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SUMMER, 1974 — Six teenaged boys died and fifty-four were injured in an explosion on the Canadian Forces Base in Valcartier, Quebec. A live grenade inadvertently made its way into a box of dud ammunition, and its pin was pulled during a lecture on explosives safety. One hundred and forty boys survived, each isolated in their trauma, yet expected to carry on with their lives.
Thirty-four years later, Gerry Fostaty, an 18-year-old sergeant that summer and one of the first on the scene after the explosion, received an unexpected email from his former sergeant-major, triggering a journey into memory — a quest for a true picture of what had happened on that day. In As You Were, Fostaty has pieced together the story of how a series of preventable mistakes led to tragedy.
The only full account of an event that received minor attention at the time, As You Were is the story of a normal day turned horrific; how duty, responsibility, and honour make ordinary people take extraordinary measures; and how the military did their best to ignore this devastating incident.
The M207 Grenade: The M207 grenade is a fragmentation hand grenade. It is lemon shaped and has a coil of notched steel covered with a smooth, thin, steel layer. Within the coil is an explosive centre. When detonated, the core shatters the coil and the steel casing, transforming the broken particles into high-velocity, irregularly shaped projectiles that can cause casualties up to fifteen metres away. It is a very effective anti-personnel device. That is, it was designed to kill and injure soldiers or anyone within its effective range. Because of its effectiveness, the design has been widely copied by many nations.
On the morning of July 15th, 1974, a Warrant Officer organized and selected the display items and the dummy explosives that he would use in the explosives safety lecture. All of them were display models and the dummies. They were painted bright colours and marked to make them distinct from the live models and easily recognizable. One never has to guess with these. The gaudy colours and markings indicate at a glance that they were dummies. The live explosives were olive green. The Warrant Officer carefully chose the items to reflect a wide range of ordinance, including grenades, anti-personnel mines, and rockets.