Howl and the World Howls With You.

Page 2 of 12

The ‘Rolls-Royce Destroyers’ at Canadian Naval Review

I’ve been working on Tin-Can Canucks for several years, and have been saturating myself with Canadian Destroyer history, and part of what I’ve found so fascinating is the parallels between modern defence policy and vessel procurement challenges in previous eras.

The story of the first made-to-order warships for the Canadian navy (HMCS Saguenay and HMCS Skeena) is one of particular interest, as it covers all the things I like best–the evolution of a soverign Canada, the growing confidence of a Navy which had only recently avoided the budgetary axe, and a look into the early career of men who would make their mark on Canadian Naval policy in the not too distant future.

Tin-Can Canucks is almost too small a venue for all these stories, and I’ve had the immense privilege of seeing a separate article about these two ships published in the 2016 Summer issue of Canadian Naval Review.  Based on research done for the book, but separately written with a different view on it’s modern relevance I like to think it provides a good sense of the stories the books will present–even if from a more nostalgic perspective.

If you’re interested in current (and future) naval policy Canadian Naval Review is an excellent place to start–I’ve used it several times for reference in writing Tin-Can Canucks.

And if you’re interested, why not start with Volume 12, Issue 2–and an article titled: The ‘Rolls-Royce Destroyers’: Canada’s First Made-to-Order Warships



Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Athabascan (II)

This post is another 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.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Athabascan (II)Specifications

Length: 377’
Beam: 37’ 6”
Draft: 11’ 2”
Displacement: 1927 tons

Laid Down: 15-5-1943
Launched: 4-5-1946
Commissioned: 20-1-1948
Paid Off: 21-4-1966

Armament: 6 x 4.7” LA guns, 2 x 4” HA guns, four 21” torpedo tubes, 4 x 2pdr , 1 x 12pdr 6 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns

Built by Halifax Shipyard Ltd., she was the last of the Canadian-built Tribals to complete, and the last Canadian Tribal to commission, entering the RCN in 1948—three years after the end of the war she had been designed to fight. After commissioning she took her time on trials and work ups before departing for her west coast station on May 15th 1948.  Due to an outbreak of poliomyelitis[1] Athabascan was quarantined upon her arrival in Esquimalt on June 29th.  This outbreak had resulted in the death of one crewman while on passage from Halifax.

Once the quarantine was lifted Athabascan and her sister HMCS Cayuga undertook a serious exercises and showed the flag along Canadian and American west coasts.  While in Esquimalt harbor in November of 1948 she was bumped by a fire tender, which caused some buckled hull plates.  She undertook a winter Caribbean cruise between January and May of 1949, after which she made further port calls in California and Alaska.  Between mid-September 1949 and mid-March 1950 Athabascan was in dockyard hands to be refitted for a training role.  This saw the replacement of her 4.7-inch twin gun mounting in Y position replaced with a pair of Squid anti-submarine mortars.  She also had her Action Information Center enlarged, and a pair of depth-charge throwers removed—although she retained her aft depth charge rail.  The intention was to have Athabascan join the Canadian Special Service Squadron on a cruise of European waters, but the outbreak of the Korean War saw the termination of the cruise on June 25th.

Athabascan and Cayuga were joined by HMCS Sioux and the trio escorted the cruiser HMCS Ontario from Esquimalt on their deployment to Korean waters.  After making calls at Pearl Harbor, Kwajalein and Guam, the Canadian ships arrived at Sasebo, Japan on July 30thAthabaskan’s deployment saw her undertake various duties including cruiser escort, interdiction of small costal transport craft, and gunfire support, including acting in support of the Inchon landings.  She grounded on December 4th while covering the Chinnampo evacuation, the damage causing subsequent engine issues.

After a period of maintenance and R&R in Hong Kong, she undertook inshore patrol and screening of the Colossus-class carrier HMS Theseus for much of February and March before taking up station on the Korean east coast.  She departed the war zone on May 2nd bound for refit in Esquimalt.

Upon completion of the refit she sailed from Esquimalt on October 29th for her third tour in Korean waters.  Taking up her assigned roles of screening and patrolling the first week of November, save for a brief respite in Hong Kong in May of 1953 she remained in Korean waters until the ceasefire on June 27th 1953. Athabascan remained on station until the peace was established; rescuing the crew of a downed helicopter and a Vought Corsair fighter in August and standing by to assist the stranded tanker Tongshu in October.

