Category Archives: canada

Talisman Sabre Photoex

Talk about a great shot. The ships of the forward-deployed USS America (LHA 6) Expeditionary Strike Group steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21 in conjunction with warships from Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. In all, you have three ‘Phibs, six escorts, and two auxiliaries with a battalion of Marines and a half-squadron of F-35s along for the ride. 

The place? The Coral Sea. What a difference 80 years makes, right?

CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. This is the ninth iteration of Talisman Sabre, a large-scale, bilateral military exercise between Australia and the U.S. involving more than 17,000 participants from seven nations. The month-long multi-domain exercise consists of a series of training events that reinforce the strong U.S./Australian alliance and demonstrate the U.S. military’s unwavering commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni)

And the breakaway.

CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) break from formation steaming during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni

For the record, the America ESG has the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. The 31st MEU currently comprises the F-35B-augmented Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) as the ACE, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines as the GCE, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 as the LCE. 

Halifax on Display

Check out this great overhead of the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Halifax (FFH 330), at the time flagship of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2), during Operation Reassurance in the Mediterranean, 30 August 2019.

Note her “HX” helicopter deck identifier, roughly amidships Harpoon cans, VLS Sea Sparrow 4-packs next to the Harpoons, 57mm Bofors hood ornament, assorted small boats in three different sizes, and her hangar-mounted CIWS. Canadian Forces Photo RP24-2019-0034-007 by Corporal Braden Trudeau, Formation Imaging Services

Commissioned 29 June 1992, the lead ship for the 5,000-ton Halifax-class frigates is optimized for ASW, carrying a hull-mounted sonar, two twin Mark 32 Mod 9 torpedo tubes, and a magazine for 24 Mk 46 torpedos to feed both the tubes and an embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter. For AShW, she has 8 Block II Harpoons while her anti-air/missile defense is limited to 16 verticle-launched ESSM Sea Sparrows, a Phalanx Block 1B CIWS, and a 57mm Bofors Mk3. Still, for her intended mission, the class has a great layout and it is too bad the U.S. Navy doesn’t have 30 of these in lieu of littoral combat ships. 

Halifax returned to Canada yesterday morning, finishing over six months underway as the flag for Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1).

HOISTEX!

Kingfisher, the embarked RCAF CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter of the Canadian frigate HMCS/NCSM Halifax (FFH 330) conducts a HOISTEX with Royal Norwegian Navy (Sjøforsvaret) Ula-class/Type 210 submarine HNoMS Utvaer (S303) in the Norwegian Sea with French Aquitaine-class frigate Alsace in the background. The evolution was part of NATO Dynamic Mongoose earlier this month.

You gotta watch that static charge on such operations. Still, exhilarating stuff. 

Cowboy Guns as Brush Guns for Canadian Guerillas

As part of the general mass panic that came about all along the Pacific coast of North America after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which kicked into overdrive with the follow-on actions of Japanese submarines off Oregon and California and the seizure of windswept islands in the Aleutians within six months of that Infamy, a home guard force was formed in British Columbia.

Eventually christened the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, they eventually grew to some 15,000 members. With guns and training time for new types short, they were outfitted with old bolt-action rifles which dated to the previous World War– which grizzled old vets of the Rangers no doubt remembered– as well as almost 5,000 commercial rifles from Connecticut.

Lever action Marlins and Winchesters.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Warship Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Flattop of the Americas

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 2, 2021: Flattop of the Americas

Library and Archives Canada 4950939/WO-A057319

Here we see an incredible original color photo of the Colossus-class light aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior, Canada’s first flattop, at sunset circa 1946. She would fly three different flags across her short career and get close enough to an H-Bomb to almost touch the sun.

British birth

Warrior was one of 16 planned 1942 Design Light Fleet Carriers for the RN. This series, broken up into Colossus and Majestic-class sub-variants, were nifty 19,500-ton, 695-foot-long carriers that the U.S. Navy would have classified at the time as a CVL or light carrier. They were slower than the fast fleet carriers at just 25-knots with all four 3-drum Admiralty boilers were lit and glowing red, but they had long legs (over 14,000 miles at cruising speed) which allowed them to cross the Atlantic escorting convoys, travel to the Pacific to retake lost colonies or remain on station in the South Atlantic or the Indian Ocean for weeks.

