For Posterity's Sake         

A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project

 

Kootenay Memories

 

 

Grant Reid - I was on board the day of the explosion.  I was a fire controlman.  I was 19 years old, an ordinary seaman and this was my first ship.  I really don't remember much of the explosion.  I remember helping with the rope for towing; sleeping on the ship in England for sever weeks while tied up...washing down the black crap from all the smoke in the interior.  They wouldn't even put us up somewhere ashore.

 


 

CPO1 (ret'd) Roger Bronson - Having just attended the 38th annual Kootenay explosion ceremony, my first attendance, it brought back many memories long forgotten from that terrible day. I was interested if there was any more info on the web about it and fortunately found yours. Thanks for historical data supplied, and I will pass it on to other Kootenay shipmates who were onboard that day. On page ten of the report I came across the para about the individual giving mouth to mouth to the injured sailor and I know who it was! Anyhow, many years have passed and I have always known that we did our best on that fateful day. Many thanks.

 


 

James D. Connelly - I too was a sailor (aboard the 264 Qu'Appelle).  However what was special about stumbling across your capture of those pages about the Kootenay disaster was that I dated the daughter of CMD. Walton in the early 70's.  His words on those pages echo in my mind some of the words he would tell us in evenings, sitting at his table.  He was a remarkable man.  Rather than be honored for his part in the saving of the ship and it's consequential restoration, he was sideways 'promoted' to a desk at NDHQ and soon after retired.  For a man who had flown Spitfires in WWII and Sabres in Korea, as well as begin the CMD on the Kootenay he had a lot of stories to tell.  He never spoke much about the Kootenay except to say it was a horrible thing.  To give orders that possibly put men at risk of death, sending men back in several times, even though there were not enough supplies to do it safely...I now understand the incredible stress he must have associated with that.  He died in 1976 a year after I started officer candidate training in Chilliwack.  In some ways he died a broken man carrying the deaths of those men on the Kootenay on his shoulders.

I have forwarded the link to your page to his daughter, who I just re-connected with after 35 years.  I am sure seeing her fathers account of the actions at the time will maybe bring him back to her in some ways.  If nothing else she can maybe understand some things about her father.  Thank you for the factual information given.  There are several stories and links to the HMCS Kootenay disaster, but none I could find mentioned CDR Walton or had his actual log entries or board of inquiry depositions.  Thanks again.

 


 

Wayne Atkins, Sgt. (Ret) Royal Canadian Dragoons - I am a retired Army Sgt. with the Royal Canadian Armored Corps now working with Transport Canada. When this tragedy took place I was 9 years old, the best part of this tragedy is that my older brother made it out alive. His name is Tom G Atkins. Knowing what we know about the military, I know he has never seen the final report and SITREP's as he was below decks firefighting. He was never evacuated and stayed with his ship back to port during the initial towing operations. I tried to print the report from your web sight, with no avail. Is it possible to send me a printed copy? I would like to put something together for him on the anniversary 23 Oct.

 


 

Dr. Russell Wm.Saunders - (Cpl Saunders RCAF Marine) and was a member of the Ships Company when the Kootenay exploded. I am also on an AdHoc Committee to organize a pilgrimage to the UK to honor those who were buried there after the disaster. Of course we will want all the people we can get to join us on this occasion. Do you have any information that may assist us in this situation.

 


 

Glen Nelson LSRP2 - Lived in 3A mess, just off Burma Road. Served 2 years. Drafted to Bonaventure prior to explosion in 1969. Made trip to Victoria from Halifax on board, through the Panama Canal. Still in contact with other ship mates from the Kootenay.

