Howl and the World Howls With You.

HMCS Grilse (1915)

Prelude to the Tin Can Canucks: HMCS Grilse (I)

(photos and associated captions are from the Canadian War Museum website)

This post is the first of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.

HMCS Grilse (I) Specifications:

Length : 205’
Beam: 18’ 6”
Draft: 9.2’
Displacement: 287 tons

Laid Down: 1912
Launched: 1912
Commissioned : 15-07-1915
Paid Off: 10-12-1918

Armament: 2 × 12pdr LA guns; one 14″ Torpedo Tube

HMCS Grilse on Convoy Duty - Arthur Lismer

Looking forward along HMCS Grilse’s long, narrow hull, war artist Arthur Lismer‘s print captures Grilse’s destroyer-like shape and high speed.

Only five years old, and facing the prospect of German U-boats in Canadian waters—and without destroyers for protection—the Royal Canadian Navy set about acquiring private yachts for use as patrol and escort vessels. One of these was a 202 foot steam turbine yacht by the name of Winchester. To avoid running up against the American’s neutrality, several Canadian yacht owners privately purchased boats from Americans and then traded them to the RCN. This is the manner in which Grisle came to fly the white ensign in 1915.

HMCS Grilse as SY Winchester was one of a family of fast steam yachts used for commuting by P.W. Rouss. She was designed by Cox & Stevens and built by Yarrow along the sleek torpedo boat destroyer lines—which in conjunction with her Parson’s steam turbines could drive her up to 34 knots in good weather.
In an odd quirk of fate, Mr. Rouss commissioned the construction of another yacht named Winchester (the fourth), only to have it pressed into service with the US Navy in 1917—and she would later see wartime service with the Canadian Navy in 1940 as HMCS Renard . In all, three of the 4 Winchesters owned by Rouss would see military service with various navies at least once in their life.

Although not a destroyer in the truest sense, having been designated a Torpedo Boat she was tasked with many of the same escort and patrol duties in Canadian waters as Royal Navy torpedo boat destroyers (those of an earlier vintage than the front-line fleet’s destroyers represented by the M and R classes ). In that respect, she could be seen as the precursor of the navy’s destroyer force.

HMCS Grilse at Speed

HMCS Grilse, seen here steaming at high speed, was the Royal Canadian Navy’s closest ship to a destroyer during the First World War.

She arrived in in Canada and was commissioned the middle of July 1915 and after arriving at the Canadian Vickers shipyard in Montreal she was converted from a luxury yacht to a torpedo boat by the addition of a pair of 12-pounder (3-inch) quick firing guns and a 14-inch torpedo tube (located aft in place of the former salon/deck house). Additionally care was taken to de-store the ship’s fine china and other luxury items—although the wood fittings and other décor remained, leaving one to wonder how difficult life aboard the ship was in good weather!

Although she saw no U-boat during the war, Grilse was much in demand as an escort for convoy’s arriving and departing Halifax (a major Royal Navy base at the time). By October of 1915 she was patrolling off Cape Breton where she hunted for a reported U-boat in and around Little Bras d’Or Bridge and took part in an abortive U-boat trap off Cape Dauphine. The winter of 1915-1916 Grilse was loaned to the British Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies station based in Bermuda. She would spend her time in the Caribbean undertaking anti-submarine patrols out of Jamaica. Her trip south was complicated by her high fuel consumption (3000 gallons—over 11,000 litres—of fuel oil a day at cruising speed) which left her 150 nautical miles out of Bermuda almost out of oil. She had used more than 13,000 gallons of fuel oil in her passage leaving Grilse to be towed in to Ireland Island Bermuda by the cruiser HMS Cumberland. After several quiet months in fine weather she returned to Canada—again short of fuel and needing to be towed into port.

Her patrols off Cape Breton during 1916 once more showed her lack of fuel economy and so she was pulled from her posting at Sydney, Nova Scotia to report back to Halifax where she would be reserved for escorting important vessels into and out of the port—with the stipulation that she couldn’t exceed 13 knots as a means of limiting her oil consumption.

Torpedo Practice, HMCS Grilse

These photographs show HMCS Grilse taking part in a torpedo firing exercise, a type of practice important for maintaining the ship’s fighting efficiency.

