naval affairs

NAC News – Edition 311 HMCS Stettler (Prestonian Class Frigate) and J311 HMCS Fort William (WW2 Bangor Class minesweeper)

NAC News – Edition 311 HMCS Stettler (Prestonian Class Frigate) and J311 HMCS Fort William (WW2 Bangor Class minesweeper)

Your weekly national and international naval news for the week of June 29, 2019

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Rod Hughes

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  • ★   Please read at the end of this week’s edition Past-President Jim Carruthers’s impassioned paper arguing for more Naval content and subjects in RMC.
  • ★   Go Fund Me for Mark Norman(Editor –  latest update “Good day everyone.  By now you may have seen in the news that VAdm Norman will be retiring from the Canadian Forces and has reached a settlement with the government.  I will be discussing mechanisms by which the money received can be returned (or potentially donated to charity) depending on the ability of GOFUNDME to support such an approach and the wishes of the contributors.  I will get back to everyone once I have more information.  Standby for more updates.  Lee”  Editor – Given the above, if you thinking of a charity please think of the NAC Endowment Fund
  • Lt(N) Hampton (Hammy) Gray Memorial Fund – A fund for a memorial in honour of “Hammy” Gray to grace a newly designed entrance to the BC Aviation Museum in Sidney, B.C. is underway. $25,000 is needed to make the plan a reality. NAC-VI has agreed to accept donations on behalf of the project, See the complete details in “Scuttlebutt” below.
  • NOABC 100thAnniversary and 2019 NAC Conference–2-6 October in Vancouver. Details including registration and program.You can also visit the NOABC website.
  • Arctic Shipping Forum North America 29 – 31 October 2019 Hotel Omni Mont-Royal
    Montreal Details of Agenda
  • The Evolution of Equality and Inclusion in the Maritime Profession Symposium 2019








  • The Buried Battleship!(Editor – a segment of the Kreigsmarine puzzle)
  • First Falklands Task Force: Operation Journeyman 1977(Editor – interesting events surrounding the Falkland War)
  • Lt(N) Hampton (Hammy) Gray Memorial Fund  – A place for Hammy Gray (Editor – details drawn from Starshell)  A retired RCN sailor Joe Buczkowski felt strongly that we must erect a memorial to Hammy here in Victoria so that young Canadians in the future may know of Hammy Gray’s bravery and sacrifice.  The memorial cairn will be black marble with etchings of Hammy and his Corsair aircraft.  The memorial will be set in a landscaped area of quiet reflection at a newly designed entrance to the BC Aviation Museum in Sidney, B.C.  $25,000 is needed to make the plan a reality.  The Naval Association of Canada (NAC) Endowment Fund has donated $2,500. NAC-VI has agreed to accept donations on behalf of the project, and the NAC-VI Treasurer (Diana Dewar) is holding the funds donated to the Lt(N) Hampton (Hammy) Gray Memorial Fund.  Should you wish to donate, a cheque should be mailed to the: Naval Association of Canada – Vancouver Island, Box 5221, Victoria BC V8R 6N4.  The cheque should be made payable to the NAC-VI and write Lt Gray Memorial on the memo line. Please include a return address as tax receipt and thank you letter will be forwarded.



This is an exciting time for our 23 or so Naval Cadets [NCdts] who have just graduated from RMC and have been commissioned as officers in the RCN.  Yes, I said 23 – that includes all classifications LOG, NTO and NWO!  Naval Officers, yet it is possible that some of these folks will never have seen an ocean or spent any time on one of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships.  Without a doubt these young officers will not have taken any naval oriented academic subjects.  RMC dropped its last naval oriented course a number of years ago.

Where have we been, where are we now and is it possible to effect change?  Historically Canada educated its Naval Officers through naval institutions, but those days are gone.  A dedicated naval college is not in Canada’s future, but perhaps with some thoughtful actions we can adjust our course slightly.



The Naval Act of 1910 stipulated that an institution called the Naval College of Canada be established.  The resultant Royal Naval College of Canada (RNCC) opened on 11 January 1910.  Initially it consisted of two years at the college followed by a year serving on cruisers as Midshipmen.  With the grounding of NIOBE on Sable Island in 1911 and a long repair horizon it was decided that the third year would be spent on RN cruisers and battleships. (A historical note – this led to the death of four RCN Midshipmen from the first class who were the first Canadian casualties of WWI as they were serving on HMS GOOD HOPE when it was sunk off Chile on 1 November 1914.)  In 1915, in recognition of the need for additional education, primarily in the areas of science and engineering, the ‘academic’ phase was expanded to three years followed by a year on cruisers.

