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MY YEARS IN THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY   -   MES ANNÉES DANS LA MARINE ROYALE DU CANADA

Before The Navy

Avant la marine

1965

1966

Joining the Navy

I served as a Naval Radioman in the Royal Canadian Navy and in the Canadian Submarine Service for 8 years, from 1965 to 1973. Even today, a lot of people do not realize how close the world came to a nuclear holocaust during those years. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is well known. Less known are the tense moments from 1968 to 1974 which could have ended at anytime in a nuclear showdown between the super powers.

 

There were the mysterious disappearances of four submarines in 1968: the Russian submarine K-129 north of Hawaii on 8 March 1968, followed by the disappearance of the Israeli submarine INS Dakar, the French submarine Minerve (S647) and the US submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589). Tensions were high as NATO and the Soviets were suspicious of each other, trying of determine if one or more of those missing submarines had been victims of an attack. Russian ballistic missile submarines (Boomers) were hiding in strategic locations along the East coast and the West coast of North America, ready to wipe out entire cities at the push of a button. The same for American boomers hiding in the North Pacific and in the Barents sea, ready to strike at anytime.

 

There were also specially designed US "spy" submarines involved in covert operations near the Russian coast and tapping into Russian undersea cables. It is during those dangerous years that I served as a Naval Radioman in the Royal Canadian Navy and in the Canadian Submarine Service.

 

MSRM (MCPL Rad Sea 251) Donald Courcy

Radioman (Sparker), Submariner and Ship's Diver

ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY

1965 - 1973

NAVAL BASES

HMCS HOCHELAGA   HMCS CORNWALLIS HMCS NADEN    HMCS STADACONA

NAVAL RADIO STATIONS

NRS NEWPORT CORNER   NRS MILL COVE NRS CHEZZETCOOK

SHIP

HMCS GATINEAU

SUBMARINES

HMCS ONONDAGA    HMCS OKANAGAN   HMCS OJIBWA

HMCS Hochelaga

Gatineau 1/65 Division

 

After signing for a 5-year term in the Royal Canadian Navy on Thursday 29 April 1965, I was told to wait at home for two weeks and to report to the Windsor Train Station downtown Montreal on Sunday 16 May 1965 where transportation would be waiting to bring me to HMCS Hochelaga.

 

HMCS Hochelaga was located in Ville Lasalle on the island of Montreal. Although I have some Irish ancestors, I could not speak English at the age of 17. So I spent 4 months there in intensive language training, mixed with drills and other naval training.

 

NAVAL DEPOT (RED NUMBERS)

1 = Naval Depot Warehouses     2 = Naval Depot Workshops     3 = Naval Depot Administration

 

H.M.C. FLEET SCHOOL (YELLOW NUMBERS)

4 = Fleet School Main Gate     5 = Fleet School Living Quarters

6 = Fleet School Cafeteria     7 = Fleet School Administration Building

8 = Fleet School Classrooms Building     9 = Fleet School Parade Square

 

Above - My first day in the Navy. I am the skinny one with the short haircut, second from the left. The two of us who already had short hair were spared a visit to the barber. Everyone else lost all their hair later on that day.

 

Below is the monthly pay rate table approved in March 1965 and retroactive to October 1, 1964. As indicated on the table, when I joined as an Ordinary Seaman Recruit in April 1965, my monthly salary was $117.00. I had a monthly allotment of $50.00 going to my mother so what was left was $67.00 for my personal expenses for one month. Considering that food, clothing and lodging was provided free by the Navy, that wasn't too bad...

 

Above - My first photo in uniform

 

Above - My first outing in uniform. This photo was taken on St-George Street in Saint-Jérôme.

 

 

The most memorable parade I participated in was the one in Ottawa on Canada Day in 1965. The new Canadian maple leaf flag had become our official flag on February 15, 1965, two months before I joined the Royal Canadian Navy. So when I marched in front of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson standing in front of the Parliament buildings on July 1st, 1965, it was the first Canada Day in history with our new Canadian flag flying at high mast. It was a proud moment indeed.

 

 

1965 - HMCS Cornwallis

Skeena 2/65 Division

After almost 5 months in the Gatineau 1/65 Division at HMCS Hochelaga near Montreal, where I underwent extensive language training, I was ready to face real boot camp in English. I was transferred to HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia where I joined Skeena 2/65 Division. This is the real navy boot camp. You went in as a boy and came out as a man. No French language here. They yelled at you in English. If you didn't understand the orders, you ended up doing push ups or crawling in the mud.

 

 

In the above photo, I am walking so it must be on a Sunday. Recruits at HMCS Cornwallis were not allowed to walk around the base from Monday to Saturday. Sunday was the only day when walking was allowed. Any other day, we had to run. Recruits wore the black cap on the base so they couldn't hide from the white caps. Recruits wore the white cap only when going ashore on the weekends.

 

RADIOMAN ! RADIOMAN ! RADIOMAN !

During the four months of basic training, many tests were taken to determine which trade would best suit you. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I arrived in Cornwallis. Shortly after my arrival, I found out that there was a Ham Radio Club on the base. I also found out that recruits who became members of the club were exempt from certain chores on the nights that club meetings were held. So I joined the club. Not because I was interested in radio but because I had less chores to do on those nights. I began reading QST magazines and observing QSO radio contacts while at the club and I slowly fell in love with radiocommunications. Finally, I knew what I wanted to do.

 

Recruits were given three choices for their trade. They were selected based on their aptitudes and on Navy requirements. So when the time came to give my three choices, I chose: RADIOMAN !  RADIOMAN ! RADIOMAN !

 

It was hard for French Canadians to enter the trade of Radioman, especially a guy like me who was new to the English language. So I took a big chance in restricting my choice to only one trade.

 

Toward the end of basic training, I finally received the good news that I had been accepted in the Radioman trade. The only bad thing about this was that the Naval Communications School was located in Cornwallis which meant that I would have to remain in Cornwallis for the first 7 months of 1966.

 

A few days later, another good news was received. There were plans to move the Naval Communications School from Cornwallis, Nova Scotia to Esquimalt, British Columbia and they needed a trial on the west coast. So the first Radioman course of 1966 was going to be in Esquimalt which meant that I was heading for the west coast after the 1965 Christmas holidays.

 

The assault course toward the end of basic training. This is Skeena 2/65 Division at the magazine, getting ready to crawl in the mud, climb walls, go through smoke compartments, hang from ropes, go through tunnels, etc... This is me, third from the right at the back row, with a glove in front of my face. I apologize to the second recruit from the right in the first row. A piece of the photo is ripped off where he is standing.

 

Above - Skeena 2/65 Division at graduation in December 1965.

I am fifth from the left in the third row.

 

Were you in Skeena 2/65 Division at HMCS Cornwallis

from September to December 1965 ???

If the answer is yes, I would like to hear from you

Click HERE for more details and to see all the names

 

MY YEARS IN THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY   -   MES ANNÉES DANS LA MARINE ROYALE DU CANADA

Before The Navy

Avant la marine

1965

1966

 

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