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

1967

1968

1969

 

 

DESTROYER HMCS GATINEAU

 

Maple Spring and Springboard 1968

In early January 1968, it was time again to participate in the annual Canadian Maple Spring exercise and the U.S. Springboard exercise down in the Caribbeans. HMCS GATINEAU left Halifax and quickly transited into warm waters. In all, over 4000 Canadian sailors and 100 Canadian airmen took part in these two exercises and as usual enjoyed rest periods in friendly San Juan, Puerto Rico and US Naval Station Roosevelt Roads on the other side of the island.

 

Sixteen Canadian ships took part including HMCS BONAVENTURE, the supply ship HMCS PROVIDER, maintenance ship HMCS CAPE SCOTT, two submarines HMCS OJIBWA and HMCS ONONDAGA, nine destroyers including HMCS GATINEAU. The ocean going tug PORT SAINT CHARLES was provided for target towing and CNAV BLUETHROAT provided torpedo recovery for both the Canadian and US exercises. In addition, three RCAF Argus Squadrons, two from Greenwood, Nova Scotia and one from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, each sent a half squadron every week while the Navy's VU-32 Squadron sent T-33 jets as airborne target tugs.

 

HMCS BONAVENTURE kept Trackers aircrafts and Sea King helicopters on station around the clock, day after day, week after week, and provided the nucleus of Maple Spring. Submarines and T-33 aircrafts fired simulated missiles on the aircraft carriers while Sea King helicopters as Tactical Coordinators would vector aircraft and/or ships onto the submarines that they had acquired. During one of those exercises, a Sea King helicopter lost an engine and settled into the sea, then after three attempts to take-off the other engine failed and the helicopter rolled over after the crew bailed out. The fleet made maritime history by recovering the helicopter at sea, but it was a write-off dur to salt corrosion.

 

Here I am enjoying the warmth of the Gulf Stream.

 

Canadian supply ship HMCS PROVIDER doing a jacstay transfer with HMCS GATINEAU

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Canadian supply ship HMCS PROVIDER doing a jacstay transfer with HMCS GATINEAU.

Limbo launchers or Anti Submarine Mortar System MK. 10 in the forefront

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

HMCS Gatineau - Working on the deck is nice when cruising in the Caribbeans

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Crew onboard HMCS Gatineau sitting aft of the Limbo launchers or Anti Submarine Mortar System MK. 10

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Canadian destroyer HMCS ST. LAURENT exercising with HMCS GATINEAU

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Canadian destroyer HMCS ST. LAURENT exercising with HMCS GATINEAU

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Canadian destroyer HMCS ST. LAURENT exercising with HMCS GATINEAU

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

From left to right, Radiomen John Greenwood, Sam Houston, Alan ? and Ronald MacDonald

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

HMCS GATINEAU tied up at San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

HMCS GATINEAU - Relaxing after a hard day of anti-submarine exercises.

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

The aircraft carrier HMCS BONAVENTURE participating with HMCS GATINEAU

in Exercise Maple Spring / Springboard 1968

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Destroyer HMCS Fraser and Aircraft Carrier HMCS Bonaventure

(Photo DND - Robert St-Pierre Collection)

 

Aircraft Carrier HMCS Bonaventure going up the Mississipi River and arriving in New Orleans

with 6 other Canadian warships. HMCS Gatineau is the first ship in the background.

(Photo DND - Robert St-Pierre Collection)

 

Going Up the Mississipi River

Following a very successful Maple Spring exercise, seven Canadian ships, including HMCS BONAVENTURE and HMCS GATINEAU, went up the Mississipi River on 1 March 1968 to begin a week long visit of the City of New Orleans. This visit was part of "Canada Week", a contribution to the 250th Annuiversary of the founding of New Orleans. The visit which included formal receptions and open houses was a tremendous success.

