They’re the Navy
How do you get into navy?— What do you do when get there? A close-up of the Dominion's least known defense service
CHARLES M. DEFIEUX
I WONDER what's become of Sally-" From the for'ard guns aft to the mine-sweeping gear, the fate of "Sally" is being queried in tones loud and even of goodly quality.
His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Fraser is getting a new paint job after fall gunnery exercises off its Esquimalt base A different music rang through the spars and funnels but a day or two before; the wild symphony of wind and sea, the high-pitched continuous song of a sweeping bow wave, the staccato tympany of firing guns, the “whoosh— whoomp” contribution of the torpedo tube and its departing "fish,” the deep basso boom of the depth charge.
But today the ship of war is a ship of peace, and through the rigging rings a happy song.
Officers are going about their duties smiling, some humming.
It’s a sign of a “happy ship,” not lack of discipline.
And H. M. C. S. Fraser is simply a cog in a happy navy, a young and a happy Canadian Navy still building.
Canada’s Navy, from the offices in Ottawa down through the Halifax and Esquimalt bases, destroyers and minesweepers, training stations and volunteer divisions of the reserve, is building a distinctive national service of young, healthy, educated Canadians on the firm foundation of the solid and strife-tested traditions of the Royal Navy.
“I don’t want to go to war. Of course I don’t,” said one of the Fraser's painter-vocalists. “Who does? But until the world figures out a new way of settling these things, why you’ve got to have navies and armies.
“This navy business is a profession. I’m not worrying about what’ll happen to me if the world is able to scrap all its navies.
"We’re all technicians, see? Gunners, torpedo-men, artificers—why they could all get jobs. You don’t get ratings until you’ve studied plenty of mechanics, electricity and other sciences. Even the fellow who sticks to seamanship could still find a place, and a good one too, in the merchant marine.
“But who wants to leave the service anyway? It’s a good life. I look healthy, don’t I? And how far you go depends onlyton yourself.
“You can buy out of the service, but who wants to? And don’t forget the pension in twenty years.”
His last sentence was no idle statement.
Ottawa’s statistics reveal him as the spokesman for virtually all his fellows.
During the past two years, approximately ninety per cent of the ratings who completed their first period of seven years continuous service with the Navy and who were recommended for further service, were re-engaged for a second seven-year period.
Almost 100 per cent of the ratings who had completed a total of fourteen years continuous service and were recommended for further service, re-enlisted for an additional period in order to complete time for pension.
TT IS A healthy and educated young Canadian of excellent A character who today finds himself among the limited number accepted as recruits for the Dominion’s sea force.
Whether he be sixteen, the minimum age at which applicants are received for entry, or twenty-eight, the maximum age for artificers and artisans, the recruit is first of all a sound physical specimen.
The standard of character and education is not less rigid. Candidates must submit credentials of character from a clergyman, magistrate, doctor or similar person, as well as certificates of birth and education. Canada’s young seaman must possess a minimum educational qualification of highschool entrance, or equivalent. •
Political influence? Not all the Commons Members from Charlottetown to Port Alberni can squeeze a youth through the hard and fast barriers of the qualifications for recruits set up by the Navy.
Politics and the Navy personnel are traditionally things apart. At no time will the Minister approve the admission of any man who has not the proper qualifications, no matter who recommends him.
Varied are the circumstances which induce young Canadians to enter the naval service.
Old England is not alone with its families of naval traditions. Already young Canada is manning its defense ships with the sons of Canadian Navy men.
Others, even on the broad prairies, have a natural bent for a seafaring life. This spirit is in many cases fostered by Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve divisions and Sea Cadets units throughout the country.
Then, too, there is the youth who sees the Navy as a career, with a life pension after twenty years of service.
Economic conditions naturally turn the thoughts of others to the Nav>r.
Families in every stratum of Canadian life are today furnishing the new strength of the Navy. The sons of the poorest farmers or industrial workers are learning their seamanship side by side with scions of well-to-do parents. The qualifications of character, education and physical fitness know no social standards.
