The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Celebration of Life of Former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Ramsey Withers

Ottawa,  Saturday, January 10, 2015


As commander-in-chief, I have the great privilege of meeting regularly with members of the Canadian Armed Forces and of honouring their service to our country.

I call it a privilege because these are women and men of the highest calibre—and that is particularly true of General Ramsey Withers, who is laid to rest today.

During his 35 years of regular service, as well as his six years of reserve service with the Governor General’s Foot Guards, General Withers achieved great things for Canada.

He served in the Korean War and was a Commander of the Order of Military Merit; at the end of his career, he also made strong contributions as a public servant and volunteer.

His work was marked by integrity and excellence. He was an effective, articulate organizer who showed great leadership, vision and humanity throughout his many years of service.

From the time of his graduation from the Royal Military College in 1952, General Withers steadily climbed the ranks.

He made important contributions to the North as founding commander of Canadian Forces Northern Region.

He also served as Commander Canadian Forces Europe and, ultimately, as chief of the Defence Staff.

Throughout, General Withers embodied the principle of duty with honour, which animates the Canadian Armed Forces.

He understood that military service is all about serving and working with others. He had a great sense of humour, loved to tell stories and was comfortable engaging with all ranks and backgrounds. He believed strongly in teamwork, and always gave credit where due. 

General Withers’ parents were born in Scotland, and that three of his uncles were killed during the Second World War.

His father, the only surviving son, came to Canada for a new start.

This story helps to explain General Withers’ love for Canada, as well as his understanding of the importance of remembrance. He wasn’t one to glorify war—indeed, his volunteer work with the Canadian War Museum was dedicated to reminding people of the costs of war.

In his own words, he did so to “pass the torch” of remembrance, and it is now up to each of us to carry on his work.

General Withers was a remarkable soldier, leader, mentor, friend and family member. He will be missed by many.

On behalf of all Canadians, Sharon and I offer our deepest condolences to his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to all who are mourning his loss.