Athabascan arrived back in Canada for conversion to an anti-submarine destroyer escort  on December 11th, 1953 staying in dockyard hands until October 1954.  Like other Canadian Tribals she emerged armed with a pair of twin 4-inch gun mounts forward and a twin 3-inch/50 mounting aft alongside a pair of Squid anti-submarine mortars and four torpedo tubes.  Her anti-aircraft fit included four 40mm Bofors single mounts.  She also received a lattice foremast to support her new radar and radio antennas.  While on trials in December of 1954 she responded for a call for assistance by the oceanographic survey vessel Cedarwood which was in danger of foundering.

The first of October 1955 she grounded on Spanish Bank off Vancouver and had to be towed off by the tug Glendon—luckily she suffered only minor damage to her sonar dome.

Between 1955 and 1958 she undertook patrol duties off the Canadian west coast, including an unsuccessful submarine hunt off the British Columbia coast in June of 1957.

In January of 1959 Athabascan and Cayuga departed Esquimalt to join their fellow Tribal-class destroyers in forming an all-Tribal east coast squadron.  Arriving in Halifax on the 16th of February the two destroyers swapped crews with east coast St. Laurent-class destroyers HMCS Saguenay (II) and HMCS St. Laurent (II)—the crew of Athabascan assigned to Saguenay for the return voyage back to Esquimalt where Saguenay and St. Laurent would then be stationed.  In May of that year Athabascan was one of the escorts for HMY Britannia which was carrying Queen Elizabeth II to Canada for the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. [2]

On September 29th 1962 Athabascan responded to a request for help from a ditched Lockheed Super Constellation airliner, rescuing 48 people but later that year her tour of European ports was cut short by the Cuban Missile Crisis in October. The crisis saw the deployment of twenty-two anti-submarine surface vessels, two submarines, the carrier Bonaventure, all of “Bonnie’s” air wing as well as shore based  Grumman Trackers and Canadair Argus patrol aircraft.  Supported by the RCN’s axillaries and commanded by Vice Admiral K.L. Dyer the Canadian deployment on “Cubex” allowed for anti-submarine coverage of the majority of the Canadian and US east coasts while the USN’s blockade of Cuba drew American vessels award from their own coasts. [3]

In March of 1964 Athabascan undertook the rescue of 18 survivors from the stern of the Liberian-flagged tanker Amphailos which had foundered in the mid-Atlantic.

Athabascan was then paid off into reserve and used as a source of spares and equipment before finally being placed on the disposal list.  She departed Halifax under tow in July of 1969, bound for La Spezia, Italy to be broken up.[4]  She was the last of the Canadian Tribals to commission, and the last to be taken out of active service.  With her demolition, only her half-sister HMCS Haida remained—and by 1969 Haida was a museum ship on the Toronto waterfront.

[1]  (English, Afridi to Nizam: British FleetDestroyers 1937 – 43, 2001) p. 50.  This illness is more commonly known as Polio and is caused by the poliovirus, which is generally transferred by contaminated water.

[2]  (English, Afridi to Nizam: British FleetDestroyers 1937 – 43, 2001) p. 50

[3]  (German, 1990) p. 272

[4]  (English, Afridi to Nizam: British FleetDestroyers 1937 – 43, 2001) p. 51


It’s the answer to life, the universe and everything and it took Deep Thought 7.5 million years to compute and check that answer.  The question–now that was something else.  It’s still being calculated.  Me, I’m just happy the Vogons haven’t arrived yet.

Forty-two.  Whoda thunk it.


Word of the day: Friktison

Sean’s Word of the Day Redux: Friktison

fr·ik·t·i·son (friktison) /ˈfɹɪkʃən̩/ noun.

1. The rubbing of one fictional manuscript or literary work against another, esp. those of an author and their children: My mother just started writing short stories and dropped her submission in the mail with mine; it’s been causing friktison.
2. Conflict, as between fiction authors having dissimilar ideas, interests or genres: My brother and I have had some friktison between our short stories.



Assiniboine Underway in 1982

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Assiniboine (II)

This post is another 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.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Assiniboine (II)Specifications

Length: 366’
Beam: 42’
Draft: 13’ 2″
Displacement: 2263 tons

Laid Down: 19-5-1952
Launched: 12-2-1954
Commissioned: 16-8-1956
Paid Off: 14-12-1988

Armament: 4 x 3”/50 HA/LA guns, 2 x Limbo ASW mortar, homing torpedoes

When Marine Industries Ltd. of Sorel, Quebec delivered HMCS Assiniboine (II) to the Royal Canadian Navy it was the first post-war warship built by that yard for the RCN which subsequently commissioned her the 16th of August 1956. Her arrival in Halifax on the 25th saw her assigned to the Third Canadian Escort Squadron.[1]  She, her squadron-mates and ships from the First Canadian Escort Squadron undertook a goodwill tour of North Europe ports in October and returned back in Halifax in mid-November.