The 6 December 1917 Halifax explosion rendered the NIOBE useless and destroyed the RNCC buildings.  RNCC was moved to RMC Kingston for the final term of 1917 and subsequently to Esquimalt in 1918.  Despite great plans for the College it was closed in 1922 as part of drastic RCN cost cutting measures.  As a result, Canada came to depend on the RN for Canadian Naval training.  The value of a Canadian solution was however clearly demonstrated by subsequent events.  Despite only few short years of operation RNCC generated the senior officers that would lead the RCN through its WWII expansion and operations.  The 1945 RCN Navy List names 15 NWO Captains and six NTO Captains plus one LOG Captain. Of these 22 Captains, 17 later reached Flag rank. All 17 were graduates of the RNCC.


The savage reduction in the RCN following the First World War resulted in a total RCN strength of 380 uniformed personnel with 67 officers and seven warrant officers.  Of the officers 28 were in training or serving with the RN – an attempt to retain some expertise. In addition to attending the Royal Naval College at DARTMOUTH, a few officers attended RMC. Naval Headquarters in Ottawa had only eight officers.

During this period between the wars there was little if any standardization in the education of Naval Officers with a resultant dependence on RNCC graduates, largely due to the lack of a naval college.  Early in WWII it was recognized that at least a minimum of officer education was required and three ‘stone frigates’ to train RCNVR officers known in the RCN as ’90-day wonders’ were established.


As the war progressed it became apparent that an even more professional officer corps was required.  Of three training schools spanning the country; the West Coast establishment was HMCS Royal Roads.  In 1942 a two-year Naval College known as the Royal Canadian Naval College (RCNC) was commissioned as HMCS Royal Roads.

This time around there seemed to have been an intent to do it right.  The college held approximately 100 cadets – nearly three times as many as its predecessor. The entirely naval staff was impressive both in numbers and in academic qualifications.  In total these Officers held five Masters degrees and three Doctorate degrees.  The graduating class of 1946 included an impressive gaggle of officers who had an outsize impact on the RCN and Canadian industry.

The RCNC became, for one year, a joint RCN/RCAF college and then Canadian Services College Royal Roads, a tri-service campus as one of three including RMC Kingston and CMR St Jean.  This was a made-in-Canada experiment which inexorably replaced naval education with military education.  In 1949, a DND commission, formed to investigate disciplinary incidents in the RCN and to ‘Canadianize’ it, also examined HMCS Royal Roads’ officer training and included the following prescient assessment in its report (known as The Mainguy Report).

“It is not within our purpose nor our competence to offer well founded criticisms on the Tri-service training at ROYAL ROADS. It is in any event a new experiment under observation and trial. In view of the particular problems of the Navy, of the peculiar and almost unique relationship between officers and men at sea, it is not unfair to state that Naval training, as such, has received greater disadvantages and less advantages from the institution of the Tri-service system than any other branch of the Armed Services.”

The re-establishment of a properly staffed naval college produced Canadian industrial and government leaders in addition to needed naval leadership.


The creation of HMCS Venture is part of the larger story in which the postwar RCN struggled to produce sufficient officers and men to complement the massively expanding fleet and its naval aviation component.  This was not a tidy process because, as in WWII, the RCN over-committed itself in setting NATO force goals.  In March 1948 the strength of the navy stood at 6,860.  The authorized ceiling for 1960 was 21,000, a 300 percent increase.  The RCN was in the order of 895 officers short in 1953 projected to grow to 1400.  This gap was being filled temporarily by officers from World War II. “Retreads” would not suffice for modern ships and aircraft ordered. In the opinion of Captain Bob Welland, then Director of Naval training, the current officer training system that depended on Canadian Service Colleges (CSC) and University Naval Training Divisions (UNTD) schemes was “dysfunctional”.

HMCS Venture was conceived as part of the solution, an “emergency plan”, for rapidly increasing officer production.  It had two objectives: to bridge the production gap of 100 a year and to make up the deficit of the 895 officers.  What became known as “the Venture Plan” was to be a common entry for all branches.  VENTURE cadets would undergo two years of professional training including sea time and be educated beyond Senior Matriculation level.  A total entry of 276 cadets of all branches was authorized for 1954.  The plan would be continued for ten years. HMCS Venture was to be a naval college in every aspect except title.

