For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
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** WARNING **
Please keep in mind that some of the stories here are humourous and some of them are of a more serious nature where shipmates have lost a life.
Some of the stories below may contain profanity. Those who may be offended or upset by this should not read these stories.
C.F.B. TRENTON EOD TRIP, 1967 - Photos and information provided by Jack Lewis, Clearance Diver
This was an E.O.D. trip to C.F.B. Trenton, near Trenton, on Lake Ontario. There was an Old WW II 500 lb. Bomb practice range. It was a lovely beach and D.N.D. hopes were for us to clear the beach and render it safe, then turn it over as a Public Beach. After 3 weeks we were unable to locate any unexploded Bombs. (However we sure did find a lot of scrap). We proved that the Sonar Equipment worked. We detected and retrieved a Workable 25 Horse Outboard Motor. We could not render this beach safe and to my knowledge it was never turned over for Public use. But, as always, we sure had a great time and another one for the "Memory Bank"
A ZIG ZAG COURSE - Submitted by Ted Kendall, Communicator
SPLICE THE MAINBRACE - HMCS IROQUOIS 1979 - Submitted by Ted Kendall, Communicator
Tot time HMCS Iroquois 1979 - Then Commodore Edwards bought himself the rum barrel and wanted to commission it properly. What better way to do it than at sea, on a Sunday, off Trafalgar. UP SPIRITS ME LADS. Most famous comment of the day was by one OS who looked at me with glassy eyes and asked "Chief, is it true you guys did this every day?". Even the Commodore laughed.
HMCS QUINTE'S KISBY RING - Submitted by Jack Lewis, Clearance Diver
" Prior to taking my CD2 Course, in Sept/63, I had been on the H.M.C.S Quinte, for approx. 3 years. In the late spring of 1963, we went to Liverpool N.S., for a complete refit. During this time, we all had to move ashore. I and several others, moved into a Boarding House, on the Main Street. Will not go into the exact details but I acquired the Ships Ceremonial Kisby Ring. When you went through the front door of the Boarding House, you went up a set of stairs to our rooms. There was a landing there were I mounted the ring, which would be seen, as you entered the front door. I was drafted to the Granby for my course and never gave the ring another thought and lost touch with the guys. Fast forward 50 years - till now.
Shortly after joining this group on F/B, I had posted a ship's company picture of The Quinte. I received a comment from, Jim Frame ( Ex-Navy) who had served from 1965 - 1994. He said that he had a Quinte Kisby Ring and sent the following message: hiya Jack -- a neighbour gave it to me when I first moved to Nova Scotia after I got out in '94 and had expressed interest in it -- it had been hanging outside his garage for years - evidently it came from his aunt who owned a boarding house in Liverpool since the war years - supposedly given/left at her boarding house by a drunken sailor who probably swiped it -- will give it up to someone who appreciates it -- would be just a matter of getting it shipped somehow -- hadn't really thought much about it lately till I saw your pic on the website ... Well you could have knocked me over with a feather. Small world and his plans are to get it to me somehow. This is just a story that is unbelievable to me and thought you would get a Kick out of it."
And now for the rest of the story .......
Thanks to Jim Frame, the kisby ring made its way back to Jack Lewis. With the help of the carpentry and welding students at Georgian College, a stand was made for the kisby ring and plaque. In April of 2015 the kisby ring was presented to RCSCC Quinte by Jack Lewis.
Jack Lewis and the CO of RCSCC Quinte, John Lilje, with the kisby ring and new stand
OPS ROOM OOOPS - Submitted by Greg Hewitt
On HMCS Saskatchewan, 1964, slopping around in the middle of the chuck on a dark and dirty night. Me and four mates on watch in the Ops room, nothing going on and bored silly, we started goofing around trying to make time pass, we stopped momentarily to bring ships track up to date. We had on board C2 (frigate boss), he was using the captains day cabin for his quarters and he picked just that moment to come out of his cabin and take a look around. I was on the plotting table fictionalizing the ships track when he leaned over the table to see what I was doing. I thought it was one of the mates and I quickly turned and nibbled his ear - he shot back and I, realizing who he was stepped off the short ass stool, totally in shock, and stepped down on his foot and broke his toe. He vanished into his cabin and it was deathly quite in the Ops room. I stood there in horror thinking all kinds of terrible punishments coming my way, not knowing what to do. Then the officer of the watch comes down from the bridge and quietly tells me to report to the Captains cabin. I'm afraid of being keel hauled or some such nasty punishment. I knocked meekly on the Captains door; he yells come in. I enter and stand there all color drained completely from my face; my brain going into hibernation. the Captain looks at me and asks what the hell happened. I told him the complete truth. He says that C2 thinks I have gone insane and should be sent away permanently. The Captain said go back to your watch. That was the last I heard of it. God bless you Mark Mayo.
A few months after this little incident I was re-deployed to the Antigonish. A great old lady with a skipper as good as one can expect. We had just returned from a trip to 'Frisco, and had to beat our way up hill all the way. It got so bad that you could actually hear rivets popping. Any how, I had gone ashore in Squibbly and had a real good time in town, only to return with half my uniform missing. The next morning I decided to go and fetch my uniform; wearing my burberry to cover lack of rig, I approached the main gate to dockyard. It was pouring rain and as I approached the gate a car horn sounded and a voice called out "Would you like a ride?" I jumped right in and to my horror confronted the C2. He just said "Oh, it's you," and took off not a word said. He stopped at the Tudor and I debarked without a word. I lived in fear for the next couple of months after that, thinking that C2 finally had me at his mercy, but much to my great relief, nothing ever came of it. ABRP1, G. Hewitt
NAVAL STORES NIGHTMARES - Submitted by Malcolm Peacock
Taper Pins - When They Computerized the Stores System Somewhere back in the 80's, it was decided that the Human Factor would be removed and said Computer would make all the right Decisions. We were storing ship after refit and I was stocking up the Rigging Shop. I had ordered 100 x 6" drop nosed pins (also known as Tapered Pins) . The computer could not find any in it's data base so it sent me what it thought was a comparable item. I received a bag of 100 x 6' Tapered Pins . They were tapered but were like a bolt with an electrical connection. Had no clue what they were so I fired them into a drawer and would dump them at sea later. A few weeks later I was piped to the brow and was greeted by an old C1 gunner. He inquired about the pins and I confirmed I had them. As he was walking away I asked him what they were. The reply was "put it this way - you have 100 firing pins for the 3'' 50 guns; the navy has only 7 left in stores". We sailed 3 days later. Thank You Lord, I would just be getting out of cells about now.
Algonquin 81. I ordered 4 x 18" Bottle Screws. I got one # wrong on the NSN and ended up with the Anchor Gear Bottle Screws from the Bonaventure on a flatbed truck.
THE XO's CAP - Submitted by Garry Weir
When I was onboard HMCS Ottawa 229, we were on a NATO trip with HMS Arethusa, FGS Lutjens, NRP Jao Belo and HNLMS Phillips Van Almonde. During one of the port visits, the Ottawa hosted a function in the wardroom for all the officers of the NATO squadron. I happened to be duty in the CCR and since the broadcast was quiet, I hung out by the CCR door to watch the comings and goings as I was bored out of my mind. At one point late in the evening, one of Ottawa's subbies brought two officers caps to the CCR and asked if I could "store" them for him. He wanted a souvenir of the trip - the cost to him was a couple beer and I got one of the caps as well. It was agreed upon and I put the caps deep in a shreddie bag and stuffed it behind a cabinet in the CCR. Well it wasn't long after that the shit hit the fan. The subbie had acquired the cap of the Almonde's XO and he was raising the roof checking the cabins in the wardroom flats. He tried to come in the CCR but I refused him entry. At that point the officer of the day came along and calmed him down somewhat with assurances his cap would be found. When we sailed messages were going back and forth between the two ships and the CO was rather pissed over the incident. The Dutch XO didn't have a 2nd cap and had to have one sent over from Europe to the ship. If those caps were found there would have been hell to pay. We managed to get back to Halifax without the caps being found. When the CCR was "searched" I was one of the ones searching and selected the appropriate area to check. Those caps stayed in place for about another month before the subbie felt safe enough to come claim his souvenir. We got them off the ship and neither of us went to jail.
NOT WITH MY SHIP! - Submitted by John Underhill
The following happened on HMCS Qu'Appelle in August, 1986, while en route to Australia for the 75th Anniversary of the RAN.
During a closing from ahead maneuver, the standard solution involves dropping speed and "fishtailing" to port and starboard before resuming course. A subbie under training decided to try something different and speed up to 24 knots and pulled a 180. As the ship began to turn (quite quickly!) towards the next astern, the CO barked "What are you doing Mr. Smith?" (name changed to protect the innocent) and the subbie answered "An experiment, Sir!" Next thing we heard was the Captain squeaking out "Not with my ship! Midships! I have the Conn!"
DON'T FORGET TO TURN OFF THE POWER!! - Submitted by Denis Potvin
For those of you who didn't know Dave (Dave Keough PO2 Sonarman), let me try to picture him for you. He was a picture perfect 60's hairy bag, with red hair, red beard, red complexion with a prominently red nose, that had nothing to do with his complexion. I first met Dave on the Restigouche in 1969-70. As a brand new ODSN, with a severe English language impairment, Dave was one of my killicks, but being of age to draw my tot, I got to know Dave real quick as he always managed to be behind me, or not far from me , in the tot line, so he'd be the first to ask me for a wet. Of course my answer was always No, but I always admired his persistence, for asking, and he was a nice, jolly, life loving fellow, always willing to help. In 1979-80, I was posted to Shelburne, Fred Molyneaux was in charge of the electronic maintenance department, and to my surprise there was Dave, now a P2, grey hair starting to appear on his head and beard. Fred assigned him to show me around. After a quick tour of the building, Dave took me to the switchboard room where we generated the 400 Hz power and there was large high power capacitor bank cabinets, that supplied the power to the different equipment cabinets. Dave started by showing me how to clean the carbon deposit off the 400Hz generator rotor, then got a hold of a long wooden handle with a big copper rod at its base, to which was soldered a 2 feet wire mesh cable with a big clip at the end. Dave was showing me the proper safety procedure to discharge the capacitors to ground before working on the equipment, so he opened a door at the top of the cabinet, exposing a couple of big fuses, he clipped the wire mesh cable to ground and touched the end of one of the fuses with the metal rod. Now I had done this hundreds of times on board ships, and I did not think that he would touch the fuse. Well lord thundering Jesus, it was like a thunder strike hit the fuse, a big flash of light came out of the fuse compartment, the copper rod broke in two, a piece of it flew over the 400 Hz generator, then the wall behind it, then the ceiling back to the capacitor bank door, to finish its course on the floor next to Dave, who was thrown about 10 feet falling on his ass his legs spread apart, with the most surprised look I ever did see on somebody, almost like a cartoon character. Dave looks at me with that surprised look and said, Oh ya you have to turn off the power first. Even though Dave could have been badly hurt, I just could not stop laughing, for about a week, every time I saw Dave I busted out laughing, it is one of those thing, you had to be there.
BUSTERS - Submitted by
Up Spirits........Stand Fast Holy Ghost. Submitted by Bob Mitchell
At Xmas...... Emergency Party to Muster... Fat man stuck in Funnel. Submitted by Bob Mitchell
Leave, Long leave for long men, short leave for short men, special leave for special men, leave from 09:45 until 1/4 to ten, if you haven't got it now you won't get it then. Submitted by John Knudsen
On the Kootenay in the early 70's the CO stuttered and he got on the blower and this is what was said"TTTTT Hear TTTTThere ttthis Is the CCCaptain, a fuck it here is the XO. Submitted by Wayne Robbins
All female MS and below are refrain from flushing there used feminine hygiene products down the heads. You're upsetting the engineers. Coxn gave me a blast until I told him it was the CO. All I heard after that was " shit! ....click. Submitted by Jeremy Preston
A young OD on HMCS KOOTNEAY 1976 was the Bos`n Mate along side, when the POOD called up to the brow and told the OD to muster the men under punishment to the Reg Office Flats ... the young lad looked around the shack to see what the pipe was.....could not find it written out.....he call over to the QM who was busy at the brow with the OOD....fearing that the PO was waiting to long for the pipe to be made......he piped....``Birds of a feather flock together REG OFFICE Flats``...... they all showed up. Submitted by Chris Carnall
On the Yukon in the late 80's, we were in Juneau, Alaska. We were having our daily fire-ex and the Bosn Mate was having issues with his tongue that day. "Emergency Stations! Emergency Stations! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire in the as;dlkfjasdf........." A big intake of air and he tries it again. "Emergency Stations! Emergency Stations! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire in the asdlfkja;dlfkjad...." After a third failed attempt to get the pipe out, he very simply states "Fuck it! There's a fire in the Paint Locker!" We howled our asses off because of the simplicity of the pipe and the fact that D4 was onboard!! Submitted by Pat O'Brien
From a female DeckO, "Belay bridge out of bounds, stripper being laid. Bridge out of bounds, decks being stripped.......aw fuck". Submitted by Kevin Kirk
While on Saguenay in 76, .... "The Buffer is temporarily out of order". Submitted by Jay Watts
The brow is now open, shore leave for LS and below ends at Christ knows when, Chiefs and PO's Christ knows when 15. Submitted by Bill Lee
1953, North Atlantic, Magnificent in a Force 8-9 Gale, Galley closed down, cases of beans tossed into steam ovens, given a blast of high pressure steam. Pipe "Hands to dinner, bring a glove." - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
Submitted by James Anderson - The Huron was in Lisbon late April and so was the NATO Squadron, I think that's when Annapolis relieved Yukon. Also remember the last night in port I was duty PO and the killick on the gangway came down and shook me, said PO you better come look at this. Went to AX and there were paratroopers landing all over. Later we slipped and went to anchor in middle of the river which gave us great seats watching the tanks shooting away in the main square. We all survived the revolution of 74.
Submitted by John Knudsen - Lisbon harbour: We were on the flight deck watching the tanks and the people running, then we heard whistling of small arms bullets and decided to retire to the mess.
- Submitted by Ted Kendell
Speaking of anchors and chains. HMCS Algonquin NATO, 1979, in a little place called Lock Ewe, not far from Scapa, dropped her hook. When it came time to lift it we found it was caught. Turned out it was an old Battleship mooring and the fluke had gotten into one of the links. As the 280s only had one anchor the CO was reluctant to cut it loose. Took almost 24 hrs to rig a bridle to assist in sliding it out. The method was successful and she kept her anchor. Note, when they discovered it was caught on something the winch was powerful enough to actually bring the bow down. Strong winch. After that little episode the favourite saying for the rest of that trip was "Loch Ewe". For anybody that was not there it almost like swearing. It got added into a lot of messages.
- Submitted by Robyn Buffett
I was there on Algonquin when it happened. The SNFL fleet anchored there overnight. When the other ships weighed anchor, that's when we realized we had a problem. The other ships sailed without us.
- Submtted by Bill Barter
I was Fo'c'sle party on that trip...one of the many MCpls or were we MS on the FX...It was every bit as described above but it took salty ol' Gordie Harrison to come up with a solution or contribute to one, and after a while we pulled the fluke out of the mooring chain without leaving an expensive paper weight or hurting anyone. I never understood what he wanted them to do until we were freed and spoke about it in the missile handling room.
HELICOPTER FLYING OFF BERMUDA - Submitted by Shane C. Walters
HMCS Ottawa 229 - We were 60 miles southeast of the tiny island of Bermuda, which lies about 650 miles east of the U.S. eastern seaboard, and which borders on the Gulf Stream's northbound flow. Something blew up in HMCS Ottawa’s ancient engine-room. She wallowed in the warm green swells like a lifeless whale, with barely enough steerageway to keep her bow facing the subtropical winds. This “explosion” was a fairly common incident in our 30 year-old destroyer, but this time repairs were estimated to take half a day. Crowds of sweating young stokers, armed with rags and wrenches, disappeared into their hot hammering spaces below. We’d been on approach to a towed-target gunnery exercise, scheduled to commence around midnight. In a suitably martial spirit, the Old Man determined that the Ottawa’s Sea King should make a reconnaissance sally to sweep the surrounding area. As “scullery slut” that month, I’d gotten to know the helicopter’s three-man crew - a pilot and co-pilot (both lieutenants), and a petty officer sonar operator - from serving their dinners over the past fortnight or so. I’d been constantly agitating for a “fam” flight. This incident, then, proved fortuitous for me; I received permission to accompany the flight crew aloft. The squat, grey, 20 year-old Sea King beckoned from the Ottawa’s aft flight deck…The ship was rolling considerably, so the pilots had their work cut out for them. We lifted off. Leaning out the yawning hatchway, I watched the hapless steamer drop away. We first bore away to the northwest, intending to over fly Bermuda. Far below, I could see the Gulf Stream’s crystalline shades of aquamarine give way to the cooler blue hues and indigo depths of the Atlantic. As we hove into sight of the island that in a few weeks would comprise my first foreign port visit, I gazed at its tiny 22-mile expanse, a jewel of green palms, pink coral reefs, and hot sugar beaches, all fringed by reefs where breakers foamed whitely. Then we headed east, the pilots’ chatter bursting in my helmeted headset above the rotor’s roar. The young pilot turned around in his seat, grinning and beckoning me forward with a black-gloved hand.
“Wanna’ take the stick, guy?” he asked.
My heart leapt with a thrilling mix of anticipation and fear.
I clambered forward into the co-pilot’s recently-vacated chair. The plexiglass “bubble” under my boots was the only protection from a 5000-foot plunge into the hungry seas below. The pilot gave me a 60-second crash course in handling the steerage: a vertical “stick” at my shoulder for yaw, and a horizontal one between my thighs for pitch and altitude. I was confronted by a bewildering array of spinning dials, switches, and blinking lights. “It’s easy…really!” the pilot laughed, unnaturally loud in my headset. Yeah right, I thought. At first he let me play with the autopilot on; whatever I did, the helo would regain her pre-programmed course once I let go of the helm. This was wild enough. Then the pilot switched it off. I can only describe this experience as riding a roller coaster, and controlling it—such were the extremes of roll and cant. It was very easy to over steer; I’d push a lever too far, and we’d plunge or tilt way over, apparently diving for the ocean. And this time if I screwed up there was no autopilot to correct me. But I had a fearless “top gun” at my side, giving me directions in the calmest of voices. After awhile I got the hang of it - sort of - and took a more leisurely pleasure in wielding such awesome control over a complex machine. It was like a dream, soaring with the albatrosses far about the empty ocean. After about 20 minutes the co-pilot returned, and I went aft again, where the petty officer explained the sonar-radar apparatus. The sweeping green strobes plotted contacts which the oceanic mists tended to obscure to the naked eye. The playful pilots then decided to have a little more fun. We plunged to wave-height, below normal radar detection ranges, then soared skywards. I realized that they were trying to make me queasy. No such luck! I have a cast iron stomach, a legacy of generations of seafaring forefathers.
It was time to return to the Ottawa. As we hove near the ship, gradually descending, I saw that our takeoff was child’s play compared to what the pilots faced in landing. We made two approaches before the “bear's claw” gripped our underbelly, pulling us quickly down with the slightest of bumps on the heaving steel platform. We were back, and I’d had the adventure of a lifetime. Scullery slutting would be more boring than ever, but hey!—I’d flown a Sea King.
