This Is the Navy
KENNETH R. WILSON
WHAT IS the Canadian Navy? How does it operate and who are the men who serve it? What does the Navy do? How is it commanded?
It is no disparagement to admit at once that Canada’s is a “little ship” Navy. As most Canadians well know, we started this war with a mere fifteen vessels, only six of which were destroyers. There has been no time and, perhaps, no need to add big capital ships to our establishment. But our Navy has been expanded by a steady and increasing flow of corvettes, minesweepers, auxiliaries and smaller craft, most of which are built in our own Canadian yards. The Navy’s present strength is something more than 28,000 officers and men and more than 300 ships.
Naval authorities are reticent about details, but it is now well-established that we have thirteen destroyers, seven of which came as Canada’s quota at the time of the U.S. destroyer-base deal. Two more destroyers of the “Tribal” class are nearing completion in Great Britain, and a second pair of the same class ships is planned for construction in Canadian shipyards.
We have three auxiliary cruisers, formerly the “Prince” ships (Robert, Henry and David) drawn from Canadian National Steamships service.
We have fifteen auxiliary ships of war (mostly converted yachts) and a fast growing fleet of corvettes. The number of corvettes now in service is a naval secret, but since the start of the war •Canada, through the Department of Munitions and Supply, has undertaken to build 135 of these vessels.
We have steel and wooden minesweepers and a host of smaller craft being built in fifty-eight shipyards dotted throughout the Dominion. These range from little twelve-foot collapsible assault boats (250 on order) to the famous 70-foot and
112-foot motor torpedo boats (M.T.B.s) which are the spearhead of what is known as Canada’s “mosquito” fleet.
But ships need crews to man them.
Since the war, the Navy has skyrocketed from an active service strength of about 1,800 to its present complement of about 28,000. Most of these men (possibly seven out of ten) are entered through the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Even in time of war, deep-rooted tradition draws an invisible line between those permanently in the service and those who have signed up simply for the duration.
The R.C.N.V.R. comprises men from any walk of life who undergo a limited peacetime training and are attached to one of the volunteer reserve divisions throughout Canada or volunteer for naval service in any part of the world. All are part of the “Navy” but only officers and men who join up “permanently” (for a minimum of seven years) are members of the R.C.N.
There is also the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve (R.C.N.R.). In this are men of the mercantile marine—men who make their living at sea — and who form a trained reserve automatically called for duty in time of war. R.C.N.R. officers wear “criss-cross” stripes as against straight stripes for the R.C.N. and “wavy” stripes for the R.C.N.V.R.
Training establishments of Canada’s Navy are located in every part of the Dominion. There are eighteen “shore” establishments or divisions where recruits are inducted and report for preliminary training. This September Canada will open a permanent Royal Canadian Naval College, comparable to the Army’s Royal Military College at Kingston, located at Hatley Park, near Esquimalt. This establishment has been in use for some time for the training of officers in the R.C.N.V.R. and is known as H.M.C.S. Royal Roads. The full
Answers to a few Important questions—What the Navy does, where it gets its ships and men, and who gives the orders
course will be two years, with an initial quota of fifty men selected from various provinces.
The Navy provides special training for those who show aptitude or who are skilled in certain trades and professions. The average “ordinary seaman” will be assigned to duty after five months training.
SO FAR, Canada’s Navy has not lacked for recruits. In February, Hon. Angus Macdonald staled in a public address that there was a waiting list of 5,000 men. Part of the future strength of the Canadian Navy is the system of twenty-seven Sea Cadet Corps established across Canada for the training of boys between twelve and eighteen years of age. Most of these have been formed by, and are associated with, the Navy League of Canada. All corps are under the supervision of the R.C.N., which contributes toward their upkeep and their equipment, provides training schedules, and so forth. This work has been co-ordinated recently under R. C. Stevenson, C.A., of Montreal.
Curiously, there are in Canada’s Navy as many or more lads from Central and Western Canada—lads who never saw the sea in their lives —as there are sea-born men. Recently a naval officer visited Sudbury. He came back with a list of 125 applicants—grand, big chaps from mines and lumber camps.
There are twenty-nine different jobs to which a naval recruit may aspire. They range from the ordinary seaman (seventeen and a half to thirtyfive, no special qualifications required) to a stoker petty officer who must hold a second-class stationary engineer’s certificate or its equivalent. The list includes jobs such as sailmaker’s mate (two years’ experience as clerk in hardware, grocery or clothing store); writer (two years’ stenographic, banking or accounting experience and two years’ high school education); sick-berth attendant (certificate as male nurse) ; as well as the usual trades—plumber, painter, blacksmith, electrician, cook and so forth.