Once again she was loaned to the Royal Navy for the winter and setting out for Bermuda with extra barrels (some 2,000 gallons) of oil lashed to her upper deck Grilse departed Halifax December 11, 2016. She would never complete her passage to the Caribbean. Running into a gale near Sable Island the former yacht nearly foundered as she was repeatedly swept by green seas. The oil barrels were jettisoned, but several crew members were lost as they were washed overboard—including one of the signalmen who was attempting to repair the radio antenna damaged by the gale.  When one of the engine room skylights was smashed open the sea poured in—some four feet of water being shipped in the engine room giving the vessel a 20° list to starboard. Through dogged determination, a long night of bailing and not a little luck Grilse made it into Shelburne, Nova Scotia December 14 with little in the way of free board. In addition to the men washed overboard she had lost 3 lifeboats and a torpedo reload (including the warhead but excluding the gyro ).

Refitted and back to sea by May 10, 1917 to return to her anti-submarine patrol work, she would see no further adventures. She was likely laid up during the winter of 1917-1918 with a caretaker crew (her thin steel hull wouldn’t have fared well against thick maritime ice). By the Armistice she was little used having become very expensive for upkeep and for the limited local patrols.

Grilse was still with the navy when HMCS Patriot and HMCS Patrician joined the ranks of Canada’s naval vessels. She was however no longer in commission, having been paid off in 1918.

Eventually sold to Solomon Guggenheim in 1922, she foundered in a gale in 1938.




Blast from the Past: 1/72 HMCS Summerside MM711

So, back in 2011 I posted a build log of my then current ship model project–a 1/72 scale HMCS Summerside model–on the ModelWarships.com forum.  Just recently I stumbled across those postings and thought it would be an easy way of generating more blog content if I copied it over here as well (for posterity sake or something).  The original can be found here: http://www.shipmodels.info/mws_forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=72158 .

1/72 HMCS Summerside MM 711

first posted Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

Some background: I hail from Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, but one with a proud military tradition. I’m defiantly a 1/72 modeler, choosing this scale over almost all others, and when 2010 rolled around I knew I wanted to build a 1/72 model of a Canadian warship, as my celebration of the Canadian Navy’s centennial. Never having tackled anything that big before, I figured I’d cover my bases by getting several sets of plans for modern Canadian ships–and eventually I settled on the smaller Kingston-class MCDV; partly because it was do-able, and partly because one of the MCDVs is named after PEI’s second largest city, Summerside. I’ve since fallen in love with ship modeling, and have plans on building all the ships that have served in the Canadian navy that were named after places on PEI (there are seven, and in 1/72 I may need a larger house…)

I have a debt of gratitude especially to Darren Scannell of the Resin Shipyard, as without his assistance and patience with my stupid questions about ships this project wouldn’t have been started, let alone nearing completion. As well, I thank several other board members who have helped answer questions or offer advice–and not to mention the amazing reference materials that exist here as the completed builds of a variety of ship models large and small. This board is home to some master craftsmen, and I aspire to that level of quality myself one day.

One further note: This was a Navy Centennial build, and should have been completed last year, but a kink in the form of a broken ankle in December conspired to delay it. Nonetheless, when I started, I’d not considered posting the build, so some of the early photos are taken with my Blackberry, and are of dubious quality.

So here we go…way back in January of 2010…

Here’s where everything started, the keel laying (as it were):

After cutting the bulkheads and gluing them to the keel, I set out to run stringers (none of them apparently straight) between. Some scrap balsa was fiddled with to produce a rough 1/700 Summerside mock-up–just for fun

The bow, and stern were carved from balsa, and once I was reasonably happy with the stringers (which is to say, they were all glued in place) I started planking using 1/16 balsa strip–pinning it using straight pins to hold it while the carpenter’s glue dried:

It was at this point that I was unsure of the shape of the bow–the whole ship seems short and squatter than is should be….unfortunately, I’d started building before I had a top view scaled to 1/72…this would cause problems later…

It looked nice by the stern though :)

A fuzzy shot of the planked hull…

Compare that to the real Summerside:

Yeah, shape issues. Once I got a decent main deck plan view scaled to 1/72 I realized what happened–when re-scaling the plans I had, I’d assumed they were all the same scale–but the starboard elevation (visible in the first photo under the keel) was slightly smaller. Without a gut check with the main deck plan, I’d ended up using the wrong measurements, and that screwed up the shape of the bow. At this point, I had to cut the bow off, add a 1″ plug of balsa to bring it to the right length, and re-profile everything….