The classes’ 1946 Jane’s entry under the RN’s section. Note that Warrior is missing. 

Capable of carrying up to 44 piston engine aircraft of the time, these carriers had enough punch to make it count.

The thing is, only seven of these carriers were completed before the end of World War II and even those came in during the last months and weeks. They effectively saw no service. Laid down beginning in 1942, most of the ships were launched but when the war ended, construction was canceled. Two were completed as a peculiar RN invention of a “maintenance carrier,” intended just to repair and ferry but not operate aircraft. Some were immediately transferred to expanding Commonwealth fleets. Suddenly, the Australians, Canadians, and Indians became carrier operators. The Dutch (then Argentines) and Brazilians soon followed. Class leader Colossus was sold to France as Arromanches.

HMS WARRIOR (FL 21271) At a buoy. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205121624

Speaking of being sold off, Warrior was ordered, originally as HMS Brave, on 7 August 1942 from Harland and Wolff (builders of the Titanic) at their yard in Belfast. Launched on 20 May 1944, just two weeks before D-Day, she was the last of the Colossus class to finish construction in WWII on 2 April 1945, just as Berlin was falling. Intended for use in the Pacific, she was made available to Ottawa on a “try it before you buy it basis” while Japan was still in the war.

Oh, Canada

The Canadians were not entirely neophytes to carrier operations, having used a couple of Ruler/Bouge-class escort or “Jeep” carriers (the RN-flagged HMS Nabob and HMS Puncher) during the war already. Outfitting four squadrons (803, 825, 826, and 883 for the RCN), she would soon be ready to fly Supermarine Seafires (later replaced by Hawker Sea Fury) fighters, and Fairey Firefly IV strike aircraft (later replaced by TBM Avengers). Commissioned as HMCS Warrior on 24 January 1946, she was the largest warship Canada operated up until that time, having previously just had cruisers and escorts.

She arrived at Halifax in March 1946 and, had Japan not surrendered six months prior, would have likely gotten in on Operation Coronet, the planned and likely very bloody Allied invasion of Honshu, where the British Pacific Fleet was scheduled to play a big part. After all, her sisters HMS Colossus, Glory, Venerable, and Vengeance had already joined the BPF in Sydney in 1945.

Instead, Warrior never went to war under a Canadian flag.

HMCS Warrior, broadside view taken from shore, 14:30 hours, 23 Aug. 1946. LAC 3198949

Warrior underway, circa 1946. Original color. LAC 4950938/WO-A057319

The batsman on HMCS Warrior, signaling aircraft to land on the flight deck, circa 1946-48. Original color. LAC 4950874/WO-A057319

R.C.N. PR434. Vickers “Seafire” Mk15. R/R Griffon 6. 803 SQD. H.M.C.S. Warrior 30 August 1946 LAC

HMCS-Uganda (C66) as seen from the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior circa 1946, note the Fairey Firefly and Maple Leaf insignias. LAC-MIKAN-No 4821077

Fairey Firefly on the deck of HMCS Warrior, circa 1946-48. Original color. WO-A057319

Crowded hangar deck of Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior

Warrior passing under the Lions’ Gate Bridge in Vancouver 10 February 1947. Photo by Jack Lindsey/City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-3461

HMS Warrior (R-31) passing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, Vancouver. Feb 9, 1947. Jack Lindsey/City of Vancouver Archives

Deck Landing Control Officer (DLCO) signaling Hawker Sea Fury to take off, on an RCN aircraft carrier, circa 1947-57. Original color. LAC 4950873/WO-A057319

RCN 881 Anti-Submarine Squadron Grumman Avenger in flight LAC 4951377

Canada’s first proper flattop was returned to the Royal Navy on 23 March 1948 at Portsmouth, replaced by the Majestic-class near-sister HMCS Magnificent.

London Calling

Upon her return to Britain, Warrior was used as a trial ship for flexible deck experiments and then was laid up. Reactivated for Korea, she was used as a transport carrier to haul troops and aircraft to the epic battle for the Peninsula, arriving there in August 1950. 

