SASKATOON HALF COMPANY RCNVR
SASKATOON DIVISION RCNVR
HMCS UNICORN is a Naval Reserve Division of the Royal Canadian Navy based in Saskatoon, SK. Established on 27 April 1923 as the Saskatoon Half-Company Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) under the command of First World War veteran Lieutenant John McEown, UNICORN has been a cornerstone of Saskatoon for nearly a century. UNICORN was first quartered in the downtown armoury at 152 Spadina Ave, moving to the British Empire Service League building 403 21st E at the corner of 21st Street and 4th Avenue in June 1930. In 1934, the burgeoning ship's company moved again, to 378 1st Ave N the corner of 1st Ave and 25th Street to a former car dealership and garage . In 1935 was renamed The Saskatoon Division RCNVR. The ship moved to its present location in 1943, 405 24th St E, when a purpose-built brown brick building with white trim became Saskatoon's stone frigate at the corner of 4th Avenue and 24th Street, across from City Hall. On 1 November 1941 the unit was commissioned as HMCS UNICORN, and in 1948 it received is official crest.
The ship's company played an active part in the life of Saskatoon and the surrounding communities, fielding sports teams, hosting public events and even helping with harvest. During the Second World War, UNICORN became a focal point for the Royal Canadian Navy's wartime efforts in Saskatoon, becoming a naval recruiting centre. 3,573 officers and non-commissioned members enlisted and received their initial training on board. UNICORN continues to play a prominent role in Saskatoon. Members of the ship's company have served with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, the former Yugoslavia, Namibia and southwest Africa, Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Germany, Great Britain, France, Holland, the United Stats, in the Gulf War, and in every Canadian province. Both in 1950 and 1997, members of UNICORN volunteered to assist with efforts to cope with the flooding of Manitoba's Red River. Closer to home, UNICORN helped deal with flooding in the South Saskatchewan River valley and have aided local protective services in operations on the river. The unit has provided safety boats to community boating events, with the ship's nine-pounder gun often used to start the final races. Members of the ship's company have even spent weekends in a life raft tethered to one of Saskatoon's bridges to raise money for local crisis shelters.
Battle Honours and Awards: Armada - 1588, Cadiz - 1596, Porto Farina - 1655, Santa Cruz - 1657, Lowestoft - 1665, Orfordness - 1666, Sole Bay - 1672, Schooneveld - 1673, Texel - 1673, Vestale - 1761, Tribune - 1761, Basque Roads - 1809, Salerno - 1943, Okinawa - 1945, Korea - 1950 - 1953
Lt John McEown - 27 Apr 1923 - unknown
Photos and Documents
HMCS UNICORN and the Boat Shed at HMCS UNICORN during the Second World War
From the collection of Victor Sipko, RCNVR
Courtesy of Ron Matshes
Click on the photo to view photo information