Naval pay ranges from $1.25 per day for an ordinary seaman to $1.95 for a cook and $3.80 for engine room, ordnance and electrical artificers. There is an additional seventy-five cents per day marriage allowance and twenty-five cents a day for each child up to four in number. If approved by the Dependents Allowance Board, there is a further sixty-five cents per day for other dependents. Officers’ pay starts with $4 a day for a sublieutenant. A captain (equivalent to the Army colonel) gets $15 a day plus allowances. Leave varies, but, in theory, a rating is entitled to twenty-eight days leave per year, depending upon the exigencies of the service. Men returning from convoy work usually get a day or two’s shore-leave when they return, with longer leave when their ship is being refitted.
The Navy equivalent to the Army’s N.C.O. is the petty officer. Unlike the Army (where ranks of N.C.O.s can be counted on the fingers of two hands) there are in the Navy many kinds and types of petty officers. Chief petty officer is equivalent to an Army sergeant major and a petty officer first class (P.O.L.) ranks the same as a sergeant. In all, the Canadian Navy boasts some 3,500 officers, ranging from warrant officer (one thin stripe) to Vice-Admiral P. W. Nelles, Continued on page 1+2
Continued from page 11—Starts on page 10
Canada’s Chief of Naval Staff, with i his broad band and two-inch-deep I stripes surmounting.
CANADA has no Admiralty or Sea Lords, but instead she has their equivalents at Naval Service Headquarters — known laconically through the world as N.S.H.Q., Ottawa.
Recently, a new Naval Board was created as an advisory body to Hon. Angus L. Macdonald. This corresponds roughly to the British Board of Admiralty and its members to the British Sea Lords. Instead of the British “First Lord of the Admiralty” we have a Minister of National Defense for Naval Services. Instead of the “Civil Lord” there is the Financial and Civil Member. Other members of the Board include the Chief of Naval Staff (ViceAdmiral P. W. Nelles, R.C.N.); the Vice-Chief of Naval Staff (Commodore H. E. Reid, R.C.N.); the Chief of Naval Personnel (Capt. H. T. W. Grant, R.C N.); the Chief of Naval Equipment and Supply (Capt. G. M. Hibbard, R.C.N.); the Chief of Naval Engineering and Construction (Engineer Capt. G. L. Stephens, R.C.N.). The Financial and Civil Member is W. G. Mills, Acting Deputy-Minister for Naval Services.
Nerve centre of the Canadian Navy is at Ottawa, and everything that happens at sea is flashed automatically to headquarter “ears” and “eyes” in the offices of the Chief of Naval Staff, the Vice-Chief of Naval Staff, the Director of Naval Intelligence and the Director of Operations. In the latter’s room hangs a pinstudded wall-size chart, behind a heavy green cloth curtain, on which movements and actions are plotted. This is where broad policy is deterI mined. Control of actual operations at sea is, however, decentralized into the hands of men who command our Naval stations on our east and west coasts, Newfoundland and elsewhere. Convoy duty is in charge of senior officers of escort, who scarcely see the headquarters in Ottawa. Other naval officers are in command at key points. These report directly to the officers commanding Canada’s two key bases - Rear Admiral Jones, R.C.N., commanding officer of the Atlantic coast, and Rear Admiral Murray, R.C.N., in command of the forces based on Newfoundland. Commanding officer on the Pacific coast is Commodore W. J. R. Beech, R.C.N.
Basically, the Naval principle is to decentralize wherever possible. Rear Admiral Jones, for example, is in active command of the Atlantic coast disposition, subject, of course, to rulings from Ottawa on matters of policy. In matters affecting more than one command, decisions rest with Ottawa, and, as already indicated, the movement of all vessels is communicated instantly to the central headquarters—N.S.H.Q.
The Canadian Navy works in close co-operation with the Royal Navy and the Navy of our new ally, the J
United States. Just what the practical effect of that co-operation may be at any one time cannot be discussed, but, clearly, Canada’s chief responsibility is in the North Atlantic, especially out from the Atlantic and Newfoundland coasts.
As well, Canada’s Navy has distinguished itself in many other waters. H.M.C.S. Fraser was sunk on a misty night in June, 1940, off the French coast, and it was a Canadian-armed merchant cruiser, H.M.C.S. Prince Henry which caused destruction of two German merchant ships off a South American port. Another auxiliary cruiser, Prince Robert, captured a rich prize, the German ship Weser, off the west coast of Mexico.