"The first shows me (left) boarding the helo, a bit nervous frankly."
"The second is a pic I took of the co-pilot from the pilot's seat. The actual pilot was astern of me."
ALGONQUIN'S RACE TO THE FUELING JETTY - Submitted by Phil Beausoleil
We were northbound from Panama to San Francisco, were steaming along with Crescent, Columbia, Mackenzie, St Croix and Beacon Hill at 12 knots. We were 150 miles south of Acapulco and we noticed 2 Fletcher class American destroyers about 10 miles from us. Everyone but the Beacon Hill needed fuel to get to San Fran and it was decided whoever got to Manzanillo first would fuel first - American vs Canadian. The Cadillacs took off like a shot and were pulling away quickly. Algonquin and Crescent had to work up to speed, and the Fletchers were catching up fast. Crescent topped out at 26 knots, she was a tired old girl. Fifteen minutes later we had worked up to 36.5 knots; we had a rooster tail that was at least 30 ft high, the bow plates in 1 mess were panning but held firm. We passed all the Cadillacs and beat the Yanks into port by 15 minutes. Manzanillo had only 1 fuelling jetty so the yanks had to wait till all of our destroyers fueled before they could fuel and proceed. Algonquin DDE 224 - 23 yrs old and still fast.
SUSSEXVALE'S MISSING HELM - Submitted by Jim Dobell
It was about the year 1962 in a land called Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada. There was no particular reason for this story to unfold but may have a lot to do with the fact that one of the crew of HMCS Antigonish smuggled a case of rot gut wine on board the ship and a group of the crew proceeded to partake of the swill. One of the boys, bouncing off the bulkheads, had a great suggestion - why don't we take the helm off the Sussexvale (we were tied up next to her.) My buddy, Robert (Bob) Moses came to the call and took the challenge. He went the hull technicians shop and got a wrench and proceeded to board the Sussexvale. We did not encounter any of the crew of enemy ship; we proceeded to the wheel house and soon had the helm under my arm. Over the side of the Sussexvale we went and fell into the drink. Trying to swim with the helm was very hard but we got it under the jetty and down a cat walk and hid it. It was a twist of fate that Antigonish sailed the next day and we did not have a chance to put it back, which was our plan. We were at sea for some time and when we came back, the news was out, “Sussexvale left in helmless state.” The Sussexvale dependents day cruse did not start off well but they did get a replacement helm from one of the weather ships and all was well. The big investigation turned up nothing until one of our crew members thought this might give him a promotion and squealed. He was very soon transferred from our ship. We went up in front of our Captain and were given the punishment 30 days in the wheel house watch on the Sussexvale. This did not sit well with the higher ups and we were given 30 days in Griesbach barracks in Edmonton ... and that is the rest of the story.
Newspaper article on Sussexvales missing helm.
I FOUND A SOVIET SUB! Submitted by James Anderson (on behalf of Robert Poole)
We always chucked shit at Bob about only trying to find a clear radio signal. Robert Poole was of the Listening side of the sonar vs the Ping side. He had forgotten about this story until I reminded him about it. Here's the story as Bob remembers it.
Eastern Atlantic just prior to port visit in Lisbon. This is what happened, I didn't want to go to church service, so I went to the Jez room to listen to music on the AQA5, switched on the recorder and had a line at 50 Hz. British Nimrods had layed bouys. I told the boss, LCdr Gordy Sears, who tried to contact them. I said it was a covert operation and they wouldn't respond. Anyway, I called it a Charlie/Victor Soviet sub and sent it off to Marcom. Six hours later Gordy came down to our mess and gave me a Harvey Wall Banger, (we had hard booze in our mess at sea in those days) and said it was confirmed soviet sub. The Captain got a Bravo Zulu, he gave it to me and said it was mine. The next day we had Captains rounds and as usual I was waiting for the bar to open; the CO came in, opened the bar and bought me a drink. I kept the BZ for many years, but now it's gone and that's how it happened. It got me my P1's.
STRANDED!! - Submitted by Gerry Curry
If I remember correctly it was in the winter of 1972/3 that NATO’s Standing Naval Force Atlantic paid a port call to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Due to heavy cruise ship traffic, the fleet was required to anchor outside the harbour. HMCS Preserver, cruising close by, was asked to provide 2 of her landing craft to act as liberty boats, shuffling crews ashore. I was a young ABBN, part of the boat’s crew. Preserver dropped us off and proceeded to its own port visit at USNS Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The landing craft first made for the flagship, a Royal Navy destroyer. So glad were they to see us that a case of Watney’s Red Barrel came down the accommodation ladder before we could even secure the boats. We put the beer aside and started ferrying people ashore immediately. We stayed aboard the destroyer overnight. The next night we stayed aboard an American destroyer, and the final night, a German frigate. The next morning the NATO ships sailed.
Preserver was supposed to pick us up but unfortunately we received a message that she had a mechanical failure and was stuck in Rosie Roads. What to do?
We were only wearing working dress and it was all dirty. We had also noticed that every time we tied up in St Thomas, certain individuals started eying our landing craft, vessels much in demand in the islands. Fortunately we had a young, “can-do” officer in charge. He immediately trooped us into a clothing shop and outfitted us with a couple of changes of dapper clothing. He then set about looking for accommodations with a secure place for the landing craft. Eventually he discovered the exclusive Royal Mail Inn, on Hassel Island, in the middle of St Thomas harbour. They had enough accommodations for us all. We repaired to the island to wait for Preserver. That wait extended to almost a week - week of lounging by the pool, soaking up the sun and drinking exquisite piña coladas. I remember that one of us even sent a “wish you were here” postcard to Pierre Trudeau! Unfortunately all things must come to an end and Preserver eventually came over the horizon, bringing an end to our isolation and deprivation.
WHERE'S MY RHIB? - Submitted by Mitch Cormier
Wwere doing a Dependents Day cruise. It didn't start so well. LSBN Chuckie Bullard was over at the Boat Shed fueling the RHIB. The Huron was at F Jetty. That's across the harbour. Chuckie had his girlfriend with him. Now Chuckie didn't like to wear the dead man strap. It chaffed his wrist. So he wanted to "show off" for the GF. He had the RHIB just off shore and he hammered the throttle. Well the RHIB has barracuda gear on it. So the RHIB does, what, about 40 odd knots. His firlfriend lost hold of the RHIB side and fell overboard. Chuckie, thru the helm hard over and then he fell out of the RHIB as well. Now you got a RHIB, fully loaded with fuel, doing about 40 knots, in a circle in the Esquimalt inner harbour. Essentially an out of control torpedo.
I was in the canteen when Chuckie came up to me, soaking wet, and asked if I had a ship's hat that I could give him. I told him that I could sell him one. That didn't satisfy him and he took off. Next thing I knew, someone is at the door to the canteen office asking me if I had my camera with me. He said to go to the quarterdeck and bring my camera. So off I went, moving slow time as I didn't know what was going on. I was standing on the ladder, with 1/2 my body out the hatch looking aft, across the harbour. Since I didn't know what to look for, I asked someone, on deck what I was supposed to be taping. He pointed, see the RHIB doing circles Yea. He said that nobody was in the RHIB.
So now I am running thru the ship for a better vantage point I grab my hat and off to the flight deck, camera in hand. The Capt of the Huron was at C Jetty waiting to get picked up. He called the ship and Sgt SW Serge Drouin answered the phone. The Capt asked him, where is the RHIB that is supposed to pick him up. Serge asked him if he could see the RHIB in the inner harbour. Of course. Serge told him, Sir, that's YOUR RHIB. The Capt hung up and immediately walked off towards MARPACHQ to have a chat with the Admiral.
Eventually they fouled the prop on the RHIB by throwing pieces of rope in the water. It broke the shear pin on the barracuda gear and they were able to tow the RHIB to the Huron. The Cape got someone from the ship's company to drive around to pick him up. Other than that, the Dependant's Day Sail went off without a hitch
OUT OF BOUNDS TO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL! - Submitted by Mitch Cormier
HMCS Iroquois, must have been the summer of '82...
Did you ever wonder why there is a sign, painted on the hanger face, that says "ATTENTION! OUT OF BOUNDS TO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL!" under the ladder on the 280's that's going up to the top of the hanger, on the starboard side of the flight deck? The sign is red painted with white lettering. If you look at pre-TRUMP pictures of HMCS Iroquois, you can see that there is a non skid walk way on the Stbd side of the hanger top. Being a keen OS, and wanting to know my ship, I decided to take a walk to see just what is on top of the hanger ... while the ship is at sea.
So off I go, up the ladder. I was walking around on top of the hanger, taking in the sights and sounds. It's LOUD up there. Remember 3 stacks at the time. I walked past the center stack up to the Stbd bunny ear. Then started making my way aft again. At the time, there was a camera mounted on the Stbd side of the hanger top. By Jesus, it was pointed at ME!
What do you do when your on camera. Well sir, you WAVE at the friggin thing. As I was starting my decent towards the flight deck, the camera turned and pointed downwards, still following my track as I descended to relative safety. I do use the term "relative safety" loosely. I didn't even have 1 foot on the flight deck before there was 4 people rushing towards me. They were all very excited. Not the happy to see you kind of excited either. Rather the "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" kind of excited.
Quick thinking, I said that I was getting to know my ship. Isn't that what you are supposed to do? I pointed to the ladder. Why is that there if it isn't made to use?
You wouldn't believe the people that I had to meet with. The Chief ERA said that he is scared shitless to go on top of the hanger. There is jet exhaust up there. What if the wind blew in the right direction? I would have been toasted. I said that I felt the heat from the exhaust, but didn't go close or take a peek inside the stack. I am not stupid ya know. I got a visit with the POTEL. (Senior Radioman, Chief Sparker type guy) Boy didn't he give me what for. He said that if I would have touched any of the wires up there, I would have been electrocuted! Fried on the spot. Blown out of my boots. I told him that I didn't touch any of his wires. First off, they didn't look like they were up there for my safety, but looked more like something I shouldn't touch. He said that if he would have been transmitting, he could have fried my wigglies and that I would be sterile. I got other visits with the EO, Combat O, XO, the BIN Rat, and, of course the CO. I was CO's Stwd at the time, so it didn't take very long to visit with him.
Next day, the flight crew were pissy. They had to paint the sign under the ladder for idiots like me.
Now you know why it's there.
BRACE FOR SHOCK!! Submitted by Vincent Pyman
HMCS Assiniboine was in the Bay of Biscay (1978 or 79) and HMS Cleopatra was approaching screen from port quarter. We picked her up on the SPS 10 at 18 miles: her station was 12 miles ahead of us on our stbd bow. As she got close the officers of the watch got into a good morning chat via signal light and by the time they both noticed a problem it was too late. They went full ahead and we went full astern. The old girl was shuddering from wide open aft just before we hit. If we hadn't gone full astern, we would have cut the cleo's quarterdeck clean off. Conditions at the time were sea state zero vis 12nm with binocs. We tore a 30 ft hole in Cleopatra and had a 5-inch gash in our port anchor pocket door.
When we hit Cleopatra, Rick Tobin was conked out on his bunk in 4 mess and did not even wake up for emergency stations. I grabbed him and said WAKE UP RICK! THE FUCKING SHIP IS SINKING!! and with the claxon going off he believed me - never saw that man move so fast getting kit on and getting up the ladder in my life.
THE STORM - Submitted by Ed Gilbert
HMCS Haida - I think it was the summer of 1959. Most of our ships were down in the Caribbean with the NATO fleet. The Bonnie and the supply ship Cape Scott were sent down and we on HMCS Haida were sent as plane guard. We were a day or so out when we hit a terrific storm. Maybe the worst I have ever seen and we were in a lot of them. The Cape Scott made it back to Newfoundland. We lost our topmast and with it our radio antennas; the Bonnie lost us and word reached Halifax that we were gone, scaring Thelma half to death. The awful pounding and wrenching loosened some plates and cracked some of the ship's ribs. The shipwright and his crew used up every piece of shoring that they had on board. I remember that there was six feet of water in the gland spaces. There was several inches of water in the fo'c's'le mess decks and any unlucky soul who had left his boots on the deck had to watch his chance and grab them as they swept by. It was a real adventure just getting on the catwalks to go aft. The after (quarter deck) lookout stood his watch on the after gun deck. There were no meals. We ate bread and cereal if we ate at all. I had an 8 mm movie camera and took some film of the director deck looking aft. The storm was slackening then but the ship was still pounding and reeling. There was so much water flying you couldn't take any (pictures) looking ahead. We finally made it into the base at Ireland Island in Bermuda were we had about a months stay getting repaired. That wasn't hard to take. I don't recall if we ever did join the NATO fleet.
ROACH ZAPPERS - Submitted by Ed Gilbert
During the Cold War, the RCN ships carried Radiation Detectors. The batteries had to be replaced at a certain point - they were 300 volt dry cell type - but there would still be a lot of life left in them. Sailors become bored on long watches and their minds tend to wander. Now these ships have other life forms onboard - including the pervasive and persistent cockroach. Now to entertain ourselves and also solve this problem a device was constructed utilizing these used batteries. The battery was attached to an alternated wired board so that every two wires were hot. When the cockroach ran over it, it would be incinerated with amazing effect. The skeleton became a light bulb as the arcing occurred, glowing nicely in the dark. This was handy for eliminating roaches in the cafeteria, etc. It was noted that the wires resembled a football field and a game was born. A cockroach was caught and placed at the end of the board. Making a dash for freedom it was noted how many lines he crossed before his demise. No gambling was allowed - well maybe sippers at tot time. The pastime went on for a while until a duty officer discovered the device and pick it up. It was still live. The game was over! The cockroaches had won in the end.
THE BIG "O's" GUNS - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Ontario - While on the subject of Big Guns I enclose a photo of Ontario’s A and B Foreword 6” turrets this was taken in August of 1950 at the outbreak of the Korean War. Our Captain Hugh "Von" Pullen would clear lower decks to the quarterdeck and tell all assembled that, "Joe Stalin would tremble in his boots" and also "they will hear our guns in the streets of Moscow". (I kid you not, that is gospel truth.) We trained and exercised day and night, (star shells) fired all the ships armament, launched torpedoes, streamed paravanes, put armed landing parties ashore on the Queen Charlotte Islands. Rumour has it that some large bears became victims of the landing parties, that's another yarn. A keg of pusser rum was seen going ashore. Ontario's main armament were 3 triple 6” mounts, 5 twin 4” plus AA mounts One bright day as we steamed along, Captain Pullen announced that the Ontario had never fired a full broadside, 'that will be remedied shortly, Guns Crews Close Up". All main armament was trained to port, WHAM, thought we were going down with the punch. The mess decks were a shambles, blew all the covers of the mess lights, dishes bounced out of the fanny, dust and bits of insulation everywhere. It was a hell of a mess. (click here to see the photo submitted with the story)
HIDE AND SEEK AT SEA - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Ontario, 1950 - Dan Mainguy was a Midshipman on Ontario at that time. Some time later that summer/Fall a beautiful day, we were steaming along in the Gulf Islands, Big O, stopped, sea boat turned out, rigged with sails, compass, keg of fresh water. Midshipman Dan Mainguy, was handed a chart, our present position was noted and where the ship would be at anchor for the the night. Mainguy`s orders were to sail from the present position and find the ship. I still recall the sight of Ontario steaming off into the distance and leaving us sitting there. Sailed along for several hours and rejoined the ship. Interesting times.
THIS IS A RAID!! - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent - Norfolk circa 1952, when ashore in those times, servicemen went ashore in uniform, not some sort of civilian garb. On one occasion we asked US sailors in a Norfolk bar, if they had a car? Located one who agreed to show us around, we would pay for the gas and his drinks. He drove us for some time out of Norfolk, to a large building, which turned out to be full of black jack tables, roulette wheels, slots etc., not to mention a stand up bar and number of saucy looking “ladies”. Had not been on the premises 5 minutes, long enough for me to lose $5.00 on an Over/Under table. Suddenly the lights in the place began flashing, attendants scrambling to fold up the games and stow the equipment, when the entrance door came crashing in, uniformed Virginia State Police poured into the place, a raid, and we were found on the premises. Everyone up against a wall, what the hell are you sailors doing here? Asked a beefy sergeant, what could we say, the only thought going through our minds was, we were sailing in the morning and it seems we were in the doo doo. Sergeant tore a strip off us a yard wide and kicked us out the door.
ABANDON SHIP!! - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent, - July 1952, HMCS Magnificent was deployed with RN Mediterranean fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. Off the coast of a Greek Island Mountbatten ordered Abandon Ship!! Duty watch stand fast! At that time we had been issued with a new type of life jacket that was secured around the waist, when inflated it was pulled up over the head. Apparently Mountbatten had the quaint habit of pulling this off now and then, time for the “Colonials” to go for a swim. I went in off the starboard side. As it was July and the Mediterranean, fresh water aboard was rationed at sea and bird baths were the order of the day - when fresh water was turned on in the wash spaces - so a swim
was rather refreshing.
TORONTO WINS THE CUP - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent - It was April 21st, as we steamed east; "out pipes" had gone long ago. Game 5 of Stanley Cup finals between Toronto and Montreal was piped in to the after cafeteria via SRE. Large number of Toronto / Montreal fans had gathered there. At 2.53 of the 1st O/T, Bill Barilko scored the winning goal - Toronto won the cup. They must have heard the Toronto fans in Halifax.
SHORE PATROL - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Micmac - July/August 1954 - I was a Leading Seaman aboard HMCS Micmac DDE 214 on a gunnery cruise to Bermuda. When we arrived alongside in St. George's, as luck would have it I was duty watch, and also as a Leading Seaman I was detailed to take three men on Shore Patrol to Hamilton at the other end of the island. After drawing webbing, batons, arm bands and funds for taxi transportation, we set off in a Hillman convertible to enforce naval discipline in the capital, Hamilton. I had done Shore Patrol duties in a good many ports, traveling mostly in paddy wagons or on foot to assigned areas, this was the first time we zipped along in such a fancy manner - wished I’d had brought along a camera. Upon our arrival in the capital it did not take too long to realize we were the only members of our ship in town, and in fact the only sailors prowling about the streets, and as I had visited Hamilton before in another ship and was somewhat familiar with the town, I decided to take my charges on a little tour. As it was summer and the weather was clear and hot we stopped off at a bar I was familiar with for a cold beer. When daylight was fading and night approaching I decided to return the patrol to Saint George's; hailed another Hillman convertible taxi for the trip back; directing the driver to deliver us to the Saint George's Hotel. The Saint George's Hotel was atop a hill overlooking the harbour with a beautiful patio and bar in front. There we were, Micmac's Shore Patrol having a cold beer, overlooking a moon lit harbour and our ship alongside the jetty. Before sailing the fallowing day we brought aboard a truck load of liquor and beer, found out years later the captain owned a lodge on Nova Scotia's South Shore, booze was destined there. Few days later at sea, captain treated us to two beers and watermelon on after X Gun deck, beer and watermelon, now that had to be a Navy First!!
