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.


Pat and Marcus said...

Very interesting how the British submarines were put at the control of the Canadian Navy, showing how close the two countries remained at that time.

I wonder if something similar would happen under similar circumstances today?

Robert Mackay said...

Good question! My personal impression is that the assignment of operational control is pretty common in exercises at least as among the RN, RCN, USN, and Australian navies. And there are many personal connections in the submarine world that could facilitate close cooperation.

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