Category Archives: canada

SINKEX Harpoon edition

The U.S. Navy’s press office released that, on 29 August off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020, a live-fire SINKEX was conducted against a target hulk, the ex-USS Durham (LKA-114).

An 18,000-ton Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship commissioned on May 24, 1969, Durham was decommissioned on February 25, 1994, notably seeing service during Vietnam (four campaign stars, including the Frequent Wind evacuation in 1975) and the First Gulf War. The only Navy ship to carry the name of the North Carolina city, Durham was laid up in Pearl Harbor’s Middle Loch since 2000 and found ineligible for historic preservation in 2017.

The released video shows at least three missile hits as well as what could be some other surface weapons, with the Navy non-commital on just what ordinance was expended.

Meanwhile, the Royal Canadian Navy is reporting that the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Regina had the opportunity to shoot two of their RGM-84 Harpoons in RIMPAC, a rare event indeed.

Master Seaman Dan Bard, RCN

Master Seaman Dan Bard, RCN

At the same time, the Royal Australian Navy reports that the modified ANZAC (MEKO200) class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH-153) expended one of her Harpoons on Durham.

RAN photo

RAN photo

“Simulation is a critical part of our training but there is nothing better than to conduct live-fire training,” said Royal Australian Navy Capt. Phillipa Hay, commander, RIMPAC 2020 Task Force One. “Sinking exercises are an important way to test our weapons and weapons systems in the most realistic way possible. It demonstrates as a joint force we are capable of high-end warfare.”

RIMPAC on parade

A parade of modern naval architecture underway in the bright blue of the Pacific, showing off some 23 ships and submarines!

The great formation PHOTOEX captured on the below 5~ minute video shows off the multinational navy ships and a submarine navigate in formation during a group sail off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020, August 21.

The video includes lots of close-ups of the individual ships:

0:09, 2:51 Republic Of Korea Navy guided-missile destroyer ROKS Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (DDG 993)

0:14 Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Regina (FFH 334) in beautiful WWII camo

0:26 U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) 

0:32 Philippine Navy’s first guided-missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF 150)

0:37 RAN HMAS Stuart (FFH 153) 

0:54 Singapore Navy Formidable-class frigate RSS Supreme (FFG 73)

1:01 Royal New Zealand Navy salvage ship HMNZS Manawanui (A09)

1:07 Destroyer ROKS Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin (DDH-975)

1:12, 2:57  HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338)

1:16 Royal Brunei Navy Darussalam-class offshore patrol vessel KDB Darulehsan (OPV 07)

1:22 Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL 755)

1:25 RAN replenishment ship HMAS Sirius (O 266)

1:43 USS Jefferson City (SSN-759) (always nice to see an LA-class attack boat on the surface)

2:00, 2:14 Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force “helicopter destroyer” JS Ise (DDH 182)

2:29 RAN frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153)

Also seen, although not in the same detail, are the RAN frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH 151) and the guided-missile destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39), the Japanese guided-missile destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), French Navy Marine Nationale patrol ship FS Bougainville (A622), MSC fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), Essex’s escorts the guided-missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS Dewey (DDG 105) as well as the aging Tico-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70).

There is a great gallery of these vessels at the Pacific Fleet’s social media page.

From COMPACFLT:

“Like-minded nations come together in RIMPAC in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific where all nations enjoy unfettered access to the seas and airways in accordance with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) upon which all nations’ economies depend,” said Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Ten nations, 22 ships, 1 submarine, and more than 5,300 personnel are participating in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) from August 17 to 31 at sea in the waters surrounding Hawaii. RIMPAC is a biennial exercise designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships, critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The exercise is a unique training platform designed to enhance interoperability and strategic maritime partnerships. RIMPAC 2020 is the 27th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

Point Stay Back

Canadian Army Sniper Arthur Godin of Le Régiment de la Chaudière (Mitrailleuses) taking aim from his hide in the interior of a building in Zutphen, Netherlands, on 7 April 1945, during the two-week fight for that city that only concluded on 12 April.

Godin is using an Enfield No. 4 Mk. I (T) sniper rifle with what looks to be a No. 32 3.5x scope, a combo that remained standard for marksmen in the British and Commonwealth forces into the 1960s when it was replaced by the L42A1, a rifle that was essentially the same thing but in 7.62 NATO rather than .303 and with better glass.

He is also using a tactic that was as valid in 1945 as it is today– keeping well away from an opening or loophole to hide his shape, muzzle flash, shadow, and optic reflection from enemy eyes.