UNWANTED GUESTS (Alternate title - Crabs in the RCN) - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent - Fall of 1951 - Magnificent returned from a Mediterranean cruise with ports in Italy and South of France, to name a few. Within a weekend we changed Captains, Adams for Dyer, and were off to Norfolk to pick up RCAF 410 Squadron with 48 Sabre jets bound for NATO duties in Europe. Upon our return to Halifax in late November our mess G-6 was put in quarantine. Seems a Petty Officer who left the ship on our return from the Med. journeyed home and gave his bride a great dose of Crabs. Said PO told medical staff he picked them up from the heads, Portside immediately forward of G-6 Mess. Now one has to wonder at the medical training of some Navy Medical staff to fall for that nonsense of acquiring crabs from toilet seats, we all know from where, why, and whom they are obtained "Tarts" There were no shortage of them in the brothels of Italy and France. Anyway every member of the mess had to report to sick bay aboard, en masse, Tiffy lined us up in single file, ordered us to drop our pants and pusser knickers, leaving us in a very delicate situation. Now enters the MO wearing white cotton gloves (so help me its true) and carrying a green bottle of some sort of disinfectant, he stopped at each man and gave our jewels a blast from the bottle, I swear that stuff had been Stored in a deep freezer - talk about a jolt - took a week or two to find them again. Must have ruined many a night for the married hands. Very interesting times, very interesting indeed.
A MIDDLE WATCH ON THE BONNIE - Submitted by Glen E. Smith
HMCS Bonaventure - Every time I read one of Terrance Dickenson's celestial columns in the local newspaper, it takes me back to my short career in the Canadian Navy and working the flight-deck of HMCS Bonaventure. My job was to help get the fuel up from the main-fuel tanks to the flight-deck so the air-crew could refuel the helicopters, as required. My station was at the edge of the flight-deck on the after port-side of the ship. Most of the time that I spent at this station was pleasant; controlling the bowser or filter that ensured that no water ever reached the fuel tanks of the helicopters. There were times when things went askew and nerves got a little rattlely but mostly it was standing there watching the Helios' land and take-off on their way to search for real or surmised submarines - an on-going exercise back in the Cold-War Era that never ceased. It was somewhere off of Bermuda that word came down from - wherever word came down from, that all flight-deck stations would have to be manned for a night-exercise. Each station had to be represented by at-least one man. It was no surprise to me, being the junior hand, that my name was up for the middle watch or 00:00 to 04:00 The ship was in total blackness as I made my way across the flight-deck from the island to my station on the opposite side. An almost eerie feeling ensued as the soft-wind blew over the deck and one really became aware of the gentle roll of the ship. My ship-mate, whom I was relieving, exchanged a few pleasantries and then re-traced my steps back to the island and down to our mess where he was probably asleep in ten minutes. I settled-in, sitting with my feet over the edge of the deck and leaning on the small uprights that were in-place there and prepared myself for the next four hours. Far-down near the water one could hear the gentle (s)laps of the small waves on the hull as the ship continued on. One has to experience it to fully-appreciate it but when an aircraft carrier is at sea the edge of the flight-deck goes through a considerable arc of perhaps fifteen to twenty feet each time the ship rolls. Not an unpleasant feeling once your stomach has made all of the necessary adjustments to life-at-sea. The stars were out in all of their majesty that night on the Atlantic. The only artificial light was the beacon atop the mast high above the bridge on the island. It seemed so far away that it could have easily been confused with the stars. There were ship-mates some distance off at their own posts but one didn't dare venture away from one's station to converse with them. I had been sitting on my fanny for about an hour when I became aware of a faint noise in the atmosphere. It sounded like the far-off crinkling of light paper or foil, but continuous. I peered all around in the gloom trying to identify the source of this weird noise but to no avail. Suddenly, I chanced to look aloft and there in the sky was one of the most wondrous sights that anyone could ever hope to see! There must have been a billion tiny meteorites streaking this way and that, across and in and out, flying every which-way. What a tremendous sight! My almost, fifty-years of living since has not yet prepared me to give an apt description of this wondrous sight. I was in-shock for a bit. My naive up-bringing suggested to me that it was the End of the World. My neck started to hurt from looking up and with no one else on the flight deck getting too excited about it I just lay down on my back and watched this marvellous display of Nature. My soft beret cushioning my head against the hard metal. I may even have dozed off as it didn't seem too long before my relief showed up and sent me packing-off to my bunk for a couple of hours sleep. The 'show' had ended. I would think on this experience over the years and wonder about it. It wasn't until much later that I discovered that it was a result of Earth's-orbit going through a virtual sandstorm in space that makes this wonderful phenomena possible (and predictable). The lack of artificial light and the clear-weather, so far at sea, had emphasized the effect to the maximum. In retrospect, I never did find out what 'manning all flight-deck stations' accomplished that night, so long ago. But, I'm sure glad that the exercise was held.
PLYMOUTH FURY - Submitted by Glen E. Smith
HMCS Bonaventure - My life as a young seaman in the Canadian navy was sprinkled with interesting moments. Many I have forgotten but one that will always cling to my memory (as for a few moments my life, perhaps, hung in the balance) occurred in Plymouth, England.
After several weeks at sea, aboard HMCS Bonaventure, we pulled into this large seaport to spend a few days doing what sailors enjoy doing. Notably: seeing the sights (pretty girls) partaking of the local spirits and maybe, getting to know some of the pretty girls. However, pretty girls were not to my mind what they formerly had been. Being a relatively new seaman and having had to watch all of those movies that illustrate and stress the destructiveness of the various social diseases, I was leery of even trying to say hello to one. (A new seaman probably thought twice about giving or receiving a peck on the cheek from his mother upon going home after basic-training) Several of my mates and I had just been seated in a pub on the seamier side of Plymouth. The waitress had plunked down our first round and was in the process of receiving her shillings due when the door opened and in walked one of the most unfortunate specimens of the female side of the human race that I had ever laid eyes on. Many years later I still shudder when I think of this frail, emaciated wisp of human dereliction as she struggled to get across the room, opposite, where she slumped into a chair at a table with friends. Being young and very impressionable and still reeking with my “video-training” on communicable diseases, I stated, as the waitress was picking up the tip: My God, she must have V. D!” All of my mates affirmed my “diagnosis” but as I lifted my mug of scrumpy for the first sip, I was amazed to watch our waitress walk over to this wretch’s table and presumably tell her exactly what had been said and I could see by the gestures, making it abundantly plain who had said what. So much for discretion! Needless to say my heart sank into my boots as this newly-proud creature reared up out of her chair, steaming, with fire in her eyes and maybe a knife wherever they are carried, and advanced on our table. Looking right at me with burning eyes she demanded: “Did you tell Polly that I have VD?” Well, where does one go from here? Not being noted for my wit in such situations, I didn’t know whether to “wind my watch” or make a beeline for the door in hopes of gaining the relative safety of my ship. However, I guess when ones life is in danger one will tend to rise above the norm to preserve it. Still, I was totally amazed with the sound of my voice and the calm unhurried words as I got to my feet and spoke: “Yes, My Dear Lady, you are so thin! Surely you must have a vitamin-deficiency?” Peace, tranquility and a pronounced sense of relief returned to this person as she merely replied: “No, I’ve been sick a lot.” After she had walked back to her table I heard her giggle to her friends and in her rich English accent say: “The poor bloke thinks that I ‘ave a vitamin deficiency! No where was there relief felt more strongly than in Yours Truly as I received winks of congratulations from my mates for having wiggled out of a very tricky situation. However, forever after, whenever I was in a pub or any watering hole, I always tried to drink, enjoy, and keep my comments to myself. And as I got a little more mature I seemed to pick up a little more understanding and, perhaps, compassion for others of this wonderful race of ours. But, to conclude this story: needless to say, Polly received no more tips from our table on that night.
STANDBY TO M-BARE-ASS THE ADMIRAL - Submitted by Jim 'Lucky' Gordon
HMCS Ojibwa - Of all the noteworthy serials and evolutions that are carried out in a submarine, personnel transfers at sea by small boat or helicopter have the most potential to be as amusing as they are perilous. Early in Ojibwa’s commission, at sea dived, we received an exclusive message that an admiral (no names no pack drill), from Maritime Command Headquarters, would be transferred to us by helicopter for a brief tour. He wanted to see his newly acquired submarine in action. There was a flurry of activity on board. Ojibwa would look her best. We carried out what is known as a Friday Routine. That is, she was thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned from stem to stern, the corners were hucked out and all the brass and chrome was polished to perfection. We even tidied up our bodies and cleaned into proper clothing, (at sea we often wore what was favourably referred to as Pirate Rig, anything more comfortable or outrageous than the issued articles of regulation kit.) All was in order for an admiral’s inspection .
We made rendezvous with the helicopter, surfaced the boat and headed into the sea for the most comfortable course to carry out the transfer. The evolution would be carried out on forward casing between the fin and the accommodation space hatch well. That is where the Admiral would be lowered to the casing of the boat from the helicopter.
The Scratcher (Number One IC of the casing party) two badger, Leading Seaman Mike Chislette and I donned our inflatable life jackets over our cleanest submarine sweaters and made our way up and out onto the casing forward of the fin with our helo transfer gear in hand. The sea condition wasn’t bad but there was a good swell running. We had not attained full buoyancy due to our intentions to dive as soon as our esteemed guest was onboard and ushered below, so we were sitting lower than usual in the water. For additional safety, Mike and I stood down in the accommodation space hatch well facing aft in order to be able to observe that part of the casing where the Admiral would be lowered. We could also see the hand signal orders from the XO on the bridge. Once the Helicopter was overhead we would not be able to hear anything and we didn’t have the luxury of wireless headsets way back then. The hatch well was about 4 feet in diameter and 4 ½ feet deep with a short ladder fixed to the after wall to enable personnel to step down to the accommodation space hatch to gain access to the boat when we were alongside. We stood on the hatch lid that was only a few feet above water level and seldom opened at sea. The transfer scene was set.
Meanwhile, onboard the old Sikorsky H04S helicopter, the winch operator was fitting the Admiral with the horse collar. It was a padded harness type strap, much like a horse collar, that went around his back, up under his arms and was attached in front of him to the wire winch cable that he would be lowered to the casing of the boat with. The idea was that as long as he held his arms down over the horse collar with his hands clasped in front, he couldn’t slip through it. (Not a good idea to lift his hands in prayer at this point.)
The helo pilot manoeuvred his bird directly over top of us at about 40 to 50 foot altitude,…. so to speak. We were pitching up and down and rolling from side to side so he had to continually make corrections up down and sideways in the hover. The admiral was eased out and suspended on the winch wire. As they began to lower him I climbed up onto the casing with my grounding hook and stood with my feet a few inches apart and my heels at the edge of the well. Mike stepped up a rung on the ladder and wrapped his arms tightly around my ankles pressing down on my toes to keep my feet planted solidly on the casing. The bridge and casing were visible to him through my legs. A lot of very important people had been ’dropping in to visit’ and we successfully utilized this procedure several times in the past.
Helicopters can build up a lot of static electricity in the air and it can be quite a jolt to be the conduit for it when it discharges to the boat. So we use a grounding hook to short out the cable directly to the boat. It is a long poll with a metal hook on the end and a length of wire with an alligator clamp that is attached to an effective grounding point on the casing. As the person is lowered to the casing I would reach up above his head with the grounding hook, short out the cable, and draw him gently toward me until his feet were on the deck. Mike would let go of my ankles at that point and come all the way up out of the well to assist me to unhook the horse collar and immediately guide him firmly to the fin door. Next time we would switch positions in the hatch well. As the admiral’s feet grew closer I observed that his arc of swing was dramatically increasing with the pilots effort to maintain position. He began to circle my head. I actually had to duck a couple of times to avoid getting kicked in the head or making contact with him before I could ground out the cable with my hook. I couldn’t use the hook yet for fear that I would hit him with it. As the admiral swung and circled and twirled and bobbed all around me I caught a glimpse of a very frantic CO and XO on the bridge hanging precariously over the edge of the fin, both making frenzied gestures for me to grab the admiral. So I dropped the hook and damn the static shock, the next time he swung by in front of me, his feet about three feet off the casing, I reached out and glommed on with a firm all round grasp of his hips. I got him from behind so my face was buried in the small of his back. (Just wanted to clarify that.) Just then the boat dropped into a trough away from the helicopter. The sudden strain on the cable lifted the admiral higher, me off my feet and Mike almost all the way out of the hatch well. At this point Mike and I were desperately hanging on mainly out of self preservation.
Imagine the exhilarating sight. A totem pole of the three stooges with the CO and XO turning white and gasping in horror on the fin. We couldn’t see the expression on the admiral’s face but I’ll bet it was quite spectacular for those on the bridge who could.
With Mike lifted almost clear of the accommodation space hatch well I felt something snap and give way. All of a sudden I was sliding down the admiral’s legs like a fireman on a pole,… with his pants and underwear in tow. Conveniently, his pants and underwear bunched up around his ankles and prevented me from sliding right off the end. The Helo pilot corrected down. The sea pitched us up. And we all wound up in a heap on the casing. I was trying to get the admiral to stand up straight and give me some slack so I could unhook the horse collar and he was fighting me all the way trying to bend over to pull up his pants. Orders from the bridge had deteriorated to a mix of violent undecipherable flailing arms and hands and hysterically sputtered verbal commands that we couldn’t hear over the prop wash anyway. Mike wasn’t being much help either. He was pretty much useless, curled up in stitches trying to wipe the tears from his eyes. And to make matters worse it was quite cold that day, so the admiral’s introductory ’appearance’ onboard was not as outstanding as one might attribute to the enormity of an admiral‘s rank. Eventually, probably about 5 seconds that felt like an hour to the CO and XO and the admiral, we had the admiral unhooked with his pants up and were leading him to the fin door. As we were helping him to climb up the ladder into the fin we observed that his belt buckle was broken and his pants had split up the back. The helo had backed off far enough now so that we could hear him huffing and puffing and muttering sounds of discontent unbecoming of a flag rank officer as he climbed the ladder to the bridge, one hand holding onto his trollies.
Mike and I gathered our safety gear, climbed into the fin and shut and clipped the door. Once we could control our levity we asked for permission to carry on below. The reply was a very clear and resounding “NEGATIVE, STANDBY PERSONNEL TRANSFER, FORWARD CASING”. A minute later, trying to maintain a serious air of military deportment , Mike and I were escorting the scarlet faced admiral, sporting the XO’s belt, back out onto the casing as the helicopter closed in to pick him up. As soon as it was in reach I hooked the wire cable with my grounding rod, snapped the cable hook smartly onto the admirals horse collar and Mike raised his arm and twirled his hand to give the hoist away signal to the winch operator in the bird. Like the down of a thistle, up in the air he went, arms down holding onto the front of his pants and the XO’s belt. Absolute gun drill precision now. He was hoisted into the bird and it heeled and peeled away on a direct course for Shearwater Naval Air Station. As slick as a snail‘s trail. “STAND DOWN THE CASING PARTY“ from the bridge. Fifteen minutes later we were back in our comfort zone at 120 feet and the CO was busy writing the visit report. That must have been an very interesting piece of work.
The entire visit lasted less than 10 minutes. Although the admiral never once made eye contact with me, it was still an honour for this mere Able Seaman to meet him and most definitely my closest contact ever with an officer of that seniority.
That evolution taught me a couple of very valuable lessons that served me well for the rest of my career. The measure of a man has nothing to do with the breadth of the braid on his sleeve. And if you ever insist on taking yourself too seriously, don’t expose your shortcomings.
I was never again in absolute awe of an admiral.
HMCS CAP DE LE MADELEINE 2 - SUBS - 0 - Submitted by Jim Steele
HMCS Cap de la Madeleine - Here is one sub incident I recall. Probably 1963.
We had exchanged a few crew members with the sub while at sea -- took them to and from the sub in our whaler. After a number of hours doing anti-sub evolutions with the sub, the sea had tossed up a bit and when they surfaced there was no way we could safely send a boat over with their lads and bring ours back. The old man, I believe, was Cdr Beach at the time. He tried to bring it alongside the sub and the men would transfer on netting over the side. One wave caught us, lifted the Cap and when it came down it bounced off the hull of the sub. A lot of cursing and such went on but the transfer was made. Being a a mere ABWU I didn't get to finds out what happened to the skipper when he was called to the board when we got back in.
The second sub incident when I was on the cap on Anti-Submarine Exercises.
Early summer, 1963. All day long we had been practicing our Squid mortar firing using inert (sand filled) bombs. These projectiles were fired from the two, triple-barreled mortars positioned just below the upper deck near the stern. The six, four hundred pound bombs would sail over the mast and carry on for about a hundred yards in front of the ship. When they hit the water one of our men would chuck a grenade over the side and the ensuing "bang" would denote the bomb explosion. After an hour's break the skipper informed us that we would be firing High Explosives (Minol or Amatol, I can't remember) and that when the bombs were fired the mortar crew would be allowed to dash up on deck to observe the explosion. I had been working in the squid handling room (magazine) and had never witnessed (though I'd certainly felt and heard) the explosions.
We went through the routine of loading, setting the depth and placing the impulse cartridges in the mortars. Number one of the crew got the orders to fire and with six great "coughs" the bombs were on their way. We dashed up the quarter deck ladder and lined the port guard rails, all of us leaning perilously outboard in order to see beyond the Cap's bow. We saw the six splashes and a moment later felt and heard the underwater explosions. Seconds later massive fountains of brown and black-stained water boiled up in front of the ship. We cheered and slapped each other on the back. "Good old Beach, letting us watch our handiwork!"
While we congratulated ourselves on what a great bunch of mortar men we were, one of our men pointed off our port quarter and cried, "Holy Jesus!"
There, breaking the surface like a great whale in a panic, was the bow of a submarine. Then the deck, the conning tower and the whole damn thing. She had come up at such an angle we knew that that was not standard surfacing procedures. A few seconds after surfacing we could see the figure of an officer leaning over the conning tower and shaking his fist in the direction of the Cap.
The inquiry lasted several days. Beech did not know there was one of our submarines still in the area. The sub skipper had thought we were only to fire inerts that day and that the exercise had been completed some time ago. Our sonar was not up and running for the shoot. The old man returned from the inquiry somewhat ashen in appearance.
FIRE IN THE GALLEY - From the memoirs of Cdr Peter Stow, RCN, Ret'd
HMCS Cap de le Madeleine - Spring, 1964
Back in Halifax after the Southern deployment we decided to have a big luau for the wives and girlfriends on a Sunday night. It was a great success but I got a call at home the following morning at 6 am from the duty officer asking me to come in right away. He said that there had been a fire and he had been up all night. I got there about 7 am and took over the watch. It turned out that the main galley had gone on fire and burned out much of the after end of the ship. Fortunately none of the ammunition or mortar bombs were involved.
When I arrived neither the Captain nor the XO had arrived even though the fire had been out for a few hours. Apparently the XO had been called by the Petty Officer and said he would call the Captain but then went back to sleep.
The Captain was called about 6 am when he hadn't shown up but elected not to come in because he had an appointment to get passport photographs done for the family. He had a posting to La Spezia, Italy to the NATO Anti Submarine Warfare School.
I stayed up by the gangway and about 7.45 I saw a procession coming down the dock with the Admiral and various Captains and Commanders. As the Admiral came over the brow he asked if the Captain was aboard and I said that he wasn't. At the same time I could see the XO skulking behind a railroad car on the dock. The Admiral didn't say another word and they all went down the forward hatch, after which the XO came running up the gangway.