With sister HMCS Margaree (II), Assiniboine took part in an International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Virginia in June of 1957.

HMCS Assiniboine in swell

DND photo, courtesy of RCNA Peregrine.

She was transferred to Esquimalt in January of 1959 where she became part of the Second Canadian Escort Squadron.  She hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in mid-July when they travelled from Vancouver to Nanaimo, British Columbia.

In 1962 she underwent conversion to a destroyer helicopter escort (DHH) which saw her after end remodeled to include a flight deck and hangar.  The single stack was split in two each of which was outboard of the helicopter hangar.  To make room for the flight deck the aft 3-inch/50 mount and the Limbo anti-submarine mortars were removed.  Assiniboine was the first of her class to undergo conversion; much of the work was done by the Victoria Machinery Depot Company of Victoria, British Columbia.  The remainder of the work was undertaken by HMC Dockyard Esquimalt.

HMCS Assiniboine and Sea King Helicopter

This photograph shows two major postwar Canadian naval technology developments: operating large helicopters from relatively small ships, and the variable depth sonar. (courtesy http://www.warmuseum.ca/)

June 28, 1963 she recommissioned and departed for Halifax in September.  There she had the “Beartrap” rapid helicopter haul down equipment installed and became the trials vessel for this system.  In that capacity she spent two years chasing storms around the North Atlantic, purposely hunting for poor weather in which she could trial the “Beartrap” system.  Ultimately the trials were successful and the “Beartrap” became a common fitting on all future Canadian destroyers and frigates.[2]

In January 1975 she rendered assistance to the freighter Barma, rescuing her crew after the freighter began to take on water some 185 miles off Boston.

Assiniboine was selected for the Destroyer Life Extension Refit (DELEX) which she undertook entering dock at the Canadian Vickers yard in Montreal on April 23rd, 1979.  She returned to service in mid-November.

In June of 1981, Assiniboine was leading four other vessels NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) out of Halifax harbour when she grounded on Point Pleasant Shoal in heavy fog.  It took several tugboats to get her free.  Her participation in a NATO exercise was thus canceled while she underwent a damage inspection and repairs.[3]

Assiniboine Limbo Well in 1956

Limbo well of HMCS Assiniboine in a photo dated October 1956. (Courtesy Rick E. Davis)

In 1984 she was assigned to escort the Tall Ships Race from Bermuda to Halifax during the early summer.  When the British sailing vessel Marques sank, Assiniboine took up a prominent role in the search for survivors.  She would receive the Chief of Defence Staff Unit Commendation for her efforts, becoming only the second ship in the RCN to receive it.

She returned to Halifax in July of 1984 having discovered fractures in her upper deck stringers and plating.  She entered dry-dock for repairs on July 17th at Marine Industries Ltd.’s Sorel shipyard—her birthplace—for a ten month refit.  This stretched out to seventeen months due to a strike at the shipyard.[4]

HMCS Assiniboine was decommissioned on December 14th, 1988, and taken out of service the following January.  After being surveyed post-decommissioning it was discovered that her steaming plant was in excellent condition, and as she was of similar configuration of the remaining steam-powered destroyers, it was decided to use her as the alongside steam training vessel, replacing HMCS St.Croix (II).[5]

She served as a floating classroom for technicians at the Fleet School for 6 years before being handed over to Crown Assets for disposal.  She subsequently sank in the Caribbean Sea while under tow to the breakers.  In 32 years while under commission she had sailed some 700,000 nautical miles.

[1]  Wartime RCN ships built by Marine industries’ Sorel yard included Flower-class corvettes Arrowhead, Bittersweet, Dunvegan, Fennel, Sherbrooke, Sorel, Calgary, Fredericton, Kitchener, La Malbaie, and Regina as well as Bangor-class minesweepers Brockville, Esquimalt, Transcona, and Trois-Rivières.  They would later build the  hydrofoil HMCS Bras d’Or in 1968 with their last ship for the Canadian Navy being the frigate HMCS Calgary which was commissioned in 1995.

