A.J. Paul LaPrairie
|A.J. Paul LaPrairie|
A.J. Paul LaPrairie in 1948
A.J. Paul La Prairie, Mining Engineering 5T0, is a historically important alumnus of Skule™. He is most famous for being the founder of the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad as well as the infamous University College Gargoyle swap. As the Direktor of Kultural Aktivities - a combination of the modern day VP Student Life and Blue & Gold Committee Chair - he was also responsible as the protector of the Skule Cannon and as head of the Brute Force Committee.
Life before Skule™
A.J. Paul LaPrairie was born to a family of 6 brothers and 1 sister, whom would all eventually graduate from Mining Engineering or Mining Geology at the University of Toronto.
LaPrairie served six years overseas with the Irish Regiment of Canada (part of the Fifth Canadian Armoured Division) during the Second World War. LaPrairie reached the rank of Major during his tour of duty.
Notably, he was the Battle Second in Command with his Regiment, and was chiefly responsible for working out all details of attacks. He participated in several battles in Holland near the end of WWII, and personally negotiated the surrender of a German unit stationed near Weiward, taking 38 German Officers and 1386 others as prisoners.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his actions.
LaPrairie recounted his war experiences in a letter to his brother, George, in 2001:
- You asked me for information on my visits to Holland. I was there, first, during the War. Then, Jean and I made two trips on our own. Later I led about six group trips to Holland, and as many to Italy.
- In 1945 The Irish Regiment of Canada, as part of The Fifth Canadian Armoured Division, finished its tour of duty in Italy. I was in the hospital with jaundice when the Regiment left for Holland. That jaundice seemed to be a common ailment because of the unsanitary conditions through the country.
- Then, after my stay in the hospital I was in charge of the re-inforcement depot. We sailed from Naples to Marsailles. The rail trip up through France was very scenic. We were all in boxcars, but I took over in a rooftop caboose.
- Our regiment started its battle action in Holland, on Nijmegan Island, near Arnhem. They crossed on the famous pontoon bridge. There were minor skirmishes and the division moved up toward Otterloo. On April 11th the Germans who had been cut off in their retreat attacked our Division and our Battalion Headquarters. Our flame-throwers went into action and stopped the attack. This was a tremendous victory for us. The corporal in charge of the flame-throwers, "Red" Asselstine, received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
- I rejoined my Regiment there and was posted as the Battle Second in Command. That is, I stayed near the Lieut-Col. (Commanding Officer) at Tactical Headquarters. Should he have become a casualty or been away at Bridge Headquarters, I would take over.
- The next day we advanced on Ermelo and took 105 prisoners from the 6th German Parachute Division. The People of Ermelo were wonderful in their reception of us. I have been back there often and have had continuing receptions from the people and their Burgomasters. I also have friends there with whom I correspond regularly.
- We then moved on and up to the Joure-Sneek area. On April 23rd we took over from the Canadian Scottish Regiment, of the 3rd Canadian Division, east of Groningen.
- On April 28th we started to move toward Delfzijl. The Germans had used this port town to bring their supply ships across the Ems river, from Germany. We had brief bits of fighting here and there and moved up to Heveskes.
- As Battle2i/c it was my job to work out the details of an attack, with heavy artillery support, to move through Weiward and seize a key bridge, before the enemy could destroy it. Our tanks were supposed to cross this bridge at daylight. The bridge was the only way that our tanks could cross some swampy ground and the river.
- On the morning of May 2nd, A Company was supposed to lead the attack. Unfortunately, A Company had gone through some terrible actions. There where only eighteen men left, of an establishment of one hundred and twenty-seven. The Company Commander was also a casualty. So, being the one who made the plan of attack, I took over. We went ahead with what is called a creeping box barrage of artillery. Shells were falling to each side of us and in front. As we advanced, the shells fell farther in front. This barrage was to keep down enemy infantry. Then, there was a dog-leg. We followed the road with a sharp left turn, with the artillery changing too.
- When we reached the bridge two sections of our troops ran across and the third section stayed at the near end. Then I saw two men, whom I thought we our troops checking for mines on the bridge. They where Germans putting in mines. That was the end of their activity.
- As daylight came I could see around. There were huge artillery placements. Then I saw a long stairway going down into the ground. My Batman, of Polish origin, could speak German. Some prisoners told him that was the big headquarters.
- So, for some reason, I wanted to go down. God must have been on my side. For some reason I decided to take off my steel helmet and put on my Green Bonnet. To do so I had to put my revolver in its holster, which was under my loose camouflage jacket. Then, I put the steel helmet in the rear pouch of the jacket.
- Down the steps I went into a large room with telephones and radios and staff people sitting at the desks. At the bottom of the stairs was a German soldier pointing a sub-machine gun at me. However, I was not carrying a weapon and was not wearing a steel helmet. A senior officer who spoke English came forward. I told him that I wanted to talk to his Commanding Officer, and was brought to Korvet Kapitan Von Walters (Major General). I told him unless he surrendered his troops, our artillery bombardment would start again. Through his interpreter he said that enough of his men had been killed, and gave the order for the radio and telephone operators to issue a cease fire order. We then took 38 Officers and 1386 Other ranks as prisoners.