HMCS Venture continued until 1966.  VENTURE morphed into the Short Service Officer Plan (SSOP) in 1964 and was reduced to 14 months.  In the 80’s and 90’s the majority of officers in senior ranks of the navy were graduates of VENTURE. VENTURE produced 13 naval flag officers including three Vice Admirals who served as the Commander Maritime Command, one as VCDS, a Commodore of Naval Divisions, and Commodores in both the RAN and RNzN.


While naval colleges in different forms ran sporadically for 30 years the Tri-service Canadian Service College successor has endured for over 70 years.  One could argue that through those 70 plus years CSC has lost naval attributes it once might have had and is now for all intents and purposes a military college with an Army history and a very small naval component.  The non-naval character is not just a case of numbers but permeates the ethos of the organization and processes from basic training through to graduation.

The naval influence and characteristics did not just abruptly disappear but rather atrophied over decades.  A watershed moment was integration and while the services themselves have re-established their identifies the CSC has not.  Instead it seems that every reappraisal of CSC, RMC being the usual focus, has made officer training more RMC-centric to the extent that it would seem RMC is seen as an end in itself rather than a means of educating naval officers.  The CSCs over these decades have changed shape – morphing from three colleges each staffed by a single service and therefore having navy, army or air force characteristics to a single college of the army persuasion and now back to two campuses with language or perhaps civil culture being the differentiator.  The erosion of naval culture can be connected to three inflection points – the demise of the RCNC, the change to make CSC a degree granting institution and integration of the Canadian Armed Forces.  An anecdotal consideration of the differentiators might go as follows…


From establishment of the CSCs until the early 60s the approach of the RCN differed from the other two services. Whereas Army and RCAF cadets entered the CSCs with the objective of graduating after four years – and in many cases went to a civilian university to obtain a degree – RCN cadets often left after two years to continue training at RN establishments.  In addition, the approach at each of the colleges was different and in the case of ROYAL ROADS the college maintained many ‘naval college like’ characteristics. Some differences from today:

  • Cadets were recruited by service specific standards and were from day one Navy.
  • ROADS was staffed by the RCN. To say the three services had different ways of doing things would be an understatement.  The character of the college was Navy.
  • The terminology was Navy, the climate and views were oceanic, a naval ethos permeated the establishment.
  • Time on ships, sailing on ORIOLE, taking YFPs up the coast, down to Seattle and so on allowed cadets to develop naval skills and experience real responsibility.

While these days are gone there are in this list points of real value – can they be recreated in part by adding naval staff, boats at CATARAQUI, naval terminology and naval recruiting?


Perhaps the next inflection point took place when RMC (not CMR or RR) began granting degrees.  Naval cadets no longer had the option to go to the RN to complete their training and everyone spent the final two years at the Army school – RMC.  They may have had some naval exposure if they attended ROYAL ROADS but they graduated from a military college.

ROYAL ROADS for the first two years continued to be in a naval environment with all the attributes enumerated by the bullets in the section above.  On the completion of the academic year NCdts remained at ROADS with the curriculum changing to shore-based training in navigation, rel-vel and naval subjects before moving to ships for a few weeks of pilotage training in the Gulf Islands before heading down the coast to California and over to Hawaii.  ROADS types were in many ways immersed in a naval culture for the entire first two years. Those from the other two colleges were still recruited by the RCN and spent the summers on ships but they spent their college years immersed in a military environment.


With integration the decline of things naval accelerated.  It did not happen all at once or in a single location.  Rather change spread throughout the system from the time Naval Cadets were recruited – not by the Navy – until they graduated with minimal naval influence.  Although things have changed a bit as 2ndyear cadets get a trip to Halifax, the environment is non-navy and perhaps even anti-navy.  As mentioned, some NCdts had never seen the ocean, never mind a ship during their time at RMC!


The tri-service basis of our current defence academies is a strong positive and of great benefit particularly to those officers that go on to senior positions and work in a multi-service environment.  However, it seems clear that it has resulted in a diminishment of naval culture and ethos critical to a capable and effective Navy.  There is an issue with CSC providing naval officers in the numbers needed and the cultural leanings desired. While some postulate a naval college as a solution, that is unrealistic. Canada will never see distinct service academies in the future.  While we will never turn the CAF / CSC ship around perhaps we can nudge this vessel so that there is a course alteration that would benefit our naval needs.  I believe there are actions that can be taken during basic training, while the NCdts are at RMC/CMR, over the summers, and some naval curriculum must be reintroduced at RMC.


