Robert Cockram has been used to being the old guy on the local Canadian Ranger Patrol he helped form decades ago. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Robert Cockram has been used to being the old guy on the local Canadian Ranger Patrol he helped form decades ago. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Longtime Canadian Ranger retires

Robert Cockram was in Canadian Armed Forces for 55 years

When Robert Cockram visited the recruiting station on a whim in 1966, he didn’t expect it would lead a life in the military.

Fifty-five years later, Cockram has retired from the Canadian Armed Forces – with four bars and the distinction of being one of the oldest members in the Canadian Rangers Patrol. He had been a member of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery.

“It was interesting. It never got boring,” Cockram, 71, said. “I retired as a captain, long in the tooth.”

His military journey started when he was 18 and an officer at a recruiting station in southern Saskatchewan suggested he join a military college. He chose the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., graduating with honours and a major in history.

As a member of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, he held stints with the Fourth Canadian Artillery Regiment, Second Canadian Artillery Regiment and a volunteer post with the Canadian Airborne Regiment in Edmonton, where Cockram said he got to “jump out planes and into strange places.”

He remembers one training operation in Churchill, Man. where they “lived out in the snowbanks” for several days to get acclimatized to the cold. Cockram was then redeployed overseas to Germany for two years, working with self-propelled artillery pieces. Thanks to then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, his unit was redeployed in southern Germany far away from the border.

“In Germany when you got time off you just jumped on the vehicle and did some touring. I went to Switzerland a few times and did some skiing there, it was just down the road from where we were based,” Cockram said. “We had a big trip to London and got to see some other parts of Europe.”

Over the next few decades, Cockram worked across the country as an administrator and instructor before eventually being posted to Royal Roads University in Victoria, back when it was still a military college. As he neared retirement age, Cockram decided to move to Lone Butte, where he had owned property for several years.

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Turns out, though, retirement wasn’t in the cards: a year-and-a-half later, a call was put out to form a Canadian Ranger Patrol.

“I thought I’d go in and see what it’s all about and now I’m one of the old guys with the Ranger patrol,” Cockram said. “I’ve been in the Ranger Patrol 27 years now and people look at you and go ‘what?! you’re in the military?!’ And I go ‘yes, the Canadian Rangers don’t have a compulsory retirement age.’”

In the beginning, the Rangers had only three pieces of gear: a baseball cap, an armband and a rifle. For additional gear, he said they had to scrounge around military surplus stores for raincoats and other equipment. They were also largely left to their own devices and made their own schedules for training and patrolling. Cockram said they used to meet for shooting practice at 100 Mile Junior Secondary School’s shooting range where they used to “muck around.”

The Rangers were expected to know their local area and provide support in a crisis. Before the South Cariboo Search and Rescue Society was formed, Cockram said the Rangers would search for missing people. Cockram recalled “beating the bush” near the 108 Mile Ranch looking for a missing eight-year-old, only for the child to turn up safe and sound far away from where they were looking.

Eventually, the decision was made to tie the Rangers into the Canadian military reserves and is now run more like the army. With that has come a lot more gear and organization. By then, Cockram was already well on his way to becoming one of the force’s oldest serving officers.

“They give you a medal for 12 years of service and then a bar for every 10 years after that. I hung in until now because I said ‘I want that fourth bar, no one else will be sporting that because nobody else has been in for that long,’” Cockram said but added: “I’m looking forward to my time off.”



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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Robert Cockram began his military career in 1966 and only recently retired from the South Cariboo’s Canadian Rangers Patrol. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Robert Cockram began his military career in 1966 and only recently retired from the South Cariboo’s Canadian Rangers Patrol. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Robert Cockram began his military career in 1966 and only recently retired from the South Cariboo’s Canadian Rangers Patrol. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Robert Cockram began his military career in 1966 and only recently retired from the South Cariboo’s Canadian Rangers Patrol. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)