We had colours at 8 am and shortly after the Admiral and party came back up the after hatch and before we piped him ashore asked again if the Captain had arrived.
The Captain did eventually show up about 10 am and shortly thereafter got a phone call from the Commodore in charge of personnel which I relayed from the brow. The CO was told that his posting to Italy was herewith cancelled. He subsequently got posted as liaison officer at the research establishment over the harbour in Dartmouth, effectively ending his career. Although nothing was said it was his second strike. While we off Bermuda a couple of months previously we had managed to hit a submarine on the surface.
The board of inquiry started a couple of days later and they interviewed almost everyone in the ship. Fortunately I was the navigator so they didn't talk to me. Almost all the officers got in trouble, the XO was court martialed and most other officers got reprimanded for deficiencies found by the Inquiry. The XO was found guilty and suffered a loss of seniority that did not mean much since he had only just been promoted to LCdr.
We were alongside for a couple of months getting fixed and Brian Cartwright took over as CO until he was relieved by Frank French for the Southern deployment which was her last.
A LOST COMRADE - Submitted by Glen E. Smith
Life has, once in awhile, a way of reminding people of hard reality. Life at sea is, of course, no different. HMCS Bonaventure was somewhere off Bermuda when one of our petty officers drank his tot of rum, ate lunch and then keeled over dead. (From “Smoking Disease,” I suppose it would be called today, but we all smoked cigarettes then. Who wouldn’t at two large packs for a quarter?) Aside from the obvious sadness, I remember the big quandary was what to do with the dead petty officer’s body? We weren’t that far from the Virginia shore and it could have been flown off for burial at home. However, it seems that the rules about bringing a dead body into a country are as stringent as those governing the importation of any type of meat – not impossible, but rife with knots of red tape. Of course, the other option was burial at sea Regardless, until those who had to make the decision on what to do with the body did so, something had to be done about preserving it out on the warm Gulf Stream. Being on my first cruise as a stoker, I had to first do a stint of working in the cafeteria until a suitable engineering department was found for me, so I well remember the milk locker being cleaned out and the petty officer’s body being put “on ice. Several days later word came out from “Slackers” (Halifax) that the body would be committed to the sea. And so, with the ships’ company clad in #1 uniforms and saluting, the ship’s orchestra playing the Seaman’s Hymn (“Eternal Father Strong to Save”) and Padre Peebles saying the appropriate prayers, the petty officer was tipped off the stern of the ship in his weighted canvas suit. If I should live to be a thousand, I shall not forget the “plop” as the body entered the water and slid down several thousand fathoms where, I suppose, it reposes still and will until the Second Coming of Our Lord. It was a tough and poignant moment for the ship's company. Each had their own way of coming to terms with it. Mine was to sit in the cafeteria and pen my very, first poem, which somehow has survived the years.
A Sailor’s Request
(Bury me not in the cold, cold ground,
But, let me go down in The Deep
Where my bones will be washed by the water pure,
And my soul can peacefully sleep)
It isn’t the thoughts of my latest breath
That makes me fear that day.
It’s to know that when I have drawn it
That they shall put me down in the clay.
Down in that cold, unyielding earth,
Where a seaman could never lay and
Do the things that he loves to do
In his own peculiar way.
I want to be free! I want to roam!
My soul would scream out from below.
I want to know I can travel
Wherever the currents flow.
I want to see those shores once more
And the bottom of the sea.
I want to live in “the Cradle of Life”
That’s become such a part of me.
So lift it with my body!
Take it from this hole!
Let it drift in the ocean
Until it finds its “Goal.”
(Bury me not in the cold, cold ground,
But let me go down in The Deep
Where my bones will be washed by the water pure,
And my soul can peacefully sleep)
© Glen E. Smith (1965)
WHY I MISS THE NAVY - Submitted by Shane Walters
These gentlemen wore their fancy dress uniforms every day, I thought as I gazed down the polished mahogany table at the stern dignified faces. Not at all like the chaps aboard the destroyers, who looked like wolves in their working rig. No, the big boys here positively glittered in their gold stripes and shining regalia. On this particular day, however, I too was dressed up. In spite of its conspicuous lack of decoration I tried to do my uniform proud, standing ramrod straight with a properly wooden expression fixed on my face. I was awed by the full attention the Board gave me that spring afternoon as I stood before them in CFFS Halifax. I had just presented my resignation speech. The Board consented to my release and that was that. I felt empty.
Earlier that morning I had recited the speech aloud to my mirrored reflection as I shivered and shaved and cut and bled into a miserable tin of cold whiskery water. I told myself I was making the right decision. Though I had enjoyed being a seaman in Her Majesty’s Canadian Navy, I felt it was time to move on. I needed a change. Surely this new job offer was a superior career choice, offering greater opportunities for advancement and the chance to live out a more stable existence on the plush west coast? I decided I would never miss the navy.
I was wrong. There is much about those years that I remember fondly. From time to time I take the memories out, dust them off, and savour them.
One thing I miss is the spirit of wintry tradition. On Sunday mornings, at Divisions, whole battalions of men marched to fife and drum. I always strode along with a lump in my throat, proud to be a part of it all. The stamping feet, the polished brass belts, and the banging drums to “Hearts of Oak” never failed to impress even the most dispassionate onlooker. This was not pompousness; it was discipline. We drilled as one, every man's uniform impeccable, every face stony.
I enjoyed the feeling of belonging, of being taken care of. In many ways the navy, and the ship, was like a mother, always there to look after her boys. If I was broke, which was often, I had a cot to sleep in and three hot squares aboard ship or at the nearest barracks. Whenever we got into trouble and the civilian police wanted us behind bars, the MPs would smooth things out, saying that we’d be “taken care of.” Then they’d bring us back to barracks with a slap on the wrist. And I seldom had to worry about getting paid; the navy saw to it that my money was in hand no matter where I was.
I miss the travel. I could volunteer to go on just about any trip in the offing. Once we sailed to Amsterdam, Southampton, and Puerto Rico on a single stint. After rounding Portland Bill we set out one night in the teeth of westerly storms, taking “greenies” over the bow, bound for the sunny Caribbean. Then, in Roosevelt Roads, clad in a motley assortment of T-shirts and shorts (“pirate rig”) we scraped and painted the ship's entire upper works under hot Joseph Conrad skies. In the fiery evenings we lolled about on the beaches drinking rum like pirates, prowling for girls. I can’t remember how many times we crossed in a few watches from a cold Nova Scotia eve to the Gulf Stream’s egg warmth, watching flying fish and dolphins in the green sea’s phosphorescence and the stars wheeling above the darkened steel decks. On another trip we cruised the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. In all of these places I enjoyed seeing the sights and meeting the people. The countless pictures, postcards, coins, and other mementoes I kept serve as tangible evidence of those times.
It felt great to be joined by a crowd of young sailors in a bar or cafe and become involved in a conversation about something that had happened halfway around the world. I loved to belong to this group of wild-eyed adventurers, all the while able to contribute my own yarns with the best of them. Back home, our girlfriends and “civvie” buddies just sat quietly, enthralled by our experiences.
I miss that camaraderie. After only a few years’ service I knew half the Canadian and American east-coast fleets. It didn’t matter if I only met them once a year in places like Boston or Belgium; seamen relate the world over. You simply got along. There were always tales to tell and beer to quaff. Close friendships developed from the enforced captivity of life at sea. Pictures of sweethearts were handed around, problems shared, money lent. The crew always drank together aboard ship before heading ashore as a group. Even if two stiffs didn’t like each other they always stood up for one another in times of trouble. This was a form of loyalty to the uniform and the service.
There are those who would say that life at sea, particularly in the navy, is too restrictive. I say otherwise. There is nothing like the feeling of sailing out past McNab’s Island in Halifax harbour through the swirling fog, laughing at the bill collectors, the girl problems, and the cold weather, bound at a bicycle's pace for some faraway destination that takes weeks to reach. Each homecoming was like wiping the slate clean. This may sound irresponsible, but to a crowd of carefree youngsters it constituted a rapturous existence the like of which most would never experience again. This, then, is not restriction; it’s freedom, freedom to enjoy the entire world and to taste life anew.
The navy offered many small rewards for work. We worked hard and played hard. The long hours living in noisy, cramped quarters, the endless toil, and the ceaseless emergency drills typically wore down even the most vigorous old salts. One memorable night, homeward-bound off the Lizard, the ships were getting badly battered by a storm. The Commodore decided that the weather was simply too rough and ordered the fleet back to England. Our keen disappointment was somewhat appeased by the “up spirits” pipe, which signified that every man would receive a tot of “neat” rum for his troubles. Such tiny rewards acted as a tonic to an exhausted crew. And later, having completed a five-month cruise, many of us stood in line for promotions that the Old Man was proud to hand out.
There were other rewards for hard work. The officers would cook for the men during the “channel fever” period that reigned as the ship neared home after a long cruise. For breakfast we’d be served mountains of hot cherry pancakes with cream. If it was lunch they fried up huge steaks with all the trimmings. When entering a foreign port a strange emotion often pervaded the ship, a feeling of doing something important, of going somewhere special. The smiling faces betokening a break in ship’s routine, mad dashes to clean up and be ready for anything, mixed with the oddly satisfying marine smell of diesel, paint, and cooking, added an ineffable excitement.
Finally, I miss the respect. My family loved the clean uniform, its sharp creases and the polished shoes. People asked polite questions about the service in hushed tones. I felt responsible and able and different. This feeling stemmed from the clean-breasted knowledge of being a member of a proud and proven institution that represented not only the security of the country but the peacekeeping efforts of the entire world. And in turn I respected those who outranked me, their experience and ability proven by the insignias on their sleeves and shoulders. I understood just how hard they had worked for those stripes and chevrons.
My navy experience was wonderful, despite the hardships. It taught me independence. I learned to take care of myself in corners of the world most people only dream about. Nobody had to tell me how to make my bed, stitch and press, look out for myself, my buddies, and our money; I did these things without thinking, as I’d been trained. Thus the navy, in looking after me, taught me to look after myself. I learned what it felt like to be free of the petty concerns that plague so many unhappy people as they slave at their desks, anxious about coffee politics and the dog eat dog. The navy showed me broadmindedness. I could, and can, consistently appreciate culture and change as opposed to those who having never travelled suffer blinding ethnocentricities. This is not the kind of education formally taught at universities; it is, nonetheless, an education in life. The lessons I learned in the navy and the memories and friendships I gained while in its employ I will forever treasure.
MEMORIES OF THE MAGGIE - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
February 1951, I was in a west coast cruiser, March I'm aboard east coast carrier, Magnificent. Left Esquimalt on a Tuesday by CPR ship and train arrived Toronto late afternoon Friday. As it was my home I stayed for the weekend and continued on Monday arriving Halifax on Tuesday (36 hours). Upon my reporting at Main Gate, I was given 7 days cells for being AWOL. Upon release drafted, Pier Head Jump to Magnificent, she was sailing in the morning.
March 1951 southern Caribbean Sea, Micmac on station to replenish oil, hands on upper deck ready to haul the pipe over to begin the transfer. Micmac at this time was our plane guard, she would be on station off our starboard quarter, if an aircraft were to ditch she had plenty of speed to get to the crew in time and pick them up.
There was a “little” rivalry between the two ships, especially when at anchor, under the cover of darkness we would borrow one of their sea boats, touch up their paint work, and create a little mischief. In May we were back in Halifax, training aircrew on deck landings and take offs, DLTs, prior to a NATO deployment to the Mediterranean. Monday to Friday we would be at sea during the day and anchor. in St. Margarets Bay overnight. One night some of our Hands paid Micmac a visit, painted up her side and swiped a sea boat. For some reason their Hands were upset over our visit.
Battle Of St. Margarets Bay
(Between HMCS Micmac and HMCS Magnificent)
On a dark and rainy night in the merry month of, May,
Two ships were laid at anchor in old St. Margarets Bay.
Now one, she was a big ship with a thousand crew or more,
But the other was a little ship, with seamanlike ten score.
sailed around together for many a peaceful year,
Little dreaming Small'un would upset the applecart.
Then back aboard the culprits fled to shoot the breeze and spiel,
deed was soon discovered and the battle had begun,
They'd put the Small'un out it front and Big'un in the rear.
Their ammo was some ancient eggs and slightly disused spuds,
Their sortie dress was dungarees and other hardy duds:
the hour of midnight, when all should be asleep,
Cozy to the Big'un, a smoke float there to lay.
and eggs flew- through the air, to meet with angry shouts,
then the float was lighted-and the Big'un almost fried.
Someone was heard to holler, "Who's out front now with jokes "'
moral of this story is: If your a big ship rate,
The author of this poem was one of Micmac`s PO`s.
Notes: The puffs of smoke were flares from a Very Pistol.
The smoke float was secured to our anchor cable with a “Great” pusser padlock.
Certainly was smokey for a time.
CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR HMCS SPRINGHILL - Submitted by Duncan
As a native of Springhill, I can remember, during the war, one of the churches collecting cigarettes, chocolate and other gifts for delivery to the crewmembers of the ship.
A MEDITERRANEAN MOORING - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Micmac - The photo of Micmac at Naples 1951 brings back a memory. In the photo Micmac is stern-to the jetty - Mediterranean Mooring!! LCdr. F.Frewer was C/O of Micmac at that time. Naples was HQ for USN Mediterranean Sixth Fleet when we visited there. Frewer, pulled up abreast the jetty, put her astern, turned, backed in, dropped bower anchor and stopped, tied up and secured, all in one maneuver. We hear a few days later that the US commanding Admiral, sated that that was one of the finest show of ship handling he had ever seen.
FLEET REGATTA - 1952 - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent - Mediterranean, July/August 1952 Magnificent was attached to RN Fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. There were a number of ships in his fleet cruisers, destroyers, submarines, frigates and the frigate HMS Surprise. Surprise was fitted out as a yacht, his wife, some family and his staff aboard. When in harbour Mountbatten transferred his flag to the yacht. One weekend while at anchor in Argostoli Bay, off the Greek island of Kefalonia Mountbatten called for a Fleet Regatta, all ships taking part. Events were sailing, rowing competition, sea boat water jousting that was very interesting, (there is a yarn for another day here) Hands can be seen on forward end of flight deck watching the events. Surprise off to our port side. We came in around the middle in the events. Not too bad for Hands new to these regattas That night some RN hands swiped one of our sea boats, big joke around the fleet on us. The next night two or three of our strongest swimmers made their way over to Surprise and swiped Mountbatten’s Admiral`s barge, and pulled it back to Magnificent. We had the starboard crane turned out and in the process of hoisting the barge up onto the flight deck as a prize, when the penny dropped. The dirty deed had be discovered, Mountbatten wanted “ordered” his barge back, mentioned the incident of boat stealing in his biography.
THE PARTY BOAT - 1952 - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMS Dieppe LST 3016 (click here to see a photo of HMS Dieppe) - June, July, August, 1952, Magnificent was deployed to the Mediterranean Fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. Among his fleet was a LST, HMS Dieppe L3016, aka The Party boat. Dieppe would set up on a beach, each ship's company in turn could go ashore for an afternoon, swimming, couple of beers and grub. I was ashore twice, once for a beer and again as Shore Patrol. A portion of Dieppe's superstructure can be seen through threes on the left (click here to see the photo). Hands in shorts are RN. Also note the cases of beer, empties by the looks of them.
Dieppe's job was to set up a NAFFI Canteen on the edge of town and the tank deck was loaded with marquees, tables and benches, crockery, cutlery, galley equipment, countless crates of beer, glassware, sundry food supplies and all the other items necessary to cater for the Fleet. A sizeable number of men, considering that the Fleet consisted of 3 cruisers, an aircraft carrier (Magnificent), a flotilla of festroyers, flotilla of frigates, a fast minelayer, depot ship (submarines), HMS Surprise (a converted sloop which acted as the C-in-C's yacht) and accommodated Lord Mountbatten's family). The rest of the Amphibious-Warfare Squadron (A tanker and a supply ship), fleet frigates, 2 LSTs and a Mark 8 LCT and last but not least, Dieppe also carried the barges and cars for the C-in-C Flag Officer Flotillas.
PREPARE TO BE BOARDED! - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent / USSR Cruiser Sverdlov (click here to view a photo of Sverdlov)- Spring of 1953 - I was a members of Magnificent's Gunners Party had been since 1952. One of my duties was checking the magazines, taking temperatures, looking for any signs of shifting etc. I was to be accompanied by the 2nd, officer of the watch on these rounds, but was usually on my own.
March/April 1953 we sailed for the Coronation. (click here to view a photo of Carrier Row at the Coronation Review) The ship was bursting at the seams with personnel; many of them reservists. One of them a lieutenant Bruce Oland. Lt. Oland came aboard with a number of cases of beer and his private power boat, which was stowed in a vacant sponson.
As a junior reserve officer probably with little or no sea time he was made 3rd, officer of the watch. Two of his duties were magazine rounds and rum issue, I got to see him most mornings on rounds, and again at noon when I had my Tot of rum.
A mess mate of mine, Robinson, was made coxswain of Oland's boat, his duties was looking after its stowage aboard and getting into the water when at anchor, he allowed us to use it a few times, took it for a spin in Torquay, one sunny afternoon.
One morning in June, Oland said Robinson and I were to be on the Brow at 1700, we were going ashore with him for dinner. We reported to the brow to find Oland and Commander Air, Abrams, waiting for us to go ashore. We roared across the Solent, Oland in command, passing by the USSR heavy cruiser Sverdlov tied up at the Portsmouth Naval Base and took a taxi into town.
What an evening it turned out to be, restaurant in a 1st, class hotel, horderves, single malt whisky, filet mignon, baked Alaska, Drambuie, “leave the bottle on the table”!! Then off by cab, visiting a number of pubs and finishing up at a house party of ships officers and their wives. Wives had travelled over to take part in the Coronation, rented accommodations for their stay. Around 0300 we headed back to the dockyard, picked up one of our pilots that had missed the last Liberty boat to Magnificent.
Boarded Oland`s boat and took off into the Solent, Oland on the helm and in command. To our surprize he headed straight for Sverdlov (The recently commissioned Russian heavy cruiser Sverdlov, 16000 tons, at that time the most powerful navy cruiser afloat, was a mystery at Spithead. Her crew went ashore under escort, and no contact was allowed with the rest of the navy vessel's crews) and announced that we were going to board her. As I have noted there had been some drinking. We circled her and pulled up to her port ladder. Now at this point Robinson and I were the only people in uniform, the other three in civvies. I held onto a stanchion to hold us into the ladder and Oland bounded up onto the quarterdeck. The second we came up to her ladder a 20inch light from a wing of the bridge was on us: Oland was met by a dozen Russians under arms. I could see what appeared to be a 40 cal, machine gun trained on us. After a brief banter in both official languages, all of it loud, and no too friendly, Oland returned to his boat and we got the hell out of there. By the time we returned to Magnificent, secured the boat, the eastern sky was brightening; this was going to be a long day. Couple of days later while doing rounds, Oland advised the Admiralty in London was asking questions concerning our visit.
