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related to the Canadian Naval Reserve



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Discussion point:  Total force concept and its effect on the Naval Reserves - moral, recruiting, retention, etc.  (posted 23 Oct 2023)


* Fraser McKee (23 Oct 2023):  I was recently retired when that 'Total Force' combination was promoted. I thought it EXACTLY the right approach for HQ to take ... We - RCN + All Reserves - were part of the same ship's company, in our various ways - full time and extra duty time + outside job or courses. The Reserves assigned originally to largely man the MCDV's if they could. And did, to quite an extent. We're too small an outfit on the world stage, particularly financially, to be still 'A Navy and it's Reserve' - the latter at quite a distance for various understandable reasons. Work on a solution, job/appointment/trade by job/trade, not just say 'It won't work,' as RADML Kingsmill really did say to Walter Hose. It can, with applied flexibility, as CAPT Hose was to prove when we were all too soon 'in extremis.'

As we went on, I fear that the concept has only worked in part at the actual real day-to-day level - varying with stated and followed agreement by some, much more dubiously and not followed by others, at the ground/sharp end. It's the right idea, and needs reinforcement on a continuing basis still.

As Nelson really did say, "We are a band of brothers," (although talking of his frigates and sub-squadrons!). Later we got dumb orders that the Reserves were not to wear uniforms when not actually serving (i.e. Mess Dinners, as speakers, etc.) as the Marcom's, Service Chiefs and public would be confused!



Discussion point:  The 100th Anniversary of the Canadian Naval Reserves and the Recommissioning of the Naval Reserve Divisions (posted 16 Sep 2023)


Background info:  Naval Reserve Celebrates Their Centennial in 2023 (pdf document)


* David Freeman (16 Sep 2023):  Further to what is written in the ref you sent, to “re commission” one of HMC Ships, it is first necessary to Pay Her Off. The latter action does not seem to be occurring, therefore in my opinion the former will not be occurring either.

Incidentally, only one person used to be able to Commission or Pay Off one of HMC Ships and that was the C.O. God only knows what is occurring these days. Maybe a visiting brass hat in the RCAF can accomplish this!

There used to be CFAOs covering these two subjects….

From what I read in the document you sent, perhaps the term “rededicating” might be a more accurate description vice “recommissioning.”


* Richard Gimblett (17 Sep 2023):  BLUF — the present re-commissioning of the NRDs as HMC Ships is correct. Blame it on unification (and timing on COVID)….

We did a deep dive into this issue for the Ships Naming Committee before I departed the scene, which in the course of other research determined (I’m working from memory here) that they effectively had been “dis-established” when the new CFOOs (CF Organization Orders for the uninitiated) dropped the HMCS designator and instead labelled them “Naval Reserve Division / NRD Xxx”, the key point being this was done unlike for the fleet which retained “HMCS”. When subsequent CFOOs re-established them as HMCS, it was accepted as a simple label correction, but a recommissioning ceremony is not inappropriate. This year’s events therefore are correcting an historical wrong; the Plague delayed the timing so it can occur serendipitously during this centenary of the founding of the first Divisions. Like you, however, I look forward to see how this is presented.

Speaking of historical wrongs, a minor quibble with the press release (and indeed its general reflection of our received memory) is that it glosses over the fact that Hose established the first proper Canadian Naval Reserve in spring 1914 when he set up the RNCVR (Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve) that went on to be the backbone of our Navy in the Great War, taking in some 9,600 men for war service. (Louis Christ covers this nicely in his chapter in “Citizen Sailors”, which I edited with Michael Hadley.) When those folks were demobilized in 1919-20, the RNCVR effectively was dis-established, to borrow a term, but I’m confident using it as I’ve never seen an actual order terminating the service, it just withered away. But I did get a good skim through all their Pers files and can report anecdotally that a good number of them very soon after joined the RCNR when it was established with the RCNVR in 1923; they went that route because of their previous War service at sea, although some (but not as many) did join the RCNVR, possibly because they didn’t get all that much sea time.


* Bill Clearihue (17 Sep 2023):  Folks, so glad to hear from Rich and Dave and others on this subject, as it has baffled me from when it first appeared as an "issue" earlier this year. Prior to that I'd never seen nor heard even a whisper about NRD "Decommissionings".

I entered the UNTD program in DONNACONA in the Fall of 1964. That year was the lowest intake in the then 21 year history of the program; just 10 cadets from each of 15 NRDs. At that time all remote UNTD tenders were closed along with 4 NRDs. Anyone in those closed units who had completed 1st year at that time were simply dismissed and those who had completed 2nd year were promoted onto the retired list. Those already commissioned were also retired unless they were able to attach themselves to one of the 15 remaining NRDs. The exception was NONSUCH, which although closed, retained its UNTD program on the UofA campus, but as a tender to TECUMSEH, which itself had no UNTD program. I was still around come Unification and never heard of or saw evidence of DONNACONA or any other NRD being "Decommissioned" yet still being permitted to retain the HMCS designation as an honorific. Of course all 4 of those closed NRDs were subsequently re-opened.

