Thursday, October 31, 2013

USS Burrfish aka HMCS Grilse--A Two-Navy Warrior (Part 1)

I wrote a brief item here about HMCS Grilse, which in 1961 became the Royal Canadian Navy's first submarine in forty years, apart from a pair of surrendered German U-boats. As I described, she was in her first life an American boat. In fact she had an illustrious career, long before she flew the maple leaf.
United States Submarine Burrfish (SS-312), as she then was, was a "Portsmouth boat", built in the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Maine in 1943. A Balao class boat, she was externally virtually identical to the earlier Gato class, which no doubt stood her in good stead when pursued by antisubmarine forces of the Japanese navy. One of the major differences compared to her earlier sisters was a diving depth of 400 feet, as opposed to 300. Perhaps her survival was at least in part due to the extra, highly classified  depth she could attain when under attack, as the enemy depth charges would explode shallow enough that she could creep away, unharmed.
More about the Burrfish soon.

My second historical novel, set in a Cold War submarine, is in the publishing pipeline. It will surface in late summer, 2014.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"Soldier of the Horse" returns to Cloverdale

I am very much looking forward to November 11th, not only because it is such a significant day for all Canadians, honouring our fallen and surviving veterans, but because again this year I'll be presenting about the Canadian Cavalry Brigade at the Surrey Museum in Cloverdale.
My talk centres around men who served in the Cavalry Brigade in World War I, and their ties to B.C. and Surrey.
For the Surrey Museum announcement with details, please see here.

Excellent Submarine Video

Here's a look at the interior of a modern Canadian submarine, HMCS Corner Brook, recorded in 2011. This is the link. As the article says, Corner Brook is still undergoing repairs subsequent to an underwater grounding on the rugged British Columbia coast.
So at the moment three of the four Victorias are in Esquimalt.

(My apologies--for some reason the link won't work. Will try to repost soon.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

HMCS "Grilse", Canadian Cold Warrior

At the same time that the Royal Navy Submarines Alderney and Astute were deploying under the control of the Canadian navy in the Atlantic during the Cuban Missile Crisis, an actual Canadian boat was part of Canada's Pacific force.
Photo from Wikipedia
HMCS Grilse (SS-71) was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1961. Grilse was on loan from the United States, whose navy she had served with great distinction in the Second World War. In her five years of service with the RCN the boat played a major training role for antisubmarine forces and helped train a generation of Canadian submariners.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Canadian" Submarines in the Cuban Missile Crisis (Part 2 of a series)

They weren't actually Canadian, of course, they were British. But they were based in Halifax and placed under the control of the Royal Canadian Navy for the duration of the Crisis. (For more background, see my June 3rd posting of this year, here.)
(HMCS Grilse, Canada's only actual submarine at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was based in Esquimalt on the west coast. More about her in a subsequent post.)
At the height of the Crisis, from October 15th to 28th 1962, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev were figuratively twisting wrists. The price of a misstep by either of them could have been a nuclear Armageddon. Rear-Admiral Ken Dyer sent his fleet to sea, to help monitor any Soviet submarines detected in eastern seaboard waters.
Besides his surface and air assets, Admiral Dyer had at his disposal two A-class boats of the 6th Submarine Flotilla, Alderney and Astute.
HMS Alderney
HMS Alderney sailed on October 23rd,  having stored for a war patrol. Once on station northeast of the Grand Banks she would conduct surveillance, on the lookout for Soviet submarines.
Alderney was followed by sister boat Astute into the cold north Atlantic waters. Neither A-boat would have positive submarine contacts during the crisis, but they demonstrated they were capable of forming part of an antisubmarine barrier. As things transpired, the Soviet submarines were already south of Canadian waters, where several were detected by American and Canadian forces.

On a personal note, I came to know the Alderney very well, as I trained in her and served on board only four years after her Cuban Missile Crisis service, in 1966-67.

Friday, October 4, 2013

"Canadian" Submarines in the Cuban Missile Crisis (1 of a series)

This is a photo of HMS Alliance, a Royal Navy A-boat (also sometimes known as the Amphion or Acheron class). She is wearing camouflage, and probably in the Far East when the photo was taken. The Alliance lives on as the main feature at the RN Submarine Museum at Gosport, Hants.
There were fourteen A-boats built in the United Kingdom, of which two served in Canadian waters during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were stationed in Halifax as the Sixth Submarine Flotilla, but were under Canadian operational control. They typically carried a number of Canadian officers and men serving on loan and for training with the Royal Navy.
The two A-boats mentioned above were Her Majesty's Submarines Alderney and Astute.
More about them in subsequent posts.
My novel about a fictitious "Canadian" A-boat, HMCS Alert, in the Cuban Missile Crisis is due out in August 2014, the Canadian submarine centennial year.