I was born in Ottawa. As a typical youth, I grew up with war and sacrifice as a memory of a distant past, commemorated on Remembrance Day, but with no real linkage to current day realities. I grew up in the fear of the increasing possibility of nuclear war between the US and Russia. Both my parents had gone to the original Woodstock, so I grew up in an environment of peace and love. My mother fought for equal rights with respect to equal pay for equal work in the federal public service; which, posthumously had succeeded just a few years after her death. My grandfather served in the CF as a Medical Supply Tech for 32+ years. I can remember being up at my grandparents place as a child, waking up early and hiding in the stairwell (as I wasn’t supposed to be up that early) watching my grandfather prepare for work in his uniform, admiring him for his dedication. After having my own life saved by my mother while chocking I took up First Aid and other lifesaving training and worked as a lifeguard (beach and pool), as well as, volunteered with St. John Ambulance in an effort to pay-it forward in order to save others.
Approximately 2 years before I joined the CF I had begun dating a girl whose father was in the military. Having learned a little more of the benefits and career potentials I began to seriously contemplate it as a possibility. I then made the jump, and enrolled as a POET (Performance Oriented Electronics Training) a precursor for the 500 series tech trades in the Army/Air Force with a desire to continue my studies from there to Air Weapons Systems Tech (working on the weapons of CF18s etc).
I left Cornwallis after graduating from Recruit training and being held while on trade re-assignment to go to my QL3 trades training in Borden. Along the way I was attach-posted to DHist or the Directorate of History now known as DHH (Directorate of History and Heritage) as an untrained clerk. Along with my normal clerical duties I assisted the researchers and book writers throughout the unit and was given acknowledgments in the book Operation Friction – Canadian Forces in the Persian Gulf by LCdr (now Dr) Richard Gimblett and Maj Jean Morin.
I was selected to be posted to CFB Halifax in the Pay/Records section in order to provide some much needed Financial experience. At the same time my wife was posted to HMCS IROQUOIS. This was a tremendous challenge for me, both personally and professionally. Back then, there was no email to ships and you could get a “telegram” type of message through the MFRC to the ship communicators approximately once or twice a month. I moved to the Cashier’s office where I developed an electronic balancing system for the junior clerks and modified the current system that the Head Cashier was working on in order to provide better and more accurate communication and balancing among the cashiers and Head Cashier.
I joined my first ship, HMCS ST. JOHN’S, as a LS, taking over the Jr Pay Writer position onboard. After a very successful sail, showing that Canada, even with her small navy was both cunning and a force to be reckoned with, we turned northbound back to Halifax. September 11th 2001 rolled around and the Ship went into immediate preparations for a potential war. Both ST. JOHN’S and TORONTO conducted Workups (WUPs) training in November/December with the TORONTO heading out first into Theatre. After an exceptional performance during WUPs, I was then promoted and selected to become part of the Sea Training (Atlantic) team.
During my 4 year tour with Sea Training, I was fortunate enough to sail every major warship on the East Coast fleet and most of the MCDVs and been inside both classes of submarines. During my time with the team we had a number of real emergencies such as minor fires, helicopter crash and Man-overboard issues that we ourselves took part in. One such incident was a breathing apparatus that caught on fire while strapped onto a sailors chest.I was one of four that swooped in to cut his straps and tossed the apparatus onto the clear zone on the flight deck, thus saving the member’s life. The four of us earned the MARLANT Bravo Zulu award for our heroics. I was then promoted and posted back to HMCS ST. JOHN’S as the Sr Pay Writer.
Having had the experience of the section before as well as an excellent staff, I had assumed the Alpha 2 (A2) position on the Naval Boarding Party to provide further support to the ship. I was the first clerk to hold this position that is normally held by a hard sea trade. I was in charge of scheduling and training (team, weapon, search and hand to hand combat) for our team. As indicated earlier, sailing is inherently dangerous and this posting was no exception. During one of our sails we had a rogue wave crash through the bridge windows causing a flood which subsequently because of the large amount of electrical equipment, a fire. We had a sailor drown while on a port visit and a collision in same port while we were tied alongside where a triple decker tour boat lost its diesel engines and steering control and was coming right for us from our starboard quarter and the wind was on us from the same direction, with a quick thought I devised a plan to “bounce” them off of us and minimize the damage to both of us as much as possible. We were successful.