WARTIME MEMORIES ON HMCS SWANSEA K328 - submitted by Howard Grant for Robert Pearson
I wasn’t ever a big drinker, maybe a cold beer on occasion, so when given the option of a daily rum ration or a few extra cents, I took the money they offered. One day in the mess I was sleeping in my hammock and when I woke up and looked down a lot of the men were sitting around drinking something dark looking from their mugs. Someone called up and offered me some but I said, “No”. The next day all hell broke loose when it was discovered that someone had broken in and stolen rum from the seamen’s storeroom. Soon after that there was another theft, this time rum from the officer’s wardroom. All the men were interviewed one by one and asked probing questions. When my turn came I mentioned nothing of what I’d seen. Shortly after that the Captain said he had served on many ships but this was the Gawd-damndest ship he’d ever seen!
At one point I was asked if I would look after the Canteen store. It meant earning a little extra money that I could send home to my mother and I said yes. We sold small items to the men, cigarettes and candies and such, and every day I would turn over the money to the officer in charge. From the very beginning I requested that the officer write me a receipt. One day in port I was called before a Board of Inquiry. They said an audit showed money was missing and I was a suspect. I told them that was impossible. I mentioned that I had receipts for all the monies I had taken in and they gave me leave to return to the ship and produce them. I handed over the receipts that I had been given and I never heard another word. But we never saw that officer again.
Like most of the men on board ship I would write to my girl back home. I told her how cold it could be on the North Atlantic when a fellow was out on watch, day or night. Soon after I received a package. She had knit me a scarf, long enough to wind around my neck and then twist down around and around my back and cover my chest. It was wonderful and it did the trick but one day someone “borrowed” the scarf and I never saw it again. Back to the cold.
One of the reasons I joined the Navy was because I couldn’t stand the thought of being in the Army and drudging along through the mud and always being so dirty. Once aboard ship I was taught a technique for washing clothes using steam from the ship’s boilers and a bucket and a plunger which I had purchased. After that I was able to keep my clothes nice and clean and even rented the bucket out to some of the other fellows when they wanted to do their laundry.
There were always chores to be done on board ship and painting was constant. One day I was ordered to climb the mast and crawl out on to the cross spar and begin painting. I had hardly begun when I froze and couldn’t move. The cold metal deck looked so distant far below with the ship pitching back and forth. I just grabbed hold of the beam with both hands and gripped hard. The officer in charge called up to me and told me to stay put. Another sailor climbed up and helped me inch back along the spar and then led me down the mast to the deck. There were lots of chores I had to do over the next months but I was never again asked to paint the mast and spar.
From the moment I first set sail, first on HMCS Lockeport and then on the Swansea, I was constantly sea sick. There was never a moment at sea when I didn’t have a bucket close by even in the asdic room where my post was. And that bucket got used too! I got so used to feeling grim that whenever I was ashore it took a long time to figure out why I felt so different. At some point they offered me the choice of leaving the Swansea and working at a post on shore but I said I’d rather stay aboard. Later on they handed me some large pills they claimed were being tested for people like me and I’d pop some every day. I guess I was being used as a guinea pig. I don’t recall that the pills ever worked all that well and I always kept the bucket close by.
Our crew was a nice mix of fellows but there were some rough customers on board as well. One big guy had a look about him that made me avoid him whenever I spotted him. Better safe than sorry. One night down in the mess, the cook handed me a bucket of slops and told me to get rid of it. I headed out on to the deck into the darkness with the ship pitching wildly on the rough Atlantic and proceeded to toss the contents of the bucket overboard. At that same moment I lost my balance and was about to go over with the slops. I was feeling so grim with seasickness that I almost didn’t care. Just then an arm reached out of the darkness and a strong hand grabbed hold of my shirt. That big rough sailor that I had always made a point of avoiding yanked me back on to the deck and said, “ Watch yer step, Pearson”. There were a couple of lessons learned that night.
The Swansea was in Halifax when VE day was announced. I was in barracks when officers came rushing in and grabbed some of us and put Shore Patrol armbands on us all and then we drove into the city. It was chaos. Rioting everywhere, smashing of windows, looting of stores, especially liquor stores. We all felt pretty uncomfortable at the thought of trying to restore order and didn’t really do much except try to look very official and imposing. It was a wild way to spend VE day.
MINES OFF KOREA - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Nootka - On board HMCS Nootka in the late summer of 1952 while on the middle watch in the Operations Room as an AB RP-3 attending to the Sperry Radar Set. We were in our patrol lane off the Onjin Peninsula somewhat west of the island of Haeju in the Yellow Sea and fairly close inshore.
About 0200 hrs. I picked up a bogey on the radar and reported it immediately. "Action Stations" was sounded and the Operations Room crew closed up. As this was taking place I reported that the bogey had split in two and one part disappeared from the screen. McIlvoy MacDonald, the Senior R.P. rating at the time wasn't sure what happened and cautioned me to keep a close watch. Shortly Capt. Steele entered the Operations Room just as the bogey split once more and again one disappeared. I reported the same directly to the Capt. and McIlvoy.
Cmdr.. Steele asked me what I thought was happening, it came to mind that the disappearing bogeys had to be mines. At first he seemed perplexed by this, then I mentioned that our ship was about 1000 yards from where the first object disappeared. He gave orders to alter course 20 degrees to Port, if he had not done so, we would have sailed right over where the first object disappeared. I was then relieved of my position which was taken over by the Killick of my watch, Scotty Morrison.
From there on, the Capt. took the necessary action to capture this vessel. After star shell and a few rounds of 4 inch to convince the crew to abandon their effort, all of them left the junk in inner tubes.
Our sea boat was launched with an armed crew to pick them up. Six were pulled out of the water, one resisted and was shot, and another floated to a barren rock reef. He was picked up in the morning in a state of hypothermia. The abandoned junk was brought alongside in the morning and searched for documents, while we were careful about booby traps. It was then cast adrift and used for target practice by the different crews, then sunk.
The next day an American Minesweeper, with magnetic sweeping gear, blew up 3 mines to once more make our patrol zone safe. I watched one of the explosions, it was huge. If we had run over one of the mines, I'm certain the ship would have been sunk with lives lost.
I understand from Navy sources that our action is written up in the U.S. Official Navy History of the Korean War. H.M.C.S. Nootka was the only United Nations ship to capture and sink a bonafide North Korean Naval Vessel. (Don M. Jatiouk Retired RCN H.M.C.S. Nootka Korean War)
THE GREAT RUM ROBBERY - Submitted by Greg Hewitt
HMCS Saskatchewan - It was in 1964 I believe, the ship was up in the Queen Charlotte's doing nothing but hunting and fishing - a real rest break. Some of the lads got a little playful one night and after rounds they decided to break into the rum locker. They got all the tools they needed and proceeded to take the hinges off the locker. The one thing they did not know at the time was that the locker was pressurized, so when they had helped themselves to an adequate amount of rum, decided they had better cover their tracks. Problem - they could not get the door back on the locker because of it being under pressure. They had to get out of there and leave the door off. The rum was distributed among the decks and the fun began. Along came the roundsman and discovered the open hatch and the alarm was sounded. Shit hit the fan: the entire crew was stood too and a locker inspection was conducted. Lots of sippers found and lots of crew in trouble. Most of the contraband was from their own tots that were being saved for a run ashore - all gone. The ship then raised anchor and proceeded to Esquimalt - the skipper announced that the whole crew would be interacted by the RCMP upon arrival in home port. Shortly after that the rum locker robbers confessed and saved the entire crew from a miserable time. They were dealt with - all getting time in Edmonton and then dishonourably discharged. One man I know is still a good buddy and we stay in touch. His stories of his time in Edmonton is a true horror story in itself.
HMCS LONGUEUIL - V.E. DAY - Submitted by John Reid
HMCS Longueuil was in Newfie John on VE DAY. My recollection is a little fuzzy but I believe we had to anchor out as the Jetty was already crowded. The Captain "Spliced the mainbrace to celebrate and we all went to the pusser wets where the beer flowed freely. We had to call on one of the bum boats to take us back to the ship as we had missed the liberty boat - one of the guys fell off the jetty and had to be fished out. As the war was over we felt we could sample the emergency rum from the Carley Float and found it quite strong. Much to everybody's surprise we were sent to sea the next day to take a convoy back to Britain as there were still a number of U boats that hadn't surrendered. Some rather green faces when we left harbour.
IN MEMORY OF A VETERAN - JOHN FRANCIS LIPTON, DSM - Submitted by John Hawley
I met John Lipton while visiting a Veteran friend at the Camp Hill Veterans Hospital in Halifax a few years ago. 'John' introduced himself to me while I was waiting in the hall on a ward in the Camp Hill. After he told me he was onboard HMCS Haida during the war I became very interested in his adventures and life. He told me he was a 'pinger' (ASDIC Operator - SONAR in the 'Cadillac' Navy of the 50's and 60's). John told me many stories about his Naval Career and that he won DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) for his actions in sinking a U Boat that was stalking HMS Eskimo and HMCS Haida. He was disappointed that the author of the book about HMCS Haida forgot to mention him and his DSM. When I told him I married an RCN sailor's daughter and that her father's name was Gilbert E. Short his eyes lit up and he told me that he knew 'Ed and Sam' very well. He had some great stories about them and said the best (or worse boxing match) was when Ed and Sam 'duked' it out in the boxing ring in their Navy years. It is sad that these icons and indeed 'genuine' heroes are disappearing so quickly. Men like John Lipton will be greatly missed. (HMCS SAGUENAY, HMCS HAIDA)
LIPTON, John Francis, Temporary Chief Petty Officer (2851)
- Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) - RCN / HMCS Haida
- Awarded as per Canada Gazette of 20 January 1945 and London Gazette of 10 October 1944. Home: Stillarton, Nova Scotia. Lipton was the Higher Submarine Detector in HMCS Haida in 1944. LIPTON. John Francis, 2851, CPO, RCN, DSM~[20.1.45]
THE RAT PATROL (Rats on the Maggie - 1951) - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent 1951 - Magnificent was on a deployment to the Caribbean Sea and was alongside in Port of Spain, Trinidad. As soon the the ship was secured alongside the jetty, Rat Guards were secured to all lines; we were there for three days. Sunday was open ship for citizens of Port of Spain. Sailed and the next stop was Bridgetown Barbados, where we anchored out for a couple of days. It was about that time that we noticed a number of rats around the ship. During the day they were seen around the upper decks; at night while in our micks they were scurrying above us along the deck head ducts. About this time a bounty was put on the rats; a dollar a rat. Produce the body to the MO in Sick Bay and receive the reward. Not bad when a carton of cigarettes were a dollar. An electrician's mate, which checking the main deck submersible pumps came across a nest of about 10 of them. By this time we had returned to Halifax. Some hands were getting dead rats from dockyard workers and applying for the reward. The order then from the Mo was that the rat had to be warm when applying for it. A few of us hands in G-6 mess armed ourselves with the small U-clamps to see if we could pick them off - never did hit any. Finally the ship was towed across the harbour to the Ammunition Dock for fumigation. All hands were sent on leave. Before leaving we slung our micks, preventing the rats from seeking a place to avoid fumigation. That seems to solve the problem. (Click here to see a photo of the G-6 Mess Rat Patrol)
THERE'S A MOOSE IN MY TUB - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
If the aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent did not entirely live up to her name, she was nonetheless as comfortable a ship as any other in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1951. In his book, The Sea Is At Our Gates, Commander Tony German observed, "Magnificent at least had steam heat and some cold-weather engineering." What the good Commander failed to mention was that when scrubbing out the gallery deck mess during winter in the higher latitudes, soap and water would freeze to the deck. On more than one occasion long-handled scrapers were used to remove the ice. On the other hand, Lieutenant Commander Stuart E. Soward laments in his book, Hands To Flying Stations, that "when one considers that approximately 1000 bodies were for a large part mainly confined to an equivalent of a hot steel oven," he was relating to conditions in the ship during the summer in the Mediterranean. He also fails to mention that he had the use of a fully stocked bar with cold drinks in the after end of the ship. One has to wonder from their quotes if these men ever set foot in M-19 mess.
Regardless of her shortcomings, Magnificent performed her duties admirably. The year 1951 was an especially busy and productive one. Late winter of 1950 and the following early spring found her operating off Bermuda, through the Caribbean Sea, along the Venezuelan coast to Trinidad, and then on to Barbados. In late spring and early summer the ship visited Boston and exercised off the East Coast. Magnificent would remain at sea during the day and anchor in Saint Margaret's Bay at night. Midsummer the ship proceeded to England, then on through the Bay of Biscay to Gibraltar. She exercised with the Royal and French navies in the Mediterranean well into the fall of the year. While in the Mediterranean a few hands came down with polio, and as a result the ship was in quarantine for some time. We would remain at sea during the week and anchor off Malta on weekends. Once the quarantine was lifted we visited Naples and Rome, had an audience with Pope Pius XII and spent a good deal of time on the French Riviera soaking up the local culture. In late November, forty-seven aircraft and their personnel came aboard in Norfolk, Virginia, heading for Glasgow, Scotland via the Irish Sea. The trip across was bit sloppy, and the aircraft on the flight deck took a beating. The Air Force personnel turned green.
What Magnificent might have lacked in the amenities standard in today's vessels, she made up for in character - and characters. She boasted a bathroom - a bathroom in every sense of the word. It was located midship aft of the gallery deck mess G-5 and G-6 in the area of cabins inhabited mostly by air crew. It contained a number of tubs lined abreast across the deck. As this was a RN ship, the fittings were also RN, so the tubs were typically English, two feet wide and four feet deep. Said bathroom was also intended for the exclusive use of the first class Brass. Enter one of Magnificent's resident characters. One particularly stormy night, a number of us came off the last Dog Watch and were relaxing in G-5 mess before rounds. A member of the mess, one Leading Seaman Kenneth Book (a.k.a. Moose) suddenly appeared in a powder blue bathrobe and was seen heading aft with a towel over his arm. When asked where he was going, he replied, "For a bath." Book entered the bathroom, wished his fellow shipmates a good evening, selected a vacant tub and proceeded to draw his bath. Once he had sufficient water in the tub, he removed his robe and placed it on a chair next to the tub. At this point there could have been a problem. Book had a number of tattoos, which could have given him away, but as the Captain, Commodore Adams, also had a number of tattoos they were not an unusual sight in this location. Moose lathered himself up with soap and was enjoying the luxury of soaking in a nice warm bath when his Divisional Officer entered the bathroom. Book and his Divisional Officer were very familiar with each other, having met on more than a few occasions for reasons which are stories in themselves. The German Navy may have developed the snorkel, but at this moment Book perfected it. He had not been nicknamed "Moose" for nothing. His distinctive facial features included a wondrously well-developed nose, which, inspired by self- preservation, he put to good use. He slid down into the tub so that his nose just protruded above the bath water. He remained there until it was safe to leave the sanctuary of the tub, towel off, and return to the so-called lower decks.
One may ask why a hand would venture into an area clearly designated Out of Bounds, but there was a simple explanation. The bathroom on the gallery deck was much closer than the seamen's wash space on the main deck. Moreover, to use the main wash space one had to drop through a hatch in the deck of the mess down to the hanger deck, which was an exposed weather deck. After that you had to drop down an additional hatch to the main deck and through a passage before entering the wash space with its basins and showers. That is, assuming the showers had not been turned off to conserve fresh water for the boilers. Did it really make any sense to use the after bathroom, especially on a sloppy night when the seas would roll in and through the exposed hanger deck? Moose did not think so - but then, he had the nerve and the equipment to carry off the escapade.
MADEMOISELLE, THE MATELOT AND THE POODLE - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent, 1951. I was Special Sea Duty working in the ships laundry for the time while deployed to Mediterranean. Ship was anchored out off Golfe-Juan, French Riviera, after secure few Hands were ashore for a beer, wine, etc, in a local bar bar. (Click here to view a photo of the bar) At some point in time I went to the Heads, as I was returning to our table a Mademoiselle with a Standard Poodle on a leash entered the front door, she was a knockout, using little French I knew I said Bonjour. In very good English she replied. "I'm looking for someone to spend the night with me”!! My station card was Watch keeper, could come and go anytime - I replied you found him! Told the other Hands I would see them later, took off with her and the poodle - it was big enough for a saddle. Walked some distance to what appeared to be an apartment building, her place was one room with a small kitchen and bunk bed built into the wall. We discussed finances, current affairs, WW II. She was living in Paris at that time said German soldiers were well disciplined, had nothing good to say about US troops - she had many photos of German officers also one of her with hair shaved off after the war - she was considered a collaborator. It had been 7 months since I had crashed in a real bed, it would be another 14 before leave and home in Toronto. So there we are, the Mademoiselle, Matelot, and the poodle, he/she slept with my hostess. Had a pretty good night, kicked me out around 0600 after a quick coffee. Now!! where the hell am I?? Can't recall how I made it back aboard, turned to in laundry by 0800.
CAMP NO NAME, LABRADOR - Submitted by Ronald J. MacDonald
When I was on what was still referred to as a trade group 3 course in 1977 we had to organize an adventure training trip mid-way through the course. A few years earlier I played in the zone 7/8 hockey championship at CFB Goose Bay. We were billeted in the USAF living quarters and one of the US airmen told me about a fly-in fishing camp sixty-two miles back in the bush that was open to US/Canadian servicemen. CFB Halifax had no knowledge the camp existed, but let us organize a trip provided we provided a written report of our experiences. This ended up being a trip of a lifetime for most of us. The fishing was fantastic as was the cost of the trip. All we had to do was drive to CFB Chatham, hop on a Herc, pay $75 dollars for the twin otter to fly us to the camp, and cover the cost of our rations. Our boat with a 10 HP engine and fuel didn't cost us a cent. Here are some of the photos from that trip, I'm sure many here will recognize some of those who attended. (Click here to view the photos from this adventure training)
A GALE OF A TIME - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent, 1951 - Upon our return to Halifax late October of 1951, we had a change of command Commodore K. Adams, left the ship and Captain K. Dyer took command. Within days we sailed for Norfolk with members of RCAF 410 Cougar Squadron to pick up 48 Sabre Jets bound for NATO duties in Europe. It was a bumpy ride all the way, ran into two 1st class gales, had to heave to on two occasions and re-secure aircraft which were taking a beating. Dropped them off at KG 5 Dock in Glasgow. On our return to Halifax, diverted to SS Columbia carrying 27th, Brigade en route for NATO duties in Europe, one of their members seriously ill, transferred him to Magnificent's Sick Bay, and carried on to Halifax.
THE GREAT IMPOSTER - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent, April/May 1952. Magnificent was working up her air groups off the east coast, we were sailing June 2nd,on 4 1/2 month NATO deployment. My duties as Gunners Yeoman took me all throughout the ship. One fine day I was approached by a two ringer Lieutenant, could tell he was medical branch by the crimson between the two rings, he shook my hand and introduced himself as Lt. Cyr. He was a big man in stature, very pleasant, he greeted and shook hands with every Hand he encountered. We could not figure him out; never had officers aboard take any interest in us working Hands. By the time we sailed June 2nd, he had left the ship. Years later I learned just who my shipmate was, The Great Imposter Ferdinand Waldo Demara. (Click here to view the photo submitted with this story)
72 HOURS LEAVE!! - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
I had annual leave late May early June 1951, now into September of 1952, 15 months later and we are about to begin a large NATO Exercise off Denmark and Norway. Got my head down briefly here and there, (France) but not for any length of time. A 72 hour leave could mean two nights at least. What a luxury!! A whole bed to flake out in and no Wakey Wakey at 0630. Breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast, coffee each morning around 0900. Food and lodging in this days was none too expensive. Now in the UK it is off the scale. Made it home December 20th, of 1952, just in time for Christmas. All my old buddies were either married or engaged.