Of course, Hollywood always wants to show the sniper hanging out of a window, framing themselves as an excellent target for counter-fire, because Hollywood. It is a sign of a rookie or someone playing at war.

For reference, see the famous video of the YPJ Syrian sniper, who learned that fire goes both ways if you are easily spotted.

As for the Régiment de la Chaudière, they trace their origins to 1812 and the defense of Canada against the invading Americans to the South. The only French-Canadian unit to hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day, they fought from Caen to Calais then across Holland and the Rhineland. Since 1946, they have been a reserve unit based in Quebec but have seen extensive service in Afghanistan. Their motto is Ære perennius (Stronger than bronze).

Well-Holstered Hussars

The below image shows Maj. A. D’Arcy Marks and Capt. A. Brandon Conron of the Canadian 6th Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) (6 CAR), posed in front of an M4A2 Sherman medium tank near Colomby-sur-Thaon, France, 28 June 1944 in the push out from Normandy.

Note the tracks on the front of the Sherman. Photo by Ken Bell, Library and Archives Canada

Marks has what appears to be a Browning Hi-Power (or M1911?) in a very interesting holster that appears to be a British Pattern 37 flap holster that has been partially cutaway. Conron, meanwhile, is well-outfitted with a revolver rig that includes not only spare rounds but also a cleaning rod in the holster.

As for the 1st Hussars, formed in 1856, they served overseas with distinction in the Great War, earning honors at Vimy Ridge. They returned to France in 1944, landing at Juno Beach where they were “the only unit of the Allied invasion forces known to reach its final objective on D-Day,” which certainly lived up to their motto of Hodie non cars, (Today not tomorrow).

Still part of the Canadian Forces Reserve, they are currently stationed at London, Ontario as part of the 31 Canadian Brigade Group.

Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins– NATO edition

On 13 June 1923, CPT (later Fleet Admiral) Ernest J. King, at the time Commander, Submarine Division Three, proposed to the Secretary of the Navy that a distinguishing device for qualified U.S. submariners be adopted.

That initiative led to today’s Submarine Warfare Insignia–best known as “dolphins” or “fish.”

All photos via NATO Submarine Command (COMSUBNATO)

Of course, most other fleets that field submarines also have similar badges, though not always accompanied by marine life.

Here are the NATO ones:

Royal Canadian Navy

French Navy

Deutsche Marine (German Navy)

Hellenic (Greek) Navy

Italian Navy

Netherlands

Norwegian

Polish

Portuguese

Turkish Navy

Royal Spanish Navy

Royal Navy

The more you know…

A Century at La Citadelle

The Canadian Army’s Royal 22e Régiment, the Van Doos, dates back to 1869 and today they are the only French-speaking Regiment of the Regular Force. Make no mistake about blue flannel-wearing “Jon Paul” Quebecois jokes, the Van Doos are legit, especially when it comes to cold weather ops.

A snow-camo’d member of 3e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment standing watch in front of a barn during Exercise RAFALE BLANCHE in St Sylvestre, Québec on February 3, 2014. Note his C7 with Elcan sight

In 1919, after returning with 21 Battle Honours from a very serious tour on the Western Front during the Great War, the unit was barracked in metropolitan Quebec.

On 22 May 1920, the Van Doos moved into the City’s historic Citadelle on Cap Diamant, the site of fortifications protecting the city going back to 1608.

This place

This month the Regiment celebrates its 100th year in residence, which remains a functioning military installation as well as an official residence for the Monarch– the Queen is their Colonel-in-Chief– as well as being the typical summer home of Canada’s Governor General.

In such official public duty at the Citadelle, with the site entertaining a quarter-million visiting tourists each year, the Van Doos wear the familiar scarlet uniforms and bearskin caps of British Foot Guards regiments.

They earned them, having stood post at St. James and Buckingham in 1940, during the Blitz, the first French-speaking unit to do so. In that gig, they wore standard kit, down to gas masks, and charged SMLEs.

Their traditional mascot, Batisse, is a goat, and their motto is Je me souviens, (I remember).

You know the C20, eh?

The Colt Canada-produced C20 semi-automatic Intermediate Sniper Weapon is being acquired for the Canadian Army in small numbers.

Produced domestically by Colt Canada in Kitchener, Ontario, the semi-automatic C20 has an 18-inch barrel with a 1-in-10 twist and is reportedly pretty friggen accurate. Testing showed the rifle to fire 8,000 rounds with no stopping and deliver an average of .66 MOA over 144 five-round groups using 175-grain Federal Gold Medal Match.

