Statement made on 26 November 2009 by Senator William Rompkey (retired)
Hon. Bill Rompkey:
Honourable senators, it is with great sadness and the deepest of respect that I ask my fellow senators to join me in commemorating the life of Admiral Robert H. Falls, a devoted servant to Canada and a man of tremendous character. Canada lost Admiral Falls on November 6. He crossed the bar peacefully in his eighty-fifth year.
A veteran of the Second World War, Admiral Falls joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942, at the age of 18. Transferring to the navy in 1944, he became a pioneering naval aviator. His exceptional skills as a pilot led to his assignment to the first Royal Canadian Navy flight demonstration team, an early cousin of our revered Snowbirds.
He also led the first squadron to fly Banshee fighter jets on HMCS Bonaventure, a ship which he would later command. Landing a large, powerful jet like the Banshee on the small pitching deck of a light carrier, whether in daylight or the black of night, requires exceptional talent and nerve. Successfully teaching others to follow you is a feat of leadership that is unparalleled.
It is also important to note that as Commandant of the Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare School, Admiral Falls developed the doctrine and tactics to place large helicopters on small destroyers, a Canadian innovation that has since been emulated worldwide.
In addition to commanding both HMCS Chaudiere and HMCS Bonaventure, Admiral Falls eventually commanded our Atlantic fleet, and later our entire Armed Forces, serving as Chief of Defence Staff from 1977 to 1980. Always a pioneer, he was the first naval officer to serve in that role.
The exceptional career of Admiral Falls did not end with that achievement, for following his tenure as CDS, he became the first Canadian to serve as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, a post he filled with distinction from 1980 to 1983.
Following his retirement from the Canadian Forces, Admiral Falls continued to serve Canada as president of the Canadian Centre for Arms Control and Disarmament. Among his many accolades, a cadet corps in Victoria, B.C., bears his name. Each year, dozens of young Canadians learn about leadership, teamwork, respect and serving their community under the mantle of NLCC Admiral Falls. They simply could not have a finer role model.
Admiral Falls is survived by Isabelle, his wife of 63 years, and his three children, Robert, Janice and David. On this sad occasion, we mourn with them, but also thank them for their service to Canada. With so few days upon this earth, to miss so many with your husband and father as he was off making Canada, and indeed the world, a safer place is a sacrifice that we cherish.
I humbly offer condolences and the assurance that the contribution of Admiral Falls to our great nation has been, and will continue to be, deeply appreciated.