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So long Canuck Sea Kings

The Sikorsky S-61, best known as the iconic SH-3 Sea King, first flew on 11 March 1959. Besides its use as the U.S. Navy’s standard SAR and ASW helicopter until it was finally replaced by the SH60/MH-60 (although the Marines of HMX-1 still use it for Marine One duties), at least 15 countries flew the big Sea King. The Royal Navy finally put the bird to pasture in 2015, leaving Canada as one of the last front-line operators.

The Canadians picked up 41 early SH-3s in 1963 as kits assembled by United Aircraft of Canada as their primary ship-borne maritime helicopter and have kept them running for 55 years. The fleet has flown in excess of 550,000 combined hours which at cruising speed of an SH-3 is roughly equivalent to flying 7,200 times around the Earth, or the equivalent of the distance from Earth to Mars.

The Canadian Armed Forces gave a final salute to the type, which they term the CH-124, in a parade held last week at CFB Esquimalt in Victoria, B.C., flown by 443 Squadron, the last operational Sea King unit the country.

“The Royal Canadian Navy has been well served by the Sea King – our longest range weapon and sensor – for decades,” said VADM M. F. Ron Lloyd, Commander of the RCN. “It was an honour to fly with the crew of Black Horse, the helicopter deployed with HMCS St. John’s, during the Sea King’s last operational deployment supporting NATO assurance measures this summer. Canada’s Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force continue to forge ahead with an exciting new chapter, marked by the first operational deployment of Avalanche, the Cyclone helicopter currently deployed on NATO operations with HMCS Ville de Quebec.”

The last overseas deployment for the Sea King came during the first half of 2018 aboard HMCS St. John’s as part of Operation Reassurance.

A mix of old and new at Connaught

This month is the annual Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration, in which some 300 shooters from Canada’s military as well as teams from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States are competing. First organized back in 1868, the modern event is held at the Connaught Ranges and Primary Training Centre in Ottawa and has lots of hardware on display, both old and new.

Nothing quite tells the story like this shot, showing a Canadian Forces member in CADPAT with their Colt-Canada C7A2 and Elcan sight, followed by a Britsh Army competitor in their newly-adopted Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) camouflage armed their likewise-new SA80A3 (L85A3) Enfield and holstered Glock 17. At the end, a Canadian Ranger with a No. 4 Lee-Enfield.

The Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, part-time soldiers who range across the country’s wildest expanses, are still outfitted with .303 Enfield rifles, although the C-19 Sako in .308 is replacing them:

(Photos: Canadian Forces)

Another classic, the Browning-Inglis Hi-Power, produced in Toronto during WWII, are also still in service with the Canadians. Note the Glock 17s used by the Brits and Dutch on the range.

British soldiers with the new and improved SA80A3, the latest version of the Enfield L85 bullpup rifle which, for better or worse, replaced the classic FAL in the 1980s.

More in my  column at


Operation Cottage at 75, or the time the Canuks were really welcome in Alaska

Here we see a well-kitted Canadian corporal, probably of the 13th Brigade (consisting of the 2/Canadian Scottish, 1/Brockville Rifles, and 1/Edmonton Fusiliers), inspecting a captured Japanese Type 96 or 99 light machine gun, on the foggy and windswept island of Kiska, in the Aleutian chain of the U.S. Territory of Alaska, 16 Aug 1943.

Note the M1 rifle in 30.06…rather than the more traditional Canadian Longbranch SMLE in .303

As a sideshow to the Battle of Midway, the Japanese occupied Kiska with 500 IJN Special Landing Force marines on 6 June 1942 and, though they reinforced the garrison with another 8,000~ sundry troops to include a mini-sub base, by 28 July 1943, they shagged ass when it appeared the U.S. was coming back to take the island in force– one of the very rare instances when the Japanese withdrew from an island rather than fight for it to the last man in the Pacific War.

