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HUMOUR HUNT: Speaking American
Humour Hunt

HUMOUR HUNT: Speaking American

As a naval reservist, Fraser McKee of Toronto completed a long anti-submarine specialist course in the 1950s and ’60s. He knew how to hunt subs, but knew very little about subs. So he applied for submarines and served in the Royal Navy’s HMS Astute (P447) when it was based in Halifax and aboard HMCS Rainbow (SS75) on the West Coast. Rainbow was a former American boat, so helm and engine orders were couched in U.S. terms (right standard rudder, port back one third, etc.). Fraser had been aboard a week when his commander asked if he felt up to diving the boat. Fraser said yes and the CO went below, saying “When I click on the voice loudspeaker, you dive the boat.” The clicks came and Fraser gave the order. Two lookouts dropped into the sub. Fraser followed, pulling down the hatch. Since ...
To the prince!
Blog, Humour Hunt

To the prince!

Peter Magwood of Dartmouth, N.S., recalls when he was a petty officer aboard HMCS Annapolis on a port visit to Rosyth, Scotland, during a NATO deployment in 1974. The coxswain, Chief Petty Officer Guy Joudry, noticed that the frigate HMS Jupiter was moored across the jetty. Prince Charles was serving as Jupiter’s communications officer. Joudry, Magwood and some other petty officers were chatting when Joudry had a brainstorm: invite the prince aboard for a drink. A suitable letter of invitation was drafted and Magwood was delegated to call on Jupiter and deliver the invite. He tells what followed: “When I arrived at the brow of the frigate, I was asked by the quartermaster what my business was. I gave the reason and soon heard the pipe: ‘Inspector MacKay is requested to the quarterdec...
Pop-up camp
Blog, HISTORICPHOTOBLOG

Pop-up camp

As soon as war was declared in 1914, thousands of volunteers descended on a tent city for some very basic training Britain declared war on the Kaiser’s Germany on Aug. 4, 1914, and Canada immediately began readying for the inevitable. Westminster had asked for 25,000 troops in the first contingent. Canada gave 30,617, rallied to the cause by the minister of militia and defence, Sam Hughes. Outside of Quebec, it didn’t take much persuasion. Canada was still a young dominion at the time. Ties to the “mother country” ran deep. Almost half the Canadians who served had been born in Britain. Many had a romanticized idea of war. They flooded recruiting stations and church and community halls in towns and cities across the country. Many belonged to local militias. Some had fought in the Sout...
The ducks of war
Blog, Humour Hunt

The ducks of war

Retired naval captain Stephen Oldale of Victoria, B.C., remembers the day back in 1972 when the Royal Canadian Navy abolished the daily rum issue. He says he presided over the very last call of “Up spirits. Hands to muster for grog” while serving as navigating officer on HMCS Chaudière. He tells the story: “Chaudière at the time was west of Hawaii in the second-to-last time zone of the Western Hemisphere before the international date line (and tomorrow). Our ceremony under the circumstances was somewhat elaborate as it marked the end of a long tradition in Commonwealth navies.” The issue was half a gill, or two and a half ounces. “The rules were that if one took the issue ‘neat’ it had to be consumed in front of the issuing officer, but if water, cola and the like were brought…the rum...
A monumental day
Blog, HISTORICPHOTOBLOG

A monumental day

The unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France on July 26, 1936, was witnessed by 3,000 veterans of the battle On July 26, 1936, 11 years and $1.5 million after construction began, 100,000 people gathered on the slopes of Vimy Ridge in France for the unveiling of one of the most striking war memorials in all of Europe. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, designed by Toronto’s Walter Allward, stands at the crest of the ridge where some say the nation was born—an imposing memorial to more than 11,285 Canadians who died with no known grave in France during the Great War. A monument to peace, it is the centrepiece of a 91-hectare battlefield park at the site where all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together for the first time—and won where other...
Target practice
Blog, Humour Hunt

Target practice

Back in the 1960s, the Connaught Ranges just outside Ottawa used to hire high school students to pull targets during various rifle competitions, including a number of military meets. I worked there one summer.  Every morning, we would trudge down range and descend into one of two sets of trenches with targets, one at 600 yards and a second at 1,000. We would hoist the targets on a pulley system and watch for a bullet hole to appear. When it did, the drill was to pull the target down, stick a red cardboard square on a peg into the hole (showing the shooter where he hit) and patch any previous hole with a bit of paper and paste. It was hot work, down in a concrete trench in the summer sun, but not especially strenuous. But it could get exciting at times. Occasionally a round would hit t...

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