If I refer to the series of DHH online screeds issued circa 2008, quoting from the text relating to HMCS QUEEN for instance"

First of Name

Shore establishment.

Naval Reserve Division, Regina, Saskatchewan.

Commissioned as a tender to HMCS Naden - 1 November 1941

Recommissioned as an independent shore establishment 1 September 1942

Paid off 30 November 1964.

Recommissioned 28 September 1975.

1. CNO/ONC 1666/41

2. CNO/ONC 2245/42

3. Signal, 151704Z December 1964, CANFORCEHED to CANAVGEN, Document Collection/collection de documents 81/520, 8000

HMCS/NCSM Queen Commissioning booklet/Livret de mise en service, HMCS/NCSM Queen, 28 September/septembre 1975, AHR/RHA 1326-1339

Similar verbage exists for QUEEN CHARLOTTE, PREVOST and NONSUCH. For the NRDs which weren't closed, there is no mention of paying off or recommissioning beyond mention of their original Commissioning dates from the 1940s.


* Richard Gimblett (17 Sep 2023):  Interesting background Bill on the UNTD — fall ‘64 correlates with the “integration” of CFHQ earlier that year, effective 01 Aug, which usually is conflated with unification that didn’t come until 4 years later in ‘68, and again we tend to overlook but to my understanding really began the whole sad mess, as it did away with the individual service staffs. So what this meant in your telling is that there was no one in Ottawa responsible for “naval” personnel issues, even if Ken Dyer was “Chief of Personnel” (and notional Principal Naval Adviser), it was for all of the CAF.

The DHH ref to “recommissioning” of Queen on 28 Sep 1975 is indeed correct as she was one of the four (4) divisions “paid off” in 1964 as cost-saving measures (the others were Nonsuch, Prevost and Queen Charlotte), all since legitimately recommissioned and presumably not so doing this year (as Dave allowed earlier, they more properly could be “rechristened”). Same goes for the several new ones established (with commissioning ceremonies) in Québec in the 1980-90s (Champlain, Radisson, d’Iberville & Jolliet).

As for all the others, you’ve made me reach for my copy of A-AD-267-000/AF-002=(“Insignia & Lineages of the CF, 2:1, Extant Commissioned Ships) which I see makes no allusion to dis-establishment in 1969 or subsequent recommissioning in the early-70s (1975 from memory, concurrent with that year the “functional” commands being redesignated formally as “environmental” commands**) — as I said previously, it’s as if none of it ever happened. The ceremonies this year are to mark that administrative distinction.

In the update to “Canada’s Admirals and Commodores” that Norm Jolin did in 2016 he added a great overview “Brief History of the Position of Commander of the Navy” that nicely summarizes this background. It’s available most easily through the Maritime Museum of BC.


* W. H. Wilson (17 Sep 2023):  That was an interesting period in the history of the RCN, certainly from the Reserve’s point of view. I recall when the instructions came down that we were no longer “Ships” and that ‘’HMCS” was to be discontinued. Ross Connell will recall that the morning after the message came down, the Staff Officer of DONNACONA was seen on a ladder at 0800 in the front of the building with a chipping hammer in hand working on the first letter. (The CO was a Scot.) In Toronto I attended a number of meetings with Bob Hendy (Chair of the Cmdre. R.I. Hendy Commission.) trying to rationalize the utterly confusing “instructions” emanating from both Halifax and NDHQ. The Cmdre, being a lawyer by profession did in my opinion, a super job of trying to educate the Reg Force about what Reserves are really all about.


* Steve Foldesi (17 Sep 2023):  Obviously we all have lots of time on our hands. Just as well, as it is important to document the past and correct past bureaucratic wrongs originated during the Hellyer madness.

Some of the recollections chronicled below appear to support, to some extent, anecdotal reports that when Stadacona and Naden became CFBs, there was also a move afoot to rebadge ships as “CFFB’s - Canadian Forces Floating Base and HMCS Bonaventure as “CFFFB” - Canadian Forces Floating Flying Base. Fortunately more level headed folks prevailed in overriding such notions.

To stir the pot further…It is custom that commissioned ships fly the “Third Substitute” (white triangle with black horizontal stripe) pennant to indicate that the Captain is ashore. Should it therefore follow that if NRDs are legally considered commissioned ships, then COs should also fly the pennant. Given the nature and operation of stone frigates, it may be more useful to fly a Captain is aboard pennant.


* Joan Balch  (18 Sep 2023):  Well you are all historians with time in the Navy (at least that word hasn't changed). It was said to be celebration of Naval Reserves, and decommissioning of certain units was about 1964 . . . .