More on that my next post.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.



Spaghetti with Beef & SCE (?!?)

So this year my daughter turned 12, (okay, so she turned 12 in 2015 so I guess she turned 12 last year) and what is the daughter of a former Air Cadet and Army Reservist to do?  She joined Sea Cadets.

As a proud member of RCSCC 335 Calgary she was off to a seamanship competition this past weekend and in addition to winning the provincials, she and her team (and the rest of the Calgarys) spent the weekend eating field rations.  Now in my day (oh so long ago) Canadian Forces field rations were outstanding–not only did they meet your dietary needs they also tasted good (well, except the Hungarian goulash and lung-in-a-bag).

My daughter’s rations apparently weren’t that good (to be fair and honest, I’m not sure they’re actually Canadian Forces field rations–they could be American or civilian or some other source of mush-in-a-bag).  To provide to me their lack of quality she provided me the following item for lunch:field ration package

Stamped on the nondescript green pouch it says “Spaghetti with Beef & SCE“.  I have no idea what SCE is, but here’s what  it looks like once heated:

image (2)

All that said, I tackled the challenge head on and ate my issued ration of spaghetti with beef & SCE–there’s even photographic proof:

image (1)

Surprisingly enough, it was actually good–better than Chef Boyardee.  Now either I was lucky enough to get the one decent meal they issued, or my child has no idea what bad rations would taste like.  Compared to Hungarian goulash, this was gourmet.



Tin Can Canucks

Tales of the Tin Can Canucks

The Royal Canadian Navy celebrated it’s centenary in 2010.  In 2014 the RCN celebrated 100 years of Canadian Submarines. Coming up in 2020 it will be 100 years since the commissioning of Canada’s first Destroyers HMCS Patriot and HMCS Patrician.  It will be the centenary of Tin Cans (destroyers) and Tin Can Canucks (destroyer sailors) in the Canadian Navy.

Tin Can Canucks: HMCS St. Croix

HMCS St. Croix

While there have been some fabulous books on various classes of ships in Canadian service–written by Canadian authors I deeply admire like Ken Macpherson, Julie Ferguson, J. David Perkins and others–I have yet to see a book published that looks at the story of destroyers in Canadian service.  So, in advance of 2020 I decided I had to write one–and call it… (drum roll)…

Tin Can Canucks

While I work on the manuscript, I wanted to share some of the amazing stories I’ve unearthed in my research–stories of men and ships and circumstances that are very much uniquely Canadian (including shelling the American west coast, surviving a monster gale on the way to Bermuda, or breaking up a mutiny on a merchant ship amongst other).  So those I think are most interesting–or frankly if I think I need a blog post in a jiffy–I’ll post here over the next few months.

I hope to have Tin Can Canucks completed this summer, and from there we will see how she goes.  In the meantime, I hope my readership (minuscule as I assume it to be) will enjoy reading these tales as much as I enjoyed writing them.

If you read one or more of these tales, and are interested in getting a copy of the book once it’s published, please leave a comment to let me know–I’ll post how to get a copy once I have that sorted out :)



Welcome to the New Year; same as the old year

Well I can’t say the new year of 2016 started on the right foot what with the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman (plus all sorts of other interesting people like the pro wrestler The Wolfman).

Good news is we’ll see the 100th anniversary of the battle of Jutland the end of May.

Good times




We now return to the story of a [Software engineer], who’s gone to [digital marketing]…

When last we left out intrepid hero he had just passed a milestone 35th birthday…

It’s hard to believe the last time I posted to my blog it was some six years ago.  A lot has happened since then (including my finally retrieving  the whytewolf.ca domain from languishing in a domain squatters hell…) and I intend to recap that eventually.

But for now, just for those of you paying attention, I’m officially over the hill and now on attempt 3 to have a reasonably up to date blog.  I plan on hosting my thoughts on digital marketing, demand generation, military history, scale modelling and anything else that strikes my fancy–assuming I can maintain the momentum.

Not bad for the wrong side of forty.



(and if you get the title of this post, you’re likely my vintage too)


Through Little Eyes

September 12, 2009 saw the successful running of another edition of the Alberta AFV Model Show at the Museum of the Regiments in Calgary. Unlike the other major annual competitive model show in the Calgary area—the Western Canadian Regional Competition—the AAFVMS focuses solely on armour and other military subjects relating to ground combat.