Photo 1 - Receipt from the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast, Ireland // Photo 2 - Receipt from the Lancaster Gate Hotel // Photo 3 - Grand Central Hotel, Belfast, Ireland
CHANGING A LIGHT BULB - Submitted by Francis Dowdall
From 13 Dec 1950 to 22 Feb 1951 I was stationed At Newport Corners Radio Station near Windsor NS. I was a maintenance electrician whose main job was to replace burned out light bulbs on the towers. At that time there were three 600 foot towers and two 300 foot towers. The three 600 foot towers formed a triangle. A large steel cable in each tower supported the transmitter which was in the middle of the triangle supported by the cables. Climbing the 600 foot towers hand over hand was exhilarating! There was a platform every 100 feet which provided an opportunity to rest. The first time up, I was accompanied by Leading Seaman Bill Bruce. After we replaced a bulb or two he told me the best way down was to drop the bag with the burned out bulbs and then slide down the cable. I watched him do it. It looked simple, just grab the cable with your hands and your feet. I tried it and I hung on so tight I was turning with the spiral in the cable and by the time I reached the 500 foot level I had worn a hole in both of my boots and my gloves were a little thin. I climbed the rest of the way down and never did attempt the cable ride again.
HEART OF THE FLEET - Submitted by Nick Day
The motto "Heart of the fleet" for HMCS Preserver didn't come about until 1985 (86?). I was Capt(N) Basil Moore's steward and I recall one afternoon he was looking through a book that had a brief history of our Canadian Ship's. The last 2 pages were of Preserver/Protecteur and he realized that both did not have ship's motto's. After a bit of investigation it was confirmed that there wasn't and he decided to have a contest throughout the Officers and crew to see who could come up with the best Motto. It was Clyde Sheppard who was a well liked Leading Seaman Bosn at the time who came up with the motto.
RECOLLECTIONS OF AN AIR ELECTRICIAN - Submitted by Frank (Francis) Dowdall
I served as an instrument and electrical maintainer on VF871, VF870 and VX10 squadrons at Shearwater. I also served as a maintainer at Shearwater Aircraft Maintenance Department (AMD) in the Battery Shop, Z2 Hangar, Electrical Workshop and the Instrument Repair Shop.
In January 1951 I was a Leading Seaman Electricians Mate (LSLM) at Newport Corners Radio Station when a call came from ‘on high’ for volunteers to be trained as aircraft electricians to help fill a shortage. I was one of 13 LM’s to answer the call. We attended the Electrical Aircraft Servicing Course. We spent 5 weeks at the Electrical School in Stadacona and on 2 Apr 1951 were drafted for airfield training to Shearwater (SNAM which became NAMS). We were all LS or senior AB’s, jolly jack tars of at least three years and didn’t take kindly to being treated like the rest of the Ordinary Seamen taking their basic aircraft training such as wearing #3 uniform to class and marching from class to lunch on the base. We survived and on 2 May 1951 I was drafted to 30th CAG 871 Squadron to work on the SeaFury, an aircraft that presented some challenges to an electrician. It was during my early days on 30th CAG that I met and learned so much from such talented electricians as Jake Leonard, Don Drinkwater, and Sid Snelling, to name a few.
The oil pressure indication system included the ‘banjo’ unit (named because of its shape) which was fitted behind the instrument panel. One had to go head first into the cockpit, close your eyes and visualize the unit to remove a couple of nuts and bolts, disconnect, remove and then replace. It was a challenge and I carried out the procedure many times, sitting on the tarmac in Shearwater in hot and cold weather, Rivers in the freezing cold and on the Magnificent in hot weather in the calm Caribbean and on a rolling deck on the Atlantic. It could be a frustrating experience and I am sure there are still a few electricians who remember it well. I had a couple of close calls with that big 5-bladed prop which taught me to pay close attention when working on the aircraft while the engine was running, especially in the dark.
I wonder how many from Shearwater remember those days when everyone waited for the weekly ‘beat up’ of the base by those daredevil SeaFury pilots. We stood on the roof of Z2 or #1 Hangar and looked down on the aircraft as they whizzed by. Just think, many of those young daredevils became very senior officers in the RCN/CF. Bravo Zulu to all of them!
On 30 Jan 1957, I was drafted to VF870 Squadron to work on F2H3 Banshees. The Banshee kept electricians busy. There was always lots of work on the autopilot (P3 made by Bendix). The main amplifier was full of vacuum tubes and hard landings played havoc with the tube filaments. The amplifier was accessed by removing a panel on the bottom of the aircraft. It had many cannon connectors and was a real pain. Somehow, repairing the P3 became one of my main assignments.
A heart throbbing experience occurred for me after I had worked all day in the cockpit of aircraft 126313. I don’t recall what the problem was but I had to have the ejection seat removed to carry out the work. The next day, 31 May 1957, the aircraft was being flown by Lt Derek Prout (RCN) in a fly past. The fly past of four aircraft was to show appreciation by the pilots for the diligence and hard work of the maintainers and the fly pasts flying time was to push the month’s total flying hours over 300 for the first time with the Banshees. We were all out on the Tower hill watching when Lt Prout came in low and fast and then began a slow pull-up. We watched in horror as the starboard tip tank released over the Clarence Park area. Then the starboard wing separated, the aircraft rolled to starboard and crashed into McNab Island killing Lt Prout. My first reaction was ‘what did I do to that aircraft?’. Of course, the aircraft logs were impounded and I waited on pins and needles until an investigation determined that there was a problem with fatigue failure (cracks) in the wing lock fittings, a problem we had apparently inherited from the USN.
I was also there on 27 Aug 1957 when Banshee 126306 piloted by Lt Ed Trzcinski (USN) was in a collision with an Avenger flown by Sub Lt Freeman (RCNR) of VC921 killing both pilots. PO Ross Steene and I were running towards the scene of the accident when the ammunition shells from the Banshee started exploding. We both dove into a shallow ditch alongside the tarmac. I found the watch of one of the pilots and it was still working (No, I didn’t keep it!).
One day while working on a P3 amplifier in the belly of the aircraft, I noticed a small black box which I had never seen before. I brought it to the attention of the AEO, Lt Peter Wiwcharuck, and he advised me to keep the discovery to myself. Seems, it was believed, that some pilots found it very exhilarating to really push the Banshee to its limits and thereby overstressing the aircraft. The black box was a recording accelerometer which was being read by the AEO after suspected flights.
An interesting experience on the Banshee was paralleling generators, a procedure which required the electrician to be in contact with the cockpit via intercom while working under the aircraft with the engines running up to 100%. The fact that the aircraft was known to have jumped the chocks on a couple of occasions made one pay attention during the procedure. It was a bit nerve-wracking doing this on the bouncing deck of the Bonaventure.
Another tricky maintenance procedure at sea was carrying out an undercarriage retraction test, especially in rough weather. How many times did we see the log entry ‘Retraction test to be carried out in the air’? This could cause a bit of heart-thumping for both the pilot and the maintainer. I don’t recall that we ever had an accident resulting from an in-flight retraction test. I always got a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when working in the cockpit of the Banshee and the nose of the aircraft was extending over the edge of the flight deck and we were bouncing up and down. The Banshee was a good aircraft to work on. It was an interesting period in my career and I enjoyed the experience.
On 20 Aug 1959 I was drafted to VX10 where I worked on Banshees, Trackers, Sea Kings and the Dakota. I spent 5 years at VX10 spending lots of hours on test flights and liking the ‘flying pay’. Some interesting projects I worked on included the PB20 autopilot (Tracker), rock and roll box (Tracker) and MK44 Torpedo (Tracker). On some aircraft, engagement of the Barometric Altitude Mode of the PB20 caused the aircraft to oscillate in pitch with the oscillations increasing in intensity as the autopilot remained engaged. I installed a string and weight (makeshift inclinometer) in the passageway between the front and rear seats. We flew trying to create the malfunction and then I recorded information about the rate and amount of pitch while crouching in the passageway and hanging on for dear life. On one occasion the aircraft started to oscillate, the pilot (‘Stretch’ Arnold, I believe) kept the PB20 engaged until I was convinced the wings were going to fall off the aircraft. It was a scary ride! The problem was rectified when a small spring in the Altitude Controller was replaced with one of a different design.
Carrying out accurate MAD compensation on the Tracker required very precise rolls, pitches and yaws, a very difficult task. CPO Earl Slack and PO Lloyd Simpson (electricians) submitted a suggestion award which resulted in the development of an automatic MAD Compensator. A modified Navigation Lights Control Box from the Banshee was used as a prototype and it allowed the pilot to do precise movements. I made a lot of flights in Trackers doing MAD Comps making sure that the unit caused 10 degree , etc movements of the aircraft when the unit was selected to 10 degrees, etc.
The project was very successful and a black box was developed to carry out automatic MAD Compensation on the Tracker and, I believe, the Argus.
The MK44 torpedo project was carried out by VX10 for the USN as we had an aircraft configured to carry torpedoes under the mainplanes. On 19 Jun 1962 we deployed to Patuxent River, Maryland where about two weeks were spent installing instrumentation to measure for stress, etc during catapult launches and arrested landings. I did six trips and this was, indeed, an eye-opener for this young maintainer. On my first launch, there was some confusion in the cockpit as only one pilot had attended the pre-flight briefing. The original plan was to be catapulted, make a circuit and land but at the briefing it was decided to catapult and land immediately. Apparently, this info was not shared up front. As one pilot tried to reduce revs and land, the other was trying to increase revs and go around. The aircraft fitter watching and listening on the ground was convinced that both engines cut out for a second as the dance for the controls was carried out in the cockpit. Once again, this young maintainer’s heart was pit-a-patting.
While I was on VX10, the Sea King was introduced into the RCN. I spent from 27 Jun to 23 Sep 1963 in Key West on electrical systems courses. Between Christmas 1963 and New Years I was onboard Assiniboine assisting Sikorsky contractors with the final installation of the haul down system, a system that has been copied by several of the world’s navies.
On 06 Jan 1964 I went to Stadacona, completed the Trade Group 4 course and on 10 Jul 1964 was drafted back to Shearwater Aircraft Maintenance Depot (AMD). My last job as a technician was in the Instrument Repair Shop. On 15 Apr 1966 I was promoted to Commissioned Officer (a naval rank which no longer exists) and on 29 Jun was drafted to AMD as the Avionics Electrical Officer. I also served as VS880 Aircraft Maintenance Officer, Staff Officer Avionics Instrument/Electrical at MARCOM/MAG, finishing my career in uniform as a Computer Programmer at MARCOM. I missed the ‘hands on’ maintenance but I did enjoy the rest of my naval career. I still maintain to this day that ‘there was no life like it.
NAVAL AIR RECOLLECTIONS - Submitted by Frank (Francis) Dowdall
Before I saw the light and transferred to Naval Air to work on aircraft, I was an Electricians Mate (LM) on the Magnificent. On 3rd Mar 1950 the ship anchored in Quantanamo Bay. As soon as leave was piped, I was among a group of LMs catching a boat ashore and heading for the PX to grab a cold one. While at the PX we joined up with some US merchant sailors and swapped a lie or two and when it came time for ‘last call’ we were parting as new found friends. We departed next day, visited Havana, participated in Operation ‘Portex’ with US, British and Dutch fleets and on 30 Mar headed for New York, arriving at Pier 26 on 7th Apr for Easter weekend. On Easter Sunday, I was at Rockefeller Centre when I came face-to-face with one of the US merchant sailors from the PX . You can imagine our surprise at such a coincidence but we had places to be, shook hands and went on our way. We arrived back in Halifax 14th Apr. After a busy four months of DLTs, we sailed 23rd Aug on a three month European cruise which took me to more places in a 3 month period than in any other 3 month period of my 29 years spent in RCN/CF. The cruise included a stop in Gibraltar on 6th Nov. Once again , it was into the ‘rig of the day’ and off for a cool one. In the first bar that I entered there was the same merchant seaman sitting at a table having an ale. Again, what a coincidence! We spent a couple of hours reliving the experience, shook hands and departed, never to meet again. I have forgotten his name but ‘what are the odds?’
While on Maggie I spent 7-8 months as a flight deck electrician where I was intimately exposed to the world of Naval Air. One of my more exciting jobs was being the operator for the large fixed crane aft of the island. The operator was required to be stationed in the crane during aircraft recovery operations. It was also my station for leaving and entering harbour, much better than being lined up on the flight deck. The crane was used during ‘refuelling at sea’ operations to keep the hose from flopping around. It got a bit stressful when the ship was heaving up and down in rough weather. On one occasion I lowered a seaman with appendicitis into a barge for a trip to a hospital in Gibraltar. I hoisted/lowered a lot of aircraft that were unable to fly on or off the ship. The ship’s jeep, staff car and heavy stores were loaded/offloaded using the ship’s crane. It was a busy and interesting job. I often had my camera with me during aircraft recovery and when entering foreign ports. On one occasion I had to duck down inside the crane housing when it became obvious that a Firefly aircraft was heading into the crane. When the crashing and banging stopped, I popped my head up and snapped a photo as the crash crew was climbing on the aircraft to release the pilot from the cockpit. Later the same day, the wing tip of another Firefly hit the crane housing just below my feet. These events occurred on 19 Nov 1950. It was a bad weather day but the aircrews were searching for survivors of a USAF B29 that had crashed a week previously. The survivors were picked up by HMCS Haida that day. The next day an order was issued stating that the crane operator would no longer be positioned in the crane during recovery operations. From that day on, the crane operator had to stay in the island and be available as required. To my knowledge, I was the last crane operator on Maggie to be positioned in the crane during aircraft recovery operations. I sailed on Bonnie several times but am not aware what the policy was on that carrier.
I don’t remember the date but I had transferred to Naval Air and was onboard Maggie servicing VF871 Sea Furies when there was a “clear lower decks” to the flight deck for a word from the ship’s CO. He spoke about the dangers involved in flight deck operations both day and night and made the statement “There are only two types of men, the quick and the dead. I only want the quick on my flight deck”. He then announced that during flying operations no person involved in those operations would be allowed to partake of the daily ‘Up Spirits’ event. From that day forward, those personnel would receive their ‘tot’ at a rum mismuster to be held in the rum locker flats in the evening. Usually, a junior ‘Subbie’ pilot was detailed to be in charge of the rum issue and it wasn’t too difficult to distract him enough to open the spigot and serve ‘spillers’ to those who wanted it. This procedure caused some discontent initially, but it soon became a very welcome time of the day. I am sure there are ‘old hands’ out there who have some fond recollections of rum mismusters on the Maggie or maybe not!
Speaking of ‘tots’, I will never forget my first rum issue. I was underage and not entitled to the daily issue but it was a ‘Splice the Main Brace’ event (2 tots in one) and everyone was allowed to partake. It was my turn in the lineup, the Master-at-Arms (MAA) asked me if I wanted it ‘neet’ (straight) or with water. I said ‘neet’ and started to walk away as I intended to add Coke. The MAA stopped me and said “You want it neet – drink it sonny” I protested to no avail and proceeded to drink as the tears rolled down my cheeks while the MAA seemed to get a chuckle.
One of the items that seemed to be always in need of repair on the Sea Fury was the attitude light on the port undercarriage. It came on to inform the Landing Signals Officer (LSO) at night that the undercarriage was down and locked. The Sea Fury engine was started using a Coffman starter which held several cartridges. To prevent an inadvertent engine start in the hangar, the cartridges had to be removed from the starter prior to moving an aircraft into a hangar. There was a method of testing the starter circuit without cartridges which was carried out during the Daily Inspection (DI). On one occasion, I had just completed the repair of an attitude light on an aircraft in 110 hangar and stepped back to admire my work with my back to that big five-bladed prop. Suddenly, there was a great bang and the prop went into action. The aircraft had been brought into the hangar with cartridges in the starter. The engine basher was doing his DI and when he checked the starter it truly worked. I bolted straight ahead under the port wing (thankfully, the prop was at my back) and walked around the hangar about three times before stopping to talk to one of my supervisors, Gerry Brushett. We had been down South, I was well-tanned and had been tagged with the nickname ‘Ebony’. Gerry looked at my ashen face and said “Frank, you really are a white man”. I can tell you that event was both hairy and scary.
I was the Duty Petty Officer at VX10 one Sunday in the early sixties when I accepted delivery of a large crate. It was marked in stencil, as I recall, ‘MK50 depth bomb’. I thought it strange that the Squadron CO, XO and several officers were in on a Sunday and not flying. Eventually, I advised the CO that this crate had arrived. He was rather upset that he wasn’t the one to accept delivery as that is why he was there. I was advised to forget what I had signed for. At the time, the subject of nuclear weapons on Canadian soil was a political hot potato. At least one of the VX10 Trackers was modified to carry and drop a nuclear depth bomb. I had accepted the dummy weapon which was used in a VX10 project carried out in a southern USA desert in New Mexico, I believe.
TRUE INTEGRATION IN THE CANADIAN FORCES - Submitted by Frank (Francis) Dowdall
This is a tale about a truly integrated service person in the 70’s. I was employed in Computer Systems at MARCOM HQ in Halifax and from 27 Jun 77 to 31 Aug 77 I was seconded to Camp Borden as incremental staff (Standards Officer) for Basic Officer Training for Officer Cadets. From 1948 until the time of integration (late 60’s I believe) I was RCN (hence the beard in the attached photo). I was employed in Naval Air at Shearwater at the time of integration so I changed my cap badge and Command Badge from Naval to Air Force. A close look at the attached photo shows my RCAF hat badge. When I arrived in Camp Borden I was outfitted with a combat uniform and assigned a jeep for official duties. So with my Navy beard, RCAF hat badge and Army combats, how much more could one be said to be fully integrated? I spent two weeks in the field training at Camp Borden prior to the arrival of the cadets. It was very interesting. I shared a two man tent for accommodation and I was glad I had a beard because it meant I didn’t have to shave in the cold stream near our tent, although that is all we had to wash with. I learned how to use a ‘grunt pole’ for bowel evacuation and I learned how to repel down the rocks at Meaford near Borden plus a lot of other Army jobs. As well as being interesting, it was an eye opener into the life of a soldier.