I joined RCNR in London in at HMCS Prevost and then moved soon to Toronto HMCS York - retuning to London wherein Prevost had gone and on E list re HMCS Star until 1966.

When Prevost was newly housed and recommissioned in new quarters it was HMCS Prevost and still is.

Recommissioning is one thing but celebration of RCNR is the year.

I understood back in Feb. that Prevost was doing Freedom of the City (of course when and where unknown) but might also do a Doors Open ...visits to buildings in London ... supposedly next weekend but London is a place where you ferret out info or read about it after the event.


* Ross Connell (19 Sep 2023):  It would certainly appear that up till now, the official status of many of our NRDs has been, to say the least, muddled. Hopefully no more. We have reproduced on the Naval Reserve Association website an excerpt from OP ORDER 0176-1110-1 (NAVRES/RDIMS 501847) dated Oct. 2022 in which the Commodore has mandated the NRD Recommissionings on September 23. I think this regularizes the situation and is an easy read here.

Incidentally, while some of our distinguished historians may disagree with the appellation, we think the birth of the Naval Reserve Association of Canada from the fertile ground of the UNTD Association is very much a “recommissioning”.


* Samuel Veniere (19 Sep 2023):  What a coincidence, I am currently discussing with NAVRES Public Affairs to document this story and the reasons behind the “re-commissioning”. I read all the emails (this is a fascinating, yet tricky, subject!) and this is what I think of it.

Four characteristics indicate a warship "in commission", according to Canada’s Government, and the first one of them is the title HMCS. If you lose that, you are not considered as such anymore and this is precisely what happened in 1968 with the Unification, although this is little known. The message from Bill Wilson andDonnaconna’s CO removing the HMCS letters with a hammer is revealing about this. The experience of Richard Gimblett in the Ships Naming Committee is also very talking. He says that when divisions lost their Title HMCS, they theoretically lost their commission as “ships”. In practice, though, reserve divisions remained in active service just as before, as if none of this happened (except for the 6 that disappeared in 1964, including 2 permanently: Caribou in 1958 and Chatham in 64). When 4 of these 6 divisions were re-opened in the 70s and 90s, they were officially re-commissioned. These divisions, normally, would not need “recommissioning”, just like the 4 NRDs commissioned in Québec in the 80s.

When the title HMCS came back in official publications, as Richard Gimblett explains very clearly, it was accepted as a simple correction and there was no re-commissioning ceremony. The email from David Freeman made me smile, regarding the HMCS titles coming back! To me, it reflects perfectly how “low-profile” this correction was made.

I would say I totally agree with Richard about the fact that re-commissioning the NRDs in 2023 is legit. It corrects a historical oversight. This is very appropriate in the context of the Centennial and should be highlighted.


* Steve Foldesi (19 Sep 2023):  Samuel, Many thanks for your detailed reply. The issue as raised may be considered as mere minutia by some but I think it is important from a historical perspective to correct an unintended oversight.

We have come a long way to undo and correct Hellyer’s madness and this is just one more step in the process thanks to the efforts of a few. Sadly their number is fast decreasing so there is, in my view, some urgency to complete the work.

There is one issue that remains a rub for me: the naval tunic. Indeed it is blue again and the executive curl is back, but it still lacks two buttons. Traditionally all royal navies had the curl and eight buttons. Republican navies have either no or some other device above the rings on the sleeve…and only six buttons. While I can understand the decision not to return to the old RN cap badge in lieu of a “made in Canada” one, I would favour the return of the two missing buttons. I suppose, due to the costs involved, this will never happen.

I don’t think they were omitted at the time through malice. I suspect it happened out of ignorance of history, customs and traditions by the NDHQ "now generation" members of the buttons and bows committee responsible for the redesign of the tunic. It is for such reasons that the work you and the museum are undertaking is so important.

To quote my dear old Skeena’a motto: “En Avant”.


* Samuel Veniere (19 Sep 2023):  Further to Richard’s statement on 17 Sep, “… I’ve never seen an actual order terminating the service [of the RNCVR]”. Excuse me if I am mistaken, but didn’t the Privy Council order No. 140 terminates the RNCVR? It was passed on the same day as No. 139, establishing the RCNVR (31 Jan 1923). Logically, it has to be done before establishing a new service I have these papers somewhere in our archives, but can’t find them at the moment. Marc Milner also confirm that in "Canada’s navy: the first century", p. 62.


* Fraser McKee (20 Sep 2023):  A very valuable historical account of the changes – RNCVR – RCNR/RCNVR – CF(R), etc., etc., by someone on the historical ‘inside’ at the time of unification, who has actually DONE the academic research.. Confusion also arose because we who were serving at the time didn’t know/didn’t agree with what was happening. At YORK we still ‘called’ it HMCS YORK because no one told us it wasn’t!. I agree with Dave that a more understandable term might be ‘Rededication,’ or at least an explanation (like Rich’s) as to what/why it’s even happening. DND HQ PR problems again.