From all the families of Canada an excellent type of recruit is coming forward for enlistment.
The prairies and Far West are today supplying the majority of the Dominion’s young Navy men.
Esquimalt Barracks, or H. M. C. S. Naden, to give this station, which draws its recruits from the West, its official title, has 250 youths in training, while at H. M. C. S. Stadacona, the barracks at Halifax, 195 are preparing for a naval career.
Recruits from the three maritime provinces are about equal to those from the three prairie provinces. British Columbia and Nova Scotia, coastal provinces, are the outstanding recruiting grounds for the Navy.
British Columbia leads all the provinces, and is followed in order by Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, 1 Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.
That Canada’s prairie provinces, so far from tidal water, send so many men to the Navy can be laid to the zeal, efficiency and enthusiasm of the Volunteer Reserve divisions there.
Treading the steel decks of Canada’s warships today, are young men who once trudged barefoot along dusty prairie roads, lard pail full of lunch in one hand and books in the other, to get the education that is now a vital factor in the naval career on which they are launched.
And they’re making ideal men of the sea, competing with marked success against their comrades from coastal cities where the lure of the sea is ofttimes dimmed by its proximity.
These youths enter the service in many branches. Although the minimum age at which applications are received for boy seamen is sixteen, entries are normally made only after the applicant has passed seventeen years.
The boy seaman draws, in addition to the usual allowances of uniform, lodging, food and medical attention, fifty cents per day until the age of eighteen, when as an ordinary seaman his pay rises to $1.25. After passing prescribed examinations, he may pass through the various ratings of his branch to the rank of chief petty officer with its maximum daily pay of $3.25.
Engine-room, ordnance and electrical artificers must be qualified in their trades before entering the service, and they draw higher pay throughout the various ratings in their branch. Similarly, higher pay is available to artisans such as shipwrights, blacksmiths, painters, plumbers, and sick-berth attendants, writers or clerical workers, victualling assistants, cooks and assistants, and stewards.
There’s many a happily married man who debarks nightly from his ship and goes home to the family fireside.
Naval enlistment is no bar to marriage.
Ratings over the age of twenty-two who are married and who allot fifteen days pay per month to their wives, are eligible for special allowances under the regulations. Fifty cents per day is allowed for the man’s wife; and for each child, boys under sixteen and girls under seventeen, twentyfive cents per day extra is allowed. The whole of the special allowance, when authorized, must also be allotted to the wife or guardian.
CALLED TO service for a seven-year period, following approval of their applications at Ottawa, the recruits, or “new entries” as they are termed, are sent to their nearest training barracks. Those from Ontario east go to Halifax, and those from the west to Esquimalt.
Bearing official ship designations, these barracks are operated in no less efficient a manner than if their personnel were afloat.
There, educational and medical tests await the new entry.
. It is significant, and a tribute to prairie homes and teachers particularly, that in the last group of fifty new entries received at Esquimalt, only three failed in their educational test, two were just below physical standard, and two failed to pass the tuberculosis test.
Esquimalt statistics record the case of one new entry who made a speedy recovery from the early stages of pulmonary infection, and returned to catch up with the friends who enlisted with him.
Rigorous, complete and healthy is the life of the new entry aboard H. M. C. S. Naden, and too at H. M. C. S. Stadacona.
He is aroused from his hammock at 5.45 a.m.—not so early for the former farm lad—and falls in with his mates at 6.10. Cleaning ship, physical training or boat puffing and seamanship occupies him until 6.45, when he micks under a shower and emerges in time for breakfast at 7 a.m.
A nourishing breakfast over, he is ready to fall in at 8 o’clock to clean up quarters until 9, when morning divisions are held.
Then he runs over the parade ground—ratings always move at the double going on and off the parade ground— to line up with his division.
New entries, the ship’s company—men acting as instructors or awaiting transfer to other ships—and volunteer reserve men attending for training periods, fall in separately.