 

I volonteered for Shore Patrol duties and had the pleasure of patrolling the French Quarters with the US Navy Shore Patrol and New Orleans police officers. But the best souvenir I have of my New Orleans visit is an evening I spent in a bar with Paula Sattler of Thibodeau, Louisiana, as demonstrated by the following two photos.

 

Enjoying my visit to New Orleans with Paula Sattler, a girl I met on Bourbon Street

 

What Paula wrote on the back of the photo is self-explanatory

 

In No. 1 Mess onboard HMCS Gatineau. Getting ready for shore leave.

 

NATO's Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT)

Following the visit to New Orleans, HMCS GATINEAU detached from the Canadian Fleet and joined NATO's Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) operating in the North Atlantic. STANAVFORLANT was a new NATO squadron created on 13 January 1968 in Portland U.K.

 

The initial 4 ships in the squadron included HNLMS HOLLAND of the Netherlands, HNOMS NARVIK of Norway, HMS BRIGHTON of the United Kingdom and USS HOLDER of the United States. The squadron was augmented on 13 March 1968 with the arrival of FGS KOELN of Germany and HMCS GATINEAU of Canada. HMCS GATINEAU became the first Canadian warship to serve in STANAVFORLANT, thus initiating an enduring contribution to the NATO squadron.

 

STANAVFORLANT was and still is an operationally ready naval force with the mandate of fulfilling the following roles: Provide a continuous NATO maritime presence demonstrating the solidarity of the Alliance by showing flags of member nations operating together in a single force; Provide NATO with a force-in-being available for rapid deployment in times of crisis, tension or limited agression; Provide elements for the formation of a more powerful NATO naval force if required; and contribute to the improvement of NATO naval capabilities through extensive participation in multi-national exercises and day-to-day operations.

 

So on 13 March 1968, HMCS GATINEAU joined STANAVFORLANT and began Exercise MATCHMAKER in the North Atlantic. Port visits during this exercise included Fort Lauderdale Florida, Norfolk Virginia and New York City.

 

While in Fort Lauderdale on 4 April 1968, I went scuba diving in local waters and learned upon my return that Martin Luther King had just been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. I was shocked to observe the reaction of some white people who thought that this assassination was not a bad thing. I had never realized how racist some people could be.

 

The visit to Norfolk, Virginia was also an interesting event. Things were heating up in Vietnam and many Canadians were joining the US Army & US Marines, but I didn't know that the US Navy also had many Canadian recruits. I met quite a few Canadians in the US Navy and I was thinking of transfering to the US Navy when my five-year hitch in the Royal Canadian Navy would expire in 1970. I eventually decided to remain in the Royal Canadian Navy.

 

There was also a French ship accompanying STANAVFORLANT at the time, although France was not a member of NATO. I don't remember the name of the French ship but I do remember exchanging milk for red wine. I remember that the French ship was famous for its red wine, the Dutch ship HNLMS HOLLAND was famous for its Heineken beer available onboard through vending machines, and our ship HMCS GATINEAU was famous for the best food. Many sailors from the other ships came onboard the GATINEAU while in port to enjoy our excellent meals.

 

Diving Incident

During the visit to the port of New York, I had a "diving incident" with a good ending due to the quick intervention of German sailors onboard FGS KOELN. I had been drinking the night before and had returned to the ship quite late. In the morning, two Ships Divers were required to go over the side and perform a task under the ship. I was one of the divers who volunteered for the job.

 

After dressing up, I jumped in the water between FGS KOELN and HMCS GATINEAU, and slowly descended toward the bottom with my buddy diver. At a depth of about 20 feet, I suddenly fell sick and started throwing up. My buddy noted that I was in distress and quickly pulled my weight belt off and guided me back to the surface. Upon arriving on the surface, my buddy gave the distress signal to the diving officer onboard HMCS GATINEAU.