 

 

HMS Warrior off Gibraltar MOD 45139702

HMS Warrior (R31), USS Des Moines (CA-134), and HMS Gambia (48) at Malta, circa in 1951. IWM A32043

Same, IWM A32044

After a refit with new commo gear and radars, she would embark Sea Furies and Fireflies for a West Pac cruise in 1954, where she would have the White Duster in both South Africa and Hong Kong.

FAR EAST FLEET EXERCISES. 3 OCTOBER 1954, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AIRCRAFT OF THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS WARRIOR OF THE BRITISH FAR EAST FLEET. EXERCISES CARRIED OUT OFF THE CHINA COAST AND WITH THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY. (A 33037) HMS BIRMINGHAM and HMS WARRIOR in line ahead while exercising off Hong Kong. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016333

FAR EAST FLEET EXERCISES. 3 OCTOBER 1954, AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AIRCRAFT OF THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER HMS WARRIOR OF THE BRITISH FAR EAST FLEET. EXERCISES CARRIED OUT OFF THE CHINA COAST AND WITH THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY. (A 33035) HMS WARRIOR sailing from Hong Kong for the exercises. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205016331

During this cruise, she served as a “floating nursery,” clocking in to carry refugees from newly independent North Vietnam down to the Republic of Vietnam.

THE FRENCH INDOCHINA WAR, VIETNAM 1945 – 1954 (A 33001) The aircraft carrier HMS WARRIOR evacuates 1,455 refugees from Haiphong, North Vietnam to Saigon during Operation PASSAGE TO FREEDOM, 4 September 1954. Rice and other food are issued to refugees in the forward lift well. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187799

As above. Note the spare wings on her hangar deck bulkheads. IWM A 33003

HMS WARRIOR VISITS SOUTH AFRICA. ON 11 NOVEMBER 1954, ONBOARD THE LIGHT FLEET CARRIER AT PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA. (A 33059) A section of the large crowd of South Africans who visited HMS WARRIOR at Port Elizabeth. More than 10,000 visitors went aboard on one afternoon. Here some are looking at A Sea Fury on the WARRIOR’s deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205163735

Given another refit to add an angled deck– the Brits were the first to use such a novelty, she would embark both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft on occasion. This included another trip to the Pacific where she would standby of the Grapple X test at Christmas Island– the first British hydrogen bomb.

Grapple test as seen from HMS Warrior via Histarmar. The carrier would be very close to three separate bombs during the tests. 

There, her Avengers, Vampires, and HAR3/4 Whirlwinds would collect fallout samples the old-fashioned way, by flying through it.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Warrior (R31). The photo was taken circa 1957, as Warrior wears the deck code “J” which had been assigned to HMS Eagle (R05) from 1951 to late 1956. Eagle then received the new deck code “E”, whereas deck code “J” was assigned to the newly refitted Warrior. NNAM No. 1996.488.037.025

Same, different view, NNAM 1996.488.037.024

 

HMS Warrior on speed trials in 1957, note her “J” deck designator. 

On her way back from the Grapple tests, Warrior stopped off in Argentina, then a British ally, for a very special set of tours. You see, the carrier was surplus to RN needs and was very much for sale.

Back to the Americas

Sold to Argentina, HMS/HMCS Warrior was renamed ARA Independencia (V-1) on 6 August 1958 while at Portsmouth undergoing refit. Leaving for her new homeland, she arrived in December and wasn’t officially commissioned until mid-1959 with the first Argentine carrier landing in history taking place on her deck in June.

Her initial airwing would be made up of Korean War-era F4U-5L Corsairs complete with wing-mounted radars, a few navalized SNJ-5Cs Texans, the occasional T-28A Trojan, and, after 1962, a handful of early S-2A Trackers.

Argentina carrier ARA Independencia with Corsairs on deck, colorized by Diego Mar of Postales Navales

Aviacion Naval Argentina F4U-5 corsair carrier

F4U-5NL Vought Corsairs of the Aviacion Naval Argentina, circa 1962, original color. The country operated 26 F4U-5/N/5NL Corsairs from 1956 to 1968, primarily flying from Independencia

In August 1963, an ex-U.S. Navy F9F-2B Panther flown by Capt. Justiniano Martínez Achával became the first jet to land on an Argentine carrier when it was trapped on Independencia. However, it had to be craned off as her catapults were not thought to be powerful enough to launch it safely.

