Sunday, 25 February 2018

Warren Walker collection - RCN, RN, and other images

To follow up on an earlier post of photos from the collection of CPO Warren Walker showing flying operations from HMS BATTLER, I promised to display the remainder of the photos here. Warren's collection included a good number of photos of other ships of the Royal and Royal Canadian Navies, among others.

I have elected to organize the photos loosely by the Navy being represented as well as the class of ship being displayed, and not in chronological order, as the latter is harder to determine.

Mr. Walker appears to have served in a number of RCN ships during his career, including (I believe) HMCS SAGUENAY in the 1930s, HMS BATTLER and HMS VINDEX in the summer of 1945, HMCS IROQUOIS, and HMCS ALGONQUIN and the weather ship HMCS ST. STEPHEN after the war. 

Where available, I am providing the original captions as they appeared on the prints of each photograph, but only if I believe they are correct. I have also provided links to the Canadian Navy of Yesterday and Today site and Wikipedia where I believe appropriate.

A crew photograph from HMCS IROQUOIS, with Warren Walker on the far right of the front row.
Canadian Navy

In 1946, the RCN obtained its first aircraft carrier in the form of HMCS WARRIOR (formerly HMS WARRIOR), a light fleet carrier of the COLOSSUS-class. Although the RCN manned the escort carriers HMS NABOB and PUNCHER during the war, those ships were commissioned into the Royal Navy. WARRIOR served until 1948, after which the RCN traded her back to the RN in exchange for HMCS MAGNIFICENT.

Caption reads "HMCS WARRIOR coming out of dock". HMCS WARRIOR was the RCN's first aircraft carrier.
WARRIOR was not suited to service in Canadian climes, and the North Atlantic in particular, and she spent most of her time on the West Coast.

As a result of her short career, there are not a large number of photos of her in RCN service.

HMCS WARRIOR approaching HMC Dockyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The carrier wharf was located under where the Macdonald Bridge was constructed.
Before the war, Mr. Walker served in a River-class destroyer, probably HMCS SAGUENAY. The River-class was a somewhat homogeneous class of Royal Navy destroyers of the C, D, E, F, G, and H sub-groupings, plus SAGUENAY and SKEENA which were built specifically for the RCN but which started off as essentially copies of the RN's A-class. Based on the captions and what little research I have been able to do myself, I believe the photos below were taken around the same time, many of them from the deck of SAGUENAY and featuring SKEENA. I believe that many of the photos were taken in the Caribbean, and SAGUENAY was assigned to Caribbean exercises in early 1939 so this fits. SAGUENAY lost her stern to a collision with a merchant ship on 15 November 1942, and she did not re-enter active service - so all photos here were taken prior to that event.

There was no caption on this image, but I'm assuming it was taken onboard an RCN ship - presumably SAGUENAY. At first I thought this was taken in Halifax, with the Halifax Shipyard in the background, but the far shore does not look right for Dartmouth.

"Some of the boys." Presumably taken at the same time as the above image, I was able to zoom in an identify the white line on the right as a breakwater - so definitely not Halifax. 

I'm assuming the ship in the background is HMCS SKEENA.

SKEENA wearing the pendant number D59. After 1940, she wore the number I59. This appears to be an abnormally calm sea.

Another photo of SKEENA wearing the D59 pendant. She appears to have a canopy rigged over the foc'st'le as well as the quarterdeck and the "B" and "X" gun mountings, suggesting the photo was taken in a warmer climate and the crew was trying to keep the sun from shining directly on the deck plates.

The caption reads "Cruise down river HMCS OTTAWA in distance."

Unnamed River class destroyer. 

Caption reads "SKEENA and part (port?) of Diamond Isle.

Three River-class destroyers rafted together. The outer two ships are SAGUENAY and SKEENA (not sure which is which) and the inner ship is a later vessel of the class - possibly OTTAWA. At far right is the bow of what I assume to be a cruiser, and there is a photo of a LEANDER-class cruiser below in the RN section to which I assume the bow belongs. 

A photo taken from SAGUENAY's foc'st'le, looking over at SKEENA - possibly taken at the same time as the image above, but before the canopy was rigged over the bridge. Positive ID can be made in this photo because both ships have the protrusion on the forward face of the bridge, and the ship on the right wears the badge of HMCS SKEENA (the small object in the middle of the bridge face). 