Chief petty officers mutter warnings as to dress, and then bark commands that bring their charges to rigid attention. One by one, officers report their divisions to the executive
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officer as he stands on the quarter-deck. Near by stands the officer commanding.
“Our Father which art in Heaven ...”
There by the shores of Constance Cove, Young Canada bows its head in devotion.
Prayers over, the new entries disperse to the gunnery, torpedo, signal or other classes.
Some mornings fifteen to thirty minutes of drill is in order, sometimes a march-past, with the officer commanding taking the salute.
Dinner—it’s not lunch in the Navy—is at 12 noon, and the hands have until 1.10 to enjoy their meal and talk over the morning’s happenings.
Classes then until evening quarters sound at 4 o’clock.
Sports1 usually occupy the time until supper at 7. The boys’ time is then their own until they tum in at 9, although the majority generally study. Those over eighteen need not turn in until 10.30, at which time "pipe down” is the order for all hands.
There are. of course, frequent “make and mend" days when there are no afternoon classes and the new entries, like their comrades afloat, bring their gear into proper shape by wielding a capable needle.
Discipline is strict but not too stem. The recruits are not tied to the training station. They are allowed leave in the early evening. If parents or relatives in
the city where the station is located write specifically guaranteeing the youth’s welfare, he is allowed a night “ashore” over the week-end. Sunday, naturally, is a day of rest at the barracks, church parties being made up for all denominations after morning divisions.
After a training period of approximately twenty-one weeks, the new entries are ready for draft “afloat” as ordinary seamen, and after nine months more training, can qualify for rating as able seamen.
All hands, regardless of the specialized branch of the service they take up later on, must become able seamen.
Then comes the great day when the new entry is afloat.
HE IS assigned to a watch and mess, shown where to stow his-gear and. swing his hammock.
Decks are now his parade ground. He’s “in” the Navy at last!
His classroom is now the broad school of experience.
When his ship is in port, he rises at 5.30, lashes and stows his hammock and washes. Then comes morning cocoa.
The bosun’s pipe summons him at 6 to fall in with his mates and clean ship until breakfast is piped at 7. Cleaning quarters and odd jobs occupy the time until 9.10, when divisions, similar to the barracks ceremony, are held.
Ship’s routine then until dinner at 12, the routine of keeping the craft and its equipment in order and spick-and-span as only Navy gear can be.
Meanwhile, however, “up spirits” has been piped, and under the eyes of the officer of the day, representatives of the various messes draw the rum for the ship’s company.
That is, they draw the rum for those who want it.
The youth is protected. Only those ratings over twenty are allowed spirits.
Temperance stalwarts will do some pointing with pride to the fact that—using H. M. C. S. Fraser as an example—of 141 hands eligible, only forty-one draw the rum ration.
Those who pass it by, draw six cents a day extra.
Navy rum is the best available. It is made to Royal Navy specifications, and no others can purchase it.
There’s no chance of a sailor hoarding his rum. Into the container carried by the representative of each mess goes two tots of water to one tot of rum—a tot being equal to one half a gill.
But back to the ship’s routine and dinner.
Here’s a sample of an everyday meal: Rice and tomato soup, roast beef and vegetables, cottage pudding, fruit, tea and bread, etc.
The afternoon is spent on routine work, with every few days an afternoon being set aside for “make and mend.”
Evening quarters is piped at 4 o’clock and the hands called to tea, after which they shift—the Navy term for change— into the nattier night uniform. Libertymen, those going ashore, get themselves cleaned up.
Leave parties fall in and go ashore at
4.30, 5.30, 6.30 and 7.30, with supper at 7 o’clock for those who want to stay aboard for it.
Usually only a small standby crew is kept aboard at night when ships are in their home port. Libertymen have the entire night free, but must be back on board by 7.30 in the morning. Petty officers need not return until 8.
Thus, married men of the crew, when their ship is home, are little different from the family man ashore.