At least one of the country’s two F9F-8T Cougar trainers was photographed aboard as well.

First aircraft carrier of Argentina ARA Independencia (V-1) and Vickers G-class destroyer ARA Misiones (E-11) via Histamar, circa 1965

Argentina carrier ARA Independencia y ARA Punta Médanos Foto By N del Sr Adolfo Jorge Soto‎ Buques de guerra colorised by Diego Mar Postales Navales

With the delivery of the more modern Colossus-class sister HNLMS Karel Doorman (ex-HMS Venerable) from Holland in 1968– which could launch Panthers and Cougars and would later carry A-4 Skyhawks– the Argentines commissioned the new flattop as ARA 25 de Mayo (V-2) on 12 March 1969 and Independencia’s days were numbered. Laid up, she was sold on 17 March 1971 and scrapped.

Today, little of Warrior remains, with her bell still washed up in Canada at the Shearwater Aviation Museum in Nova Scotia.

HMCS Warrior’s bell at Shearwater Aviation Museum via Wiki Commons

There are, also, assorted scale models of her aircraft, including those flown by the FAA, RCN, and Armada.

The last of her class in the Royal Navy, Triumph, was kept around as a repair ship until 1975 then scrapped. The final vessel of her class sent to the breakers, the third-hand ex-HMS/HMAS Vengeance/ex-NAeL Minas Gerais, was sold for scrap by the Brazilian owners in 2004, torched to man-portable pieces on the beach at Alang.

There is one, more somber legacy of Warrior as well. Members of her Grapple crew, many of which have long-term generational health issues, are often represented by the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association. 

George Baulch on the deck of HMS Warrior after the first explosion. “One of his daughters was born with severe learning disabilities, which Mr. Baulch blames on the radiation. She died in her 30s of unexplained reasons.”

Specs:

Warrior’s 1946 Entry in Janes

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Royal Navy Reboots Dazzle

Through the magic of 50 gallons of paint in “four shades of grey, plus black,” workers at the A&P yard in Falmouth gave the River-class Batch 2 OPV HMS Tamar (P233) what I think is a great upgrade to her scheme during a recent maintenance period. Headed to the Asia-Pacific region for an extended deployment, she is the first Royal Navy warship to receive a “dazzle” style camo since the Battle of the North Atlantic concluded in 1945.

“We’re really proud of our new paint scheme and the historical significance that it comes with,” said LCDR Michael Hutchinson, Tamar’s skipper. “Different styles of dazzle were used by the Royal Navy on ships in various stations throughout the world and were are pleased to have been given an iconic new look before we deploy in the summer.”

The Rivers are the equivalent of 19th Century station ships, based for years at a time in far-flung parts of the empire and Commonwealth such as the Caribbean, Falklands, and West Africa.

The 296-foot/2,000-ton OPVs only mount a 30mm gun and some small arms manned by their 40-person crew, which is fine as they are intended for low-risk constabulary-at-sea duties (anti-piracy, counter-smuggling/drug-trafficking, counter-terrorism, et. al). Capable of operating small UAVs alongside a Merlin-sized helicopter and hosting up to a platoon of Royal Marine Commandos, they are much like an LCS or a blue-water coast guard cutter in concept, only much more affordable and realistic.

Tamar has even been experimenting with using jet suits for boardings, which just looks like the coolest thing ever, although sets up a very real game of shooting skeet in the event of a contested boarding. 

The Admiralty says all five of the Rivers of the Overseas Patrol Squadron will receive similar dazzle patterns.

Notably, two vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy– HMCS Moncton (MM708) and HMCS Regina (FFH 334)– are sporting WWII-style North Atlantic patterns in an ode to that campaign. Perhaps they started a trend…

Photo by CPL Naples, Canadian Forces

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (MM708)

Warship Wednesday, April 21, 2021: Let’s Vote on It

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 21, 2021: Let’s Vote on It

Library and Archives Canada 4951041

Here we see a beautiful original color photo of the Improved Fiji-class (alternatively described as Colony-class, Mauritius-class, or Ceylon-class) cruiser HMCS Quebec (31) in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, 21 April 1954– some 67 years ago today. She battled the Germans, Italians, and Japanese withstood the divine wind and “Fritz X” only to have her reputation mired in undeserved controversy.