Rhane's E-25This was my first AAFVMS, but more importantly it was the first time my daughter Rhane was able to take in, and show some of her work in a competitive format.

Rhane's ISU-152I started modeling when I was eight or so—my first model was a 1/48 scale Mirage IIIR I built with my father. Like many of us, I took a break in my teens, and after a stint in the Canadian Forces, and settling down into a career as a software engineer, I picked up modeling again on a more or less serious basis. My daughter Rhane was born around that time, and has grown up around models, and glue and paint, and when she was about two she and I started modeling together.

Now going into Grade 1, Rhane has graduated from pre-painted snap kits, to simple glue-able kits she brush paints. It was two of these kits she entered in the 2009 AAFVMS.

Dad's Leopard 1A2Recently, many of my friends and I in the local model club have discussed what needs to be done to attract more people to modeling—especially younger modellers. Much has been done by manufacturers to create a wide range of models for varying skill sets and tastes, but in today’s world of video games and internet, getting kids to sit for a while and model seems to be difficult.

AAFV Entry 1Like most other competitive shows, AAFVMS has a junior category for kids under 18, and there seemed to be quite a number of entries, and many of them with far more skill than I had when I was in my youth. Each entry won gold, and even more exciting for the kids, they were asked to come forward to receive a special certificate of merit for their work.

Snowberry ModelBut recognition of a job well done is not the only thing that I think grows the younger modeler’s interest in the hobby—the venue is important as well. The Museum of the Regiments is a fantastic venue for this show—and highly educational. Rhane was almost as excited to see the tanks and artifacts as she was to show her models, and receive her awards. Better yet, such a venue provides every parent the opportunity to help our children connect with their history and heritage in a very intimate and fun manner.

AAFV Entry 2All in all, I had a fantastic time, and plan on returning—even though my six-year-old did better than I did in the awards department (I won silver for both my entries). Just seeing the excitement, interest and occasional awe in my daughter’s eyes was a better reward anyway, and I believe that even if she moves away from the hobby as she grows—as many of us did, only to return later—what she will have learned about patience, craftsmanship, and sportsmanship will hold her in good stead.

A final note: all the photos taken for this article were done so by Rhane. Though she’s still learning the ins and outs of photography, I find it fascinating to see what things draw the eyes of a six-year-old when at a model show.




A Touch of Papaya

A friend of mine had a photography job booked for this past Saturday, and he invited me along for lunch. The models he was shooting looked fantastic, smelled fabulous and tasted even better.

Now, before anyone thinks I’m a pervert, the photo shoot was for a restaurant, and Dave was shooting the menu items.

And am I glad he invited me along.

Vegetable RollsIt was Dave who, lo so many years ago introduced me to my second favourite ethnic food—Vietnamese Pho and Bun. My favourite is of course, curry since I grew up with it at least once a week.

Saturday, Dave was at the Green Papaya, in north Calgary (so far north in fact, it used to be beyond the city limits when my sister lived in the area), a restaurant that serves—in conjunction with its sister restaurant that shares the same dining area—Vietnamese and Indian cuisine.

Tandoori ChickenSince we had been spending the day running about, I brought my daughter Rhane along—she’s only just learning to eat hot curries, and had never tried Vietnamese food before. I was hoping she’d have a good experience—and was not disappointed.

The interior decor is nice and open and airy, with alternating booths and tables comprising the seating of the main area. On the Vietnamese ‘side’ the art on the walls was simple, and understatedly beautiful—of Asian extract. The other side was similar, but with the flavour of India instead. The manager, who took time to speak with us while Dave shot fresh dishes from the menu, indicated that all of the items, from the seating to the dishes and glassware were authentically Vietnamese—“Everything but the food is from Vietnam” he said, “Well, the recipes are too.”

Vermicelli and PorkService was pleasant and fast—although for lunch there did seem to be fewer patrons than I would expect, but considering they have buffets during the week, I suspect most people visit the establishment on weekdays or weekend evenings.

Rhane and I shared a bowl of vermicelli (Bun) with BBQ pork and spring rolls, we also had some of the veggie rolls with peanut sauce and papaya salad—which was a little spicy for Rhane, but I thought was fantastic.

