late 1975, an officer serving aboard HMCS Okanagan received a stuffed animal from a friend. The critter, a pink panther, soon became a permanent crew member. During a 1976 exercise in the Caribbean, a portrait of the panther was surreptitiously painted on the boat’s fin under cover of darkness. The next morning, the fleet commander, a commodore, paid a visit to Okanagan. He followed a trail of pink paw prints down the jetty, across the brow and along the casing. He noted, without comment, the painting on the conning tower.
From then on, Acting Sub-Lieutenant P. Panther was listed as crew in many official documents. It was reported that he was a fixture at mess parties. Over the years, he suffered several injuries requiring surgery and he was even kidnapped numerous times, although he always returned to his duties.
A regimental padre was back in the mess after a week in the field with the battalion. As the waitress took his order, he looked at her wistfully.
“Could you sprinkle some dirt and pine needles on it and swear at me a bit?
“I miss being on exercise.”
Some years back, a small military convoy was waved down by police officers just short of a highway bridge in the Maritimes. Apparently there had been an explosion at a service station close to the far end of the bridge and the police were worried that the structure might have been damaged. They blocked the highway.
The sergeant in charge of the convoy jumped down and spoke briefly with the police. Clearly in a hurry, he checked his watch, looked at the bridge, squared his
shoulders and slowly strolled along the span. He inspected the pavement and ran his hand along the railings. He stopped halfway, and jumped several times. He frowned, checked his watch again, then briskly waved the convoy ahead. The lead truck stopped, the sergeant climbed in and the vehicles left, leaving the police scratching their heads.
One of the Royal Canadian Navy’s O-Class submarines was on an exercise in Britain, working with a Royal Navy frigate. The sub practised quiet evasion tactics while the frigate tracked it. As the exercise wound down, the submarine made a practice attack, complete with an exercise torpedo, an unsophisticated, unguided weapon. It was a matter of aim and fire. The fish was set to run under the frigate’s keel and the British lookouts were to signal hit or miss.
The torpedo was fired and began its run. Nothing happened. The frigate signalled a miss and the torpedo, which was supposed to surface after its fuel ran out, disappeared. The British were cocky and the Canadians crestfallen.
The next morning, the frigate was preparing for the final day of the exercise. A senior petty officer making his routine rounds, opened a magazine hatch and found the compartment completely flooded. He slammed the hatch and sounded the alarm.
After careful checks of the internal systems, the frigate put a diver over the side. His inspection uncovered a circular, 53-centimetre hole in the plating—exactly the size of a Canadian submarine torpedo. But since the exercise torpedo had missed, well, the matter was dealt with quietly.
A description of an argument in a
1. Blunt assertion.
2. Categorical contradiction.
3. Mutual recrimination.
4. Physical violence.
5. Amicable conclusion.
6. Two gin and bitters.
Over the years, he suffered several injuries requiring surgery and he was even kidnapped numerous times, although he always returned to resume his duties.
Officers in the RCN share with the RN the privilege of drinking the loyal toast to the sovereign while seated. Those in other services must stand. It’s said the naval dispensation from standing dates to the days of King William IV. He was apparently dining aboard ship as a cadet and banged his head on an overhead beam when rising for the toast. He promptly exempted naval officers from standing. The tradition continues to this day.
Speaking of submarines, the RCN’s first boats were essentially bootlegged into the service by way of the British Columbia government. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, a squadron of German cruisers was somewhere in the Pacific. This had the people of B.C. on edge and the premier, Richard McBride, looked to calm his constituents. He found his solution in a Seattle shipyard, which was building two submarines for Chile. Either the Chileans reneged on the deal or McBride outbid them; the record is hazy. The two vessels were smuggled to sea and made their way to Esquimalt. There were some nervous moments for McBride, since the province paid $575,000 for each sub, but Ottawa came through and covered the tab. The subs, commissioned as HMCS CC-1 and HMCS CC-2, spent three years on the West Coast before transiting the Panama Canal to Halifax where they remained until they were scrapped in 1920.
As for the threatening German cruisers? They never came near B.C.