A borderline “treaty” cruiser of interwar design, the Fijis amounted to a class that was one short of a dozen with an 8,500-ton standard displacement. In WWII service, this would balloon to a very top-heavy weight of over 11,000. Some 15 percent of the standard displacement was armor. As described by Richard Worth, in his Fleets of World War II, the design was much better off than the previous Leander-class cruisers, and essentially “the Admiralty resolved to squeeze a Town [the immediately preceding 9,100-ton light cruiser class] into 8,000-tons.”

With a fine transom stern, they were able to achieve over 32 knots on a plant that included four Admiralty 3-drum boilers driving four Parsons steam turbines, their main armament amounted to nine 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Mark XXIII guns in three triple Mark XXI mountings in the case of our cruiser and her two immediate full sisters (HMS Ceylon and HMS Newfoundland).

The standard Fiji/Colony-class cruiser had four Mark XXI turrets, as shown in the top layout, while the “Improved Fijis/Ceylon-variants of the class mounted three, as in the bottom layout. Not originally designed to carry torpedo tubes, two triple sets were quickly added, along with more AAA guns, once the treaty gloves came off. (Jane’s 1946)

Ordered from Vickers-Armstrong’s, Walker in March 1939, just six months before Hitler sent his legions into Poland, Quebec, our subject vessel was originally named HMS Uganda (66) after that African protectorate. A war baby, she commissioned 3 January 1943.

HMS Uganda sliding down the slipway at the Walker Naval Yard, 7 August 1941. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM ref. DS.VA/9/PH/12/17).

HMS UGANDA, MAURITIUS CLASS CRUISER. JANUARY 1943, SCAPA FLOW. (A 22963) Broadside view. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205155098

After workups and interception patrols on the lookout for German blockade runners, in May she escorted the RMS Queen Mary (with Churchill aboard) across the Atlantic for a meeting with President Roosevelt at what later became known to history as the Washington Conference.

Transferred to the Mediterranean for service with the 15th Cruiser Squadron, she helped escort convoy WS31/KMF17 on the way before arriving in Malta with Admiral Cunningham aboard on 4 July. Then came the Husky landings in Sicily, where she was very busy covering the landings of the British 1st Airborne Division near Syracuse, rescuing 36 survivors from the hospital ship Talamba, and delivering naval gunfire support.

Cruisers HMS Orion and HMS Uganda on patrol with Mount Etna towering in the distance, some 40 miles away. Taken from HMS Nubian, 12th July 1943. The ships had bombarded Augusta the previous day.

A pom-pom crew of HMCS Uganda examining Kodak pictures. Note the “tropical kit” to include sun helmets and shorts. NAC, PA 140833

Then came the Avalanche landings at Salerno in September, where she provided NGFS for the British X Corps. Four days after reaching the beachhead, she was hit by a 3,000-pound German Fritz X precision-guided, armor-piercing bomb at 1440 on 13 September. Passing through seven decks and through her keel, it exploded under her hull, crippling but not quite killing the ship. When the smoke cleared, amazingly just 16 men of Uganda’s complement were dead.

The damage was very similar, albeit much less costly in lives, to the hit that the same-sized treaty cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) suffered off Salerno two days prior. In the Fritz attack on that Brooklyn-class light cruiser, the early smart bomb hit the top of the ship’s number three 6/47-gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before its 710-pound amatol warhead exploded. The damage was crippling, blowing out the bottom of the ship’s hull, immediately flooding her magazines– which may have ironically saved the ship as it prevented them from detonating– and killed 197 of her crew. In all, she would spend eight months being rebuilt.

As for Uganda, she was moved to Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina for extensive repairs– just in time to become the most capable warship in another navy.

Oh, Canada!

By 1944, the Royal Canadian Navy could rightfully claim to be about the third strongest in the world when it came to warship tonnage. However, it was almost all in small escorts such as sloops, corvettes, frigates, and destroyers as well as armed yachts, trawlers, and torpedo boats. The RCN did have three armed merchant cruisers– the “Prince” class Canadian National Steamships passenger liners, which, at 6,000 tons, carried a dozen 6-, 4- and 3-inch guns, as well as depth charges and assorted Bofors/Oerlikons– but Ottawa had no proper cruisers on its naval list.