Meanwhile, on board, the officer of the watch makes his rounds at 9, “pipe down” is sounded at 10, and the lights go out at
On Sundays only a minimum amount of work is done, with church parties made up for those who desire to attend. Week-end leaves are granted.
Long hours of barrack drill and classroom study in addition to experience afloat, are back of the officers who man Canada’s warships, dockyards and training stations.
All have had Royal Navy experience, after long and intensive study in their specialized subjects at famous naval colleges in the old land.
The embryo officer of today’s Canadian Navy seeks his appointment about the age of fourteen, possessing good education and the ability to pass the stringent educational and physical tests similar to those for Dartmouth Naval College.
There he becomes a cadet to whose ordinary education is added an array of naval subjects demanding high standing in physics, chemistry and the various phases of mathematics.
Graduating, the cadet advances to the rank of midshipman, or “Snotty” as he is termed in the service, and studies ashore and afloat in the ships of the Royal Navy to which he is assigned.
Even upon his promotion to sublieutenant and lieutenant, his education in Navy matters is advanced by long and rigorous courses in naval colleges.
Today the Royal Canadian Navy has forty officers, mostly midshipmen and sublieutenants, serving with the Royal Navy
for study and experience in types of vessels not possessed by this Dominion.
Canada’s Naval Reserves
BY NO MEANS the least important part of Canada’s naval establishment, are the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, on whom so much would rest if war should come.
Mariners, engineers and paymasters, most of them with past active service in the commissioned ranks, form the R. C. N. R. The majority are navigation and engineer officers from liners and freighters. They serve frequent periods with the Navy to retain their ranks and keep up with changing conditions in warships.
Solid background in the picture of Canada’s Navy today, is that force of stalwart young Canadians known as the Volunteer Reserve.
These are the young men who man “ships” in the heart of prairies hundreds of miles from salt water, and in the coastal cities.
There is no less tradition in the “ship” of a prairie division than in any vessel of His Majesty’s Royal Navy. Once a member of the “V. R.” sets foot on the deck of his “ship” for drill and classes, his language is that of the man afloat.
The Volunteer Reserve is no social club. Requirements of enlistment ensure physical perfection in its members—all British subjects willing to sign for three consecutive years of service.
All enlist as seamen, and later have the opportunity of taking up special branches of study.
Buglers can enter between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, and youths between seventeen and eighteen providing they have had one year’s experience in the Sea Cadet Corps. All others must be between eighteen and forty.
Go “aboard” the “ship” in your city and you will find everything from guns and torpedo equipment to whalers, operated on rivers and lakes in the inland areas.
In their classrooms they gain the knowledge they must have to take the exams for ratings when they go to their nearest permanent barracks for the annual training period.
That’s the V. R.’s holiday time, although it is compulsory that he serve a minimum of two weeks annually with the permanent force. He may miss it only by special permission of the department at Ottawa, or by arrangement under which he consolidates his entire “stretch” and becomes the envy of all hands in his division by taking the four-month spring training cruise to the West Indies in one of the destroyers.
The Volunteer Reserve divisions usually meet twice weekly, with drills and classes on Tuesdays and physique-building games on Thursdays.
Under the terms of his enlistment, the V. R. must attend thirty drills annually, for which he is paid 25 cents a drill for a maximum of fifty drills a year.
When serving with the regular force, of course, he draws the pay of a regular hand, dependent on his rating.
Similarly each year, officers of the Volunteer Reserve must go to the nearest barracks for a training period, there to fulfill the duties of regular commissioned officers. Each is required to serve afloat and ashore in his training period, which may be extended beyond the two-week limit at the request of the officer and at the discretion of headquarters at Ottawa.
Canada’s Navy is building for peace as well as war.
It is training Young Canada to fill a host of technical posts should that day ever dawn when steel hulls and armorplate become plowshares in the prairie soil that now gives this Dominion many of its stalwart men of the sea.