Part of huge 100-ship Allied fleet at anchor in Adak Harbor in Aleutians, ready to move against Kiska (NARA/U.S. Army Air Forces/Horace Bristol)

On August 15, 1943, the U.S. 7th Infantry Division (with the 87th Mountain Rgt, which later grew into the 10th Mountain Div) and the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade along with the joint 1st Special Service Force, landed on Kiska as part of Operation Cottage and amazingly suffered over 300 casualties in the two-day operation, from friendly fire.

Lessons learned.

Bearded Gunner’s Mate. Stands by a 20mm anti-aircraft machinegun, mounted in a shore emplacement at an advanced base in the Aleutians, circa 1942-1943. Note cigar. Photographed by Lieutenant Commander Horace Bristol. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. .

A closer look at Canada’s most niche survival rifle

Meant primarily for emergency hunting and fending off polar bears rather than parting the hair of a Russian submariner, the C19 rifle is definitely unique to the needs of those that use it.

In the above video members of the Canadian Rangers are shown in Newfoundland meeting their newly issued .308 Win-chambered bolt guns for the first time and getting the 411 on nomenclature and the rifle’s specifics. Based on the Sako T3 CTR (Compact Tactical Rifle) with tweaks for the Rangers as they have to use their guns in whiteout conditions at -50 C weather.

The cold weather testing, by Colt Canada, who is making the C19 under license from Sako.

Said differences include an oversize bolt and trigger guard so that it can be used with heavy gloves (you don’t want to touch metal with bare hands when it’s that cold) as well as a high-viz laminated stock complete with the Ranger crest.

More on the C19 over in my column.

One heck of a RIMPAC line

(U.S. Navy photo by Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Steven Robles/Released)

“PACIFIC OCEAN (June 24, 2018) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104), front, participates in a photo exercise with Chilean frigate Almirante Lynch (FF-07), second, Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Ottawa (FFH 341), third, French Navy Floreal-class frigate FS Prairial (F-731), fourth, United States Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750), fifth, the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10), sixth, and Royal Canadian Navy replenishment ship NRU Asterix (H-123). Sterett is part of Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group scheduled to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2018. ”

Interestingly, the newest (to naval service) of the above is the auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) vessel MV Asterix, a 26,000-ton Liberian-flagged commercial container ship converted and taken into service by the Royal Canadian Navy just four months ago to fill the gap left in the RCNs retirement of their 1960s-era Protecteur-class auxiliaries.

Asterix carries two CH-148 Cyclones and a number of small boats including RHIBS and LCVPs and, according to the RCN, “The vessel can carry 10,000 tons of marine fuel and over 100 tons of aviation fuel with large freshwater tanks. In addition, MV Asterix can provide a large-scale medical response with a fully fitted hospital. It also contains an emergency dormitory for up to 350 evacuees. What is more, the vessel’s galleys are well suited for major humanitarian operations. They can provide 500 cooked meals per hour.”

Asterix is planned to be under contract with Ottawa until 2021(ish) when the second of the two planned Queenston-class support ships will join the fleet.

Also, six ships from three Commonwealth Navies sailed in company across the Pacific Ocean on the way to Hawaii in a flattop-centric task force.

HMA Ships Adelaide, Melbourne, Success and Toowoomba were joined by HMCS Vancouver of the Royal Canadian Navy and HMNZS Te Mana of the Royal New Zealand Navy. The ships conducted Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres and flying operations during the transit.

Imagery by ABIS Christopher Szumlanski © Commonwealth of Australia


Red shirts at the Tomb

The Canadian Rangers, complete in their arctic high-viz uniforms and WWII-vintage Longbranch Enfield .303s, are temporarily posting sentries at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the National War Memorial in Ottawa as part of Canada’s National Sentry Program.

Ranger Ernie Hegglun (left) and Ranger Dallas Alison (right), both from 4 CPRG, stand at ease while on guard. All photos by OS Camden Scott, DAPA, taken at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario on June 19, 2018.

The members of the Canadian Rangers are from Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups (CPRGs) based in Western and Eastern Canada.

“They are honoured to be in Ottawa to stand vigil for all Canadians who served, from the First World War to the present.”

