Silvera Veteran: Robert (Bob) Caughell

29 April 2024

Silvera is home to many veterans. To honour them and their selfless commitments, we are sharing the stories of a handful of the residents who have served. We are grateful to them for their service and their willingness to share their experiences.

Like many Canadians who have served in the armed forces, Bob Caughell started out as a cadet.

“Our family wasn’t well off, so I spent a lot of time with Air Cadets, which is a free program,” says Bob. “But I always found it interesting, it really taught me self discipline.”

Bob, who has lived at Silvera’s Aspen community for two years, was born in Kirkland Lake, ON and grew up in nearby Timmins. He joined the reserves in North Bay in 1958, then was posted in Petawawa for basic training when he joined the service in 1960, becoming part of the Fort Garry Horse cavalry regiment.

Two years later he was sent to Germany as a tank gunner, his first of several European postings with NATO during the Cold War with Russia.

Music a key part of Bob’s life and career

It is the music, however, that is a highlight of Bob’s memories from that time. A musician himself, Bob embraced the new era of rock and roll as Elvis’s star was rising and Beatlemania took hold in Europe.

“I played drums in my regiment’s bugle band, and then I got together with three other guys from the regiment to form a rock and roll band,” he recalls. “We had a great time together.”

Bob lived in Germany for three years, and travelled extensively during that time to Spain, France, Denmark and the Netherlands. He and the bugle band played at Normandy Beach on the June 6 D-Day anniversary and visited other locations where Canadians served in World War II.

Becoming a military instructor

After returning to Canada and a brief post in Calgary, Bob was sent to Cyprus in 1966 on a six-month United Nations peacekeeping tour. Cyprus is one of Canada’s longest overseas military commitments. A large Canadian contingent served on the island from 1964 until 1993 to keep peace between Greece and Turkey.

Bob was posted to Germany again in 1968 for a year at Battle School teaching junior non-commission officers, kicking off his time as a military instructor. After another brief stint in Calgary, Bob returned to Germany in 1969 and was promoted to Tank Crew Commander.

Moving through the ranks

He was promoted again to Sergeant in 1974 and returned to Calgary where he worked at Harvey Barracks and Sarcee Barracks. He was posted to the leadership academy in Camp Borden near Barrie, ON in 1981 and then sent to a Drill & Duties course at the training academy in Sandhurst, England to learn about ceremonial drills, funerals, and parades as part of the Guard’s Depot in Pirbright (Surrey).

After a stint back in Calgary for a few years, Bob was posted to Gagetown, New Brunswick for a year, where he was promoted to Sergeant Major, then moved to Chilliwack, BC in 1983. He returned to Calgary until 1997 when he retired at the age of 55.

“I had a six-month tour in Bosnia in 1994 – it was a dangerous place to be, with fighting between the Serbs and Croats, Muslims and Christians. I was glad not to be there longer than that. It was a tough time.”

Life after service

In retirement, Bob was a drummer with the Calgary International Airport Pipe Band for four years, playing in parades and at special events through the city. He also had a second career with the Corps of Commissionaires – a group of veterans of the armed services providing security – for nearly 20 years. Bob was a supervisor at Calgary’s airport.

Besides the music, Bob says his favourite parts of being in military service were seeing so many places in the world and being in the company of other soldiers.

“No two days are the same in the service, there were different challenges every day. It could be demanding, physically and mentally.

“But instructing was always good for me. Seeing the product of your efforts is always gratifying. It’s like a reward for doing something right.”