Ghost Officer Tradition of Canadian Dragoons
The Evening Citizen (Ottawa); 10 February 1951
Tri-Service news, by V.A. Bonner
This is the story of the ghost officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. His silver tankard sits on the shelf behind the bar with those of the other officers. His place is set at the table. And his name is well known in the mess and the regiment.
Everyone knows Lt. J.G. Smithers. But where is he? And where has he been?
These were the questions I asked Lt.-Col. George Wattsford, officer commanding the Royal Canadian Dragoons after he presented me the tankard for my use while at Petawawa and one of his officers suggested I ask about the officer whose name was inscribed on the silver mug beneath the regimental crest, a leaping Springbok.
"He's not here. And he never was. And never will be." replied the Colonel.
"Then where is he?" I asked.
"He isn't" replied the colonel.
By this time I was wondering who was crazy.
"He isn't. He never has been. And he never will be." I queried again.
"Right," said the genial colonel.
And right then I surrendered.
"All right. Give me the story. I've bitten."
Most Remarkable Story
So I heard the most remarkable story I have ever encountered. Actually there is no Lt. J.G. Smithers. There never was. And there never will be barring the longest and most remarkable of coincidences. For Lt. J.G. Smithers is a mistake. And a mistake which the boys of the regiment tie on the colonel and the colonel hands on to a silver engraver of a well known national firm.
It seems when the idea first came into being that each officer who served with the RCD should have a silver mug engraved with his name and leave it as a memorial to its stay, the colonel was asked to submit a proper design.
He gave the matter grave thought and came up with a design for a glass bottomed silver tankard engraved as described above. Just to make sure the design was done right he drew a diagram and instead of lettering "Lt. John Doe" he lettered in "Lt. J.G. Smithers." The design went off to other authority and in due time came to the firm for the preparation of the mugs according to the list attached.
One for Smithers
Back came the mugs. And lo and behold there was one suitably engraves for " Lt. J.G. Smithers." The joke was on someone. But it was too good to let it pass. And so the mug of Lt. Smithers remains behind the bar with the rest. And each visitor gets to have drink from this tankard first of all whether it is milk or something a little more appealing. He hears the story of how the officers presented the mugs and a little about each officer. Sooner or later he is bound to ask about the officer whose tankard he has borrowed. And it is then that he hears the story of Lt. J.G. Smithers, the ghost officer of the Royal Canadian Dragoons who never served, who never will be, and who really doesn't exist, yet is a tradition in the regiment.