Comment and Articles

As an advocate of discussion and debate of Canadian defence and foreign policy, RUSI Vancouver will share opinions and observations from academia, the media, and respected historians. The result is the new ‘Comment’ category that will provide this service to our members.

For now, the new category is not available for feedback to the website on published topics.


RUSI-Vancouver Letter to Attorney General of BC

by Cameron Cathcart


 

 

 

August 30, 2018
Honourable David Eby, MLA, QC
Attorney General of British Columbia
Room 232, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

Dear Minister,

I write on behalf of members of Royal United Services Institute Vancouver Society (RUSI Vancouver) regarding the proposed change of criteria for the issuance of Veterans Licence Plates in British Columbia that would allow members of the RCMP and other police officers in the province to be eligible for the Veterans Licence Program.

RUSI Vancouver is opposed to the proposed change of criteria as the current VLP program is one of few official forms of recognition available to living former Regular or Reserve members of the Canadian Forces; that expansion of the criteria will remove this symbol of service by Veterans to our country and, that it falls within the accepted definition of a Veteran as promulgated by Veterans Affairs Canada.

We are not opposed to the eligibility of those RCMP officers who have been deployed at various times in areas of conflict while serving in support of the Canadian Forces.

RUSI Vancouver supports the suggestion made by others that if your government wishes to recognize members of the RCMP, municipal police, fire and rescue, and the ambulance service, that it do so with a unique vehicle licence plate specifically designed for these first responder organizations.

RUSI Vancouver believes that loosening the eligibility of the VLP program in favour of the RCMP and other police officers in BC will ‘weaken the currency’ of a significant, visible recognition of service to Canada by former and current members of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and in the Canadian Merchant Navy.

Members of RUSI Vancouver implore you to leave the current Veterans Licence Plate program intact and secure and to avoid any proposed expansion of eligibility.

Sincerely,

Cameron Cathcart, President
Royal United Services Institute - Vancouver Society
T 604 682 5453
C 604 617 4221
lhccathcart@gmail.com
www.rusivancouver.ca  

Royal United Services Institute - Vancouver Society
2025 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C.  V6J 2C7



In 2010, several members of the Naval Officers Association of BC (NOABC) decided to salute the role of BC’s shipyards during World War Two. The project eventually transitioned into a monument to include all workers in the BC shipbuilding industry. The following article in the July-August issue of BC Shipping News by RUSI President Cam Cathcart, outlines the eight year journey of the project, with a few nautical miles left before it’s completed.

...why isn’t there something tangible on the Vancouver waterfront to salute
the legacy of B.C.’s proud and illustrious shipbuilding industry?

Honouring B.C.’s legendary shipbuilding industry

by Cameron Cathcart


Curious how projects get started. Many have a definite purpose. Others, the result of a dream. The shipbuilding monument project began with a question: why isn’t there something tangible on the Vancouver waterfront to salute the legacy of B.C.’s proud and illustrious shipbuilding industry? That question got a few people thinking in 2010.

The Metro Vancouver Naval Monument Society was formed, and the concept of a memorial began to take shape. The idea was to position a statue of a Second World War shipyard worker on the North Vancouver waterfront. But, that hectic period of non-stop shipbuilding also included thousands of women, along with navy personnel acting as advisors. It was clear that all three had to be represented in a shipbuilding monument. The next step was to engage a sculptor.

The artist chosen was Norm Williams, who had recently completed the monument to B.C.’s fishing industry and its workers situated outside the old Steveston Cannery, now the Gulf of Georgia National Historic Site in Richmond, B.C. His first task was to develop a maquette, or model, showing the three statues in various poses within the parameters of a single monument. Mr. Williams has since created the Roger Neilson and Pat Quinn statues located at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, the initial flurry of excitement for a shipbuilding monument began to wane at this time and for several years the project suffered an overall lack of enthusiasm. That changed in 2017 when the Naval Officer’s Association of BC (NOABC) announced plans to mark its 100th anniversary at a fall 2019 conference in North Vancouver. This sparked renewed interest by the Society and the monument project was revived in earnest.

By now, project costs had increased substantially and it was obvious the final price for the shipbuilding monument would be much higher than originally contemplated back in 2010. Also, urban renewal had changed the old Burrard Dry Dock site at the North Vancouver waterfront with the area that now includes an art gallery, a new hotel, a residential complex, public market, restaurants, boardwalk and a public pier.

The Society now had to re-engage with the City of North Vancouver to determine where the monument could be located on the revitalized waterfront. Meanwhile, the North Vancouver Arts Advisory Committee, along with the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, were consulted for artistic design and historical accuracy of the sculpture components. These were approved, and the City endorsed the project, agreeing that the monument be located east of the new pier on the North Vancouver waterfront boardwalk.