The Navy’s Job
BUT Canada’s big naval job, the job of which our Navy is justifiably most proud, is the Atlantic patrol. Since the outbreak of war more than 8,000 ships have left Canadian shores for Great Britain, carrying over 50,000,000 tons of cargo to that island. The convoy job started six days after the outbreak of war and the record to date shows surprisingly few vessels lost by enemy action while in convoy, and no losses at all as regards troop ships escorted.
Before convoys can assemble, the ships which form them must be loaded and made ready for sea, often at ports distant from the one in which the final rendezvous is to be made. Naval control officers in these different ports, working against time and fitting the ships into the composite picture like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, keep their vessels moving on schedule and the convoys crossing the ocean according to plan. Incoming ships must be routed to the ports where cargoes for which they are especially suited await them.
The Canadian Navy has other important responsibilities. One is coastal protection and patrol in Canada’s defense zones on both the Atlantic and Pacific shores. The other is service in Naval patrol in both the Atlantic and the Caribbean, and special duties in British waters from time to time. Of importance also is the fact that the Canadian Navy is continually lending its personnel to the Royal Navy as well as supplying ratings to serve as gunners or in some similar capacity on defensively-equipped merchant ships.
In patrolling our coastline, there is both a ship and a shore job to be done. Dotted along our coasts are Port War Signal Stations whose job is to track the course of every approaching ship. These stations also co-operate with shore batteries operated by the Canadian Army. They control the cleared channels of carefully-laid defensive mine fields, and direct the far-seeing view of fighting planes of the R.C.A.F. coastal command. These Signal Stations are the “eyes” of the port. They work in close liaison with a very important senior naval authority, the Extended Defense Officer. At Halifax, this official, known commonly as X DO, is Commander F. R. W. R. Gow, R.C.N. His job is to co-ordinate the
various defense mechanisms. He is literally the trigger finger, able to put into action concealed batteries and other defensive machinery in case of need.
Then there is minesweeping, a daily job for flotilla units which must be carried out in fair weather or foul. Working as a unit, each minesweeping flotilla steams its appointed course no matter what the difficulty. Each ship streams hundreds of yards of wire astern, angling far out at the urge of the heavy “kite” and “otter board” which control the depth and direction of the sweeping wire. Completing the apparatus is the float, shaped like an overgrown cigar and carrying a small flag as guidance for the minesweepers astern as well as for its own.
The apparatus is really quite simple, but to lower it and hoist it on board again when the sweeping has been done is far from easy. With the ship rolling often wildly in a heavy winter sea, minesweeping is no task for a weakling.
Other jobs which our Navy undertakes are the protection of harbors, the direction of shipping, contraband control and administration of important dockyard establishments.
ALL THIS work has not been without its losses and rewards. Since the beginning of the war, Canada’s Navy has lost 440 officers and ratings, all but fifty of whom were killed on active service. Seven ships have been lost, two destroyers, two corvettes, a converted minesweeper, an armed yacht and an auxiliary craft. The latest casualty H.M.C.S. Windflower, went down in December, in a collision while on convoy duty, with a loss of twentythree lives.
Last December, when two corvettes sank a German U-boat in the North Atlantic and captured fortyseven survivors, the British Admiralty communique reported: “This
action fought by two Canadian-built corvettes is a splendid demonstration of the protection given to convoys by ships of the Royal Canadian Navy.”
It is in recognition of services such as this that more than sixty awards have been made to personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy. These include ten Distinguished Service Crosses (one with bar), one George Medal (with bar), three Distinguished Service Medals and thirtyeight mentions in dispatches.
The growing importance of the Navy is seen also in promotions made among senior officers at the end of 1941. Vice-Admiral Percy Nelles was promoted from the rank of Rear Admiral, thereby becoming the first R.C.N. officer to hold that rank. Commodore George C. Jones and Commodore Leonard W. Murray were promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
All this is in sharp contrast with the role of Canada’s Navy not only prior to the outbreak of war, but even in the last Great War. In recognition of its increasing services and importance, officers of the Royal Navy have been quick to pay tribute to these achievements. Typical is the comment of Commander Reginald
’ Fletcher, Parliamentary Undersecre¡ tary to the First Lord of the Admiri alty. He said: “We have received invaluable help from the Dominions, especially Canada . . . The Canadian destroyers have worked alongside our own on equal terms in every way. They have entered fiercely into their work with great zeal and efficiency.” Canada’s naval policy is now focused on three major objectives.
I In the words of Naval Minister Macdonald, we aim to develop a Navy whose strength of ships and personnel will be “worthy of our importance in the world of nations, sufficient to meet (our) obligations as members of the British Commonwealth,” and strong enough to meet Canada’s share of hemisphere defense with our new ally and neighbor, the United States.