Ranger Ernie Hegglun (left) and Ranger Dallas Alison (right), both from 4 CPRG, stand at ease while on guard.

Master Corporal Amanda Cramer, a piper from the Ceremonial Guard, (right) Ranger Ernie Hegglun, from 4 CPRG, (middle left) Ranger Dallas Alison, from 4 CPRG (middle right) and Ranger Mike Sheppard, from 5 CPRG, (left) Present Arms towards the National War Memorial.

Franklin’s Guardians

A watercolor of the HMS Terror exploring the Canadian Arctic, which she would never leave (Canadian Museum of Civilization)

Ownership of the two ships, Adm. Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two of the most archaeologically important wrecks in the world, was formally transferred to the Canadian government with the signing of a Deed of Gift at a ceremony last month with the Inuit of Nunavut, who played a key role in their discovery, recognised as joint owners of the wrecks and artifacts.

After a local Canadian Forces Ranger pointed out where Franklin’s lost Arctic survey ship HMS Terror was in 2016, a group of 17 Inuit was enlisted by Parks Canada last year to camp out in rotating four-person shifts to protect the historic site and that of Franklin’s other ship, HMS Erebus, which was discovered in much the same way in 2014.

The two ships, under the command of Sir John, set sail from England in 1845 through the Canadian Arctic to find the Northwest Passage. During the treacherous journey, the ships became trapped in thick sea ice. The crews abandoned the ships to trek overland to safety, but tragically none survived.

Painting depicting the fate of Sir John Franklin’s expedition. ”They forged the last links with their lives’ by William Smith Via Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich

“The story behind these vessels is both fascinating and incredibly important to the history of both our nations. The UK joined forces with the Canadian government and Inuit population to search for these ships for 172 years and I’m delighted they will now be protected for future generations,” said UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Artifacts from the wrecks will be available for display at museums in both countries. Currently, there are examples on display at the Canadian Museum of History as part of the “Death in the Ice” exhibit.

The Expedition’s timeline, from the Canadian Museum:

Franklin’s expedition and the dozens of follow-on missions to find him made headlines around the world, such as in this German print, for decades

May 19, 1845: The Franklin Expedition departed from Greenhithe, near London, England.

July 4, 1845: The ships arrived at the Whale Fish Islands, Greenland, after a stormy Atlantic crossing.

July 12, 1845: Officers and crewmembers mailed their last letters home.

July 29 or 31, 1845: HMS Erebus and Terror were sighted in Baffin Bay by whaling ships. This was the last time the ships and their crews were seen by Europeans.

Winter 1845 to 1846: The expedition spent its first winter in the Arctic off Beechey Island. Three members of the crew died and were buried on Beechey Island.

Summer 1846: The expedition headed south into Peel Sound.

September 1846 to Spring 1848: The ships were beset — surrounded and stuck in ice — northwest of King William Island.

June 11, 1847: Sir John Franklin died. He was 61 years old and had served in the Royal Navy for 47 years.

April 22, 1848: The expedition had been stuck off King William Island for over a year and a half. Fearing they would never escape, the men deserted the ships.

April 25, 1848: The men landed on King William Island. Nine officers and 15 seamen had already died. There were 105 survivors. Officers left a note stating their plan to trek to the Back River.

January 20, 1854: Franklin’s Expedition is missing for more than eight years. The Admiralty announced that its officers and men will be declared dead as of March 31, 1854.

1847–1880: More than 30 expeditions sailed, steamed or sledged into the Arctic from the east, west, and south. Very few found any trace of the expedition.

2008: A renewed search for Franklin’s ships began under the leadership of Parks Canada.

September 1, 2014: An important clue is found on an island in Wilmot and Crampton Bay: an iron davit pintle (fitting). Parks Canada refocuses its efforts near that island.

September 2, 2014: 167 years after the British Admiralty’s search began, the first wreck, HMS Erebus, is found.

2016: Almost two years to the day after the discovery of Erebus, Terror is located in Terror Bay, off the southern coast of King William Island.

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