With NCdts being immersed 24/7 in a military environment every opportunity must be grasped to provide some naval context. Naval staff at RMC must work harder than their other service contemporaries to provide when and wherever possible an ongoing persistent naval connection.

In attempt to make some difference while the NCdts are at RMC I established, through an endowment, a series of naval oriented undertakings in 2011.  They include: presentation of naval swords to the top NTO and NWO NCdts of the graduating class; presentation of the 10 volumes of Salty Dips – our ‘unofficial history’ to each graduate; support of 40-50 NCdts at NAC BOA GALAs; support of 40 or so NCdts at NAC Conferences held in Ottawa and two or three NCdts if the Conference involves air travel; and attendance at the Halifax BOA Dinner for 2ndyear NCdts during their ship visit.  The ‘tag line’ I use to describe this use of my endowment is an attempt to ‘PUT SOME NAVY IN NAVAL CADET’.

Some other changes that are or should be considered include attention to: naval recruiting; NCdts bleeding away during basic training and their time at RMC; each NCdt receiving a personal welcome from CRCN acknowledging their decision and welcoming them to the RCN; NCdts attending naval social and professional events within driving range of RMC for the entire group and smaller numbers for events requiring air travel; expanding the annual Naval mess dinner as much as space permits instead of limiting it to the graduating class; ensuring key, inspirational type senior officers to attend the RMC Naval mess dinner; some sort of naval ‘symposium’ at RMC with exciting speakers; and a CPF visit to Kingston during the academic year with day sail opportunities.


It seems that summers – which formerly was the time during which NCdts at CSC could begin to be inculcated with naval knowledge – have in part been given over to RMC and the military.  Are the ‘four pillars’ more important than naval knowledge?  It appears that a good number of NCdts spend their summers in a military environment by remaining at RMC or going to St Jean working to satisfy the pillars rather than undergoing naval training.  Even if the NCdt is working on language training, summers need to be spent on the coast and preferably on ship. Summers, which are formative with these young people must be used to begin to put some Navy in NCdts.


It may seem less than wise to propose adding additional courses when RMC is in the process of examining how it can reduce the cost per cadet with the elimination of courses being a primary initiative – but that is what we need to do.  What courses would add value both professionally and making NCdts feel they are Navy?  Some ideas on re-establishing a naval academic presence at RMC:

  • First and foremost, naval history / naval strategy. Every NCdt should leave RMC with a basic understanding of these subjects – Officer Cadets would also benefit.
  • Oceanography providing a basic understanding of the oceans upon and under which we operate.
  • Ship acquisition. The process of requirements definition, sketch design, trade-offs, roles of other departments, shipyard processes, etc.  Every NCdt would benefit from some grounding in how we build a navy – especially in light of our defining and building ships in Canada.
  • Overview of naval architecture and marine systems that every naval officer would find valuable in understanding our ships.
  • Overview tying together electrical, mechanical and computer systems disciplines taught at RMC into a systems look at a ship.


Canada is a three-ocean maritime nation, not only in its own right, but also as part of an increasingly naval oriented international structure.  The world’s nations continue to devote a larger portion of their defense budgets to navies.  The great powers increasingly compete through naval building programs, with China recently passing the US to field the world’s largest Navy.  Trade overwhelmingly moves by sea, the largest source of protein for the world’s increasing population is ocean fish based, and so on. Since colonial times Canada has recognized the wisdom of educating aspiring naval officers in naval strategy and affairs.

Yet as the importance of maritime affairs has grown, naval content in Canada’s service academy programs has atrophied.  There is little naval content in the CSC/RMC program. While it is impossible to imagine the creation of a naval college in Canada or even major changes perhaps small non-disruptive changes to the education of our NCdts which would fill some of the gaps can be made:

  • During the academic year we must work to put more Navy in NCdts.
  • Summer training, whatever the content, should be conducted on a coast in a naval environment.
  • The RMC academic program must offer courses to include at a minimum naval content such as naval history and naval strategy.

H6604 Jim Carruthers

June 2019