The history and purchase of the four Upholder class British submarines acquired in the 1990’s is a story of mostly disaster and waste. The first major disaster was fire aboard Chicoutime en-route from the UK. One submariner (Lt Chris Saunders) lost his life and two others were seriously injured. The next disaster occurred when the submarine Cornerbrook hit the sea floor doing 11 knots and caused serious and costly damage. The navy reported this accident as merely a fender bender. Of these four boats after more than two decades three are only now near to being seaworthy. The last report I heard, only one (Victoria ) is so far capable of firing a torpedo. As an old submariner myself I have no desire to besmirch the the men and women presently serving in Canada’s submarines. However, some of the statements coming from Naval Command are less than believable. These four boats are already near the end of their safe and useful service, ten or less years remaining at best. This was costly and a great waste of tax payers money that should have been spent building our own nuclear boats. I have copied an article below, clearly the Admiral holds a very different view from mine. One could say its a grand piece of propaganda. He has managed to make the Windsor sound like a roaring success!!!
In 1870, Jules Verne conjured up an epic experience aboard Nautilus. His characters voyaged for 20,000 leagues under the sea, enthralling readers for decades with the beauty, mystery and intrigue of the deep. Having been one such reader, recently I was thrilled to sail in HMCS Windsor in order to congratulate the crew for attaining the highest level of operational readiness. The drilled submariners of Windsor, their oneness with their iron beast, and a stealthy probe of Nova Scotia’s rocky coast are the inspiration for this Admiral’s View.
Everything about their boat’s interior is cramped: accommodations take second place to machinery. There was vacancy for me on an empty torpedo tray that was surprisingly cozy, albeit my neighbour gave me the chills. I comforted myself in the knowledge that it is one of the most sophisticated and reliable combat systems in the world, one that induces a respectful standoffishness from prying surface forces.
In the Control Room, sonar operators sit shoulder-to-shoulder with weapon directors tucked under the curving ceiling thick with plumbing and wires. At a control panel illuminated like a Christmas tree, the helmsman flies the boat much like an aviator pilots an airplane. Behind him sits the first operator, trimming the boat level by gently adjusting water or air into ballast tanks, ready at an instant to help the stubby wings drive the boat to the surface or deep to safety.
The Navigator guides the submarine’s progress, the Attack Coordinator the tactics. They have brought the boat up from safe depths offshore into shoal waters of the coast. We glide gently beneath the swells, with just enough depth below the keel to evade passing ships. Two periscopes dominate the room, but are used most sparingly in order to avoid detection.
Seventeen sailors pass eight-hour watches in this small space. They operate the most modern sonar and weapon systems in the world, and practice the art of stealth every minute of the day. Windsor’s powerful effect is achieved by hiding in the obscurity of the sea, where light, radar and magnetics have little effect. Sound is the illuminator of the deep as whales and shrimp confirm. But it takes decades to master the art and science of using it to advantage. Despite the march of time and technology, Windsor remains at the forefront of advancement in undersea operations. She is the master of covert surveillance, choosing when and where to enter the operational theatre, her stealth assured by the consideration of silence in all elements of her design. Ashore, operational staffs secretly guard information on the boat’s movements so that prying eyes must work very hard to attempt to put a pin on their chart.
Aboard the submarine, the captain is the focus of the cumulative skill and experience of the crew. Festooned with stopwatches, he follows a disciplined drill using crisp increments of time to drive instantaneous calculations for pressing home his mission or evading should a patrolling force detect them.
He orders the periscope up, grasping its controls as they rise from the bowels of the boat. Crawling on his knees he sweeps the periscope around, keeping the lens just barely above the sea’s surface and covering the full horizon in mere seconds. The crew knows his routine, listens to his narrative while contributing depth, speed, sonar and bearing information into the dialogue.
A sailboat is detected making for a bay. The rattle of an anchor chain confirms a buoy nearby. A lighthouse tower betrays a rocky islet still unseen to the boat’s watery eye. Straining ears listen for approaching warships and aircraft, while computers process the sound, tease out the location of the source, and classify new targets by telltale frequencies. For hours the crew remains acutely focused on their surveillance objective, relaxing only when they have safely reached the sanctuary of deep water where complex ocean layers conceal their next move.
Below the control room, a rested watch briskly dines. Meals at 0300, 1100 and 1900 punctuate the day, the cooks and steward working their magic in a broom closet kitchen. A friendly, fun and nourishing galley is central to good morale and mission success. In the after part of the submarine, two engineers tend to the generators, batteries, ventilation and pumps. The work is hot and busy for everybody and training drills are a constant in their daily lives.
A very proud Windsor is somewhere out there in the North Atlantic, eating up thousands of leagues under the sea, contributing surveillance information to the benefit of Canadian security, and providing her crew all the challenge and intrigue befitting a classic novel.
We sailors are certainly adept at spinning tall and salty sea stories, but I have to say the Admiral wins with this as he describes Windsor as “one of the most sophisticated and reliable combat systems in the world” My goodness Admiral, you will cause other navies of the world to tremble at this news of Canada’s most formidable seagoing weapon!!!!
God Bless and keep reading