To rectify this, the brand-new light cruiser HMS Minotaur (53), transferred to Royal Canadian Navy in July 1944, and became HMCS Ontario (C53), although she did not finish working up in time to contribute much to the war effort. She was soon joined by Uganda, who kept her name when she was recommissioned 21 October 1944– Trafalgar Day– but replaced HMS with HMCS.

Uganda’s new crew, drawn from throughout the Canadian fleet, was assembled in 80-man teams and shipped out on a range of British 6-inch cruisers to train on their vessel while it was being repaired. These included a team that, while on HMS Sheffield, braved the Murmansk run and the Boxing Day 1943 fight against Scharnhorst. Curiously, and a bone of contention with the crew, she carried an RN duster rather than a Canadian ensign.

The Canadian cruiser would be commanded by Capt. Edmond Rollo Mainguy, who had previously served on several large RN warships including the battleship HMS Barham in the Great War.

Dispatched for service with the British Pacific Fleet, which was preparing for the final push against Japan, she stopped in the UK for sensor upgrades on the way, swapping Type 284 and 272 radars for newer Type 274 for fire control and Types 277 and 293 for surface warning and height finding. Nonetheless, the choice of the ship for tropical service, as it at the time lacked both onboard exhaust fans for air circulation and a water distillation plant capable of supporting the crew, was questionable. Belowdecks, when not on duty, many men simply wore “a towel and a pair of shoes.”

Regardless, she was a beautiful ship and her crew, most of whom were Battle of the Atlantic vets, were ready to fight.

A great shot of HMCS Uganda with a bone in her teeth. H.F. Pullen Nova Scotia Archives 1984-573 Box 1 F/24

British light cruiser HMS UGANDA underway. 14 October 1944. IWM FL 17797

HMS UGANDA, BRITISH CRUISER. 1944, AT SEA. (A 27728) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205159166

HMCS Uganda in 1945 while in the British Pacific Fleet. IWM ABS 698

She joined the BPF on 9 March, arriving that day in Sydney via the Suez and the Indian Ocean. Joining British TF 57 as part of the U.S. 5th Fleet, Uganda soon became a close escort for the fleet’s carriers, particularly HMS Formidable and HMS Indomitable. This included fighting off kamikaze raids, delivering NGFS, and acting as a lifeguard for downed aviators as the fleet pushed past Formosa, through the Philippines, and on to Okinawa.

Task Force 57 at anchor, HMS Formidable (foreground) and HMS Indomitable w 4th Cruiser Squadron- (L to R) Gambia, Uganda, and Euryalus-San Pedro Bay, Leyte April 1945

Japanese aircraft attacking H.M.C.S. UGANDA. Ryukyu Islands, Japan, 4 April 1945. LAC 3191649

Bombardment by H.M.C.S. UGANDA of Sukuma Airfield on Miyoko Jima, 4 May 1945, the ship’s QF 4 in (102 mm) Mark XVI guns in action. LAC 3191651

Decks of HMCS Uganda after her bombardment of the Sakishima Island airstrip of Sukama, south of Okinawa, 12 May 1945, with her 6-inch guns swamped with powder tubes. The ship in the distance is her Kiwi-flagged sistership, HMNZS Gambia (48). (Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, VR2014.1.1)

Ratings sleep amidst 4-inch shells on HMCS Uganda, 1945 (Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, VR2014.1.26)

HMCS UGANDA and HMS FORMIDABLE, the latter burning after a Kamikaze airstrike, May 9, 1945, Royal Canadian Naval photograph. (CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum /Photo Catalogue VR2014. 1.24 from the museum collection.)

Life aboard the ship continued to decline for the crew. Compounding the uncomfortable heat aboard– which led to rounds of tropical bacteria, viruses, and fungus infections among the crew– the BPF had logistical issues trying to supply its ships. This led to mechanical issues as spare parts were not available and poor food.

