For Posterity's Sake         

A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project

HMCS NADEN III / HMCS GIVENCHY III

Then RCSCC HMCS QUADRA (1956)

HMCS Naden III circa 1940

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

 

The history of HMCS Naden III / Givenchy III from the Crowsnest Magazine - March 1958.

 

On August 3, 1940 Camp Comox became a regular fleet establishment being commissioned on that day as HMCS Naden (III) .26 A tender to Naden at Esquimalt, the new establishment had as its first commanding officer Lt.-Cdr. Leslie Harrison, RCN.

 

Once again jetty facilities came under close study and, in July, the report noted that "at low water, no boat, not even a whaler, can get alongside the present landing pier".  A shorter, stouter wharf with concrete pillars was recommended, the approaches to be dredged. In a marginal notation, the Chief of Naval Staff required that the new jetty be such "that a minesweeper or corvette may lie alongside at any state of the tide".

 

The contract for  the jetty equipped with a two-ton hand-operated derrick and with a plank road approach, was let December 2 to Mr. W. Greenless for just under $21,000. This was to include a $3,000 plank road to the butts, required because of the shifting sands. The whole installation was completed by mid-March 1941.

 

A feature of the year 1941 at Comox was indecision on the part of Naval Service Headquarters as to just how "permanent" and how extensive barracks accommodation should be. Pearl Harbour was not to occur until the year's end and proper quarters for officers and petty officers and for a sick bay, and also central heating - these were all bound to cost money.

 

Plans were passed back and forth throughout the year and by November, when the cool, rainy season sets in, there were some 400 ratings stationed at Comox. Sick bay facilities were practically non-existent and sick seamen were hospitalized at St. Joseph's in Comox. In this state of no decision, the Commanding Officer Pacific Coast sought and received approval for construction of a tiny eight-bed hospital to be built by the ship's company, not more than $950 to be spent for materials.

 

Originally the idea of Goose Spit was to take trained men from Naden for gunnery and seamanship. courses while they awaited their drafts to sea. This would then make space available in barracks at Esquimalt for "new entry" seamen. But more and more, as the war progressed, Naden (III) became a second training barracks with ever greater demands being made for accommodation the year round. In August 1941 there were 60 officers and men as permanent complement, including instructors, 188 stokers whose stay. would amount to eight weeks (six weeks of mechanical training and two of gunnery, seamanship and camp duties), and 53 seamen. The seamen were there for only two weeks (musketry and boat-work). New drafts expected that month were to live under canvas.

 

In April, 1941, there was a pleasant change when the armed yacht HMCS Wolf arrived in Comox Harbour for a five-day stay, having brought the naval band from Esquimalt for a series of concerts not only on Goose Spit but in all the towns of Comox valley.

 

Another important event that spring was the opening on May 28 by the Canadian Legion of their premises in Comox to the men of the navy. The recreation room of this building was generously made available to all members of HM forces, and HMCS Naden (III), in appreciation, turned out a sizeable detachment to attend the event. The new Legion hall was opened in November. The commanding officer of HMCS Naden at Esquimalt, attended.

 

It was April 1942 before the new block was started. The Victoria firm that built the main barracks in 1940 received the contract and work was begun on the 27th. The new building was to provide accommodation for ten officers, 24 chiefs and petty officers, a 12-bed hospital and sick bay as well as a central heating plant to service both the large blocks. This project cost just over $37,000 and was completed August 31.

 

Also in April, technical training in mechanics was stopped in Naden (III) as this part of stoker training could now be adequately handled at Esquimalt. The training at Comox again was primarily in connection with the range or boat-work. But something new was about to be added that would later change the whole character of the establishment. Already, an assault course was half finished and preparations were in hand for training in bayonet fighting, gas attack, and various other aspects of fighting on land. More and more, the Bren and other automatic weapons were heard on the range and occasionally the anti-aircraft guns mounted in the bracken to the eastward of the barracks.

 

During the summer two more firing butts, making six in all, were built on the range.

 

On July 7, 1942, ceremonial divisions and a full-scale inspection were carried out in HMCS Naden (III). A guard of honour was paraded when the Chief of the Naval Staff (Vice-Admiral P. W. Nelles), the Commanding Officer Pacific Coast (Commodore W. J. R. Beech), and the Commanding Officer of Naden (Captain F. G. Hart) ; all stepped ashore from the Fairmile Motor Launch Q.069.

 

In August a new building for training in seamanship was opened, and, in a very short time straight four-week courses in this subject were under way.

 

By December the navy's establishment up the bay at Courtenay was taking definite form. It was in this month that Naden (111) became responsible for the completion and fitting out of the new combined operations camp at Courtenay. The tragedy of Dieppe had come and gone but its lessons had not gone un-heeded. There was to be much hard fighting on the beaches and rocky shores of Europe, and Courtenay was to be one of many Allied stations where men of all services were to learn the complexities of "Combined Operations".