[2] Known in other navies as a Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device (HHRSD) the “Beartrap” was developed by the RCN’s Experimental Squadron VX-10 in conjunction with Fairey Aviation in the 1960s.

[3]  (Cleaves, 1981)

[4]  (Barrie & Macpherson, 1996) p. 19

[5]  (Lynch, Twilight of the St Laurents, 1990) p. 192

It’s official–I’m now CI Campbell

So after some delay my volunteer card for the Navy League of Canada arrived in the post this past Friday.  I now have official proof that I can be called CI Campbell by the cadets.  (although to be honest we knew that I was approved a month or more ago, it just took some time for the card to arrive).  For those unaware (although considering the number of views of this site my audience includes me, myself and maybe even I) CI is really the acronym C.I. which stands for Civilian Instructor.

Naval League of Canada Volunteer ID

Why do official/passport photos always look terrible?

Overall, while the delay was annoying I’m thrilled at how seriously the Navy League takes volunteer screening.  Moving forward I’m expected to wear this ID every time I’m working with the unit which is again a very smart thing to do as it makes clear to the cadets who is approved to work with them directly.  This way they know CI Campbell is authorized to work with their unit–even if they’re unfamiliar with who CI Campbell actually is.

Funny thing is my application for a CIC Officer role at the unit went out on Monday–four days before I received my volunteer card, so essentially my shot at being an officer happened before I had everything required to be an volunteer (but again, we all knew I had the volunteer approval before I was offered the CIC opportunity, the card was just late in arriving).

Friday night, at the band practice at the Corps one of the senior cadets called me CI Campbell for the first time–it took me a moment to realize he was speaking to me!  (I still turn my head when Rhane and I are at the Corps on a training night and someone calls out “Campbell” to her–I always think they’re calling out to me)

Now, the next step will be to get through the application process for the CIC Officer role and be accepted and sworn in as NCdt. Campbell.  Hopefully my photo for the military ID will be better than the photo on the volunteer card.



HMCS Ottawa (I)

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Ottawa (I)

This post is another 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.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Ottawa (I) Specifications

Length: 329’
Beam: 33’
Draft: 10’ 2″
Displacement: 1375tons

Laid Down: 12-9-1930
Launched: 30-9-1931
Commissioned: 15-6-1938
Paid Off: 13-9-1942

Armament: 4 x 4.7” LA guns, eight 21” torpedo tubes, 2 x 2pdr AA guns

The first Canadian destroyer to carry the name HMCS Ottawa was launched as HMS Crusader at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard in 1931.  Like her sister HMS Comet (later HMCS Restigouche) she was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1932 and assigned to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the British Home Fleet.  She served with the Home Fleet until the Abyssinian Crisis in 1935 where she was deployed to the Mediterranean.  From then until her transfer to the RCN she saw various duties, including transporting the C-in-C Home Fleet and acting as tender to the battleship HMS Royal Oak during torpedo trials and attending the carrier HMS Courageous as a plane guard.[1]

HMCS Ottawa (I)

On 13 September 1942, while escorting convoy ON.127, in the North Atlantic, HMCS OTTAWA was torpedoed and sunk by U-91. One hundred and thirteen members of her ship’s company perished.

She was commissioned as HMCS Ottawa at Chatham Dockyard in the same ceremony as HMCS Restigouche.  Together they visited several Quebec and Maritime ports and on October 12 departed Halifax to transit the Panama canal and join the other two destroyers of the Western Division—HMCS Fraser and HMCS St. Laurent—in Esquimalt.  In February and March of 1939 this half-flotilla, joined by the two Eastern Division destroyers joined the RN’s 8th Cruiser Squadron in the Caribbean for exercises and training.  Later in the spring Ottawa and her sisters escorted the King and Queen from Vancouver to Victoria and back during their May 1939 state visit.

