Newsletter - RUSI Vancouver
Highlights of the December 11 Newsletter
World War II: December 12 - 18 1943
John Thompson Strategic Analyst - Quotes from his book “Spirit Over Steel”
St Barbara’s Dinner
Vancouver Welsh Men's Choir, Sounds of Christmas - Dec. 15
Garrison Burns Supper - Jan. 26, 2019
15th Field Artillery Regiment 99th Birthday - Feb. 2
Robert W. Mackay's Newsletter "Forces with History"
Three cheers for the Submarine Association of Canada (West) for their organization of the Submarine Gathering in 2018. Held in Victoria over the weekend of November 2nd to 4th, the event was timed to celebrate 50 years since the first commissioning of HMCSubmarines OKANAGAN and RAINBOW.
Apart from a brief visit west, OKANAGAN spent her life in the Atlantic. From her commissioning in the UK in 1968 until she was finally paid off in 1998, the OK performed admirably in her primary role of training crews of ships and aircraft in antisubmarine operations.
RAINBOW, on the west coast, likewise worked with American and Canadian forces while operating out of Esquimalt. A former USN fleet boat purchased from the Americans, RAINBOW commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia, serving in the RCN until she decommissioned in 1974.
Word has it that at various times the two boats took part in what more closely fits the term “operational” work. Perhaps those will be more closely covered in future posts in Forces With History!
A major highlight for many of the attendees at the gathering was a visit to HMCS CHICOUTIMI. Guests were welcomed aboard by a few of the ship’s company as well as Captain Christopher Robinson, Commander Canadian Submarine Force. Bravo Zulu to Chicoutimi’s coxswain and our other hosts from the ship's company. As a veteran of the Okanagan I can only marvel at the skills and dedication of the Victoria-class submarine crews.
I’m very much looking forward to next weekend in Victoria. The occasion, as readers of prior editions of this newsletter will know, is the celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Her Majesty’s Submarines RAINBOW and OKANAGAN in the fleet.
Submariners old and bold will no doubt be present and spinning some salty dips that will seem much more heroic and clear-cut with most or all of the negatives peeled away by fading memories. One of the events hopefully included in the weekend will be a tour of one of our modern diesel-electrics, when we can meet a new generation of submariners.
I never served in HMCS RAINBOW but I know many who did. Speaking as an original member of OKANAGAN’S crew I can say that it’ll be very exciting to see as many as possible of those barnacled boys of earlier days.
One glaring omission from the combined Watch Bill for the two boats will be OKANAGAN’S first commanding officer, LCdr Nigel Frawley, RCN (ret’d), who is not making the trip west. But if he finds his ears ringing it will be because of fond toasts raised to him and his boat.
Before I stood by OKANAGAN I was trained in the RN and served in HMS ALDERNEY, an A-boat that was based for some years in Halifax. I borrowed her as a stand-in for HMCS ALERT, the fictional submarine in my book Terror on the ALERT. I’ll have copies of same for sale in Victoria but I can assure attendees I won’t be sitting behind a table waiting to pounce on passersby, a heap of books in front of me. If the any of the assembled crews would like a signed copy, however, I’ll be happy to oblige!
A Submarine Gathering approaches. Not the actual boats, but as many as a hundred submariners who served in HMCS RAINBOW and OKANAGAN will be in Victoria November 2-4 this year.
Fifty years ago the RCN welcomed the two boats to the fleet. For a short article about the "OK", see Forces With History #111, here. OKANAGAN was as swept up as any U-boat anywhere when she commissioned.
RAINBOW, though, was another story. In a previous life she was USS Argonaut, a Tench-class boat built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in 1944. She carried out one war patrol against the Japanese, sinking a junk. Modified later, she served the USN in the Mediterranean Sea, then was tied up and more or less ignored until she was sold to Canada in 1968. Her Canadian crew worked miracles, delivering her safe and sound after an event-filled passage to Esquimalt where she was an integral unit in the RCN until 1974. Returned to the US, she was scrapped in 1974.
RAINBOW's spirit lives on, though. Her ship's company was a close-knit, highly efficient crew, and they'll be celebrating in Victoria.
It’s been 50 years since HMCS OKANAGAN, the third of Canada’s O-boats, sailed from Gosport for workups. And in November this year, the Submarine Association of Canada (West) will celebrate the anniversary of her commissioning in the Chatham Dockyard.
The occasion, November 2-4, will also mark HMCS RAINBOW’S 50th. More about her in a later post.
OKANAGAN went on to an illustrious career in the RCN, most of her operations taking place in the Atlantic out of Halifax. Along with her sister boats, OJIBWA and ONONDAGA, her life was extended by a major update of periscopes, sonar, torpedo tubes, etc in the late 1980s that kept her operating until the late ’90s.
One of OKANAGAN’S last tasks was the search for and locating of the flight recorders of Swissair 111 which sadly crashed off Peggy’s Cove in 1998.
Many of her crew, now known as “The Crunch Bunch,” will no doubt reminisce about an unhappy day in 1973 when the OKANAGAN had a run-in with the propellers of Royal Fleet Auxiliary Grey Rover.
HMCS OKANAGAN was paid off in 1998, and sold for scrap. Both her sister O-boats, though, are museum pieces in Ontario and Quebec. They can be toured by the public, and will give an idea of life in what some have called “the last and best” of the O-boats.
For a photo taken that memorable day when HMCS OKANAGAN slipped and proceeded from HMS DOLPHIN for her first workup, check out my blog here.
* P. S.You're entitled to a free ebook when you buy a paperback copy