Navy

Operation Drumbeat
Military History, Navy, Uncategorized

Operation Drumbeat

U-boats targeted East Coast shipping in the first half of 1942 In the early hours of Jan. 12, 1942, wireless stations around the North Atlantic picked up a distress call from the British passenger freighter, SS Cyclops. The 9,076-ton vessel with 181 people aboard was 230 kilometres southeast of Cape Sable, N.S., and had just been struck by two torpedoes from U-123. The Royal Canadian Navy dispatched the minesweepers Red Deer and Burlington to the scene, while the Royal Canadian Air Force sent off a Catalina. Red Deer eventually rescued 93 survivors. No trace of U-123 was found. The sinking of Cyclops marked the start of U-boat attacks on Allied shipping in the Western Hemisphere. Attacks in Canadian and Newfoundland waters were deflected by rapid expansion of the system of esc...
The explosion that changed the Navy
Navy

The explosion that changed the Navy

An overheated gearbox on HMCS Kootenay set off a fire that took nine lives The worst peacetime disaster in Canadian naval history occurred on Oct. 23, 1969, when nine crew were killed and another 53 injured in an explosion and fire aboard HMCS Kootenay. The incident marked the last time Canadian service personnel were required to be buried overseas and it helped bring about sweeping changes to shipboard fire-prevention and firefighting systems. The Restigouche-class destroyer was part of a task group that included the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure and eight destroyer escorts sailing in European waters. The group was homeward bound, crossing the English Channel, when Kootenay and HMCS Saguenay broke off to conduct sea trials 320 kilometres off Plymouth, England. Kootenay was r...
Navy changes its junior ranks
Navy, News

Navy changes its junior ranks

The Royal Canadian Navy has renamed its junior ranks to better reflect what its commander called the “ever-evolving international and domestic contexts in which we live and operate.” As part of that effort, the navy has dispensed with its ‘Seaman’ ranks, renaming them the gender-neutral ‘Sailor.’ Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, the navy commander, said the service’s public consultations on the proposed change collected almost 18,000 opinions from serving, veteran and civilian respondents, more than 75 per cent of whom supported the move. “I was especially appreciative of the overwhelming participation by the junior ranks who will be most impacted,” McDonald wrote in an open letter. The initiative, he added, prompted “frank and passionate” discussion online and in offices, shops and mess...
The overzealous skipper
Navy

The overzealous skipper

When Nicholas Monserrat titled his classic account of the Battle of the Atlantic The Cruel Sea, it was no accident. Nearly half of the Royal Canadian Navy vessels lost in the Second World War succumbed to marine accidents. Patrol boat HMCS Adversus ran aground; destroyer HMCS Skeena dragged its anchor and stranded on the island of Viðey in Iceland; five boats of the 29th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla burned in a fire in the harbour at Ostend, Belgium; minesweeper HMCS Bras D’Or simply disappeared; armed yacht HMCS Otter caught fire and exploded. Collision was a constant danger. C-class destroyer HMCS Fraser was sliced in half by anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Calcutta off Bordeaux, France, in June 1940. Its replacement, D-class destroyer HMCS Margaree, was lost three months later in a collis...
War comes to Sydney Harbour
Navy

War comes to Sydney Harbour

Deserted and covered with graffiti for decades, the old concrete gun battery at Chapel Point in North Sydney on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island was restored last summer as part of a local project to create a 48.5-hectare park devoted to Canada’s military history. The project, to be known as the Atlantic Memorial Park, is run by local volunteers who want “to create a seaside journey of remembrance that brings Canada’s military history home.” Sydney played a significant role in the Second World War as the second-most-important port for convoy formation after Halifax. In those days before Newfoundland joined Canada, Sydney was known as the most easterly city in North America, which meant between 1939 and 1945, it was also the Canadian city closest to the war. When France, Belgium and t...
The sinking of SS <em> Athenia </em>
Military History, Navy

The sinking of SS Athenia

Britain declared war on Germany at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3, 1939. At just after 7 o’clock that evening, Captain James Cook of the passenger liner SS Athenia joined his first-class guests for dinner. While the ship had actually gotten underway two days earlier—en route from Glasgow to Montreal via Belfast and Liverpool—Cook had felt that the urgency of the international situation demanded his presence on the bridge. But by about mid-afternoon Sunday, as Cook told one passenger, they should be far enough into the Atlantic Ocean northwest of Britain and Ireland to be out of danger. At 7:40, just as the evening meal was being served, a violent explosion destroyed the engine room, plunging the dining room into darkness, sending tables and chairs skidding across the deck, and causing th...

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