 


 

Joan - I work for Veterans Affairs Canada and every now and then I still get the chance to speak to lots of my sailor boys even crew members of the Bonnie and the Kootenay. I started  working for the government in 1965, yeah I know I am crazy that I still WANT to work. I was part of the Kootenay Response team at Stad Hospital after the gear box fire. Being part of that incident, even being so remote from the fire, stayed with me forever. I think it made me a better, more compassionate, caring person. I am an army brat.  Half of my family was navy, the other half army. All of my working life and I didn't manage to get very far from the forces.  I tried it once and I thought a big part of my life was missing. All the nice girls love a sailor. I was talking to someone in Ottawa at Easter time. Talking about ancient history. You know, the stuff that happened so many years ago. Like you know in the sixties and seventies.  Love my nieces but they did make me feel like I should be using a wheeled walker any day now. I was trying to remember who was the Captain of the Kootenay  right after the gear box fire. I think he was also the Captain of the Preserver at one time. I try to show some of the staff in the office how they can identify one of our ships by the outline as she comes into the harbour.  I think they might understand a submarine but I can still tell when the supply ship is coming back  in the harbour when it passes Chebucto Head. They are not interested. I was young when I was working at Stad Hospital  I don't remember any of the names of the patients or the families. I met a guy on the plane,  ex-service of course, they can still turn my head. He  remembered me, probably from the hospital.  He said his was the Captain of the Kootenay, right after the gear box fire  but for the life of me  I cannot remember his name. I think I am spending too much time with old Veterans and I am getting 'Old Timers Disease'. Nothing important or serious in the request. I will always the remember all of the crew of the Kootenay and I want them to know that the little blonde in radiology at Stad Hospital is an old lady now and I still think of them and  how brave they were.

 


 

W.T. Harrison CPO2 HT (ret) - My brother LSHT D. L. Harrison (Larry) was a member of the ships company of HMCS Kootenay and was one of the asphyxiated casualties to spend a lot of time in hospital. I am of the opinion this incident impacted Larry for the rest of his life. The trauma of that day was never ever dealt with. He died prematurely in 1997 at 53 years of age as a result of heart failure. He suffered from  a number of health conditions including severe pulmonary problems from that time on. I am personally familiar with the incident as I was on board Saguenay at the time and remember vividly the tension of the time. Incidentally, I never ever did get my fire blanket returned to me. You know, the one I sewed my name in. Anyway I still have sad memories of that time having known personally a lot of the survivors and more than one of the deceased.  

 


 

Richard Boyd - I was a LS Naval Storesman aboard the Kootenay at the time of the explosion.  Is there a website or a listing anywhere of the whereabouts of other crew members.

 


Greg Mackenzie - HMCS Bonaventure, 23 Oct 1969

I was a young Able Seaman, Air Bosn, ABAB on Oct. 23rd 1969, we had just finished the midnight to 0800 watch on the flight deck and headed for 2D1 mess for some rack time.

Had hardly laid down when one of our flight deck LS ran into the mess shouting for everyone to get up and back to the flight deck, he told us there was as a fire on the Kootenay, we hustled back in hurry!

When I got back the first thing I saw was Helos arriving with badly burnt Kootenay crew, we started carrying stretchers up to our sick bay, off our Stbd bow I could see Kootenay about a mile away, she was stopped, you could see some smoke around her, the seas were calm that day .

For the next while helos were landing with the injured crew, some of us went below and started bringing up hose, foam, Chemox BAs and loading it, to be taken to Kootenay.

At some point our Flight deck chief mustered all the Air Bosns and told us we were sending some of us over to help out, he told us it would be a tough, dangerous job and volunteers only were going, I will never forget his words, " volunteers for Kootenay, one pace forward march! ", to a man we all stepped forward .

Five were selected, P2AB Mo Malascar, LSAB Rene Cormier, LSAB Ed Gadbois, ABAB John Swiss, ABAB Dave Milloy, I heard some of the stories of what they had to do, I am sure none of them ever forgot.

Later we brought up five burn victims, they were flown back to RN hospital in Portsmouth.

Rest in peace, those lost that day.

ABAB Mackenzie

HOME PAGE     SHIP INDEX      CONTACT