For reference, here is SKEENA's badge from

Looking aft under the starboard side lifeboat, probably onboard SAGUENAY, and the protrusion on the bridge suggests the trailing ship is SKEENA.

Two other River-class destroyers, possibly SKEENA and OTTAWA.

I believe this shot is taken looking aft from the bridge along SAGUENAY's starboard side. The gun beside the sailor's left shoulder appears to be a 40mm/39 (2-Pdr) Mk.II single anti-aircraft gun, which is consistent with the armament of a River-class destroyer up to 1942.

A 4" gun crew at work, probably on SAGUENAY. River-class destroyers mounted the 4.7"/45 QF Mk.IX gun on the Mk.CPXIV mounting.

HMCS ST. LAURENT (H83) alongside in HMC Dockyard with another River-class destroyer approaching in the background. ST. LAURENT arrived in Halifax from the west coast in September, 1939.

 HMCS ST. LAURENT (H83) with another River-class destroyer rafted up on the outside. The protrusion on the bridge of the outside ship suggests it is either SAGUENAY or SKEENA. It might be that this image was taken not too long after the image above, and the ship outside of ST. LAURENT is the same ship seen approaching the jetty in the image above.

HMCS SAGUENAY (D79) alongside at HMC Dockyard. SAGUENAY later wore the pendant I79.

SAGUENAY alongside to the left and another destroyer rafted outside of her, with a Royal Navy cruiser behind. Based on the twin funnels of equal height and the tall bridge superstructure, this would appear to be HMS YORK. YORK was transferred to Halifax in September 1939 upon the outbreak of the Second World War, so this may date this photo.

Looking aft along the port side of what I assume to be SAGUENAY.

Unidentified River-class destroyer (but not SAGUENAY or SKEENA based on the flat face of the bridge).

HMCS FRASER (H48) was sunk during the evacuation of France after being rammed by the cruiser HMS CALCUTTA. This is how she would have appeared before the war. I believe the two davits on the stern are for handling depth charges. 

This is the second HMCS OTTAWA (H31), which served the RCN from 1943 to 1945. Previously named HMS GRIFFIN, she was transferred to the RCN in March 1943 to replace the earlier OTTAWA which was sunk in September 1942. During the war, these ships were modified from the original configuration, and OTTAWA here is a good example: A-mount gun on the foc'st'le has been replaced with a large Hedgehog ASW mortar, B-mount carries illumination rocket rails on the gun shield, there is a Type 271 radar over the bridge, the aft funnel is cut down, and Y-mount is removed in favour of depth charge throwers. The forward torpedo tubes remain (behind the after funnel), but the aft set have been removed. 


A sailor stands under the guns of HMCS IROQUOIS (based on the artwork on the gun barrel muzzle covers).

And other ships:

The first HMCS PROVIDER. She served as a base supply ship for various flotillas of Fairmile motor launches during the war, both in the Caribbean and Canadian waters.
Due to a shortage of escorts, the RN and RCN were desperate for destroyers, and accepted a number of ex-USN four-stackers left over from the First World War.

HMCS ANNAPOLIS, one of the ex-USN destroyers provided to the British under the lend-lease agreement, and subsequently passed to the RCN. This appears to be a very early photo of her - not only has she not yet received the Type 271 radar, but she hasn't yet lost the aft (4th) funnel after she burned out her #4 boiler within a month of arriving in Halifax.
During the 1949/1950 period, Mr. Walker was assigned to the weather ship HMCS ST. STEPHEN for 30 day stretches, at which time the ship was assigned to the North Atlantic weather station, or "Baker" station, between Labrador and Greenland. ST. STEPHEN was modified from a River-class frigate

The weather ship HMCS ST. STEPHEN, possibly in St. John's, NL.
Both ST. STEPHEN, and STONE TOWN, were sold to the Department of Transport in 1950 and served in this role until approximately 1967. One book I have suggests STONE TOWN was not modified as a weather ship until after she was sold to the Department of Transport, but this photo clearly shows her still with the pendant 302, indicating she was still in the RCN. She also still has her gun.

HMCS STONE TOWN, also fitted as a weather ship, served on the West Coast in the Northern Pacific.

