Commanding the Ceremonial Guard

A four-decade military career started with Maple Ridge cadets

Capt. Darby Whitebone will lead the Changing of the Guard in Ottawa.

Capt. Darby Whitebone will lead the Changing of the Guard in Ottawa.

A boy who started a sterling military career as an army cadet in Maple Ridge, flour-bombing his ‘enemies’ during mock battles, is now a captain training the Ceremonial Guard in Ottawa.

Capt. Darby Whitebone is drilling the Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Armed Forces. With their scarlet tunics and tall, black bearskin headdress, guards are patterned after those at Buckingham Palace in London. The changing of the guard in Ottawa is also a spectacle for tourists in Canada’s capital.

“For over 50 years, the Changing of the Guard has been a top Ottawa summer attraction, having thrilled thousands of visitors on Parliament Hill. They proudly provide sentries at the National War Memorial and Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada, presently David Johnston,” according to the Armed Forces.

Whitebone joined the 1838 Royal Canadian Army Cadets in Maple Ridge in 1969, and loved it. It inspired a successful military career. He went to summer camps in Vernon and Banff. When he graduated from Maple Ridge secondary, he joined the reserves.

Whitebone got the chance to serve as security for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He enjoyed the preparation and the professionalism – riot training, internal security and other work to keep the Games safe.

“I thought ‘This is what I want to do,’” and Whitebone became a full-time soldier.

He joined the storied Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He has more than 41 years of military service, including those cadet days in Haney, and his present work with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, a primary reserve infantry unit.

He has been presented numerous decorations and medals for extensive service in Afghanistan, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Cyprus and other locations around the globe.

Now, at 58, he has joined the Ceremonial Guard – the most recognizable military unit in Canada.

“A wise old general once told me that a soldier’s job is not complete until you pass on your knowledge to the next generation,” Darby said. “It is my intention to take back this experience to the army of the west.”

He is instructing this year’s guard in intensive drill training, while stressing attention to dress, deportment, and physical training. Whitebone expects nothing but the best from his soldiers when they are inspected by the governor general.

The parade commander said this summer’s posting is an honour, and he represents all of the military units across the country in his post at the nation’s capital.

He is not there to provide security. The two 100-soldier guards are strictly ceremonial.

During the summer, Whitebone will also participate in Ceremonial Guard appearances around eastern Ontario, and as well as the culmination event known as Fortissimo. That military and musical event takes place on the lawns of Parliament Hill. It features massed military bands, pipes and drums, guest performers and the soldiers of the Ceremonial Guard. It will take place July 23-25.

Whitebone retired from full-time military service in 2005, but hasn’t completely left the life. He enjoys working with the reserves in his new home in Edmonton.

“They keep me really busy.”