In August of 1939, war was imminent and Fraser and St. Laurent were ordered to the east coast with all due haste.  In November Ottawa and Restigouche would join them.  The Canadian destroyers would act as local escort until late May 1940 when four of Ottawa’s sisters were deployed to British home waters.  Ottawa was unable to join them immediately as she was undergoing repairs of damage sustained in an April collision with the tug Bansurf.  It wasn’t until late August that Ottawa would escort the troop convoy TC 7 to Britain.  Here she was sent to the Clyde to act as a local escort there.  On September 25th she had just departed the convoy OB 217 when she was ordered back—SS Sulairia and SS Eurymedon had been torpedoed and Eurymedon was still afloat but shipping water; her captain and two other officers refused to abandon the vessel.  Ottawa took aboard the other survivors and sprinted off to catch up with the convoy.  The next day she was ordered back to Eurymedon which was still afloat—and now surrounded by boats from Sulairia.  Ottawa took aboard the kit-and-kaboodle and headed for Greenock with an extra 118 souls aboard.[2]

She spent a fortnight having her aft torpedo tubes replaced with a 3-inch AA gun and then resumed her duties escorting convoys mostly in transit to and from the middle east.  In early November Ottawa and HMS Harvester[3] were dispatched to aid the freighter Melrose Abbey which reported being attacked by gunfire from a submarine on the surface.  The pair made several depth charge attacks with no apparent results.  Sunrise revealed a large oil slick spreading across the water and the destroyers departed the scene.  This was the last sign of the Italian submarine Faa Di Bruno—a “kill” not awarded to Ottawa until 1984 after closer review of both Italian and Admiralty records.

Ottawa would continue convoy escort operations out of Greenock until she was posted with her sister River-class destroyers to the Newfoundland Escort Force—newly established and to which Ottawa was assigned in June of 1941.  Between June of 1941 and September of 1942 Ottawa cycled between mid-ocean escort and local escort before joining the Newfy-Derry run.[4]

HMCS Ottawa (I) Ship's Company

HMCS OTTAWA – Ship’s Company – June 1942

September 5, 1942 saw Ottawa assigned to convoy ON 127, departing Londonderry for St. John’s Newfoundland.  Leading the escort was Lieutenant Commander A.H. Dobson aboard HMCS St. Croix as Senior Officer, Escort (SOE). On September 10 the convoy was found and attacked by the 13-boat wolf-pack Vorwärts around early to mid-afternoon local time.  Two tankers—Sveve and F.J. Wolfe—and a freighter—Elisabeth van Belgie—were torpedoed immediately by U-96.  Once survivors were rescued Dobson sent the corvette HMCS Sherbrooke to sink the Sveve and F.J. Wolfe by gunfire as the freighter remained afloat and under control.  He also positioned Ottawa astern to deter the attacking U-boat from shadowing the convoy.

The night that followed was one of confusion as the escort fought to scatter the wolf-pack, or at least force it to stay submerged and thus unable to follow the convoy.  Several more merchant ships were torpedoed that night .  Throughout the 11th and 12th the convoy struggled on, having 3 more merchant ships struck by torpedoes.  The convoy was diverted to a more westerly course the night of the 12th in the hope it would reach air-cover sooner.  Help had also been sent in the form of the British WW1-vintage destroyer HMS Witch and HMCS Annapolis—another Canadian Town-class destroyer like St. Croix.  These two ships arrived the night of the 13th and Dobson positioned them ahead of the convoy with HMCS Ottawa.  The sea was calm by this point, and the night clear, with Ottawa making ten knots and waiting for the two fresh destroyers to arrive.  Her CO, Acting Lieutenant Commander C.A. Rutherford was on the bridge and her second-in-command Lieutenant T.C. Pullen was aft at his action station near the depth charges.

HMCS Ottawa (I)

Photograph taken by Charles James Sadler, RCNVR. First Class Stoker, Official number V-4963, serving in the Canadian destroyer HMCS Columbia.

Just after midnight Ottawa’s older 286P radar detected what was believed to be Witch and Annapolis and making a challenge was hailed by Witch less than a kilometre away.  Ottawa altered to port to avoid a collision.  At that moment, the so-far invisible stalker—U-91—struck.  Two torpedoes struck the ship forward.  Pullen witnessed the explosion and heard debris falling onto the deck.  St Croix dashed to the scene and into U-91’s sights but the torpedo fired at St. Croix struck Ottawa instead, finishing her off.  Lt. Pullen and 68 others were rescued but five officers—including Lt. Cmdr. Rutherford—and 109 other crewmen were lost.

Tragically, Ottawa may have avoided her fate had she a better radar outfit.  Type 286 was known for its limitations, and the centimetric set Type 271 likely would have detected the skulking U-boat.  Before she sailed with ON 127 Ottawa’s Gunnery and RDF officer Lieutenant L.B. Jenson was notified by the dockyard that a new Type 127 set was to be installed aboard the ship and when it arrived alongside Jenson informed the CO. Lt. Cmdr. Rutherford—apparently under the impression that Jenson has ordered the installation himself—counter-manded the modification order and had it canceled; Ottawa sailed with her obsolete radar.[5]  Lt. Jenson survived the sinking of HMCS Ottawa.