- As a matter of interest, I took the Korvet Kapitan back to Brigade Headquarters. Our Brigade Intelligence Officer spoke german and questioned him. Then, the Korvet Kapitan pointed at me and asked the I.O. what my rank was. I was still in my camouflage coverall. I thought that he was being a bit uppity, wanting to make sure that he, of senior rank, had been captured by a senior Officer. I told the I.O. to tell him that I was a Boy Scout, and left. I was awarded my Distinguished Service Order for this adventure.
- That was the end of the war for us. On the 5th of May, all of the Germans in Holland surrendered.
Return to Skule™
Like many war veterans, LaPrairie returned home to Canada to attend university. He entered the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto in 1946, and attended school at the Ajax Campus with the class of returning veterans. He spent two years at Ajax with his fellow students, and returned to the St. George Campus in the fall of 1948.
LaPrairie was widely involved in student life at Skule™. He appointed himself as the "Direktor of Kultural Aktivities", an executive position in the Engineering Society. This position has a present day equivalent (in terms of function) of the Blue & Gold Committee Chair, the Chief of the Brute Force Committee, and the Chief Attiliator all rolled into one.
Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad
See also: Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad
During LaPrairie's time at Ajax, he came to the conclusion that a 'regimental' band was in order. He decided to personally undertake the task as the Direktor of Kultural Aktivities. At the time, he was still active in the Militia, and through his contacts in the Irish Regiment, he acquired the necessary equipment for what would become a world-famous band.
Scrounging through Fort York, the University Avenue and Fleet Street Armouries and the Sally Ann at Church and King Streets, he turned up a collection of Irish regiments' red tunics, some pith helmets, six Dragoon's brass helmets, a set of cymbals, a drummer's leopard skin, two tenor snare drums, a drum major's baton, and most importantly, a bass drum with one head (the open side was used to stockpile beer while "on parade" - a tradition that occasionally re-appears in the present day).
The Band was founded some time in the calendar year 1949 - although the exact Skule year, '48-'49 or '49-'50, is unclear. They were first pictured in the 5T0 Yearbook, although Paul LaPrairie recounts the first events during the fall of 1948.
In any event, the first rehearsal fielded about a dozen people from all years consisting of trumpets, trombones, saxophones, clarinets, one flute, two snare drums, and the bass drum - a 'motley' group at best.
During the second practice, it was discovered that LaPrairie could not read music, and he was 'demoted' to bass drummer, while Tom Kenney became the leader for the '49-'50 Skule year.
The name of the Band was decided at a group session of the Engineering Society. The Lady Godiva Band was agreed upon by the group - but Bill Walker (later President of the Engineering Society) suggested the word "Memorial", and the name Lady Godiva Memorial Band stuck.
A.J. Paul LaPrairie recounted a particularly humorous episode of the LGMB in 1950. During a big football game at Varsity Stadium, the LGMB marched through the gates and onto the field. All the while, they were wearing great big moustaches. When they approached the fifty yard line, he noticed Sidney Smith, President of the University of Toronto, sitting in the front row. LaPrairie offered him a moustache, which he promptly put on. Thus, the LGMB made President Smith an Honorary Member of the LGMB.
Skule™ Cannon and the UC Gargoyle Swap
LaPrairie was also responsible for the Skule Cannon during his time as an Engineering Society executive. During his term, one notable event happened when the Cannon was stolen by University College.
He recounts this story as follows:
- Somehow, someone from University College managed to steal the Cannon. This was not the first time that the Cannon had gone missing and it was fair game. However, there were no rules about how to get it back. At a meeting of the Executive of The Engineering Society, the responsibility for its recovery was given to me.
- Now, I had been an infantry officer and had commanded an infantry battalion in action on several occasions. So, why not try some infantry tactics? Warning was given to U.C. that the Engineers would attack. We assembled on the Main Campus in front of their main door.
- In the meantime, Sol Friendly (Mech) and a couple of his helpers were dressed as construction men. They had entered U.C. by a side door and set up proper construction barricades around the main staircase. They carefully removed the wooden gargoyle from the newel post on the stairway. The gargoyle was then spirited away by two Physio Therapy students.
- When word got out that the famous gargoyle was missing I was summoned to Dean Young and then to President Sidney Smith. I assured them that the gargoyle had come to no harm and would be exchanged for the Skule™ Cannon.
- So, a truce was arranged and a promise made to exchange the gargoyle for our Skule™ Cannon, on the Front Campus. The Cannon was duly handed over. Then I poured out a bag of sawdust, supposedly the remains of the gargoyle. In the meantime, Sol Friendly and his crew had again put up the construction barriers and had replaced the gargoyle.
- La Prairie, Michael. "Rememberance Day Letter; From Major A. J. Paul La Prairie Irish Regiment of Canada".
|Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad|
Title next held byBill Broughton
|Brute Force Committee|