Preparing a weather balloon for launch from HMCS ST. STEPHEN. The triangular shape is a radar target, so that the ship can track the altitude of the balloon.
During the war, the RCN obtained two V-class destroyers, which were renamed ALGONQUIN and SIOUX in Canadian service. After the war, ALGONQUIN received a comprehensive refit into a "fast ASW frigate" similar to the Royal Navy's Type 15 frigates, and with some of the equipment to be fitted to the new ST. LAURENT class destroyer escorts that the RCN build in the early 1950s.

This photo shows the crew of ALGONQUIN sometime between her big refit and her paying off in 1970.
Royal Navy

There are several photos of the Royal Navy's "R" class battleships (sometimes noted as ROYAL SOVEREIGN- or REVENGE-class) in this collection. Completed during the First World War, at least two of this class - RAMILLIES and RESOLUTION - participated in convoy escort duty in the early parts of the Second World War. I am therefore assuming that these photos were indeed taken during the war, and during convoy escort operations.

RN "R" class battleship in what I assume to be Halifax Harbour.

"R" class battleship at sea. Later in the war the after mast appears to have been rebuilt to carry radar, reinforcing my assumption that these photos were at the latest taken during the early years of the war.

"R" class battleship at sea.

An "R" class battleship at sea, as seen from what I assume to be HMCS SAGUENAY.

Royal Navy Emerald class light cruiser - the class consisted of only two ships, EMERALD and ENTERPRISE, both of which were stationed in Halifax during the Second World War. This would appear to be ENTERPRISE, which received a prototype gun mount forward in the early 1930s, and as a result her bridge was rebuilt and moved forward.

The Royal Navy LEANDER-class cruiser HMS ORION. Caption reads "HMS ORION Sunday." ORION was assigned to the North America and West Indies station in 1937.

This is the cruiser whose bow appears in the previous image. The funnel gives it away as one of the Royal Navy's LEANDER-class of cruisers. The location is possibly Ireland Island, Bermuda. This may be another image of ORION, but I can't be sure.

Royal Navy light cruiser, probably Town class (Southampton group).

US Navy

There is unfortunately only one USN image in this collection:

The ship in the background looks like a USN battleship, and from comparing to my WWII edition of Jane's, I'm going to suggest that it may be a TEXAS class ship - either TEXAS or NEW YORK. I am also guessing the photo was taken during the 1930s.


I have many resources to identify warships, but civilian ships often give me a hard time, so I resorted to crowd-sourcing the identification of the following two liners via Twitter. Within several hours, I had my answers, and Twitter users by the names of Robert Kirk and Jose Damota responded with the names of the two ships. After reviewing myself, I believe both ships are a close visual match for the names I am assigning to these images.

RMS Empress of Australia. According to "The River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy" by Ken Macpherson, SAGUENAY and SKEENA met up with Empress of Australia on 15 May 1939, and escorted her and her passengers - the King and Queen - to Canada for a Royal Tour. This photo could have been taken at a few points during that tour.

S.S. Statendam with the bow of a warship to the right.

I don't where or when this was taken, but it doesn't look like a naval vessel to me.

I would once again like to thank Warren's son Wayne for sending me these photos and allowing me to display them here. Wayne was kind enough to allow me access to the original prints in his possession, and I was able to set them up to be copied with a high-resolution digital camera to get the most out of the prints. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Rolling, rolling, rolling - moving HMCS SACKVILLE into the Sub Shed

After being hoisted out of the water on Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott's (FMFCS) Syncrolift platform on February 11th, SACKVILLE's hull was cleaned of marine growth and prepared to transfer into the adjacent Captain Bernard Leitch Johnson submarine maintenance building in HMC Dockyard (hereafter referred to as the "sub shed" or simply the "shed").

By the morning of February 15th, SACKVILLE was ready to transfer into the shed.

Thursday morning was sunny, so I got some better photos of SACKVILLE on the lift. She also looks a bit cleaner.

SACKVILLE points towards the sub shed which she will soon enter. The army of bogeys under the ship can be seen here.

The view from inside the shed, looking out. The bogeys to the right are connected to the tow motor, and straddle inner two of the four rails. The tow motor will push these bogeys, and the attached tow bridle, out to join to the bogeys under the ship. The brow is still fitted in this photo.

An HDR image made from two different exposures - it turned out pretty good, considering I took the two exposures hand-held, and not from a tripod as I should have. Throughout the transfer, I had issues with the different exposures between the interior of the shed and the bright sunny day outside. The tow motor's traction chain is running along the centre of the image here.

