Monday, February 17, 2014

2014--The Year of the Submarine

photo courtesy RCN History & Heritage
There will be many functions relating to submarines in Canada this year. It was 100 years ago that the first Canadian boats appeared--purchased by none other than the premier of British Columbia, Sir Richard McBride. Celebratory events will take place in Victoria, Ottawa, Halifax and no doubt elsewhere.
I intend to be at the Victoria events, and also the AGM and conference scheduled by the Naval Association of Canada. The theme for the NAC event is "Submarines: Past, Present and Future". For more details, see the NAC site here.
The boat pictured here is HMCS Okanagan, in which I served in 1968-69. She was the last-commissioned of Canada's three O-boats, in service from the 1960's to the '90's.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Submarines are Capital Ships in the Far East

Submarines, it seems, are the focus of navies in the Far East (or is it now the Far West, in terms of our view of the Pacific).
China is more and more dependent on foreign trade, and therefore shipping. Its reliance on shipping mandates a more powerful navy, which is in fact happening. China's latest large ship is an aircraft carrier, Liaoning, as it extends its navy's reach globally.

But even more interesting is the reaction of China's smaller Pacific neighbours. Vietnam has acquired its first submarine, a Russian-made Kilo. Japan and South Korea are adding significant numbers of submarines to their fleets. Malaysia is buying submarines. Other Pacific nations such as Australia and India are well into the submarine business, and Russia is churning out Kilos for external sales.

The point of all this is that countries without the ability of China, Russia and the US to build and man large surface fleets are turning to the submarine to neutralize the large powers' threats in times of tension or war.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Through a Canadian Periscope

Julie H. Ferguson's excellent Through a Canadian Periscope was first published in 1995 by Dundurn Press Limited. At long last they have done an eagerly-anticipated second edition, which is about to hit book stores and is presently available over the internet. The book is at once a history and a personal view, highlighted by Ms. Ferguson's extensive research and comprehensive interviews.
The second edition picks up where the first one left off, with the British totally fed up with the prevarications of the Canadian government over the possibility of purchasing diesel-electric submarines already built and waiting for buyers.
In the decade since, much has happened, both to the Canadian submarine service and the British boats. More comments here soon, but in the meantime, I will defer to Ms. Ferguson, when she speaks of the thread that has held the service together over its hundred year history:
"That thread is dedicated professionalism; for it is the men and women, not the boats, who are the true essence of the Canadian submarine service."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Message from Moreuil

What follows is a google translate version of a recent email from M. Jean-Paul Brunel of Moreuil, Picardy, France. I have referred to J-P several times in the course of writing my blogs about the Canadian Cavalry Brigade in World war I. 
In his PS below, J-P refers to a ceremony he and his friends staged in 2008. Under his message is a photo taken at that time.

Mail to all my Canadian friends. English. Scots. French. Flaments the French they are very numerous and USA
  Here is the program of Ceremonies March 30, 2014, approximately one month of preparation and consultation, more than 40 emails and many phone
 Every year we innovate and our troops are reinforced and this year, a dozen horsemen and twenty extras (Ecossais.Canadiens and French)
 bivouac Wood Horn on the evening of March 29 with films and music and a large fires
 courageous and go to sleep in the tent. be revised for the centenary

      All this to pay tribute to valereux soldiers who sacrificed their lives to save France
   and especially to the families and Willougbhy Tankéré Schenato jp Brunel
   PS the 1st Commemoration took place March 30, 2008 in the presence of Bob and Pat Mackay Vancouver

  my faithful standard-bearer and the Somme Battlefield Pipe Band

J-P is  between me and the Highlander, the leader of the Somme Battlefield Pipe Band referred to in J-P's message.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Moreuil Wood comes to Canada (Part 1)

Way back in 2012 I visited Alberta and got to know two members of the Tetley family. Ed is a young family man, and his retired father Stan lives in Jasper. Ed phoned me yesterday to remind me that Jean-Paul Brunel, unofficial Moreuil Wood historian, is visiting Canada later this month.
Readers of this blog will know that J-P is a very keen promoter of the story of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and their epic battle at Moreuil Wood on March 30th, 1918. My wife and I had the honour of visiting J-P in 2008, on the 90th anniversary of the battle, when he staged a moving ceremony in remembrance of the day.
More about Jean-Paul soon. In the meantime, here is what I wrote about the Tetleys and their connection to the Strathcona's in 2012.

Monday, February 3, 2014

When Cavalry and Submarines Collide (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I described an upcoming "collision" between cavalry and submarines at the Western Front Association AGM and Seminar, March 7-9. That will be a brush between the two military/naval arms in a figurative sense.

But the real thing did happen. In World War I, during the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, British and Australian submarines forced their way through the Dardanelles, wreaking havoc with Turkish naval shipping and transports. On one occasion E-14, under the command of LCdr M. E. Nasmith, drove a steamer aground. While preparing to land a boarding party to blow up the ship, E-14 came under fire from a party of Turkish cavalry. To quote By Guess and By God, "Bullets rained down from above and Nasmith felt for once that discretion was the better part of valour".

Part 1 can be seen here.