Perth Inside Out: Sergeant Major’s missing trousers

Les Closs with his wife Rose Closs
Les Closs with his wife Rose Closs, on the occasion of Rose’s promotion to Chief Warrant Officer. Photo submitted.
Posted on: April 4, 2019

The Sergeant Major knew he was in a pickle when he went to dress for the Queen’s inspection of his troops, and the trousers were missing from his full-dress uniform. You see, he had been very forceful addressing the men beforehand, about making sure they brought all uniform and kit to the event. “You must not find an article of uniform missing when you go to dress,” were his instructions.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer Les Closs, from Lanark Village, was describing just one such incident in a fascinating career with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS or RC Sigs), a discussion which came about as a result of last month’s column on CFS Carp Richardson Detachment. He and his wife Rose both retired in 2006.

Moving on with the story about the Sergeant Major’s trousers: the incident occurred during Queen Elizabeth’s solo visit to Ottawa from June 30 to July 2, 1992, and the man with the missing pants was the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Honour Guard for the event. Apparently his trousers had fallen off the hanger while he was carrying his uniform, but the RSM was fully aware he must face the music, or his troops would be laughing alone.

And so, he stood bravely in front of the assembled Guard, and asked if any man was his size. That man would be excluded from parade, in favour of the RSM having a full uniform. As luck would have it, one of the Guardsmen had brought two pairs of the correct size, and the extra pair were gladly given up to the RSM for the inspection. The RSM thought he heard sniggering all along the ranks as he did an about turn, but he had met an embarrassing situation like a true soldier, and the day was saved for him.

Closs later took over that same position as RSM for the Honour Guard, and in 1997 led a 50 man Guard to the Dieppe ceremony in France for the 55th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. He held that position for about two years.

Upwards of 80 Dieppe veterans were able to make the pilgrimage that year. They were ferried across the English Channel, and the ferry Captain allowed the Canadians to stay topside during the landing. “It was very emotional for the old vets when they saw that skyline for the first time in 55 years. We saw Canadian flags on display everywhere when we disembarked,” said Closs.

A story in the Nov 1, 1997 Legion Magazine titled “Pilgrimage to Dieppe”, by Ray Dick, chronicles the trip which Closs and his Honour Guard had taken: “The weather was clear and hot when the ferry from Newhaven, England, arrived at the French port of Dieppe. It was August and several of the men lining the rails were Canadian veterans who on a similar morning, 55 years ago, landed on the rock-strewn beach. But back then it was a living hell that greeted the Canadians as they rushed ashore into vicious German machine-gun fire.”

Closs recalled the mass of neatly arranged graves in the main cemetery – the stone markers were arranged in rows of two, back to back like brothers-in-arms on guard for eternity. The men also did a tour of Vimy Ridge cemeteries following the Dieppe ceremonies. Although Closs would later attend such events as the Princess Anne visit to Kingston in September, 2003, and was deployed to Sarajevo in 1999 with NATO troops, he said the Dieppe trip “was the highlight of my career.”

When Closs spent time at CFS Carp from 1973 to 1976, he found that “it wasn’t like anywhere else in Canada.”  His trade, and that of his wife Rose, was Radio Operator or RadOp. They were usually posted together, or at least to bases which were close to each other like Kingston and Ottawa, but had to be in different units when posted to the same base. Les was usually on the field side, while Rose worked the base side (not going on exercises or with a mobile unit). They both retired as CWOs in 2006.

Closs still belongs to a close-knit group of CFS Carp alumni, who hold a gathering each year in the old mess hall of the former base. The facility has been known as the Diefenbunker Museum since it opened in 1998 – with the designation of a National Historic Site of Canada. “Diefenbunker was like a big extended family. The All Ranks Mess was a melting pot of people who had a strong bond.”

Les and Rose Closs embody the motto of the RC Sigs: “Velox Versutus Vigilans”, (Swift, Skilled, Alert). We salute you both, and thank you for the many years of service to Canadians.

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Article by Terry O’Hearn

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