.

We continued our tour observing the botanical specimens in the glorious gardens including many aged trees, some unexpected such as the Himalayan Cedar. 

As we proceeded Major Orgill drew our attention to the architecture and architectural groupings being the pattern of a British-style military institution with its formal areas and hierarchy of residence, their hillside setting with its bushland backdrop, the focal feature of the picturesque Duntroon House and the formality of the Parade Ground with its flagpole and guns (facing inwards!!). 

The Colonel Kathleen Best Memorial gates, erected by the Women`s Royal Australian Army Corps, commemorate their first director and are symbolic of her life and work. The gates were formerly at the WRAAC school, subsequently relocated to the Royal Military College, Duntroon and now stand at the entry to the grounds of the Commandant’s House. State Emblems also feature on the gates. 

Major Orgill also educated us to a not unexpected number of College traditions and legends including some of the ‘Seven Wonders’; the bell that doesn’t toll, the stairs which lead nowhere 

and most intriguingly, the room within a room which particularly captured our interest. We were ‘introduced’ to Casey, a ‘left behind’ cadet whose skeleton was found but his ghost still haunts the corridors and cavities of RMC. 

As he will never graduate, to appease his spirit, a place is set for him at every Graduation Dinner and his skeleton is present at each Graduation Ball.

The college dining room (with Honour boards and College Colours on display), the Staff Cadet Mess and the handsome Duntroon House Officers Mess completed the afternoon’s tour.

Thanks goes to RMC-D and, in particular, Major Will Orgill for offering his time and for the most entertaining and informative tour. 

Many thanks to Clarissa for recording this for us…. 

Til next time….. keep spreading the word and happy stitching!


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