The overall length on the C20 is 38-inches while weight is 9.1-pounds. It has a 46-slot continuous MIL-STD-1913 top rail and a handguard with M-LOK accessory slots in the 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock positions. (Photo: Colt Canada)

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Milsurp Mauser dreams

When you come across a nice Kar98K Mauser without import marks, and the guy selling it gives a story about how it was taken from the “body of a dead Nassi,” keep in mind most of those rifles were quietly stacked by their former owners in the end days of the war in Europe in 1945, rather than battlefield pickups clawed from a scarred corpse.

Thus, 75 years ago today, in IJmuiden, Netherlands:

Unidentified German soldier turning in his rifle to a Canadian soldier, IJmuiden, Netherlands, 11 May 1945. Library and Archives Canada photo # 3210799. Photographer: Stirton, Alexander 

Privates J.A. Taylor and J.D. Villeneuve of the Royal Canadian Regiment stacking rifles turned in by surrendering German soldiers, IJmuiden, Netherlands, 11 May 1945. LAC 3211669

Holland’s gateway to the North Sea, IJmuiden was protected by 18,000 Germans in seaside defensive roles. The principal German unit there was the 703rd Infantry Division of Maj. Gen Hans Huttner, formed late in the war from drafts strengthed with former battleship sailors of the 10th and 24th Schiff Stamm Abteilung and the volunteer “Turkomen” of the 787th Turkistanische Abteilung, the latter formed from Soviet POWs from the Caucus and of Central Asian extraction.

Units of the 1st Canadian Army arrived in town on 7 May and observed a quiet cease-fire with the local garrison until 11 May when they disarmed the Germans with the help of local Resistance.

The last of the 120,000 Germans in “Festung Holland” would surrender on June 1 at Vlieland. With the exception of 3,000 German sappers retained for the remainder of the year to remove landmine and roadblocks they installed, the rest of the former occupiers were repatriated by July, with most simply walking over the border.

This fate excludes the “Turks” who would be handed over to the Soviets and introduced to the beauty of Siberia in winter.

But what of those stacks of Mausers?

NORWAY AFTER LIBERATION 1945 (BU 9763) Storeroom at Solar aerodrome, Stavanger, holding some of the estimated 30,000 rifles taken from German forces in Norway after their surrender. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205205892

By the end of 1945, the millions of military surplus former Axis weapons became a juggernaut that took on a life all their own. For more on that, check out my column at Guns.com.

New friends in new places

A STEN-armed Para of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion shakes hands with a greatcoated Soviet officer in the Baltic Sea city of Wismar, Germany, 4 May 1945, about 150 miles Northwest of Berlin.

The surrender of German forces was four days away at this point.

Source: Photo by Charles H. Richer Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-150930.

Such link-ups, where the Western Front met the Eastern Front, were increasingly common in the last two weeks of the war in Europe.

The first occurred on 26 April 1945 when the U.S. 69th Infantry Division of the First Army and the 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Soviet Guards Army met along the Elbe at Torgau, southwest of Berlin.

Warship Wednesday, April 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Library and Archives, Canada

Here we see a beautiful original Kodachrome, likely snapped from the lookout box on her mast, of the Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) in 1944-45, with an officer looking down towards her bow. Note the D/F antenna forward. You can see a great view of her main gun, a twin 4″/45 (10.2 cm) QF Mk XVI in an Mk XIX open-rear mount, which she would use to good effect in hanging star shells during a nighttime scrap with a convoy-haunting U-boat. Just ahead of the gun is a Hedgehog ASW mortar system, which would also be used that night. Incidentally, scale modelers should note the various colors used on her two rigged 20-man Carley float lifeboats– which would soon see use on a different U-boat.

While today the Royal Canadian Navy is often seen as a supporting actor in the North Atlantic and an occasional cameo performer elsewhere, by the end of World War II the RCN had grown from having about a dozen small tin cans to being the third-largest fleet in the world— and was comprised almost totally of destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and sloops! The force traded 24 of its warships in combat for a butcher’s bill that was balanced by 69 Axis vessels but had proved decisive in the Battle of the Atlantic.

One of the most important of the above Canadian ships were the River-class frigates. Originally some 1,800-tons and 301-feet in length, they could make 20-knots and carry a twin QF 4-inch gun in a single forward mount as well as a modicum of 20mm AAA guns and a wide array of sub-busting weaponry to include as many as 150 depth charges.