The building of vessels on the British Columbia coast has a long history. Well before European contact, coastal Indigenous people built large, sea-going dugout canoes for fishing, whaling, transportation and war. The first ship built on the B.C. coast by Europeans was at Friendly Cove, now Yuquot, in Nookta Sound in the early 1790s.

As European settlement took hold in the late 1800s, various types of vessels were built by B.C. shipbuilders over the years such as deep-sea sailing ships, paddle wheelers, lake ferries, tugs, fish boats and the occasional pleasure craft. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that U.K.-built passenger ships, used for West Coast service, began to be phased out and replaced mainly by vessels built in B.C. shipyards.

For most of the 20th century, the North Vancouver waterfront housed the largest shipyard in western Canada, with more than 450 ships launched from the site throughout this period. Opened in 1906 as Wallace Shipyard and re-named Burrard Dry Dock in 1921, tugs and barges for the forest industry, navy vessels, ferries, small cargo ships and icebreakers were launched from this historic location including the St. Roch, the RCMP schooner that achieved fame by traversing the Arctic in both directions in the 1940s.

The busiest and most record-setting activity on the North Vancouver waterfront occurred during the Second World War. Burrard Dry Dock, along with neighbouring North Van Ship Repairs, built close to 250 of Canada’s wartime Victory ships and 50 naval vessels, establishing a reputation for high standards of workmanship. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 14,000 workers were employed in round the clock shifts at Burrard, including 1,000 women, to feed the war effort. The B.C. shipyard was the first in Canada to hire women during the war. They filled the gap while men went to war with jobs ranging from store-keeping to welding.

When the war ended in 1945, shipbuilding in B.C. dropped dramatically and thousands of workers were let go, including all the women hired during the war. But, new contracts slowly picked up as the post-war economy began to surge. These included modern tugs, self-loading log barges, cargo ships, coastal tankers, patrol boats, state of the art icebreakers, arctic oil exploration ships and passenger and railcar ferries. In the 1950s the Royal Canadian Navy also began to modernize its fleet with new destroyers, several of which were built in B.C. shipyards.

Today, two replenishment ships have been ordered by the Royal Canadian Navy, along with a polar icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. All three vessels are at the final design stage at Seaspan Shipyards in North Vancouver, from which the first of three fisheries research vessels were recently launched. Along with building new ships, for several years cruise ship, ferry and navy vessel repair and upgrading work have been consistent and reliable activities for British Columbia’s shipyards.

The shipbuilding monument needs $350,000 to be completed and installed on the North Vancouver waterfront by October, 2019. To meet this challenge the Metro Vancouver Naval Monument Society has launched an appeal for contributions at eight levels that reflect the type of ships built by B.C.’s shipbuilders, ranging from Minesweeper to Victory Ship to Naval Supply Ship, to mention just three.

The monument will consist of three bronze statues that show a male worker using a torch to bend pipes, a female worker taking a break, while a naval petty officer unrolls ship plans. It is designed to engage people, with sculptures positioned at ground level on the walkway east of the North Vancouver waterfront pier.

The shipbuilding monument will salute the legendary British Columbia shipbuilding industry and its workers, and for its support of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Marine during the Second World War.

The project began with a question: why is there no tangible recognition of British Columbia’s proud and illustrious history of shipbuilding?

The answer is the shipbuilding monument, now ready to be launched.


The Defence Policy Review

A Positive but Minimal Effort

By Keith Maxwell, OMM, CD Colonel (retired)

Vice-President, RUSI Vancouver
 

I will start with the bottom line – the Defence Policy Review (DPR) goes in the right direction with many – even most – of the minimal requirements included for procurement, upgrade or enhancement for the Canadian Forces. But it’s a minimal effort given the state of the world and alliance politics right now. It’s the least the government can undertake without further damaging our reputation with our allies after freeloading so egregiously over the past four decades.

I am not concerned about the timelines or affordability. Under modern accounting methodologies the expenditures show up on the books with some delay as they are capability, not expenditure, oriented. The package is affordable by any measure – it will just take the political will to implement.

I am concerned about the need for cross party, non-partisan support for this initiative: here is where Canadians could look to our Australian friends to adopt a practical way forward. National defence is not a fruitful or helpful area for political bickering – the opposition should support this and recommend enhancements rather than use it as a political tool for the partisan fight. Given its past record, the party currently in power would be playing the same awful games if they were in opposition. There was once a time when there was a broad consensus and significant cooperation around national defence in Canada. Our political establishment needs to grow up and take a mature approach to defending our nation.

Our service women and men do a great job and the CF stands up to pretty much every commitment we undertake to our allies and friends in peacetime and in crisis. Where we fall is in providing a sustained and credible contribution to conventional force deterrence. While deterrence is, perhaps, the least visible role of an alliance, it is also the most important. Force structure, numbers, sustainability, depth, able to deploy and the timely fielding of the ever-important technological advantage are the areas where we have gone astray.