 

The german sailors onboard FGS KOELN were also observing and reacted immediately to the situation by throwing in a lifebuoy and pulling me out of the water. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a warm bath inside the sick bay onboard FGS KOELN. I eventually came to the conclusion that not enough time had passed between the drinking of the night before and the time of the dive. Another possible cause could have been bad air inside the diving tanks but I discounted this possibility since my buddy had used air tanks from the same locker and he had not been affected by it.

 

Exercise MATCHMAKER ended on 18 May 1968. HMCS GATINEAU and other ships of STANAVFORLANT headed for some R&R in Halifax.

 

HMCS GATINEAU pulling alongside Jetty# 3 at HMC Dockyard in Halifax.

The aircraft carrier HMCS BONAVENTURE can be seen tied up at Jetty # 4

under the Angus L. MacDonald bridge.

 

From left to right, Radiomen Bill Tootle and Ronald MacDonald at Naval Radio Station Mill Cove

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

HMCS GATINEAU in drydock at the Halifax Shipyard.

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

HMCS GATINEAU in drydock at the Halifax Shipyard.

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

HMCS GATINEAU in drydock at the Halifax Shipyard.

Photo from the Ronald MacDonald Collection

 

Myself with my friend Gordon Baker in HMCS GATINEAU's # 1 Mess

 

My friend Bellemarre on the left with me in HMCS GATINEAU's # 1 Mess

 

Myself on the left at the rooming house located at 5667  Kaye Street in Halifax.

I don't remember the name of my friend but I know he was a Radioman.

 

Radioman Trade Group Two (TGII) Course

At the end of April 1968, I was detached to the Fleet School at HMCS Stadacona to take on my Radioman Trade Group Two Course. HMCS GATINEAU was going back to sea during the course so I chose to move into "A" Block on the base since I didn't have an apartment ashore at the time. The 4-month course lasted until August 1968.

 

In the photo above, I am first from the left in the front row.

 

Volunteering for Submarine Service

After becoming a scuba diver in 1967, I had started thinking about life on submarines. I was still craving for excitement and adventure, and I was getting some of it in surface ships. But I was looking for more and submarines was beginning to appeal to me. So while taking my Radioman TGII Course, I made my move and volunteered for submarine service.

 

Acceptance is not a guarantee. I had to take many tests to determine if I was suited for life under the waves. I must have passed because toward the end of my Radioman TGII Course, I received confirmation that my request for submarine service had been accepted. I was also told that I would be going to submarine school for basic submarine training in September 1968, a few days after the end of my Radioman TGII Course. This meant that, upon completing basic submarine training, I would be heading for my first submarine instead of returning to HMCS GATINEAU. It appeared that my time in the surface navy was coming to en end and that I would soon be working in the silent service.

 

23 September to 1 November 1968 - Basic Submarine Training

Within days of completing my Radioman Trade Group II Course, I began basic submarine training at the Fleet School in Halifax.

 

Here I am on the left receiving my Basic Submarine Training Certificate

from Lieutenant Peter Cairns on 1 November 1968

 

From left to right:

Instructor  Chief J. Hawkins, Wilf Broyden, Lieutenant Peter Cairns

myself and Instructor Petty Officer R. Newman

 

 

 

HMCS ONONDAGA - My First Submarine !!!

Following Submarine Basic Training at Fleet School in Halifax, no time was wasted in being posted to my first submarine. The next Monday, on 4 November 1968, I reported onboard submarine HMCS ONONDAGA tied up at Jetty 5 in the Halifax Dockyard.

 

As soon as I went down the hatch, I suddenly realized that my life would not be the same from now on. A strong feeling of pride came over me. I had made it. I was now a submariner. But I was soon reminded by my new shipmates that I still had a long way to go before becoming a "qualified" submariner. If everything went well and if I worked hard on my qualification studies, it was possible to qualify in seven months. But that meant studying and exploring all parts and all systems of the submarine in my free time, after work, either in port or at sea. Only upon qualifying in submarines would I be allowed to wear the dolphin on my left arm.

 

 

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

1967

1968

1969

 

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