Green Papaya SaladPrices are reasonable for the quality of food, and I look forward to returning with my mother and sister to try to Indian side in the near future. An interesting note, is that each side of the restaurant uses a separate kitchen, chef and kitchen staff—which allows for the Green Papaya to provide fusion-style atmosphere with an authentic ethnic menu regardless of whichever of the two are your favourite ethnic foods—Indian or Vietnamese.

The Green Papaya is at 128-12024 Symons Valley Rd NW, Calgary (just follow Beddington Tr north past Stoney Tr and it’s in the mall on your right)

Now if only Dave would invite me along the next time he’s doing a fashion shoot.



In Box Preview of Ram II at On The Way

I just had my first In Box Preview posted at On The Way–take a look: AP Models Canadian Cruiser Tank Ram II

I plan on putting together another couple of previews for On The Way as I work through some of my braille scale resin kits backlog–and heck, maybe even some build up reviews. Sometimes I think there’s not enough support for us braille scale modelers out there, but thanks and kudos to the guys over at On The Way–it sure helps!



The Struggle for Universal Health Care

Since I picked up an inner-ear infection a week ago, I’ve been thinking about the healthcare system. It took me 30 minutes and ultimately cost me $11 to receive the diagnosis and get the antibiotics required to clear it up. All thanks to the Canadian single-payer healthcare system.

Tommy Douglas said it best: “Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world.” Douglas knew first-hand about the struggle to being universal healthcare to the people. Thanks to Douglas’ work in Saskatchewan as politician and later Premier, all Canadians now have access to what I personally consider the best health care system in the world.

Is it perfect? Nothing man-made is. In many of our major cities, and even in smaller places there are extensive lines in Emergency Rooms and too few hospital beds. Waiting lists for non-critical procedures can be extensive as well. In some cases people look for a private for-profit solution, paid for out of their own pocket rather than wait. I myself did that several years ago after my car accident–I elected to have a private MRI done to examine the damage to my back an neck when I wasn’t satisfied with the initial diagnosis. But more and more my experience with the Canadian system is one of quiet competence, and better yet, affordability. On the occasion we need to see a doctor, my daughter and I go the neighborhood clinic. The wait time is rarely long, even when the waiting room is full, and I am more than pleased with the standard of care we have received. I’m a big proponent of these sorts of walk-in clinics, and believe they are key to solving the issues with ER wait times and reduce the load on the system so long as people who are in moderate medical need go to the clinic as opposed to the ER.

Bed shortages and procedure wait-times are a separate issue, and one that requires more than simply changing personal habits. We need to find a way to increase the money going to the healthcare system without breaking the bank or de-listing services. It might be easy to simply say ‘raise taxes’ but I think that we need to look at things more creatively. We’ve been able to reduce drug costs simply by using the government’s weight to negotiate better rates from drug companies–without needing to raise premiums. It’s time for Canadians, and most especially, their politicians to think outside the box to solve this problem. Canadians need a system that will survive for they and their children, and ideological fist-fights over what to do mixed with political posturing and short-sightedness are a toxic mix. Lets be practical people.

Americans need a system too–and one that is fundamentally more equitable than their current one. The fight south of the border over universal healthcare is heating up, and opponents are all the usual suspects. Sadly many American politicians who should be on the side of universal healthcare are either dragging their feet or actively sabotaging it. With a single payer plan like Canada, the US would find itself far more competitive economically when it comes to worker’s benefits. Part of GMs problems are based on having to bear legacy health costs negotiated in their contracts with the unions. Now while many would simply say turf the unions a more practical view has to be taken regarding worker health–for without healthy skilled workers, what sort of quality are you producing? Who want’s to buy poor quality goods–and who could afford to if forced into low income realities due to poor wages, or outrageous healthcare bills.

Single payer universal healthcare makes sense economically and socially. I urge the Americans to continue to look at the Canadian example–the Tommy Douglas example–in their fight for their own system. You will be inundated with stories of where the system has failed Canadians–and sad or frustrating as they are, and as much as they do need to be dealt with, don’t for a moment think that these examples are any more than exceptions that prove the rule. 30+ million Canadians use our system, and by and large they are as satisfied with it as I am.

There is still work to be done here–practical work. The struggle never ends, but with a bit of that courage we can build a better world.


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