As I was growing up in Belfast I remember seeing the hulk of an unfinished aircraft carrier at the docks. It was being built as the war ended and quickly became surplus to requirements. Through the early 1950’s the ship laying rusting at the docks, a few Navies came to look it over, the Indian Navy, Chile and a few others, but no one made an offer. By 1958 carriers were changing to incorporate an angled flight deck, something our rusting Belfast carrier didn’t have. Then near the end of the year 1958 guess what??? The Canadian Navy came calling, they snapped up the carrier as a bargain and named it HMCS Bonaventure!!! They spent millions refurbishing it. Anyone remember that costly adventure??, the government spent millions on this old vessel then scrapped it about four years later. The Royal Canadian Navy no longer has a Fleet Air Arm. In 1956 the RCN made a deal with the Royal Navy to station submarines in Halifax. For the next few years this worked well, two A class boats would spend two years on station and train with the RCN anti submarine frigates. In approx 1965 the first of three new RCN O class submarines came into service and the British boats returned home. The O boats worked well and were relatively trouble free for the next 25/30 years. I consider the O’s to have been a good purchase. However, at about the same time Parliament decided (Paul Hellyer) to unify the Canadian Armed Forces. (God only knows what that cost) We became known as the jolly green giants, one green uniform one ridiculous mix and match of ranks. For example a submarine crew carried a Lt Cdr as the skipper plus four or five junior officers usually in the rank of Lieutenant. With unification naval lieutenants became Captains! see the problem now we have a Captain and five captains in one submarine!!. Thirty years on and we are back to three distinct services, or almost? All naval personnel now wear the same black uniform from Ordinary Seaman to Admiral, its a US design! Not confused yet? read on. In the mid Nineties the Government purchased four used British Upholder class submarines. One foundered en-route to Canada with the loss of life, one has since hit the sea floor with extensive damage. It was called a fender bender by the Navy. Presently we have none or maybe one operational submarine and a great shortage of trained submarine crews. Essentially we have no submarine fleet. If all the monies wasted on these used submarines had been put into the building of two nuclear boats we’d now have a very viable submarine fleet. However, it seems nothing has been learned from previous mistakes. Our ever so smart government is going to buy used ships from the USN, to fill the gap in our aging fleet. Is it not time we take the Navy, indeed the whole Canadian Armed Forces seriously and provide the troops with the best we can afford. Is it not time to build our own vessels in our own yards and provide our own people with employment. Ask yourself this, if Steven Harper’s limo broke down would his aide rush out and buy a replacement from Rent a Wreck????? I’m still proud to have served with and in the Canadian Forces, its about time our Members of Parliament were too.
God Bless and keep reading