As noted by Bill Rawling’s A Lonely Ambassador: HMCS Uganda and the War in the Pacific, a 25-page article in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du nord, VIII, No. 1 (January 1998), 39-63, one firsthand report of the time detailed:

In the tropics everything multiplied — of a crew of 900, two men were detailed for spraying cockroach powder through the mess decks to at least try to control them. It was not out of the ordinary to be munching on your de-hydrated peas and carrots to feel a sharp “crunch.” That was another roach being broken up. Flour deteriorated into a life form — a tiny worm with a white body and a little black head. It would be found in the bread which was baked aboard ship. At first, we would pick the worms out, but as we were told, and came to realize, they would not hurt us, we just ate them with the bread and called it our meat ration for the day.

This set the stage for what became known as the “Uganda Episode.”

As explained by the Naval and Marine Museum at CFB Esquimalt:

Prime Minister Mackenzie King announced on 4 April 1945 that the Canadian Government no longer intended to deploy personnel, other than volunteers, to the Pacific Theatre. The “Volunteers Only” policy, as it was called, required that all naval personnel specifically re-volunteer for service in the Pacific Theatre before they would be dispatched to participate in hostilities.

On the eve of the vote, in which it seemed many of Uganda’s crew were on the fence about going home, Capt. Mainguy reportedly gave a tone-deaf speech that went as high as a lead balloon with one crew member’s recalling that he, “Called us four flushers and quitters. Those who were in doubt soon made up their minds at a statement like that.”

The June 22 crew vote found that 556 of Uganda’s men preferred to head home, while just 344 re-volunteered to stay in the Pacific despite the daunting risk of kamikaze attack and a war that, at the time, was expected to drag out at least another year. With the prospect of swapping out so many of the cruiser’s complement while still deployed a non-starter, the plan was to send her back to Esquimalt, update her for continued service, and sail back to the war with a reformed crew in time to join Operation Olympic, the invasion of Kyūshū which was slated for November.

Relieved on station by the British cruiser HMS Argonaut on 27 July, ironically the Japanese signaled they were ready to quit the war just two weeks later, making the Uganda vote– which left a bitter pill with the RN– almost a moot subject. Uganda arrived at Esquimalt on 10 August, the day the Japanese officially threw in the towel.

While labels of mutiny and cowardice were unjustly lobbed at her crew by historians, her skipper would go on to become a Vice Admiral.

Better years

Postwar, Uganda would spend the next two years in a training role.

Cruiser HMCS Uganda photographed on 31 November 1945.

A color shot of HMCS-Uganda (C66) as seen from the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Warrior circa 1946, note the Fairey Firefly and Maple Leaf insignias. LAC-MIKAN-No 4821077

Transferred to the reserves in August 1947, her slumber was brief.

Recommissioned as a result of the Korean War on 14 January 1952 as HMCS Quebec (C31), she soon sailed for Halifax to continue her service, notably under a Canadian flag and with belowdecks habitability improvements.

Guard of Honor and Band at the recommissioning of H.M.C.S. QUEBEC, Esquimalt, British Columbia, 14 January 1952 LAC 3524549

For the next four years, she was a global traveler, heavily involved in NATO exercises.

HMCS QUEBEC coming alongside for a ship-to-ship transfer receiving supplies from HMCS Magnificent, during  Exercise Mainbrace in 1952. LAC 4951392

A closer view, from HMCS Magnificent. Note the carrier’s 40mm mount and the folded wing of a fighter, likely a Hawker Sea Fury judging from the pair of wing-root 20mm cannons. LAC 4951382

H.M.C.S. QUEBEC heeling in rough seas during exercises. 18 Sept 1952 LAC 3524551

HMCS Quebec (C-31) leads HMCS Magnificent (CVL-21), HMAS Sydney (R-17), and multiple destroyers as they return from the Queen’s coronation, July 1953

Sperry radar scan of Gaspé Bay anchorage, HMCS Quebec 12 July 1953 LAC 3206158

HMCS QUEBEC Parading the White Ensign in Rio-South America cruise, 1954. Note the Enfield rifles, with the rating to the right complete with a chromed bayonet. Also, note the local boy to the left giving a salute to the RCN duster. LAC 4950735

Port broadside view of H.M.C.S. QUEBEC after having been freshly painted by ships’ company, Freetown, Sierra Leone, 29 June 1955 LAC 3524552

She also became the first Canadian naval ship to circumnavigate Africa, during her 1955 cruise. In 1946, she had claimed the first such Canadian warship to “Round the Horn” of South America.  