In addition to her twin 4″/45 forward, Thetford Mines also carried six 20mm Oerlikons in two twin mounts — one seen here in another LAC Kodachrome– and two singles. Note the wavy lines on the Canadian lieutenant’s sleeve, denoting his status as a reserve officer. The running joke in Commonwealth Navies that used the practice was so that, when asked by an active officer why the braid was wavy, the reservist would answer, “Oh good heavens, so no one would mistake that this is my real job.”

Produced in five mildly different sub-classes, some 50 of the 150ish Rivers planned were to be made in Canada with others produced for the RCN in the UK. This resulted in a shipbuilding boom in the Land of the Great White North, with these frigates produced at four yards: Canadian Vickers in Montreal, Morton in Quebec City, Yarrow at Esquimalt, and Davie at Lauzon.

River-class frigates fitting out at Vickers Canada, 1944

Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Waskesiu (K330) with a bone in her mouth, 1944. Kodachrome via LAC

Thetford Mines, the first Canadian warship named after the small city in south-central Quebec, was of the later Chebogue-type of River-class frigate and was laid down 7 July 1943. Rapid construction ensured she was completed and commissioned 24 May 1944, an elapsed time of just 322 days. Her wartime skipper was LCDR John Alfred Roberts Allan, DSC, RCNVR/RCN(R). 

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459). Note the false bow wave

Coming into WWII late in the Atlantic war, Thetford Mines was assigned to escort group EG 25 out of Halifax then shifted to Derry in Ireland by November 1944. She served in British waters from then until VE-Day, working out of Londonderry and for a time out of Rosyth, Scotland.

A second Kodachrome snapped from K459’s tower. Note the compass and pelorus atop the wheelhouse. You can see the lip of the lookout’s bucket at the bottom of the frame. LAC WO-A037319

In the closing days of the conflict, the hardy frigate– along with Canadian-manned sisterships HMCS La Hulloise and HMCS Strathadam— came across the snorkeling Type VIIC/41 U-boat U-1302 on the night of 7 March 1945 in St George’s Channel. The German submarine, on her first war patrol under command of Kptlt. Wolfgang Herwartz had already sent one Norwegian and two British steamers of Convoy SC-167 to the bottom.

In a joint action between the three frigates, U-1302 was depth charged and Hedgehogged until her hull was crushed and the unterseeboot took Herwartz and his entire 47-man crew to meet Davy Jones. At dawn the next day, the Canadian ships noted an oil slick and debris floating on the water, with collected correspondence verifying the submarine was U-1302.

Thetford Mines would then come to the aid of Strathadam after the latter had a depth charge explode prematurely.

On 23 March, Thetford Mines got a closer look at her enemy when she recovered 33 survivors from the lost German U-boat U-1003, which had been scuttled off the coast of Ireland after she was mortally damaged by HMCS New Glasgow (another Canadian River). The Jacks aboard Thetford Mines would later solemnly bury at sea two of the German submariners who died of injuries.

Finally, on 11 May, our frigate arrived in Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland, to serve as an escort to eight surrendered U-boats.

The event was a big deal, as it was the first mass U-boat surrender, and as such was attended by ADM Sir Max Horton along with a single Allied submarine-killer from each major fleet made up the van. Thetford Mines represented Canada. USS Robert I. Paine (DE-578), which had been part of the Block Island hunter-killer group that had scratched several U-boats, represented America. HMS Hesperus (H57), credited with four kills including two by ramming, represented the RN.

A row of surrendered Nazi U-boats at Lisahally in Co. Londonderry on 14th May 1945. I believe Thetford Mines is in the background. Photo by Lieutenant CH Parnall. Imperial War Museum Photo: A 28892 (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection).

Thetford Mines, background, escorting surrendered U-boats, May 1945. LAC Kodachrome WO-A037319

Returning to Canada at the end of May 1945, Thetford Mines undoubtedly would have soon picked up more AAA mounts to fight off Japanese kamikaze attacks in the final push against that country’s Home Islands, but it was not to be and was paid off on 18 November at Sydney, Nova Scotia, before being laid up at Shelburne.

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) at anchor in Bermuda. The photo was taken after VE-day while the frigate was returning to Halifax. They were diverted to Bermuda to ease the congestion at Halifax caused by all the ships returning at the same time. From the collection of John (Jack) Davie Lyon. Via FPS 

Her career had lasted a week shy of 18 months, during which she made contact, sometimes violent, with at least 10 German U-boas in varying ways. Her battle honors included “Gulf of St. Lawrence 1944,” “North Sea 1945,” and “Atlantic 1945.”