Shortly after this my career took an interesting turn and I was posted inland to CH of O as Chief Clerk for this Reserve infantry unit in Ottawa. Not knowing was CH of O was, I “googled” it and found it stood for the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa and on the search page was their cap badge. I immediately recognized it from a photo album I had received from my grandmother and I opened it up, only to find that I had 3 great uncles and my great grandfather served as Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa during the 2nd World War (3 as machine gunners and the last had become a signalman) some 62 years earlier. Out of the four relatives 2 died in battle and 2 survived. The 2 that died were commemorated on the Unit’s battle honours brass plaque. While I was at the unit, the Orderly Room had been neglected and was operating rather inefficiently. I changed this, by a combination of training the staff, educating the hierarchy of the unit staff and changing the culture of administrative operations, all achieved in my first 4-5 months with the unit. I began my research into my family’s involvement in the unit, finding out very quickly that trying to track Camerons during the war was going to be difficult. The main reason was that they never fought as a unit, but as machine gunners, were spread out and separated by several units. Harold, one of the two that died shortly after D-Day, was a product of the 12th Panzer Division (Hitler Youth) Area Commander’s (Kurt Meyer and Wilhelm Mohnke) order to “take no prisoners”, thus they were expected to execute any enemy survivors whether they surrendered or not. I then began my quest to investigate this senseless death further. It was at this time where my wife was to take up an HLTA backfill in Sudan for 30 days followed by a 6 month tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan. She saw the horrors and savage behaviour of wear-torn Sudan; followed by being bombarded by countless rocket attacks in Afghanistan. As she was due to return, we were given our posting messages to Geilenkirchen, Germany, where we packed up and again on our way to a new location.
I started off in Germany on Leave Without Pay, as my wife had a position and I had been only promised to have one within the year. I took this opportunity to learn the language and shop out on the economy and travel throughout Europe. I also took this opportunity to further my research and acquired the video produced by War Amps entitled “Take No Prisoners: The Nazi SS in Normandy”, as well as, the book “Conduct Unbecoming” and later acquired a digital copy of Harold’s Unit Personnel File. From the information that I was able to track down the exact location of his execution. There is a barn where all of the paint and colour had been weathered away, and on the door there is a brightly painted Red maple leaf honouring the fallen that took place there. I developed a tremendous desire to learn everything I could about Canadians in both World War 1 & 2. I went on several battlefield tours throughout Normandy, Vimy Ridge, and Beaumont Hamel, as well as, key areas of WW2 such as Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Auchwitz, Berlin and Eagle’s Nest. I also was fortunate to participate in a Battlefield tours which were much more in depth that general given to the public, when I was the MND’s driver for these ceremonies. I have amassed a great deal on each of these items, including little known and interesting facts (such as: Why is the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery such a significant symbol of the WW1? It is one of the very few in not only cemetery that holds both allied and German forces, as well as, it holds both the First (Pte John Parr) and Last (Pte George Lawrence Price) allied persons that died in WW1. It is these items and stories, as well as, the research that I conducted with respect to my family that I would like to share with those that are interested. Throughout my time in Germany I took care of all of the contracts relating to buildings etc occupied by CAF member’s in Europe. I also was the Release clerk, IC of the BOR and acting Chief Clerk for several months.
I returned to Canada, back to HMCS ST. JOHN’S, overjoyed to be home. Our ship was in a state of turmoil, in the process of a crew swap in theatre with HMCS TORONTO. At the same time we were preparing to strip down our ship and put her in for her mid-life refit, where she was for approximately 18 months. Shortly after her return, I was posted to my current position as the Unit Admin O for PMO AOPS..