Wordswolf

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Tag: World War 1

Tin-Can Canucks: Now on Sale

The long wait is over!

Tin-Can Canucks is officially on sale. Available through CreateSpace & Amazon you can find it online–and hopefully on the shelves of a book store near you.

The book’s foreword is by Vice-Admiral M.F.R. Lloyd, CMM, CD who is the current Chief of the Naval Staff and Commander of the Royal Canadian navy. It covers the history of the destroyer-type warship in the Canadian Navy from 1915 to 2016.

You can get your copy through these vendors:

Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from GoodReads
Buy from CreateSpace
Buy from Amazon
 For more information, see TinCanCanucks.com

 

Cheers,

Sean

VIMY Events in France

Vimy Ridge in 2017 II

Vimy Ridge has always been of huge historical significance for me–it represented the coming-of-age of the Canadian Military, and, as General Rick Hillier might say, was the first visible occasion where Canada’s military ‘punched above its weight.’

For that reason, it’s been a dream of mine to visit Vimy and the other Canadian battlefields in France, from both the First World War and the Second Word War.  Luckily, this year, I’ll be able to make it happen.

Along with my daughter (a Royal Canadian Sea Cadet) and my father we will be traveling to France to visit Paris, Juno Beach & Caen, Dieppe and of course Vimy Ridge–the last spot on Vimy Ridge Day on April 9th.

Most of my recent writings have been about the Royal Canadian Navy, but there will always be a special place in my heart for the Canadian Army–having served in a recce unit in my youth.  In fact, my former unit’s predecessor the Prince Edward Island Light Horse landed as II Canadian Corps Security Company on Juno Beach, June 6th, 1944.

So it is my hope, over the coming week or so, to blog about this trip to France–both as a means to explore a country I’ve never been before, and perhaps highlight some history while I’m at it.  Call it my Vimy Ridge Travelogue.

In the meantime, I would like to share a video from Veterans Affairs which leads into the Vimy Ridge Centennial. (I should also note that the featured image on this post is also from Veterans Affairs Canada)

Cheers,

Sean

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.

Cheers,

Sean

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