As for Thetford Mines, as noted by the Canadian Navy, “In 1947, she was sold to a Honduran buyer who proposed converting her into a refrigerated fruit carrier.”

According to Warlow’s Ships of the Royal Navy, she was in fact converted to a banana boat with the name of Thetis. Her fate is unknown.

What of her sisters?

Of the 90 assorted Canadian River-class frigates ordered, a good number were canceled around the end of WWII. Four (HMCS Chebogue, HMCS Magog, HMCS Teme, and HMCS Valleyfield) were effectively lost to German U-boats during the conflict. Once VJ-Day came and went, those still under St George’s White Ensign soon went into reserve.

Graveyard, Sorel, P.Q Canadian corvettes and frigates laid up, 1945 by Tony Law CWM

Several were subsequently sold for peanuts to overseas Allies looking to upgrade or otherwise build their fleets to include Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Israel, Peru, and India.

Others, like our own Thetford Mines, were de-militarized and sold on the commercial market including one, HMCS Stormont, that became Aristotle Onassis’s famous yacht, Christina O. HMCS St. Lambert became a merchant ship under Panamanian and Greek flags before being lost off Rhodes in 1964. Still others became breakwaters, their hulls used to shelter others.

One, HMCS Stone Town, was disarmed and tasked as a weather ship in the North Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

Twenty-one of the best Canadian-owned Rivers still on Ottawa’s naval list was taken from reserve in the early 1950s and converted to what was classified as a Prestonian-class frigate with “FFE” pennant numbers. This conversion included a flush-decked configuration, an enlarged bridge, and a taller funnel. Deleted were the 20mm Oerlikons in favor of some 40mm Bofors. Further, they had their quarterdeck enclosed to accommodate two Squid anti-submarine mortars in place of the myriad of depth charges/Hedgehog. The sensor package was updated as well, to include ECM gear. One, HMCS Buckingham, was even given a helicopter deck.

The Prestonian-class frigate HMCS Swansea (FFE 306) in formation with other ocean escorts, 1964 via The Crow’s Nest

These upgraded Rivers/Prestonians served in the widening Cold War, with three soon transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Most of the remaining Canadian ships were discarded in 1965-66 as the new St. Laurent– and Restigouche-class destroyers joined the fleet.

Two endured in auxiliary roles for a few more years: HMCS St. Catharines as a Canadian Coast Guard ship until 1968 and HMCS Victoriaville/Granby as a diving tender until 1973.

In the end, two Canadian Rivers still exist, HMCS Stormont/yacht Christina O, and HMCS Hallowell/SLNS Gajabahu, with the latter a training ship in the Sri Lankan Navy until about 2016.

Starting life in WWII as a Canadian Vickers-built River-class frigate HMCS Stormont, Christina O was purchased in 1954 by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who transformed her into the most luxurious private yacht of her time. She went on to host a wealth of illustrious guests, ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to JFK and Winston Churchill.

Canadian River-class frigate, ex-HMCS Strathadam, built 1944 by Yarrow, Esquimalt. Sold 1947 to the Israeli Navy and renamed Misgav. Subsequently sold to the Royal Ceylon Navy as HMCyS Gajabahu. Photo via Shipspotting, 2007.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a second Thetford Mines in the RCN. A series of posterity websites exist to honor the frigate’s crew.

For more information on the RCN in WWII, please check out Marc Milner’s North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoys.

Specs: (RCN late-batch Rivers: Antigonish, Glace Bay, Hallowell, Joliette, Kirkland Lake, Kokanee, Lauzon, Longueuil, Orkney, Poundmaker, Sea Cliff, Thetford Mines)

River Class – Booklet of General Plans, 1942, profile

HMCS Poundmaker (K675), port, for reference, via LAC

HMCS St. Lambert (K343). LAC

Displacement:
1,445 long tons, 2,110 long tons deep load
Length: 301.25 ft o/a
Beam: 36.5 ft
Draught: 9 ft; 13 ft (3.96 m) (deep load)
Propulsion:
2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 VTE, twin shafts 5,500 ihp
Speed: 20 knots
Range: 646 tons oil fuel= 7,500 nautical miles at 15 knots
Complement: 140 to 157
Sensors: SU radar, Type 144 sonar
Armament:
2 x QF 4 inch/45cal Mk. XVI on a twin mount
1 x QF 12 pdr (3 inch) 12 cwt /40 Mk. V
4 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on two twin mounts
2 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on singles
1 x Hedgehog 24-spigot ASWRL
8 x Depth Charge throwers
2 x Depth Charge racks
Up to 150 depth charges

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