Decades after witnessing the horrific events that took the lives of six young cadets at CFB Valcartier, QC, Gerry Fostaty decided to put his story to paper, writing “As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier.” Now a film company has decided to take that story and bring it to the bring screen.
In the summer of 1974, 138 teenaged RCA cadets were huddled inside a barrack for a lecture on safety, more specifically explosives safety. The objective was to teach the boys of the dangers of picking up or touching anything suspicious on the ground. It was during this safety lecture that things went terribly wrong.
“Although it was not likely, it was still possible that an explosive device might be yet undetected on the ground. This was, after all, an army base; it was CFB Valcartier in Quebec. The instructor, who was the commanding officer of the ammunition depot for eastern Canada, explained the devices he was showing, and then passed them around to the students. They were inactive devices, or ‘dummies’. Well, they were supposed to be dummies. Somehow, a live grenade got mixed up in the box of training aids, and was passed around the room. The device was identified as safe by the instructor a number of times during the lecture, and so, after making its way around the room, from hand to hand, the pin was pulled and the grenade detonated, killing six boys and injuring fifty four others. The book As You Were, is a chronicle of that day and those that followed: the way the boys were evacuated, treated, and how they were sent away without any comfort, counselling, or even a debrief. They were then forgotten for forty years,” said author of the book, Fostaty.
It took decades before Fostaty could share the tragic events of that day. The book was published in 2011.
“Before we were sent to our homes and our home units, we were told to keep quiet about what had happened, and so for many years, we did. All of us did. You have to remember, these boys were on a leadership course. They were the rising stars in their cadet corps, and were sent to the camp as a reward for their good conduct and hard work. They were being trained to be the next crop of leaders in their units. Most of them would be promoted when they returned to their units. Naturally, a part of their training was the ability and willingness to follow orders and the chain of command. They were only following their training when they kept quiet about what had happened to them.
“I was one of those boys. For thirty-five years, I kept my thoughts to myself, and it was painful. In 2008 I discovered that the facts of the incident were released through the access to information act. I requested a copy and felt that since it was now public knowledge, I could open up. But, it is a difficult story to tell, and, as I became aware, it was a difficult story to hear. So, I began to write the story down to let my family know what had happened to me so long ago, and what had changed my life. That is how the book began,” recalled Fostaty.
The raw and emotional story of Fostaty inspired Nicholas Kinsey, executive producer and director for Cinegrafica Films.
“As I read As You Were, I felt more and more that this was a story that had to be seen on the screen. It is a very personal account of a horrific event. This is very much a Canadian story, and a bittersweet story of lost youth. We are very excited by the opportunity to bring Gerry Fostaty’s work to the screen,” said Kinsey in a statement.
Cinegrafica Films has optioned the film rights to As You Were.
Fostaty has been asked to be an advisor on the film to make sure facts and details are accurate. Though he is looking forward to the next steps of production, he says it will be difficult to see a reenactment of the story and see actors playing the people he once knew. But Fostaty believes it is important story to be told.
“This is a story of ordinary young men in extraordinary circumstances, and how they behaved courageously, and how they were conveniently dismissed and forgotten. They were put in harm’s way by their superiors, by people they trusted, and then pushed to the side as if they didn’t matter. It is important to remind those in positions of responsibility, that they must carry through with their responsibility with a duty of care for those under them.
“Many of those boys, who are now men, are still deeply affected by the trauma of that day, and the subsequent treatment and neglect. Many have not spoken of it to their families, still. This story can begin to let them know that they are not alone in their pain, and their feelings are a normal reaction to these abnormal circumstances. It will hopefully begin a dialogue with their families, and start a path to healing,” noted Fostaty.