 

Actually the combined operations organization was a navy-army arrangement for the defence of the Pacific Coast in the event that the Japanese gained toe-holds on Canadian shores. The idea was that 100 Landing Craft Mechanized (Wooden) were to be built by the army, manned by the navy and distributed in certain key positions between the American and Alaskan boundaries.

 

Basic naval training for men recruited into the Fishermen's Reserve for landing craft duties, was begun at William's Head, near Esquimalt, in July 1942. Training in conjunction with the army began late that fall when the navy was required to vacate William's Head and so established its own camp at Courtenay. But by mid-1943 it was recognized that the Japanese threat to British Columbia no longer existed and policy therefore shifted in the direction of combined operations training for future service in Europe.

 

As the assault craft began to concentrate -in Comox Harbour the rather primitive facilities of the camp at Courtenay were soon overtaxed. That summer "combined ops" moved to what was now a very well established naval base, Naden (111), on Goose Spit. In fact on the spit, "combined ops" became the primary activity, and the base was commissioned HMCS Givenchy (III) on October 1, 1943.

 

Another event of 1943 was a representation made by local Comox Indians seeking cash compensa tion from the navy for using Goose Spit. An old Indian burial ground of some 13 acres was located out towards the western end of the spit, extending right across the spit between the 1,000-yard firing point and the light beacon. It had been designated an Indian Reserve in 1876 and from the beginning of naval activities on the spit in the 1890s, naval authorities, both RN and RCN, had been very much alive to the necessity of permitting no desecration in the burial area and allowing Indian entry at all times.

 

The Indians asked for $150 yearly compensation retroactive to 1940 and offered to trade the reserve for the Seal Islands where the clam beds were the attraction. Settlement came in 1944 when the Indians signed a lease for 21 years permitting the use of the burial area by the navy.

 

A 140-foot drill shed, completed by Turley Bros. of Nanaimo in August 1943, was a great improvement to training facilities at Goose Spit, particularly in wet weather. Typical of the training carried out at Comox was that of September 1944, when the Midland Regiment received training in Givenchy (III). These are excerpts from the Report of Proceedings: Three assault craft exercised "C" Company in boat drill; six craft exercised Support and Headquarters Companies as well as "A" Company in boat drill and landing net procedure; three craft drilled "D" Company in landings on Goose Spit; four companies in nine craft practised landings on Sandy Isle; five cutters were employed teaching soldiers boat pulling.

 

Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke followed in October.

 

As the war progressed into 1945, the army's camp at Courtenay was soon closed down and the navy no longer was required to train army personnel in combined operations. However, Givenchy (III) continued to provide training on the assault course for the men of HMC Ships. During April and May, the entire ship's company of the anti-aircraft cruiser Prince Robert was accommodated on the spit for specialized training while the ship was refitting for duty in the Pacific.

 

After the war, when Givenchy at Esquimalt had been paid off and Goose Spit itself had been reduced to a status of "care and maintenance", Camp Comox was usually referred to as Naden (II). But the spit was not to stand idle for long. Back in June 1943, Sea Cadets numbering 200 had camped under canvas on Goose Spit, and there were signs that they would come back again now that the RCN had a more direct interest, together with the Navy League of Canada, in the training of the cadets.

 

In the summer of 1952, more than 700 boys of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps from Winnipeg west, camped on Goose Spit and this programme has continued each summer.

 

On July 1, 1956, Camp Comox once again was formally commissioned as a fleet establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy. Known as HMCS Quadra in service during the summer months each year and carrying on its books specially chosen officers and men of the regular navy, the camp continues to instruct the youth of Canada in seamanship and gunnery-the fine points of boat-work under oars and sail, of firing on the ranges-two activities that under ideal conditions of discipline and comradeship, contribute no small part to good citizenship. And, while the face of Goose Spit has been changed out of all recognition, its purpose from the days of the Amphion and Imperieuse, the Egeria, the Shearwater and the Rainbow, has remained very much the same these 60-odd years.-Naval Historical Section.

 

Photos and Documents (below)

 

HMCS Naden III - 1940

 

     

 

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

The Goose Spit, HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Duty Quartermaster at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Bugler at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Tom at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Some of the Comox (Naden III) Kids

 

            

 

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

The Chief and Smokey at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Sandy in his hammock at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Tom, The Chief, Don, and Smokey at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

On the Quarterdeck at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Tom Drombolis on the Quarterdeck at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Tom Drombolis, Tunnicliffe and Jim Silvester (front) at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Sandy and Tunnicliffe (back), Tom and Silvester (front) at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Tunnicliffe at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Sandy and Tom Drombolis at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

Sandy on the Quarterdeck at HMCS Naden III

From the collection of Jim Silvester

Courtesy of Jim Silvester

 

 

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