THE SINKING OF U-845 - From a WW II diary (name withheld at request of family)
HMCS St. Laurent H83, Fri, 10 Mar 1944 - Lovely day today, nice day for a submarine and we really got one. Got contact with it about noon and stayed with it until 4 o' clock then went in to attack. Corvettes dropped first pattern but all they got was a whale. Then we went in and dropped a ten charge pattern but with no luck. We then tried a creep attack with the Forrester going in first and we following them but still didn't bring it up. Still kept contact with it until 9 o'clock when she surfaced and that's when the fun started. She started to shell us but with no luck and our 20mm's cleaned the deck and our 4.7 started to open up and made some hits. I was very lucky. My gun wasn't firing so I stayed up on deck to see the fun. We damaged her quite a bit so we closed in to ram her but she dodged and tried to ram us instead but our after gun hit her conning tower off at the range of about forty feet. Boy what a racket and what a fight but we got her all right. The AA gunners had a lot of fun, they kept pouring the lead into her until conning tower was red hot. The boarding party was sent over but she had sunk so they picked up 5 survivors instead. The Swansea and Forrester picked up some too, but that's all they did do, they couldn't get in to shoot at all so old "Sally" got all the credit. It was a very big sub so it is believed she was a supply sub she was the U-82 (note: later found to be U-845). She carried two 5.5 guns which were knocked off early in the scrap, and 6.20mm with which she sent a few over our ship which didn't do any damage only made some of the boys duck. Lots of swearing and yelling going on and it was lots of fun for us but not for those poor devils, there were only about 45 survivors out of about 125, two of the five we got were hurt, one with a broken leg and shrapnel and one with a broken arm.
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY - Submitted by Frank (Francis) Dowdall
I am not sure when I first received this Christmas card from my very good friend Tom Sawyer but it was probably in the early 60’s. We were both ship’s electricians but I chose to transfer to Naval Air and there was always a running ‘banter’ about the virtue of ‘fishheads’ vs ‘airdales’. We passed this Christmas card back and forth for many years with the understanding that the last man standing would get to keep the card. That has turned out to be me as my long time friend left us last year. As the attached obituary attests, Tom had a long and interesting career in the RCN. I am sure there are lots of old ‘hands’ who visit your online site who will remember Tom. Cheers and Merry Christmas. Frank Dowdall
A PRINCESS WAS BORN - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
August 15th, 1950, HMCS Ontario was steaming into Seattle Harbour saluting guns firing a salute to mark the birth of HRH Princess Anne. Order came down to Splice the Mainbrace, (extra tot of rum) to mark the occasion. As I has just turned 20 I received the extra Tot of rum, remainder of day a bit of a blur, managed to get ashore, a bit wobbly.
THE COMMODORE AND THE PICKLED EGGS - Submitted by Brian Stewart
I was on a course along with two others from our ship and the ship left for Bermuda, we finished the course and celebrated that night at the Fleet Club drinking draft and gobbling down the pickled eggs and wieners next day we flew down to Bermuda and I was last one on board the ONLY seat left was right next to Commodore Boyle went went on telling me about his hero Admiral Budgie (Budge) (I had never heard of him before nor since) and then he asked me what officer influenced me to join the navy!?? I did not want to talk being hung over as hell and my tummy was not feeling so well from those eggs last night!! I turned and opened my mouth to answer him and all the gas in my gut came out in a HUGE BELCH and it went on for at least 10 seconds (but seemed forever) He was freaking shocked! So shocked he got up and headed aft I got up and headed forward and asked the pilot if I could go and stay in the nose cone till we landed. He told me no because it was deemed to dangerous if the wheel dropped. I told him what happened and he said "fuck it get in there don't come out till I come for you after we land." He said he would keep the bus for me (which he did). When we went aboard the ship Boyle said something nasty to me and when he went below Commander Norton asked me what that was all about and I told him the above and he said not to worry keep your head down and leave Boyle to me he said. Commander Norton was a great guy!!! Boyle saw me next time three years later and called me by my name! (I doubt he ever forgot it.)
AN ONTARIO CHRISTMAS - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Ontario, Christmas Eve 1950 - I found myself 3000 miles from home alongside in Esquimalt BC. My first Christmas away from Home and hearth. About 20 of us were in a mess below the main deck, which meant there was no traffic passing through. Secure long past, supper over and dishes cutlery stowed away. A couple of Hands managed to get their hands on a large jug of Pusser Grog (Rum & water) two or three quarts at least. They tossed it back during the evening, long past out lights, 2100 (9.00 PM). Around 2400 a disagreement of some sort erupted and a fight ensued. Christmas morning we were scrubbing out the mess deck cleaning up blood and snot, one Hand in the base hospital with fractured skull (the jug) and a broken arm, another in base cells. I had four more Merry Christmas's to go!!
WARTIME MEMORIES FROM A SAILOR'S DAUGHTER - Submitted by Marcia Sagadore (daughter of Thomas Elwood, HMCS Swansea)
As you know, Halifax is where all the ships would gather to form convoys to go across the North Atlantic. My mother told me there were so many ships in Bedford Basin and the Harbour that it looked like you could just step from one to the other. All the sailors in Halifax from that era used to hang around my family's stores on Gottingen Street - Joe and Mike Resk's - for the soda fountain, juke box, food and friendship. That's how my mother, Annie Resk, met my father. My grandmother, Mrs. Resk, would always be taking the young sailors home to feed them - they became like family. I grew up in the stores. I remember going down to the ship to greet it whenever it came back from away. We would go on it, eat all their food, play in the big gun turret, and the sailors would give me all the souvenirs they would bring back from wherever they were - shell necklaces, sombrero hats, foreign money. I'm glad to have the memories, but it makes me sad now - another time, another era.
VISIT WITH THE DENTIST - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
June 1953, HMCS Magnificent and other RCN ships departed Portsmouth England, after taking part in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We were steaming into a force 8-9 North Atlantic Gale, topped up Sioux's fuel and proceeded west. During our stay in England I was having a problem with my teeth. We carried an Army Captain dentist and his assistant sergeant, dentist advised my wisdom teeth were in poor condition and were to be removed during our return to Halifax. The day of my appointment Magnificent was in the grip of the gale, rolling and plunging through the seas. Showed up for the appointment at 0900, sergeant advised dentist was not feeling very well, had me take a seat in the chair and prepared me for the removal, he then left to fetch the dentist. The dental office was starboard side just forward of the Ward Room and cabins. Dentist showed up, had me plant my feet on the bulkhead, and removed both teeth in less than a minute then disappeared. Sergeant tidied me up and sent me upon my way. To this day I swear the Captain did the procedure in under 60 seconds.
AN AUDIENCE WITH THE POPE - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
ROME, Oct. 6, 1951 -Two hundred and thirty-four officers and men from the Magnificent and Micmac made a pilgrimage to the Eternal City last week and were received by the Pope.
Rising at 5.30 am, in Naples the naval pilgrims were sped Northwards by electric train through the lush field of Southern Italy and through long tunnels penetrating the Apennine mountains. In Rome, buses took the group to the Basilica of St. Peter. The Canadian Naval men assisted at Mass in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, where each Pope lies in state after his death. Father James Noonan of Toronto, the Magnificent Chaplin, celebrated the Mass.
Following lunch at the American Catholic Club in Rome, the Canadians boarded buses for Castel Gandolfo, the Pope`s summer residence. Here the Canadians entered a courtyard to join an international assemblage of pilgrims, about 2000 in all. Pius XII appeared on a balcony and the courtyard rocked with the volume of the shouted greetings. He spoke first in Italian to the many groups from all over Italy. Then he addressed the visitors from France in their language.
THE POPE'S MESSAGE
After speaking in English to a group of Royal Navy officers and men, the Pope said, "To the group of Canadian sailors from H.M.C.S. Magnificent and Micmac: Your vocation enables you to see a large part of the world. An old proverb has it that he who travels far knows much. This should be true. It is not always so. May this thought be with you in all places at all times. All men form the one great human family. It should be you ambition to unite these more closely with the bonds of love and kindness. We also send our blessing to your dear ones at home with the prayer that God`s love and mercy may be with them always. We bless all religious articles you may have with you"
He then carried on to address various other groups at the audience. At the end he had spoken briefly in seven languages . An official of the Vatican staff estimated that there had been visitors from 50 different countries at the one audience.
The Canadian Naval men owe a great deal to two friends in Rome. Msgr. Hugh O`Flaherty, an official in the Holy Office, arranged the audience and accompanied the Canadians to Castel Gandolfo. Father Thena MacEachen, a Cape Breton Islander who has been in Rome for some years in the Franciscans of the Atonement, journeyed to Naples from Rome to join the group and served ably as guide, interpreter and good companion to all.
SHANGHAIED IN ROME - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
Naples, Italy, Oct 5, 1951 - Magnificent had no sooner arrived alongside in Naples when I was accosted by the RC Padre, Father Noonan, who advised (Pressed) that I was going to Rome the following day and to cough up $20.00 to cover the trip. I told the Good Padre that as far as I knew I did not have any plans on traveling to Rome, Father Noonan was either from the Franciscan or Jesuit order, he straightened me out on my plans for the day in Rome. What a day it was, traveled by electric train through the Italian country side past the demolished Monastery of Monte Casino and on into Rome. Toured Saint Peters and the city, had an audience with Pope Pius XII at his summer residence, Castle Gandolfo, learned later the Pope asked an aide who the four ringer was standing alongside AB Sullivan?? Day in Rome ended that evening with a great Italian dinner and all the Chianti one could drink, attached photo taken that night, I`m on left, photographer had a couple too many, messed up photo. Have never forgotten Father Noonan and that trip into Rome.
MY TIME ON HAIDA - Submitted by Neil Bell (for Willard Cawley)
1960-1961 ABEM2, 43070-H, Upper Deck Stoker - I slung my mick starboard side ,forward, lower messdeck conveniently over the "fanny" right next to the forward "scuttle" - a choice location. I was onboard during a hurricane when we came close to losing her. Our Captain, who was much respected by the crew (he came up through the ranks) did a fine job of pulling us through, unfortunately the same could not be said for the two fishing trawlers that shared this experience with us. Uunable to assist - the Jimmy & Sisters and the Marjorie Beryl sank with the loss of all crew. We limped back to Halifax, only to be directed to Sorel, PQ. for major damage repairs. If my memory holds true, we experienced waves of over eighty feet. God Bless Haida !
FIRE FIRE FIRE!! ... Well kind of - submitted by Barry Lake
HMCS Bonvaventure circa 1967-68. I was a Lt in the Ops Room but also the ship's classified books (CB) officer. One day, my assistant and I were busy trying to burn some replaced pages of CBs in the little stove they had for that purpose in a sort of cabin with a door along the 4 deck flat forward of the wardroom area, somewhere along there. The little stove had poor draft and it was hard to get any sort of fire going. Much smoke from back-draft. This time we heard some commotion out in the flat, so I opened the door and there was a whole damage control party holding fire hoses and wearing Chemoxes, apparently trying to locate the "seat of the fire". Oops! Slam door closed again. So my assistant and I tried to put out the half-going, smoking badly, paper fire as best we could to reduce the smoke level. Once we had the charred classified paper in a bag and would leave no obvious evidence, I opened the door again and the whole gang was still there, hanging onto their hoses, looking determined to save the ship. So my assistant and I slid out of there and closed the door, carrying our bags of half-burnt CBs and made our way aft past the hose handlers, hoping nobody would report us. We made it to our CB Locker back aft down a deck beside the chapel where Church was held. So we huddled in there until we felt the coast would be clear and then got up into the wardroom for a much needed drink! No idea how it went for the damage control party. That was their problem, not ours, now it seemed we would get away with it. BTW it was not really funny about fires in Bonnie, with the aviation gasoline we carried. We did have some fires when vent trunking fans burnt out. You couldn't afford to ignore anything like that.
The Padre and the Valium - Submitted by Barry Lake
HMCS Bonaventure circa 1967-68. We had two padres, one Protestant and the other RC (known as "left-footers" from British tradition, so naturally, the RC padre had his cabin on the port side, and the Protestant padre had his cabin on the starboard side.) It was a revelation to me how much needed these padres were in a high stress ship like Bonnie. The RC padre's cabin was opposite mine and my much needed sleep (watch-keeping!) was often disturbed by lines of hands outside the RC padre's cabin waiting their turns to see him. Some were actually in tears! Holy Cow! So between being annoyed at losing sleep from all the sobbing, I learned being in Bonnie was no picnic for a lot of guys. It was a high stress ship for everyone, no doubt about that! The story was that over on the starboard side, the Protestant padre was handing out Valium pills for the line of guys outside his cabin! (Besides any spiritual comfort of course!) He had some kind of deal with the Sick Bay it was said.
MAN OVERBOARD!! - Submitted by Barry Lake
HMCS Bonaventure - In 1967, we had a real man-overboard in Bonnie during daytime. Pedro (the helo) went back to get the guy and lowered a horse collar for him, but he wasn't having any. So they lowered a guy to save him, but when he got down there, the guy tried to fight him off, saying, "Go away, I am trying to commit suicide!" So the rescue guy punched him out and put the collar on him and they were both hoisted up and brought back to the ship.
MAN OVERBOARD!! - Submitted by Barry Lake
HMCS St Croix, HMCS Provider, 1971 - On St. Croix we had this weird steward - and everyone agreed he was weird. So he was sent to the Base Psychiatrist in Esquimalt with a note from our captain, that this guy did not belong at sea or even in the navy. That should have been that. Except - next thing we hear that Provider, around midnight at sea, had a real man-overboard, and this steward could not be found after he made some strange remarks in the wardroom. No joy, the guy was was not found in the wake. So guess what we are thinking. "Hey, that's the same guy! How did he get back to sea?" Of course the Base Psychiatrist did not lose his job or anything. After all he was an expert and what did our captain know about sailors or anything?
THE COOK AND THE DUTY WATCH - Submitted by Barry Lake
Stettler, 1965 - I am OOD on a Sunday in Stettler in 1965 in Esquimalt.
At lunchtime, the POOD comes to me and says there is problem with lunch.
Turns out there is only enough food for three people and the rest have to make
sandwiches out of whatever they can find. (Please ignore the part where I am
supposed to make sure the hands have enough to eat before I tuck in, per US
Marines' rules.) So the duty cook turns out to be this OD who has been given
his first watch alone as cook. I had noted this guy in the ship before. He was
the friendliest guy, always smiling, never hurt a fly. So the senior cook is
called at home and things get sorted out for that day. Next thing, this OD
cook is sent to the Base Psychiatrist for a check up. Report comes back that
this guy, "Has an IQ so low, that he is unfit for any trade in the
navy!" The first question everyone has of course, is, "How low
is that!" and, "What trade has the lowest?" Anyway ,
reconstructing it all, it turns out those low IQ guys are real friendly like
this guy was and would want to hold your hand when walking together, and all
that. He was sort of like that. That means this guy got through Cornwallis,
and his TG1 cook course, and for a while in our ship. How? Obviously everyone
protected him all the way. This worked until that lunchtime when all of
a sudden, the hungry showed no mercy!
TRICK OR TREAT - Submitted by Jean-Marc Fort
HMCS Qu'Appelle - As an OD, on Halloween eve, some crew members and I raided his house. He was then taking his bath but, his wonderful lady wife, let us in and we sat in his office/library, waiting for the CO. We, of course, made sure we sampled his bar! When he came in, I was sitting in his desk chair, with my feet on the desk! Panic! We finished a few bottles then he made sure we got back on board with no accidents. That's the type of sailor you trust.
STAND BY TO LAUNCH C.O. - Submitted by Lou Dawson
HMCS Bonaventure - At anchor, Grassy Bay (off Ireland Island, Bermadoo - sometimes called Bermuda). Supposed to be underway early in the forenoon watch, but no one seen the skipper. No sign of him since sometime in the mid-Dog Watches yesterday. Last seen in a duty boat headed for an RPC on Bonaventure. While Bonnie is closing up Special Sea Sailors next morning, the air bosuns find a senior officer, covered in dew, on the flight deck and lashed to the catapult. Seems some intrepid junior officers had found him wandering somewhere in officers' territory and decided to launch him homewards (at least, I think that was their intention). The plan fell through when they found that none of them knew how to apply steam to the catapult.
THE MINESWEEPER AND THE YACHT - Submitted by Andy Hoskins
HMCS Fundy - An incident on the minesweepers which started as as a verbal exchange between two passing ships unfortunately was exacerbated by what followed.
Summer time, early 1970s. The ship was conducting pilotage training for junior officers in the San Juan Islands. The ship was transiting through Deception Pass between Whitby Island and Fidalgo Island, a very narrow passageway under a scenic bridge. Most of the crew were on the AX taking in the sights on this beautiful afternoon. As we started through from east to west out to the straights, an extremely large pleasure yacht was approaching from the other side. Sound signals were passed. From my perspective nobody gave way an we passed each other very close in a narrow stretch. Both had open bridges and our CO made a remark to the the pleasure boat with a sharp remark in return. For "us no minds" on the Quarter Deck , this was our cue. A few remarks soon ended in all of us mooning the pleasure boat. It all seemed like a lot of fun. An hour later plans changed, we were to return to ESQ. It seemed the owner of the American yacht was US Coast Guard retired Senior Officer. Upon arrival to ESQ the CO was summoned to the Admirals Building and then to a waiting float plane en route to meet the pleasure yacht in Seattle to apologise.
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS - Submitted by Lou Dawson
HMCS Athabaskan - When I went aboard Athabaskan II in '59, her hull was dangerously thin. While at anchor off Baddeck that year we were closed up at Special Sea Dutymen and I watched the FX officer jump up and down to keep warm. He was a scarecrow of a man, but the deck plating heaved up and down underneath him, and he was doing this directly abaft "A" gun mounting . Scared the bejabbers outta me! Anyway, we shifted ship briefly to Point Edward. As we let go forward to go back to Slackers a day or so later, an eyepad was torn off near the port anchor hawsepipe, which went unnoticed on the overnight leg back to the dockyard. Imagine the surprise the painter locker keeper got when he opened the watertight door to the forepeak next day - and found the entire compartment flooded with seawater and paint! Wouldn't have been so bad if he'd had the good sense to put the lids back on the cans of paint. The good news? Everyone in the forward upper messdeck got a whole new kit 'cause our kit bags were also stowed there. Scary, but true. Same year, some dimwit left a wind scoop sticking out of a stbd scuttle. Moderate sea running; off-watch hands enjoying a Saturday afternoon pipe-down; OOW decided to do a hard a-port; seawater again swamped the fwd upper (but not mixed with paint this time); hotplate exploded from being semi-submerged; fwd mick rack underwater; hands crashed on the Stbd boot-lockers did not get new working dress w/boots, but they did get new hammocks. Conclusion: just another day on the North Atlantic.
We had so much fun in those days!!!
FLOUR BOMBS AWAY!! - Submitted by Dennis Cardy
HMCS Prince Robert - HMCS Prince Robert performed AA training, with a local P-40 squadron, 111(F) RCAF, on the way to the Alaska campaign. "The 'Airforce' undertook to provide realistic low level "strafing attacks" for their friends in the Navy. Inter-service rivalry and young bored pilots, made for an interesting afternoon…. Given official blessings, they made the most of it. One or two pilots nearly bought it…. According to the Navy, anyway"
Mom told me that dad had always laughed about the flour bombing incident. Didn't pay much attention to it until I found out.... when the fly-boys were on cooperation exercises with the Army and Navy, it was SOP to use small bags of flour under the wings, to simulate bombs, sort of target markers. Sometimes the flour bombs were not soft and fluffy....but I digress. Several squadron histories relate how, during some joint Army/Airforce exercises, one young pilot entering into the spirit of things, managed flour bomb ...and completely humiliate the three Army Generals running the exercise. Much to the amusement of the surrounding lesser beings.. The poop hit the rotating blades then.. F/L John Luke was an instant hero when he got back to the 122 Sqn mess... Less so at Army HQ. Especially when word came down that they were legitimate targets...