* Ed Buscall (20 Sep 2023):  Steve, I note that the uniform of 8 buttons agrees with the R.N. Officers Uniform. However the FCPO’s, CPO’s & PO’s Uniforms have always only had 6 buttons.

Unless I am mistaken the RCN Ratings Uniform also has 6 buttons, and there was probably a decision to standardize the Jackets in the RCN, hence Officers also ended up with 6 buttons.

Unless it has been changed since my 26 years in the R.N., the Officers’ jackets also differed by having no flaps on the pockets and 2 vents in the jacket. The latter making it easier for sword carrying after Queen Victoria decided R.N. Officers were no longer Gentlemen because in a surprise visit she found “Ladies of the Night” in Officers’ accommodation, and thence declared that “Their Swords Should Hang & Drag” as not be worn directly attached to a waist belt, as done by Gentlemen in the Army and later in the RAF.


* Ross Connell (21 Sep 2021):  Recommissioning of Naval Reserve Divisions (pdf document)


* Joan Balch (21 Sep 2023):  Thank you I did get the document but it does not say who and where and when and how this info is to get to the Public unless it does not want to be public and then that is not really a celebration for Canada and the Naval Reserves... such as an open house or a come and visit or invitation to some form of celebration of the History. It is in house.

In a landlocked area such as London even visits by High School /University students doing History of the Wars etc a visit either school or for their community earnings would at least notify the Citizens there is even a Naval Operation at all.

No wonder recruiting is in a bad state.


* Ross Connell (21 Sep 2023):  Joan, It would appear as you suggest that the public affairs folks are missing a beat. I think this is due in part to the paucity of qualified people and the limited training opportunities for new recruits, both of which can be traced back to government disinterest.

There’s not much we as individuals can do about this, but maybe it suggests a role for the Naval Reserve Association of Canada – and for people like you who care. NRAC is doing its best to broadcast the events of the centennial, but we need more members to help us spread the word.


* Steve Foldesi (21 Sep 2023):  When I was COND 88-90, I attempted to convince the grownups that we should acknowledge the immense breadth of talent we have in the Naval Reserve and that it should be captured in a database as the repository of this resource. I quoted as an example the notion that should the Navy ever have need of a left handed Polish speaking piccolo player, we probably have one in one of NRDs, we just don’t know about it. A more factual example was the P2 Bosun at Montcalm with a PHD in nuclear physics running a company contracted to the French nuclear navy at the time tasked to design its « Broken Arrow » (nuclear missile incident) response procedures.

It fell on deaf ears. One reason I concluded was the elitist notion that only officers can be entrusted with any job of significance. IT systems were relatively new at the time and I wanted to automate as much as possible COND budget control procedures by using IT instead of stubby pencils and a ledger. The suggestion was a small army of CELE computer nerds under at least a Major. I proposed a few Reserve ABs who worked in this area in their civilian life. No luck.

Perhaps picking up on this notion as a centennial project merits due consideration.


* John Dalzell (21 Sep 2023):  Steve’s description of the P2 Bosn is similar to the rationale used to wind up the UNTD Association and incorporate the Naval Reserve Association of Canada. We have all sorts of talented people who are or have been naval reservists and their level of education and expertise isn’t commensurate with their rank.


* Steve Foldesi (21 Sep 2023):  More food for thought.I find it odd that to this day we have not named a ship "HMCS Walter Hose". If Harry deWolfe deserves the honour, why not Hose. It think he bloody well deserves the honour at least as much.

The larger question is why was the NR absent in the many ship naming exercises. Many of them have the clout and freedom to speak up to press the issue.

Is it too late too late to undo the oversight. Perhaps a commitment by CRNC that in any future ship naming exercise (eg the 15 CSCs), Hose will be included. It would indeed be a lasting legacy.


* Fraser McKee (22 Sep 2023): The various comments flying around as to it’s reasons have depended on many faulty or at least foggy memories, including mine! I was serving in the mid & late 1960’s and even then, in great annoyance to Hillier’s integration fiasco, paid little attention to the ‘authorised’ (as different from the ‘assumed intended’) admin changes. Our C.O. back then certainly never had a session explaining how this integration change was to be implemented. At YORK we just went on as “HMCS YORK” locally. Resulting in all the current back-and-forth. I certainly had no concept, as a line, working, Reserve officer, as to the legalities the changes, it’s no wonder we in the Divisions had no idea what we were to actually DO about the unification tangle, thus just said we were serving in HMCS (whatever). Waiting in some dread for some sort of new uniforms was our main actual worry.