[1]  (English, 1993) p. 49

[2]  (MacPherson & Butterley, River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, 2008) p. 50

[3] Harvester was a H-Class destroyer originally built for Brazil as Jurura but taken over by the Royal Navy when hostilities began.  She was a near-sister to HMS Hero—the destroyer that would eventually be commissioned in the RCN as HMCS Chaudière

[4]  (MacPherson & Butterley, River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, 2008) p. 51

[5]  (Douglas, Sarty, & Whitby, No Higher Purpose: The Official Operational History of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War, 1939-1943, 2004) p. 515

Blast from the Past: 1/72 HMCS Summerside MM711 (Part 2)

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).  This is Part 2; Part 1 can be found here.

The original can be found here: http://www.shipmodels.info/mws_forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=72158 .

Just to riff on what’s already been said regarding errors, it really does test, and push your modeling skills to the edge taking on a project like this. Throughout the process I’ve been sharing the build with friends and members of one of the local hobby clubs, and sometimes it was hard to take the criticism–I had a vision of what I wanted, and I could see that even when all anyone else could see was a collection of badly-glued wood pieces. The constructive criticism though was of great value, and so long as you take some of it with a grain of salt, have faith in your vision and your skills, and then make the needed modifications I believe the build will be a success. Having worked my way through this project, I’m very proud to be able to call myself a modeller, rather than just a kit-builder

[…] I’d forgotten there was another shape issue with one of the bulkheads–I have no idea how or why, but one of the bulkheads ended up too wide at the top, causing a weird undulation amidships. I re-profiled it, cut new stringers, added a new bulkhead in-between to smooth out the profile and prayed to the gods of wood putty and sand-paper that I could make it smooth later

The following two photos show Summerside after the work on the bow and amidships:



At this point, once I’d reshaped the amidships bulge, added a 1″ plug just forward of where the Bofors would mount and re-shaped the bow block with generous helping of wood putty, I sanded the living hell out of it and sealed the wood with several coats of acrylic varnish.

I initially planned on coating the wood with a thin layer of Bondo, but my good friend Dennis Kaye (an amazing ship-modeler in his own right, and someone who has been like a mentor to me on this project) suggested I use lithoplate. In an attempt to replicate the actual hull plating, I marked up the hull with panel lines and numbers indication what plate goes where–hence the weird look of the hull.

As can be seen in this photo as well:

I’ve planked the deck the same was as the hull, and overlaid thin styrene sheet, using Bondo to fill the seams. The superstructure, mast, fun mount and stacks are under construction, but the bridge is only mocked up with cardboard–I’d hoped to get the shape right using cardboard for a master before cutting clear acrylic sheets for the bridge deck bulkheads, but that didn’t go quite as expected…

Here is a similar shot after the litho was glued, a skim coat of Bondo applied and the whole hull sanded down and primed:

The stacks have been sheeted with styrene, and I’ve replicated the dished, stressed-metal effect common to Kingston-Class stacks, by drawing a curved scalpel across the sheet in parallel and perpendicular lines. The effect came out a little overdone, so as construction continued I mellowed it out using some Mr Surfacer and my good friend sand-paper

Another shot, from the bow this time. Still some sanding left to do:

The hawse-pipes were drilled out and brass tube fitted. I’m using a Billing’s Boat winch, but it’s being modified as it’s not exactly the same as what Summerside has. I still have the cardboard bridge as I was still having trouble getting the angled-outwards part of the bridge right. These photos were taken by my Dad who was out in Calgary visiting. He was heading back to PEI the end of May 2010 (around when these photos were taken) and wanted to approach the Charlottetown Naval reserve, HMCS Queen Charlotte, about the possibility of me donating the completed model to them–lord knows I don’t have room in my house to display it properly. Being an architect, my father wanted some good scale photos to take to the Queen Charlotte.


So this was the state of proceedings last May when I took her to the Western Canadian Regional Model Contest in Nanton Alberta. There was still a lot of work to do, but I was happy with how it was coming–especially in light of being able to–in my mind successfully–deal with the shape issues I’d run in to. It was becoming to look like the ship in my vision–even if only I could see that.



Time Flies When You’re Having….

