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TRANSITIONS 2011 (link to 2011 calendar)

6 November 2011 - Sierra Leone

Two photos from Sierra Leone, where Lieutenant Colonel Mike Vernon, and Chief Warrant Officer Emmett Kelly are currently serving as members of the International Military Advisory Training Team under the auspices of Operation SCULPTURE, the mission of which is to help the RSLAF (Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces) sustainable without international assistance.

Lieutenant Colonel Vernon is shown here listening to Sierra Leone peacekeepers being debriefed at their Peace Mission Training Centre outside the capital of Freetown. Having just completed his tour of duty as Commanding Officer of The Calgary Highlanders, LCol Vernon explains by email "As an advisor to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed  Forces, I had to wear a beret and the RSLAF cap badge."

Having just completed his tour as Regimental Sergeant Major of The Calgary Highlanders, RSM Kelly is now Sergeant Major of Horton Academy, the leadership school of the RSLAF. He's shown here proudly displaying a stainless steel Weber barbeque donated and shipped to Freetown by one of his civilian business associates back in Canada.

Last Post
Floyd Orin Rourke, DCM, CD

The Regiment regretfully reports the passing of Floyd Orin Rourke, DCM, CD. Full obituary and details of arrangements are posted below. Update: a Regimental service will be held at Mewata Armouries on Saturday, 29 October, 2011. Details are

Mewata Armouries
801-11th Street SW
Calgary, AB
T2P 2C4

Date: Saturday, 29 October, 2011

Time: 10:30am

Serving members to wear DEU uniform order 3A (spats and medals)

Floyd Rourke in 1945 (Calgary Highlanders Archives Photo)

As a Lance Corporal, Floyd Rourke was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal - an unusual award for a soldier so low in rank - for his actions at Gruppenbühren, Germany. The details of the action are described on this page of the site. The citation of his award read:

On 26 April 1945, the Calgary Highlanders were ordered to capture Gruppen-Bühren, Germany. "A" Company was detailed to secure the first objective to serve as a firm base for the battalion attack.

To reach this objective, "A" Company had to cross 1200 yards of open, flat ground completely devoid of cover and to assist them a smoke programme was laid on. Unfortunately, due to a sudden change in wind, the smoke cleared and the company, now exposed, was subjected to most intense 20-mm, light machine gun and small arms fire which killed the Platoon Commander of Number 9 Platoon, the leading platoon, and caused many other casualties.

Lance-Corporal Rourke, realizing that he was now the senior Non-Commissioned Officer in the platoon immediately took over command of the platoon and skilfully led the men over the remaining 700 yards of open ground, through the barbed wire entanglements and enemy crawl trenches and into the final and successful assault of the objective.

Once on the objective, Lance-Corporal Rourke quickly reorganized his platoon and made a further bound to attack an 88-mm gun which was knocked out and the crew captured. A group of enemy now appeared on the platoon's left flank and Lance-Corporal Rourke immediately moved his men over and engaged them, capturing a further twelve prisoners.

This Junior Non-Commissioned Officer, by his initiative, good judgment and complete disregard for his personal safety, not only was directly responsible for the capture of the enemy gun and sixteen prisoners but also caused by his bravery and splendid leadership the collapse of enemy resistance in the area which resulted in the complete success of the company attack.

Floyd was a proud Highlander to the end of his life; he accompanied the Regiment on its two week Centennial Battlefield Tour in 2010 with his daughter Karen and energetically and enthusiastically represented The Calgary Highlanders at official ceremonies, such as the unveiling of memorials at Clair Tison and Hill 67. More recently, he also represented the Regiment at the unveiling of the Calgary Soldiers' Memorial.

Laying a wreath of Remembrance at Vimy Ridge, with the new generation of Calgary Highlanders war veterans in the summer of 2010.

The Regiment offers its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Floyd Rourke.

Obituary (and Guest Book):

ROURKE, Floyd Orin
December 9, 1923 - October 24, 2011
We are sad to announce that Floyd Rourke passed on October 24, 2011 at the age of 87 years. Born December 9, 1923 in the Elkhorn District west of Ponoka, Floyd grew up in that farming community before enlisting in 1941 to serve with the Canadian Armed Forces in northern Europe as a very young man. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his role in battle there. Floyd re-enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces again in 1951 and was deployed with special services in Korea. He served with the Calgary Highlanders until 1966. Floyd was a loyal supporter of the Calgary Highlanders and was a familiar and much loved volunteer at the Museum of Regiments. He was an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 285 and a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd for many years. He was an enthusiastic supporter of many groups and a dancer with the Calgary Square Dance Association. Floyd's great love was dancing and it was a recent event at the Calgary Danish Canadian Club where he and Jytte enjoyed their last dance together. Many will miss his sense of humour, warmth, dedication and faith. He was an ordinary man who lived through some extraordinary times. Floyd will be missed by his children, Timothy Rourke, Karen Welch, and Brenda Burwash; six grandchildren, Nina Van Staden, Bradon Brisbourne, Kristie Malone, and James, Joseph, and Hester Welch; two great-grandchildren, Reece and Leah Van Staden; and his sister Millie Nufer. He will also be missed by many nieces and nephews and his constant and devoted companion Jytte Anderson who shared many happy days with him in his later years.