The DPR will put us about half way between our current woeful contribution to alliance and global security, and what we should be spending on defence to give us a well-rounded, robust and sustainable force.

In concrete terms, what’s missing?

It is true, 88 fighters are better than 65, but not enough. We should be buying about the same numbers as Australia – 120 would be a good figure. While 88 fighters would satisfy our current NORAD and NATO commitments, those commitments represent the minimal effort status quo we’ve maintained for way too long. It’s time for Canada to start pulling its weight.

The government is still playing political games with the CF-18 replacement. As so many allies have discovered, there is no reasonable alternative to the F-35. Most of NATO is going there and more will follow. The next to join the procurement is likely to be Germany. If we buy a fourth generation fighter – even the most technologically advanced one - we will become a second class air force unable to operate in contested airspace. Our contribution to deterrence in this area will be diminished irreparably. The difference between fourth and fifth generation is even greater than that it was between third and fourth generation. Those of us who lived through that process saw the entire fighter inventory become obsolescent in a matter of a very few years. It would be unfortunate indeed if the RCAF were to become a marginally effective tactical air force because of an ill-advised election promise made by a group of poorly informed politicians gearing up for a partisan fight. All of the expert military advice to the government has been to procure the F-35 and it will win any free and open competitive bid, provided the requirements are not skewed by politics.

There has been much criticism of the F-35 in the media – it is the most sophisticated weapon system in the world and has had growing pains – that’s not unusual. The USAF has now declared the system operational; if anyone thinks that the F-35 will not emerge in the end as the best combat aircraft in the world, they don’t understand the US Defence Department or the USAF and USN. They will make this work and work well. Cost has also been in the press. In fact, the fly-away cost per aircraft for the F-35 is only slightly higher than for the most modern F-18E Super Hornet. That modest increase in cost would buy Canada an enormous increase in capability. Again, it is time to pack up the politics and get on with equipping the Canadian Forces for success.

Maintaining a fleet of 15 major surface combatant warships is the minimum for a viable blue-water navy. It is important that the government resist budgetary pressures to lower that number. Over the past quarter century, the Royal Canadian Navy has supported operational commitments around the world. Moreover, we are a maritime nation reliant on maritime access and control. This is an important core capability for Canada.

Keeping our four Victoria class submarines is good, but a very minimal effort. We need a fleet double that size to provide a realistic contribution in two oceans. The fleet should be expanded with a replacement program before the current submarines come to the end of their design life.

There is no hint of armed helicopters in the review; that is a significant omission and capability gap. It is particularly important to have them for escort and protection of helicopters transporting troops into uncertain and opposed terrain. They are also critical for combat search and rescue. We have no capability in that area now. We had to rely on allies to provide armed escort in Afghanistan; it should be a core capability in the CF. Armed helicopters are not particularly expensive and are a great added value for air mobile operations, particularly in low intensity conflict. And low intensity operations, like we are now carrying out in Iraq, are the future.

Our Griffon helicopters need replacing and that is not a specific item in the review, though it may be covered by “other upgrades and replacements.” We need more, and more capable rotary wing airlift at that level. The Griffon was under-specified and was a compromise system in the first place. We need a mixed fleet of medium and heavy airlift helicopters in larger numbers and with more capability than we have now.

The government has, once again, backed away from Ballistic Missile Defence. This is a position of weakness and it is hypocritical – Canada is already party to NATO area missile defence in Europe – why not North America? We should now be participating in North American missile defence in cooperation with the US. If that were to happen the mission would switch from a US unilateral command structure to NORAD. Canadians would then have influence and make a significant contribution in this aspect of continental defence. Given the madness of North Korea and other emerging intercontinental threats, missile defence is a crucial mission in which we must participate. The Americans would be very happy to have us. Canada has much to offer in this regard – particularly geography. Our prime contributions would likely be manpower in a number of locations around the continent and installation of a missile warning radar site in eastern Canada – probably in Labrador. It’s the ideal location to deploy such a capability and would fill a gap in coverage. Unfortunately, the government has, once again, bowed to uninformed and dogmatic political correctness by those who are naive enough to believe that defence of the homeland is somehow a provocation.

Canada made a very big mistake six years ago when the Harper government decided to withdraw from the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) program as a "cost saving" measure. Canada had been the third largest contributor to the program and immediately lost all influence in the area of alliance air command and control. AWACS is now the key to the air deterrence operations in the Baltic and the Romanian area. It was a very bad mistake that needs to be corrected. The DPR should have included a pathway to re-enter the NATO program and partake in the upgrade/replacement program just getting underway.