…Fun? (well no, time flies regardless)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks–and not for any of the reasons I would have expected had you–my one-person audience–asked me two months ago.  Rhane was off to Winnipeg this weekend for a Seamanship competition with Sea Cadets, and it was a near-run thing getting her on the plane.  She was slated to be in Winnipeg for the 17th and we only got her travel orders on the 15th (not to mention the last-minute change of venue from Victoria to Winnipeg).

Once that was dealt with I had to focus on the multiple-balls-in-the-air with things at work, and most happily the opportunity to apply for a CIC officer role with Rhane’s unit (RCSCC 335 Calgary).  This requires transcripts, references and a list of other paperwork.

Meanwhile, on Saturday and Sunday of this  past weekend I was at her Corps doing construction work on the upstairs classrooms, so had little opportunity to relax–not that I mind; I like being busy.

My only fear is that the book writing isn’t getting enough time allocated to it–hopefully over Easter I can rectify things and get a good chunk completed. I only have to the end of April to finish the first draft if I want to stay on-track for my launch date.

Lots of Cadet stuff–and an opportunity to join the Royal Canadian Navy.  Who said being this busy wasn’t fun?



Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Gatineau (I)

This post is another 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.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Gatineau Specifications

Length: 329’
Beam: 33’ 3”
Draft: 10’ 10″
Displacement: 1405 tons

Laid Down: 23-3-1933
Launched: 29-5-1934
Commissioned: 3-6-1943
Paid Off: 10-1-1946

Armament: 3 x 4.7” LA guns, four 21” torpedo tubes, 6 x 20mmOerlikon AA guns, Hedghog ASW mortar

Unique amongst the Canadian River-class destroyers, HMCS Gatineau—built as HMS Express by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Wallsend-on-Tyne—had been originally fitted as a minesweeper, and had twin sponsoons aft for the mine rails (never carried in Canadian service).  She would be the sole E-Class destroyer to serve in the RCN.

HMCS Gatineau (I)HMS Express was commissioned into the Home Fleet November 6, 1934 and assigned to the 5th Destroyer Flotilla.  She had her gun mounts adjusted at Sheerness between December 1934 and January 1935.  During the Abyssinian crisis she was detached to the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria where she served until March 1936, after which she returned to Portsmouth for a refit until May. After refitting she was posted back east to Gibraltar for two months, returning to home waters for the remainder of 1936.  The first three months of 1937 Express undertook Non-Intervention Patrols off the Spanish coast, returning to the UK for a brief period of repairs and then two months of minelaying trials.

Having completed a refit in Portsmouth in October 1937 she suffered a fire in her forward boiler room, which caused extensive damage to her electrical cables and necessitating further repairs.  She spent some time in home waters and patrolling out of Gibraltar until returning to Portsmouth to operate as a minelayer from August to October 1938.  After a short refit there she returned to Gibraltar and on March 21 1939 she escorted the ferry Cote D’Azur and its passengers—the French President and his retinue—to Britain for a state visit.

She was relieved of duty with the 5th Destroyer Flotilla by the J-Class destroyer HMS Janus and was selected for conversion to a Boys’ Training Ship and aircraft co-operation vessel, but ultimately these plans fell through.

HMS ExpressWhen war broke out she was assigned to Immingham and joined the 20th Destroyer (Minelaying) Flotilla on its formation.  Her first offensive minefield was laid at a suspected exit of the German mine barrage in the North Sea.  Subsequently she and HMS Esk, HMS Intrepid and HMS Ivanhoe laid 240 mines on in the Ems estuary the night of December 17th and another barrage of 164 off the Hook of Holland with the same comrades (less Intrepid) the 15th of May.  Prior to the operation off the Hook of Holland Express had collided with a trawler and had to be repaired in Hartlepool in April.

During the “Miracle of Dunkirk” Express made six trips, evacuating over 3,500 troops and was the second-last vessel to leave Dunkirk.

On August 31, 1940 Express was one of several destroyers laying a defensive minefield 40 miles off Texel.  At just past 11:00 p.m. that day she struck a mine just abreast her B-mount.  Everything forward frame 52 was demolished and 4 officers and 53 other crew were killed.  It took some two and a half hours before she was mobile again—and then only backwards.  She spent several hours plodding back to British waters stern first (having unfortunately left behind 9 of her men who would be taken prisoner once rescued) before she was found by HMS Kelvin and HMS Jupiter.  She was first taken in tow by Kelvin, but the tow broke after some 90 minutes and she was then taken in tow by HMS Jupiter to Hull, where she arrived early evening September 9.

