Open letter to the Regiment

You may recall a couple of years ago I asked your assistance and those of your addressees in identifying two members of the RCA who did not have their names recorded in the 7 th Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower. ( and in the related Canada’s Virtual War Memorial.) (This book/database records the names of those killed in military training related accidents since the end of the Korean War).

As a result I was able – principally with the response from the late Dave Aalto to identify the first fatality as Gunner Joseph Richard Brian Cote who died as a result of his injuries from a prematurely exploding artillery shell. This occurred during an exercise being conducted by the RCA Depot at Shilo on 24 Sept 1963. He was enrolled at Toronto ON in Apr 1963 and was 18 years old.

On 11 Feb I received notification from the Deputy Minister of VAC that Gunner Cote’s sacrifice had been acknowledged and the corrections would be made in the next couple of months.

With the other incident I also got a good response and a partial name from your audience, but ran into a brick wall trying to get the further supporting details. There was no response from the various sites on the net as well as DND, Library and Archives Canada and VAC.

This unfortunate situation was recently resolved by Maj Draho in the Regimental headquarters who contacted the local coroner’s office in MB who agreed to provide the information on public record regarding the full and accurate name.

With this information Library and Archives Canada was able to produce the last item of information required for a new submission to VAC – the service number.

Although it may take some further months to validate the submission and amend the 7 th Book of Remembrance, I am confident that this will now pass. The name of the second soldier by the way was Bombardier Herbert (Harvey) Lester MacDonald of Surrey PEI. He was a member of 2 RCHA which was conducting its final field exercise prior to deployment to Germany. He died four days after Gnr Cote and was a 22 yr old 105 mm Detachment Commander.

I should mention – All of us (and there must be thousands) who have been present when a 105 mm howitzer was fired since Sep 63 should feel a debt of gratitude to Gnr Cote. There had been a few previous prematures with the 105 round but it was only following his death that the fuse was redesigned and modified to ensure added safety.

In closing, thanks for your help, that of your readers and certainly Maj Draho and the Regimental headquarters in ensuring that the appropriate tribute is paid to our fallen comrades.


Mike Walker
Ottawa ON