- Place of Use Continent - North America, Country - Canada
- Category Communication artifacts
- Sub-category Personal symbol
- Department Arms and Technology
- Museum CWM
- Earliest 1919/07/26
- Latest 1945/08/16
- Inscription (BWM & VM/MGB &MV): R.B. BRETT. MID. R.C.N.
- Support swing mount
- Materials Silver, Copper, Silkworm silk
- Service Component Royal Canadian NavyMerchant Navy
- Measurements Length 8.3 cm, Width 16.1 cm, Thickness 0.3 cm
- Caption Medals Project- Brett, Robert Benny
Robert Benny Brett was born 10 July 1899 in Wapella, Saskatchewan to Lionel and Maude Brett. His father, a farmer had emigrated to Canada in 1884. In 1910, Robert was enrolled in Upper Canada College where he graduated in 1915. He then enrolled in the new Royal Naval College of Canada as a Cadet on 3 August 1915, 1 of only 5 cadets. Brett did complete his studies, though not without incident. While awaiting his passing out exam 6 December 1917 he was significantly injured when the College was damaged by the Halifax explosion caused by the munitions ship Mont Blanc. Brett received injuries to his face and shoulder from flying glass and metal and required some 3 months to recover. As he was technically not yet in the Naval Service this did not register as a wartime injury though the Department did offer to pay the costs of his medical treatment.
Upon his recovery, Brett and his classmates were awarded their graduation certificates and as of 15 January 1918 rated as Midshipmen in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). He was sent to the UK to get his at sea training, usually conducted on board the battleships of the Royal Navy in preparation for their lieutenant’s examinations two years later. Brett was assigned to HMS Canada, along with his classmates, Roger Bidwell and Edmund Rollo Mainguy. Not long after, Brett started to experience blackouts which rendered him unconscious for up to 10 minutes at a time. He and his mates were transferred to HMS Barham after Canada was sold back to the Chileans in 1920. Shortly thereafter, while preparing for a visit in Gibraltar in February 1920, he again experienced a blackout. The ship’s doctor diagnosed it as epilepsy and he was transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital in Haslar where he was recommended for return to Canada for a Medical Board. This was held in HMCS Niobe in Halifax in April 1920 and he was discharged from the RCN as medically unfit 22 April 1920.
He returned to his parent’s residence at Gromley Avenue in Toronto and tried to fight his dismissal. His private physician suggested that the blackouts were caused by head injuries suffered in 1917 but the Royal Navy was adamant that it was epilepsy and that this was sufficient cause to prohibit his service in HM ships. Since he could not complete his Royal Navy time he was ineligible for service with the RCN either. He attempted to get a pension but was advised that even if his medical condition was caused by injuries suffered as a Cadet at Royal Naval College of Canada since he was not a member of the RCN at the time no pension was owing.
By 1923 Brett was living in Chester Square, London UK, employed as a shipping broker. The inter-war years saw him taking a number of trans-Atlantic trips in the service of Canadian Shipping Brokers Ltd and by 1939 he is listed as a company director. During the Second World War he served with the Merchant Marine and British records of medals issued to Merchant seamen indicate Brett was issued with the War Medal and 1939-45 Star. He was also involved in the evacuation of British soldiers at Dunkirk. He lived primarily in Gloucester in the UK and by 1956 he was listing his occupation in passenger lists as Retired.
He moved back to Canada afterward and he passed away in Victoria, British Columbia, on 11 April 1974.
- Caption Medal Set, Robert Brett
- Additional Information Robert Benney Brett survived injuries suffered in the Halifax Explosion, and served in the Royal Canadian Navy until 1920. Brett's medals reflect service at sea in both world wars. After Brett's recovery, he trained, like many other Canadians, in British warships, including the battleships HMS Canada and HMS Barham. In 1920, epilepsy ended his career in the Royal Canadian Navy, but he nevertheless continued an association with the sea. By the mid-1920s, Brett was working for Canadian Shipping Brokers Ltd., in London, England, and during the Second World War served in the British merchant navy.