Her reconstruction at Chatham would last until October of 1941.  After passing trials post-repair she joined HMS Eclectra to escort HMS Prince of Wales to the Far East.  They left the Clyde October 25, 1941 and sailed to join HMS Repulse, her savior HMS Jupiter and sister HMS Encounter.  When Imperial Japanese Navy carrier strikes sank Prince of Wales and Repulse, Express was able to rescue nearly a thousand of the 2,081 men who survived the sinkings.  She then took over escort duties for “China Force” between Singapore and Java but in February suffered a boiler room fire that caused extensive damage to her electric cabling, fuel tanks and bulkheads.  She continued operations until she could be repaired and refitted in Simonstown between late April and Late June 1942 thus missing the Battle of the Java Sea and the attack on Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

HMS Express H61After returning to duty she joined the Eastern Fleet’s 12th Destroyer Flotilla, and she served as an escort to the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious during the landings at Majunga, Madagascar in September of 1942.  She returned to England in February of 1943 and went into refit at Liverpool until June 2, 1943.  Upon her emergence she was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Gatineau on June 3, 1943 having been given to Canada as a gift.[1]

completed her work-ups at Tobermory and was then assigned to Escort Group C-2 in Londonderry to join convoy ON 191 as escort on July 2.  As the German U-Boats had suffered a serious check in May of 1943, Gatineau found her convoy escort work reasonably quiet until the combined convoy action of ON 202/ONS 18 in September of that year.

The U-boats had returned to the Atlantic with a vengeance—and a new weapon.  The Acoustic torpedo (known to the British as the GNAT) carried a new danger; it was able to run a vessel based on the noise made by that ships screws.  As escort vessels ran faster than merchant men their screws made more noise at speed—the GNAT was designed to kill escorts.  And it did that well.

Between September 20 and September 23 20 U-boats attacked the combine convoy.  The success of the GNAT could be seen in the fact that only six of 63 merchantmen were lost.  The convoy escort lost three ships sunk (including HMS St. Croix)  and one damaged.  The loss of St. Croix was especially bitter, as she and her Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander A.H. Dobson, DSC, RCN has been a successful U-boat killing team for a Town-class destroyer.

Escort Group C-2 began to be employed as a support group in December of 1943.  In this manner it didn’t escort convoys directly, but instead joined convoys specifically to hunt down U-Boats detected by ASDIC (sonar) or other means, thereby freeing up the close escort vessels to continue with the convoy.  In March of 1944 C-2 joined convoy HX 280 which had been attacked by a substantial wolf pack.  Gatineau made ASDIC contact with one of them the morning of March 5, and after a 32 hour hunt, U-744 was sunk.  Gatineau however couldn’t enjoy this success as she had already been called away to assist another convoy under attack.. [2]

She joined Escort Group 11 in Londonderry in late April with her River-class sisters, HMCS Chaudière, HMCS Kootenay, HMCS Ottawa (II) and HMCS St. Laurent.  These fiver were detailed to patrolling the west end of the English Channel during the lead up to D-Day and after the invasion.  Starting June 5 they kept a sharp eye out of U-boats attempting to attack shipping vital to landing and supporting the Normandy Invasion.  Gatineau didn’t stay long however—she left in early July bound for Halifax to have urgent boiler repairs completed.  She would be in refit there until March of the next year, after which she sailed across the Atlantic once more to work up in Tobermory before re-joining EG 11 (now consisting of HMCS Assiniboine and HMCS Saskatchewan along with veteran member HMCS Kootenay).

HMCS GatineauEG 11 continued their patrols for the remainder of the war and after until all U-boats had been surrendered (or scuttled) and accounted for.  Gatineau would head home to Canada after this—briefly stopping tin Greenock to embark repatriated Canadian naval personnel.  She made two subsequent round trips to Greenock on similar “trooping” runs before she was assigned to the Canadian West Coast to become a training ship for HMCS Royal Roads in August.  Despite this plan, and an oceanographic survey she took part in in November she was laid up and decommissioned January 10, 1946.

Apparently sold for scrap and broken up in late 1946 there is some indication she may have been scuttled as a breakwater in Royston, British Columbia in 1948.[3]

[1]  (English, 1993) p. 74

[2]  (MacPherson & Butterley, River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, 2008) p. 96

[3]  (MacPherson & Barrie, Ships of Canada’s Naval Forces: 1910-2002, 2004) p. 51

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