Floyd was predeceased by his parents Samson Orin Rourke and Hester Mary Samantha Rourke (nee Remington) and his uncle William Charles Rourke. Those wishing to pay their respects may do so at McINNIS & HOLLOWAY'S Chapel of the Bells (2720 Centre Street North), October 28, 2011 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Funeral Services will be held at Mewata Armoury (801 - 11 Street S.W.) on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. Graveside Services will be held in the Field of Honour at Fairview Cemetery (Lacombe, AB) at 3:00 p.m. Condolences may be forwarded through If friends so desire, memorial tributes may be made directly to the Poppy Fund, No. 1, 4539 - 6 Street N.E., Calgary, AB T2E 3Z6 (Telephone 403-265-6304). In living memory of Floyd Rourke, a tree will be planted at Big Hill Springs Park, Cochrane.

5 October 2011 - Sierra Leone

An update for you. First off, the photo below is of the Sierra Leone Minister of Defense and a few of the key Generals on the staff at the Ministry of Defence.  Through much grief the hats we had requested in June arrived and we were able to execute a White Hat ceremony on 4 Oct here in Freetown. The appropriate Yahoo was administered.

Things are good here.  The rainy season is abating finally, we really thought it would never end.  The rains started in the last week of June and finally stopped last week.  To say that the rain sucks the life out of you would be an understatement.  Both LCol Vernon and I have been busy in our respective roles.  LCol Vernon has been a key player in developing strategies for the RSLAF to be prepared for operations in Somalia.  I have continued in my role as the Sergeant-Major at the national staff school while concurrently teaching a Machine Gun Train-the-Trainer course using the GPMG and the 12.7mm DShKM HMG.  I will be overseeing an actual MG course in the next few weeks and then I will oversee the first ever Command Team course being conducted in Sierra Leone.  I have championed this approach since my arrival so I will see it to fruition.

We have both been heavily involved in bringing change to the leadership of the RSLAF.  While it has been frustrating it has been occasionally rewarding. 

LCol Vernon will be leaving theatre in the weeks ahead and will be returning to Calgary.

CWO Kelly

Medal of Military Valour - Captain Michael MacKillop
September 2011

From the Calgary Herald:

Capt. Michael MacKillop, a platoon commander in Afghanistan from October 2009 to May 2010, was selected for the award after serving in Kandahar where he frequently faced resistance from the Taliban. Gov.-Gen. David Johnston cited MacKillop’s “exceptional leadership under fire” and “ability to get the most from his soldiers” as reasons for the honour. He kept his cool and calmly provided direction during intense battles. That doesn’t surprise Tom Burk, MacKillop’s father-in-law.

“He’s the most level-headed person you’d ever meet. He was there to do a job and take care of his troops and that’s what he did.”

MacKillop, 31, joined the Calgary Highlanders immediately after graduating from Lord Beaverbrook High School.

“I’d like to think there was some grand reason behind it. To be honest, I was just looking for something fun to do for the summer,” MacKillop said.

He went on to study philosophy at the University of Calgary, but by then the thrill of the military had him hooked. MacKillop said he never expected to receive such an honour.

“I had a phenomenal crew that was with me. The snipers with my reconnaissance platoon were some of the best soldiers you could ever come across. Obviously there’s the stress of getting shot at, but I was always confident with whom I had around me.”

MacKillop currently lives in Kingston, Ont., with his wife Sarah and two-year-old son Nathan.

The Medal of Military Valour is awarded by the Governor General for an act of bravery or devotion to duty in the presence of an enemy. Thirteen Albertans have received the award since its inception.

28 June 2011

After a long and distinguished career, Lieutenant (retired) Barry Agnew, CD has formally retired his position as Curator of The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Museum and Archives. Barry Agnew is well known to the military and historical communities not only in Calgary but nationally and even internationally, coming from a career as a professional conservator with the Glenbow Museum. He took over the reins of the regimental museum after the departure of Lieutenant Brian S. King, CD. He retired in February 2011, and was presented a farewell gift by the museum staff at an annual barbecue of The Military Museums in June 2011. Sergeant Denny Russell was named interim Curator on his retirement and in July 2011 Captain Peter Boyle, CD was named to the position of curator; Sergeant Russell will share the position, bringing with him several years of experience in the museum. Both are assisted by a number of dedicated staff and volunteers, some of whom are pictured below.

From left; Gord Fish - Collections Manager; Ray Cartwright - Collections/Archives Volunteer; Jan Fish - Collections Data Entry; Mike Henry - Archivist; Barry Agnew; Don Sucha - Archives Volunteer; Denny Russell - Curator

18 June 2011 - Sierra Leone

A note from CWO Emmett Kelly:

All is well with LCol Vernon and myself here in Freetown, Sierra Leone on Operation SCULPTURE.

We are members of IMATT, International Military Advisory Training Team.  Our task here is to assist the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) in capacity building in an effort to make their armed forces sustainable without International Assistance.  In a fragile state such as Sierra Leone there are considerable challenges in developing the skills required to be self sufficient.  LCol Vernon works as an advisor at the Ministry of Defence and I am the Sergeant Major at Horton Academy, the IMATT-run Leadership School situated in our lines at Leicester Square.

LCol Vernon, the Right Honourable Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and CWO Kelly. Mr. Blair is a popular figure in Sierra Leone following British intervention and the pledge of economic aid in the wake of civil war. Both LCol Vernon and CWO Kelly wear rank badges of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces for easy identification.

A Calgary Highlanders bumper sticker marks the service of soldiers of the Regiment in yet another foreign country.

Centennial Retrospective

The Calgary Highlanders celebrated their centennial with a full year of events; the Calgary Herald and photographer Nancy Desilets documented some of the activities with a photo-essay that appeared in the January 2nd issue. An online version appears at the following URL:


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