(Webmaster's note: Now what does a bunch of Army officers getting hit by flour have to do with the Navy? Continue reading to find out )
The flour they stored at Patricia Bay for "ammunition" didn't stay light and fluffy for long. The damp west coast climate caused it to harden in very short order. Apparently the rock-hard flour bags were reserved for the "big floating targets". Big floating targets like the Prince Robert that was used for a strafing training target on the way to the Aleutian campaign.
West coast wartime SQN histories talk of live-fire practice with the Army and the Navy - training rookie AA gunners towing a canvas drogue at the end of a 5000 foot cable. Sometimes 5000 feet was not enough. No wonder the Airforce was so enthusiastic about strafing the Robert.
Roy T. Cardy on one of Prince Robert's AA guns during a simulated 'attacking enemy aircraft' drill at Nanoose Bay
P40s at Patricia Bay, BC
GUT INSTINCTS or DON'T FORGET THE FUNNEL COVERS - Submitted by Barry Lake
HMCS Beacon Hill - I am OOD on a weekend in BEACON HILL in 1966 in Esquimalt. It is breakfast time and we are due to sail that afternoon, so we are flashing up. The crew will be in after lunch.
So, alone in the wardroom having my eggs for breakfast, I notice a bunch of black smoke coming in under the doorway curtain. Well! I sort of froze and had a peculiar feeling. (At this point, I should have hit the fire alarm and done all that good stuff like you are supposed to do so the fire can't get too big while you dither about what to do.)
After I got over my initial frozen state, I thought I should check this out. I opened the curtain and looked down the flat where it was knee deep in black smoke sort of wafting along, so I followed the smoke aft down the flat and found the smoke was coming up from the boiler room where both hatches were open.
Looking down, I could see the PO stoker running back and forth swearing and trying to shut down the sprayer fires he had going. "What's the matter?" I yelled down at him. He looked up and said, " I forgot to take the funnel cover off!"
So back to my breakfast while he sorted things out. I know, I know, I did everything wrong and should have been shot. I still find it difficult to react properly like that when all my natural instincts are to do the opposite, which is to not go off half-cocked. But with a fire you can't act that way. I found out my fire training came second to my own natural instincts when the chips were down. Not a good thing, but that's how it was.
THE CAP - Submitted by Barry Lake
In Shelburne, I think 1978, but somewhere in there, we got detailed off to be part of a funeral for an air force warrant officer who had died in Cyprus from an accident, and was sent home to Ragged Island to be buried. So I am in charge with a chief and a bus-load of hands and we get there to find they had it all set up with the coffin and a flag over that with his cap on top of the flag. Only thing, it was a really beat-up looking cap, what in the navy we would call his "steamer". After the funeral, we are heading back in the bus and the chief and I are nattering about this horrible cap. Somewhere farther back in the bus comes a remark from one of the hands, who had been listening to us - " Jeez, even when you are dead, you still get picked up for your cap!"
New England Boiled Dinner - Submitted by Barry Lake
In Shelburn, 1978-ish. I was passing through the galley and noticed the senior cook was next to an OD cook while they both were peering into a giant cooking pot on the stove. I was behind them so they didn't know I was there, and I stopped, thinking something was going on here. The senior cook kept looking into the pot and over to the OD, who had produced whatever was in the pot, shaking his head. After a while, he turned to the OD and said, "Let's call it New England Boiled Dinner".
HMCS Wallaceburg - In mid-May, 1945, a week after the war's official end, as part of Escort Group W VIII working out of Halifax, HMCS WALLACEBURG, an Algerine Class escort, in which I was serving as a Sub-Lieutenant helped bring in the last west-bound convoy of the war. We met it south-west of Newfoundland, bound for New York, about 35 merchantmen with 5 or 6 Algerines and a corvette or two. It was by no means certain all U-boats had surrendered or their locations assured. So the first night we ran as had taken place for five and a half years with no lights showing. No problems really, no attacks. Typical.
During the second day, about May 16th, an Admiralty message came in advising that all U-boats had been located, and that while the convoy was to remain formed, it could run with all normal steaming lights on. As an afternoon watchkeeper I commented to the C.O., LCdr F.E. "Spud" Burrows that that would be great, after all those dark and dangerous years. "Oh no it won't," he replied, without further explanation. He sure knew more than I did, not surprisingly.
I had the Middle Watch at midnight. When I arrived on the bridge a few minutes before time, indeed there were all those lights - red, green, white ... and blue, yellow, purple, in fact every colour of the rainbow. No two seemed to belong to the same ship. And what I could see over the windscreen didn't match in the slightest what appeared on the radar PPI on the bridge. As the watch went on, things got increasingly confusing, with ships all over the place, and us, supposedly in position S off the convoy's left front corner goodness knows where. The merchant skippers, on seeing how CLOSE the other ships were, after years of rather liking being able to catch a faint glimpse of a neighbor, sheered away to a safer "seamanlike distance."
At four a.m. when I was to be relieved, my replacement wouldn't take over until I could sort out the confusion, or at least get back into our proper station. The C.O. arrived on the bridge as well. "Well, McKee, what's going on?" I explained that things were a bit confused, the convoy had spread out a lot, and we were gradually working our way back to where we should be. In retrospect I thought LCdr Burrows showed remarkable restraint when he just said, looking around, "Oh yes? Can you do that?" and departed.
We did get sorted out during the day, with a few ships breaking off for Boson and elsewhere, and entered New York's heavily mined Ambrose Channel in relatively good ordered pairs. I was glad not to have to do THAT again.
"REMEMBRANCE" IS NOT JUST ABOUT "OVER THERE" - submitted by Fraser McKee
"Remembrance" is not just about "Over there - Europe, the North Atlantic, Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan and so forth." Now it applied close to home - in Ottawa and St. Jean-sur-Richelieu. When it's personal like that, it certainly concentrates the mind, proven by those crowds.
In early 1943, at 2 days over 18, I joined the Navy, the RCNVR, as an Ordinary Seaman. Not to "save the world" but because I thought I should, my father, who'd served in the 1st War and all between the Wars, and again from September 1939 in the 2nd, was doing so, on his way to Sicily and Italy. And no doubt it sounded rather more interesting than classes 5 days a week!
By the following February I was serving as a helmsman in an Armed Motor Yacht, HMCS VISON, in the Bay of Fundy off Digby, N.S., while awaiting for a promotion board for potential or possible advancement to a Probationary Sub-Lieutenant. One of those Armed Yachts always accompanied the CP passenger ferry PRINCESS HELENE from St. John, N.B. to Digby, N.S., in case U-boats decided to enter the Bay of Fundy looking for targets.
One clear cold day in mid-month, though, we were out with a class of anti-submarine trainees trying to locate a British submarine provided for their purposes. It was a lovely sunny reasonably calm day, with only me and the Sub Lieutenant watch officer on the combined bridge/wheelhouse, Don French, from London, Ontario. We were about the same age, had the same schooling background; so despite the difference in rank, chatted quietly as we wandered about chasing the submarine. A pleasant afternoon, with two lads of similar backgrounds and interests. Within a month he was posted away to another ship on Atlantic convoy duty, the corvette HMCS SHAWINIGAN. I went before a Board and was commissioned myself (as an Acting Sub Lieutenant, (temporary), RCNVR - they were not at all sure of our capabilities just yet!), then off to Charlottetown to practice being an officer, and on to courses.
Nine months later we heard that French's ship had been sunk on 24 November, off Cape Breton ... with no survivors. Suddenly the whole war was personal. I actually knew quite well one of those lost - not family, but a fellow sailor with whom I'd spent an afternoon comparing our lives. Now he had no life - no returning to his family, no university, zero. Not even his body recovered. And I went on to my various new naval life. It struck me pretty forcibly then, and when I am asked to "Remember" still, I remember Don French in particular ... I actually knew him ... in a way a friend. Neither of us were in any way "heroes" - just ordinary, similar people, contributing to the country's weal.
It takes a personal touch, or those losses of Cirillo and Vincent nearby, to bring it home on a closer level. There should be a better way. Apparently not.
A CORNWALLIS BIRTHDAY - Submitted by Bud Rose
Cornwallis 1961 Birthday On the night of 21st June 1961 [My 20th Birthday] I was a platoon Leader and had the first duty watch. Pipe down was at 2200 hrs and C & D platoon were occupying the second floor of the barrack block assigned to Terra Nova division [II - 1961]
Both platoons piped down right on time with none of the usual skylarking, and I should have known that they were up to something. As I passed through the sleeping area on my rounds, all the lights were out = it was 2230 hrs - and all was quite.
That's when they made their move; everyone jumped up from their bunks and blocked my escape. Their intention was an old fashion "Blacking Balling" to celebrate my birthday. The idea came from some of the lads which had fathers who service in the RCN in WW II, and knew of this type of birthday antics.
Fortunate for me, our divisional officer learn of the plan and informed the ring leaders that the practice had been banned by the navy. Shoe polish [which was usually used] can cause rupture. He advise the ring leaders to talk to the female galley staff and try and get some lipstick; which they did. The ordeal was photographed for posterity, again with the help of the galley slaves as the film had to go to Yarmouth for developing.
Blackmailers notwithstanding, the incident displayed the true comradeship and esprit-de-corps between men who had been living in close confinement for 10 weeks = with 8 more to go.
Foot Note; Both Terra Nova and Assiniboine divisions II - 61 were selected to perform the naval sunset ceremony, and an extra three weeks training was required. Every one under 5'-8" was placed in Terra Nova Division and would form the gun crews. All men over 5'- 8" tall were placed in Assiniboine Division and would make up the guard of honour. This resulted in both divisions having to stay at Cornwallis for an extra 3 weeks. [18 Wks. Instead of the usual 15 Wks.] As a result of this, Terra Nova Div. became known on the base as "The Terrible Little Terra Nova's]
WHAT IF? - Submitted by Andy Hoskins
HMCS Restigouche - I guess this story could be called "What if?" We have all been in situations where we think "What if the worst had happened?" Maybe a little too dramatic...however.... on a 4 month deployment on Restigouche to the far East in 77-78 we arrived in Brisbane Australia for a port visit of 5 days. As one would expect the crew was looking forward the time ashore. 4X Beer was the choice and we were thirsty.
For us that served during those years ,you may have remembered that yearly, the ship had to complete a list of "Combat Readiness Reports" that had to be completed prior to the end of the fiscal year. These included "Refresher Training"' Gun Shoots'' and many others. Restigouche unfortunately found its self on the last week of March in Australia missing only one requirement - "A Demolition Exercise"
The word came down to the DECK O that the Demolition Team would be conducting an exercise somewhere that weekend. "Make it Happen"
So credit to the Deck O he found an Army base a within two hour drive with a range suitable for our requirements. He rented a bus and Sunday morning our 12 or so Demo team boarded a bus with all the explosives and ancillary equipment required to carry out 2 projects. I was the P2 in charge. We arrived to a disused area of a base to a desert type area where we set up a couple of explosions, threw the unused in the bus and headed back.
The Demo team had taken a vote and they voted to stop for a beer. The Deck O and myself were less than enthusiastic, however we were thirsty. We stopped in a small town outside Brisbane in work dress. We were only stopping for "one" and we left the bus driver to stay in the bus. As expected we were greeted with open arms One beer was only an estimate. I ended up chatting to a friendly Aussie and during our chat I asked him what he did for a living.?" I am your fucking bus driver, mate."
This is where the "What if?" comes in ... but as it turned out, a member of the demo team had already returned to the bus.
RADIO CHECK - OVER - Submitted by Roger Scott
HMCS Mackenzie - I was a sparker on Mackenzie, plain language call sign (c/s) Autumn Breeze, in company with Saskatchewan c/s Catwalk on Maple Spring 1967. The central character in this is a signalman. While in an American port, I was on duty and this gentleman came into the CCR a bit in his cups - he had just come from ashore and was in need of a cigarette. The ship running the net had a c/s Wolf Skin. The gent was after all a Leading Seaman, he sat beside a speaker and dozed....a senior AB had the stones to increase the volume and periodically the Killick Sig would become annoyed with the chatter on the circuit. Finally on hearing Catwalk, catwalk, this is Wolfskin, Wolfskin, Radio Check Over - he reached over with a sly grin and keyed for all ships to hear "Foreskin, foreskin this is Cathouse cathouse, Pecker Check over"....all hell broke loose on the circuit and he went off to the mess. As I recall the comm rates on shift on Saskatchewan had to account for circuit discipline.....Killicks.....Gods each and every one, back in the day.
AWAY SEA BOATS CREW! (Events after the torpedoing of HMCS Magog) - submitted by Jim Stanley
HMCS Magog, 14 Oct 1944 - Our stern was blown off and they piped all hands to the fo'c's'le trying to keep us afloat, amid all the gore and confusion Sub lieutenant Paterson was in charge of the sea boats crew, the coxswain had piped away sea boats crew and there was one seamen missing, so Sub Lt Paterson asked for a volunteer? I put up my hand and he chose me, AB Jim Stanley, ASDIC rating. The sea boat was lowered and due to the ship leaning to one side we were scraping the side of the ship when we were being lowered bloody near turned over going down. We finally slipped the gripes and proceeded to those waving in the water, we picked up a Leading seaman Bourassa, he was in a daze, he didn't know what happened, then we picked up Ordinary seamen Elliot he was dead dragged him into the boat and then another live one forgot his name. HMCS Toronto signalled us to come along side so we rowed to HMCS Toronto's quarter deck. I was in the stem of the sea boat, so it was my job to throw the tow line, they caught it and started to pull us in, an asdic rating must have picked up an echo and the engines took off with a roar, "Ring - Ring Full Ahead both engines", nearly washing us into the propellers, Not just once. They did this twice and I was fit to be tide, swearing like hell, standing with the toe line at the ready and I called the officer in charge of the Toronto's quarterdeck an asshole . He said do you usually talk to officers that way, I said in a case like this I do. The third time we made it and we were all helped aboard. They were still doing asdic sweeps looking for the sub that got us. I forget how many hours we spent sitting by the funnel trying to keep warm, to afraid to go below in case we were torpedoed again . I think they returned us all including the dead to our ship in their motor launch. Seaman Elliot was only eighteen years old and just recently drafted aboard the ship, the lad never shaved in his life; it certainly didn’t add up, but then, there was work to be done. There were medals won that day but the guys that should have received "The Mention in dispatches" were the members of the sea boats crew and we never even got a mention. I was only 18 then and I’m in my 90th year now. (Submitted on 26 May 2015)
SECURE FOR HEAVY SEAS - Submitted by Lou Dawson
HMCS Bonaventure - Trackers were being chain-blocked in B hangar because there was a storm front closing in. One of the air types tried to secure a Tracker to a line that he should have realised was just copper tubing. In fact, it was the hydraulic fluid line from the wheelhouse to the tiller flats, and it bent, then snapped when the ship listed. Bet you can't imagine how much fluid is in a conduit that long! Slipperiest deck I ever saw! Planes slid every whichaway. Ship's trim was suddenly very (sorry) fluid.
HARD A PORT ..... OUCH!!!! - Submitted by Lou Dawson
HMCS Bonaventure - Thinking about wheelhouse experiences, I remember being in the Bonnie's in 60/61. The QM was always a P2 for Flying Stations. It was SOP to turn so there was approximately a 14-knot wind across the flight deck. The OOW always made it seem as if our lives depended on getting turned NOW, so the QM would grab an upper spoke of that giant wheel to give it a good spin. One of them smacked his head so hard with a spoke that he knocked himself out.
A STORM AND A DYE MARKER - Submitted by Lou Dawson
HMCS Algonquin - NATO Exercise 1963 - I was in Algonquin at the time. We were at anchor off Invergordon (Scotland) and had to leave abruptly because the Doorman, a carrier, had 4 anchors out and was draggin' 'em! Scary to watch a ship that size headed for shore. "On the rocks" took on a whole new meaning that day!
As for Algonquin, we headed for deep water ASAP. We made it, but not exactly intact: fwd mounting smashed, FX ready-use lockers missing, jagged rip in the port side (letting in tons of very cold seawater), whaler and motor work boat stove in, most upper deck fittings either destroyed or missing, etc. We couldn't make any headway west and nearly broached, but got ourselves headed generally southward.
I got into a bit of a flap as we headed more or less south. I tossed a dye marker as far as I could from Algonquin, just to get rid of it as far away as possible. The marker was a pair of soluble transparent tubes attached to each other, each containing a powder finer than talcum powder. I wasn't aware that there was a pinhole in one of the tubes, and a stream of fine powder leaked out when I tossed it. The wind blew the powder back toward us, mixed with seawater, and turned the starboard (Stbd) side of Algonquin a brilliant pink. The Chief Bosun's Mate, whom we call the Buffer, saw it right away, sad to say. He was not a happy camper. He had a bosun's chair rigged and lowered me over the side to scrub off the offending dye - which doesn't readily come off. In the end, it was decided to paint over the largest part of the Stbd side. Bet you can guess who was elected to go back over the side, dripping wet, to cover up the mess. Helpers? None. Onlookers? Anyone with wet weather gear. I'd rather risk being 40 degrees off course again than repeat that evolution.
We wound up in Ponta Delgada, the Azores, took on fuel, then cranked on some Homeward Bounders. Had enough fun for one trip, time to go home. Bet you wish you were with us.
A WEE BIT AHEAD - Submitted by Gerry White
HMCS Huron - I was a WM-22 Computer technician in HMCS Huron in the beginning 1980's. One of the pieces of equipment we had to maintain was the Unbalance Compensation Units (part of the stabilization units for the fire control radar and optical sight). They were notoriously finicky, if they weren't allowed to power down with their own 'routine' it would take days of cajoling to get them to work right again. So much so, that whenever the EO wanted to do Electrical Engineering Drills that would result in a lose of power we had at get a 5-10 minute lead time to bring them off line properly. It was not beyond us to call down to the MCR and speak to the ET on watch saying "Hey 'Jonesy', we are putting the unbalance units to bed." The first time needed a bit of explanation but after that they knew there was going to be a drill very soon and commenced getting ready. The EO never could figure out how they were always that wee bit ahead.
WEAPONS CLEANING - Submitted by Gerry Jensen
LCI(L) 266 - when my Dad (Carl Jensen, Cox'n of LCI(L) 266, was new to the ship, it had seen use with the Americans and there was quite a mix of armament on board. As cox’n, he sent a couple of men below to clean some of them including an Italian machine gun. After a few minutes had passed, he heard thump, thump, thump from below. When he got to the magazine, he found the guys driving wooden plugs into the holes they’d shot through the hull. He told me it turned out OK as they spent a couple weeks in drydock getting repaired.
ON THE UPPER DECKS ON D-DAY - Submitted by Gerry Jensen
One of Dad’s friends was a motorman, also on an LCI(L). The ships were powered by 8 high rpm GMC diesels. When the ship grounded on shore that morning on Juneau Beach, June 6th 1944, he was able to take a quick trip on deck to look around. He told me “that day I lost half my hearing, and all my religion”. I can only imagine what that young man of 22 saw that morning.