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Maxwell, Robert

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret’d) Robert “Bob” Maxwell - RCAF

I was born on December 15,1937 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. For the first twelve years of my life, I lived with my Grandmother Agnes Lucas. Upon her death I moved in with my adopted parents Deacon Emeritus Gordon and Phyllis Lucas. I was educated in Dartmouth and decided to leave school at the age of seventeen and work in a dry-cleaning plant. However, for reasons I don't remember, at the age of 20 I decided to go to a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) recruiting Center in Halifax. Once there I was well received. Tests were written and a physical examination was booked as I edged closer to the proverbial dotted line.

In mid-December of 1957, I was off to Boot Camp in St Jean, Quebec to be inoculated, vaccinated and taught how to walk.... read march. A number of the activities were stressful, however I found them less so in that I had prior Air Cadet training. One of the procedures conducted was trade selection. The trade that I was assigned was Firefighter. This may be an illustration of how at a young age with luck and effort it can turn out well.

I graduated from the from the St Jean Boot Camp, as an Aircraftsmen Second Class (AC2).

I was transferred to Trenton Ontario where I reported to the Fire Chief and was assigned to a fire crew. My stay in Trenton was for three months for on- job -training. There I learned the ins and outs of crash rescue. The Pilots were flying a lot at the time so we had to learn how to save the pilots if, God forbid, the pilot would crash. Following this training I was then transferred to Aylmer, Ontario for driver training.

In June of 1958 I was sent to Firefighter School Camp Borden (which I later was Commanding Officer). The societal structure in the military, both at the school and on basic training, makes the transition to the military difficult, especially at a time of so little diversity and inclusivity. It should be noted the that Canada began to expand the military in the 1950's and I noticed that not many that looked like me was being recruited.

The fire School now behind me, I was transferred to RCAF Station Claresholm then RCAF Station MacDonald then Air Force Station Centralia. During this three-year period, I was able to further my education through correspondence courses offered by RCAF and the Ontario Department of Education.

My first emergency was the crash of an F86 jet the week I reported to RCAF MacDonald. We were able to get to the crash but could not save the pilot. My next posting was to RCAF Greenwood. It was at this posting there where I married my Yvette (Lawrence) Maxwell on the 15 July 1961. We were blessed with two children Bob and Terri. It should be noted that Yvette was the first black woman to teach high school in Trenton, Nova Scotia.

My next posting was to RCAF Station Goose Bay Labrador. Finally, in recognition of my potential and after having served ten years in the ranks I was offered my commission from the ranks to Pilot/Flying Officer during Canada’s Centennial year. (1967)

In subsequent years I have served as:

  • Canadian forces Fire Marshal 1991-1993

  • Commanding officer Firefighting School Borden 1975-1980

  • Assistant Fire Marshal Maritime Command 1973-1975

  • Fire Chief CFB Bagotville; Officer in Charge Other Ranks from 1969-1973

During my 35 years of service, I moved through the ranks from AC2 in 1957, to AC1 in 1959, to Corporal in 1966, to receiving my commission to Pilot/Flying Officer on April 1st,1967, to Captain in 1970, to Major in 1979 and finally Lieutenant-Colonel in 1991.

For my life long contribution to my country and community, I am the proud recipient of the Queen Elizabeth 11 Diamond Jubilee Medal and the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal.

As I reflect on my career, I hope that I have demonstrated that the military can provide, with effort, an excellent career for our youth. I never thought I would live this long. I'm playing with house money(smile) and in season still golfing!

Maj Mathias Joost and LCol Robert Maxwell at LCol Ken Jacobs funeral

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