National Treasure #34: John de Chastelain

Full name: Alfred John Gardyne Drummond de Chastelain.

Judgement exhibited in going with “John” as the short form of this name, instead of “Gardyne” or “Fred”: Excellent.

Basic bio:

  • Born in Romania in 1937.
  • Attended school in England and Scotland.
  • Graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada.
  • Helped to resolve the Oka Crisis and increased accountability by initiating daily press conferences.
  • Served as Chief of Defence Staff. Twice. (I didn’t know you could do that.)
  • Tagged by the Somalia Commission for having “failed as a commander.” (If treasures had to be perfect, we wouldn’t have any.)
  • Helped the Northern Irish sort out their troubles. (I didn’t know anyone could do that.)
  • Recipient of more awards than I felt like transcribing here.
  • Had a jig for bagpipes composed in his honour. (I couldn’t pass on that one.)

Would make a kickin’ Senator, age limits be damned. Just sayin’.

Cadets on parade ground in front of Royal Military College.

Cadets on parade at Royal Military College, October 2008.

Want more? Check these out:

Canadian Encyclopedia

RMC’s website

CBC bio

This is one of a series on Canadian national treasures – my sesquicentennial project. They reflect people (living and dead), places and things that I think are worth celebrating about our country, and are done in no order of precedence.

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4 Responses to National Treasure #34: John de Chastelain

  1. Lovely man, diplomatically schrewd. a real treasure: you are right. And well liked by his department.

    When he was Chief of Defense, he came several times to our studio, as a buyer. One time, he had a 6-in sq., thick, black leather-bound cube with him. As he put it down, he said, “Sorry about this thing, but afraid I have to keep that box [early cell phone] within arm’s distance at all times. When the war starts [second Iraq war], I have to be the first person to know.”

    “But wouldn’t the person who calls you be the first one to know?” I said.
    He laughed. He also offered to bag-pipe us in to our new condo (2205) from 1904. What a magnificent sight he was in his kit; and his wife, too, in her sash (saw photos).

    We flew to the Canadian Embassy in Washington when he was Ambassador there to get photographs for a portrait of him commissioned by his wife. John took a dozen roles of film, lining up the spent ones like little troups marching in a row. I kept John deC talking, while John tried to get a relaxed (family man) shot of him: finally had to take him outside on his wide, windy balcony overlooking Capitol Hill “to muss up his (perfect) hair just a little” (without him knowing).

    Finally got the shot, the last one on the last roll. It had taken an hour. A generous man to give us all that time.

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