Navy; Cold War; Canadian Armed Forces
Born in Grand-Mere, Quebec and raised primarily outside Montreal, Gordon Hunter joined the Royal Canadian Navy at 17 a few months before the Cuban Crisis. Tensions between the Western World and the Soviets were very high when he signed up. Warning sirens were erected in every community across Canada, fallout shelters were built in backyards and school kids were taught to seek shelter under their desks and to stay away from flying glass in the event of a nuclear attack.
Late fall of 1962 brought us closer to war on our doorstep than any time between the Second World War and now. Just before what was arguably the peak of the Cold War. Gord was a sonarman and served first on HMCS La Hulloise an old Prestonian Class Frigate then on two more modern Destroyer Escorts HMCS Gatineau and Restigouche. He volunteered for the Canadian Submarine Service during the last few years of his service and was a part of the crew on HMC Submarine Onondaga. He also went to sea on the Okanagan. When they were short a sonarman, he was press-ganged into service on that boat.
The Cold War is a period in history mostly ignored by our government and it has become a distant memory for the general public. Most who served during that period feel the time doesn’t get the attention it deserved but for those who spent days and weeks at sea exerting our presence, protecting our coast, keeping track of Soviet spy ships and searching for submarines off our shores, it was an important time.
Gord and his colleagues served through the modernization of the Royal Canadian Navy as the older World War Fleet was replaced with ships designed and built in Canadian shipyards with technologies developed to be effective in the unforgiving North Atlantic. He and his shipmates lived through the tension between the Pearson Government and the Navy’s opposition to the integration of Canada’s Armed Forces.
When he left the Navy in 1970 to attend Mount Royal College it was still several years before Perestroika and Glasnost but our relationship with the USSR had begun to thaw. The Soviet spy/fishing ship fleet off the east coast had thinned out, as had the cod. East-West trade increased, and cultural exchanges became more common. As a civilian Gord worked as a landscaper, a freelance gaffer on a film crew, a radio producer, an announcer and a videotape editor. He worked at CFCF television in Montreal and at CBC-TV in Calgary in the 1970s.
He worked as a representative and elected official representing broadcast workers for many years.
He retired in 2008 and his current interests beyond family are photography, politics, travel, reading, cooking, single malts, badminton, floor hockey and good craft beer.
He is a member of the Submariners Association of Canada
In 2018 Gord wrote a memoir about his experience during my time in the RCN, No-Badge Killick, Life at Sea in Canada Cold War Navy. (Monkey’s Fist Publishing)
He lives in Regina Saskatchewan.