Alternately, Canada should consider a stand-alone AWACS capability, similar to the capabilities of Australia, the UK or France. Other nations have the capability as well, and many of those nations are much smaller than Canada with a more narrow air surveillance focus. There are a number of good systems on the market that are much less expensive than the older systems. It would make a great contribution to both NORAD and NATO and would give Canada an independent air surveillance capability for the northern and coastal approaches to Canada.

All of these deficiencies could easily be accommodated if Canada were to increase the funding commitment to 1.8 or 1.9 percent of GDP. Instead we are making the smallest increase we can get away with internationally without further degrading our not-so-pristine record on collective defence.

We could do better – in fact, Canadians deserve much better.


Joining the Canadian Army Militia in 1968, Colonel (Ret’d) Keith Maxwell subsequently served as an armoured crewman, infantryman, infantry officer and later, air weapons control officer, for more than 30 years. He spent most of his career in tactical air operations and related duties including tactics development, requirements and technology procurement.

Col Maxwell served outside Canada for 27 years, including 11 years in NORAD and 16 years in NATO. During that time, he was assigned to several multinational air command and control facilities and headquarters and served as an AWACS Mission Commander and Air Battle Commander for seven years.

Col Maxwell has a History degree from the University of Manitoba and is a graduate of the Canadian Forces Staff School, the US Air Force Air War College and the Canadian Forces Senior Defence and Security Studies Program. He was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Military Merit (OMM) in 1989 while serving at Alaskan NORAD Region. Col Maxwell is Vice-president of RUSI Vancouver.


Researching Fallen of World War One
at Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver

by Cameron Cathcart


RUSI Vancouver has sponsored and organized the annual Vimy Day Commemoration for the past ten years, the most was recent on April 9, 2018. In the lead-up to the event, we were approached by Morgan Brewster, a local amateur historian who has done considerable research into the burials of Canada’s veterans at Mountain View Cemetery. He discovered that no fewer than 11,493 were buried at the MVC between 1910 and 2010, a period of 100 years, most representing veterans from WW1 and WW2.

Mr. Brewster has also focused on the Commonwealth War Graves Section, site of the annual Vimy Day Commemoration. During the ceremony on April 9th, Cam Cathcart, the MC and President of RUSI Vancouver, referenced one of those soldiers, Lt. Hugh Thomas Mercer Love. Lt. Love was wounded at Vimy Ridge, returned to Vancouver but died two years later and is buried In the Commonwealth War Graves Section.

Here is part of his story:

  • Lt. H. T. M. Love enlisted with the 121st Battalion CEF (Western Irish) and oversaw 13 Platoon. On shipping to England, the 121st was broken up and assigned to several other units. Lt. Love and dozens of men were sent as reinforcements to the 102nd Battalion, part of 11th Brigade, 4th Canadian Infantry Division in early January 1917.
  • On April 9th, 1917, the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the 102nd Battalion (and most of 11th Brigade) suffered some of the worst losses. The 102nd had each of its officers either wounded or killed, including Lt. Love, who was severely wounded.
  • Lt. Love was hit in the left shoulder, right thigh, had his skull fractured and was left severely disfigured. He lost his left eye, and his sense of smell. He was evacuated to England and then Canada and spent time at both Vancouver General Hospital & Shaughnessy Military Hospital. Lt. Love died in 1920 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery: Jones-*-45-013-0013 https://goo.gl/maps/Lni1Fokyqvv

This photo shows the men Lt. Love commanded while they trained in Vancouver and New Westminster. They shipped to England in August 1916 and most of them had joined units in France by January 1917. The men circled in yellow were wounded at Vimy Ridge. The men circled in red were killed at Vimy (or died from injuries). Lt. Love is the tall man in the front center.



Here is a photograph of Lt. Love’s headstone in the Commonwealth War Graves Section (Jones 45) at Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver.

Fittingly the ashes of Lt. Love’s widow, Dorothy Edith Love, were added to her husband’s grave (above) following her death in 1991.



"FROM NOTES AND WELL REMEMBERED INCIDENCES" by Fred L. Coxen

World War I from the journal of Captain Fred G. Coxen RFA (Royal Field Artillery)

From the PREFACE:

"My purpose for writing this book was to honor my grandfather by telling his story. In addition I wanted to impart to the reader the experiences, as well as the conditions of war, and what it was like trying to survive each day.

"The story is based on the World War 1 journal written by Captain Frederick G. Coxen, who served in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and the Royal Air Force (RAF) from 1905 to 1919."

Download the entire book (158 pages) HERE.

MEETINGS

RUSI Vancouver members gather for lunch on Wednesdays at 12:00 Noon at the Officers' Mess of the 15th Field Regiment (RCA) located in the Bessborough Armouries, 2013 West 11th Avenue, Vancouver, BC.