King Neptune and the pollywogs! Original color photo of HMCS QUEBEC’s crossing the line equator ceremony during her fall cruise to South America, 1956. LAC 4950734

HMCS Quebec (C-31) and USS Newport News (CA-148) at Villefranche.

With all-gun cruisers that required a 900-man crew increasingly obsolete in the Atomic era, Quebec was paid off 13 June 1956 and laid up in Nova Scotia. Four years later, she was sold for her value in scrap metal to a Japanese concern.

She is remembered in period maritime art, specifically in a piece by official war artist Harold Beament, who was on the RCNVR list and later president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

HMCS Uganda in Drydock, Esquimalt, during a post-war refit. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art CWM 19710261-1030

Today, the RCN remembers Quebec fondly. Narrated by R.H. Thomson, the script in the below tribute video is based on a memoir by LCDR Roland Leduc, RCN (Ret’d) who served on the post-war cruiser. 

An exceptional veterans’ site is also online, with numerous photos and remembrances. 

For a great deep dive into HMS Uganda, especially her 1945 service, check out Bill Rawling’s A Lonely Ambassador: HMCS Uganda and the War in the Pacific, a 25-page article in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord, VIII, No. 1 (January 1998), 39-63.

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Canada and the Everlasting Inglis Hi-Power

The Canadian government is reportedly moving forward with a plan to replace its military’s downright vintage Browning Hi-Power pistols. 

Local media in Ottawa, the country’s capital, are advising that a contract for as many as 20,000 “modular pistols” will be issued later this year for the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force, and military police. The guns will replace Canadian-produced Inglis Brownings made during World War II. 

Yup, as in 1944-45 production.

Canadian-made No. 2 Mk1* Inglis Hi-Powers, produced between 1944 and 1945, are distinctive period BHP clones with the “thumbprint” slide, high rear sight, and internal extractor, features that FN discontinued by the early 1950s. (Photo: Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

More in my column at Guns.com.

Flash and the locals

Here we see a Daimler Mk. 1 Scout Car, apparently named “Flash”, crewed by Troopers W. Balinnan and A. Gallant of an unidentified Canadian reconnaissance regiment [likely the 4th Reconnaissance Regiment/IV Princess Louise’s Dragoon Guards], after the capture of Bagnacavallo, in Northern Italy’s Ravenna region, 3 January 1945.

The Canucks are speaking with a pair of local partisans, Louisa and Italo Cristofori. Note Louisa’s M1928 Thompson sub gun.

Photographer: Alexander Mackenzie Stirton. Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.

Five regiments operated the Daimler in Canadian service during WWII besides Princess Louise’s– the Royal Canadian Dragoons, 12th Manitoba Dragoons, 17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars and 14th Canadian Hussars– besides numerous smaller units that had a car or two for liaison and recce tasks.

The Daimler typically carries a 2-pounder (40mm) gun as well as a coaxial light machine gun. It could make 50 mph on good roads but only had enough armor to defeat machine gun rounds. It apparently remained in service with some Commonwealth countries as late as 2012.

Kiss the fish!

Official caption: “As a part of Royal Canadian Naval tradition, Master Seaman Shaun Duguay kisses the fish as part of the initiation to become a new “Shellback” (members who have crossed the Arctic Circle by Order of the Blue Nose – Domain of the Polar Bear), onboard Task Group flagship HMCS VILLE DE QUÉBEC during the Crossing the Line Ceremony, on August 17, 2020, during Operation NANOOK 20.”

Photo: MCpl Manuela Berger, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

HMCS Ville de Québec (FFH 332) (commonly referred to as VDQ) is a 5,000-ton Halifax-class frigate that has served in the Royal Canadian Navy since 1993 and in the past 27 years has seen service on the NATO blockade force against Yugoslavia, escorted food ships off the pirate-infested waters off Somalia, performed disaster assistance in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Katrina, and was one of the naval assets deployed to search for Swissair Flight 111 in 1998.

And of course, the Order of the Blue Nose is a time-honored U.S. tradition as well, reserved for the Crossing of the Arctic Circle (66-32 North latitude). 

Reference that of the USS Spruance (DD 936) in 1988, which looks…cold. 

 

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