A plated-over hull penetration below what would have been the chain locker or store. I'm not sure what it was for - it may have been associated with SACKVILLE's postwar career.

These hull penetrations are just aft of the bow slope transition, and are roughly where the original Type 123 ASDIC would have protruded below the hull. I'm not sure why there are two, though some of the early sonar sets required penetrations for more than one transducer. Again, both of these may not have been original.

Looking forward along the port side, showing the bilge keel, blocking, and bogeys. There are several of these plates on the hull that stand an inch or more proud of the hull surface. Four anodes are also visible.

It is important that the ship's hull be well supported during the move, so workers pounded shims into any gaps between the hull and the blocking.
The system for transferring the ship into the shed is fairly simple. Four rails run from the Syncrolift platform into the shed, and the bogeys which support the ship's weight straddle either the two outer sets of rails, or the inner set. The tow motor that propels the ship along the rails straddles the inner two rails.

The outer end of the traction chain that the tow motor grips to propel itself, with SACKVILLE in the background. During the transfer, the chain will be under considerable tension, and this presents a hazard to people in close proximity to the chain if it were to fail or snap. During the transfer, only FMFCS staff were allowed to remain in the work area.
Unlike a train locomotive, which uses the friction between its drive wheels and the rails to propel the train, the tow motor grips a heavy chain (I will refer to it as the traction chain in this post) that runs between the two inner rails from an anchor post at the inshore end of the shed to an anchor post at the inshore end of the lift platform.

The yellow post at the end of the traction chain is the outer anchor post, which allows the tow motor to pull itself out to the wharf. The tow motor can not go out onto the platform itself, as it can not pull itself beyond the anchor post.
In order to hook itself up to the bogeys under SACKVILLE, the tow motor pulled itself out to the Syncrolift platform along the traction chain.

The orange tow motor, at left, is now in position. It has pushed a series of bogeys and a tow bridle out onto the Syncrolift platform to bridge the distance between itself and the bogeys under SACKVILLE, and workers have connected the two sets of bogeys.
Once everything was connected, and non-essential staff were directed to designated observation areas, the transfer began. I was allowed to view the transfer from the mezzanine platform inside the sub shed, but was not allowed down to the shed floor during the transfer.

The transfer has begun, and the tow motor has moved back inside the sub shed. SACKVILLE is still on the platform in this photo.
There were several pauses during the transfer operation to confirm that SACKVILLE was still well supported by the blocking.

The view looking inward, with SACKVILLE now inside the building.

There are several levels within the sub shed, and this photo was taken from the highest level.
Once SACKVILLE was fully inside the shed, and the tow motor could not proceed further without hitting the end of the building, the intermediate bogeys between the tow bridle and the bogeys under the ship were removed to shorten things, and allow the tow motor to get closer to the ship, in order to bring SACKVILLE in a bit further. There are several overhead bridge cranes that span the width of the shed, and one of these was used to lift the bogeys out of the way.

One of the intermediate bogeys is lifted out of the way.

The tow motor is at the inshore end of the traction chain, which is attached to the inshore anchor post that is just outside the shed, through the dark opening just to the right of the motor. The anchor post itself is cast into a large block of buried concrete. The tow bridle is attached directly to the bogeys under the bow of the ship.
Once the ship was in position, I was allowed back down to the shed floor to get some more photos of the ship inside the shed. 

The tow motor is at the inshore end of the shed, and the yellow overhead bridge cranes can be seen behind the ship.

A view from the mid-level mezzanine platform of the starboard bow.

Compared to the previous photo, this was taken from the upper platform, which is just below the overhead bridge crane track. Some of the photos make the ship look like a model.

Another photo from the upper platform showing the ship from aft, with the brow (gangway) now fitted. It was lifted into place by one of the bridge cranes. The man pulling out the safety net is standing on the mid-level mezzanine platform.

A wider-angle photograph, showing the scale of the shed's interior, including the upper level translucent panels to allow in natural light.

A floor level image from aft.

A wider angle image from floor level, with the yellow bridge cranes visible at the top of the image.

A panoramic image from my phone. Until I viewed her from above, I never realized SACKVILLE's pendant number was painted on top of her radar enclosure.

Two FMFCS staff stand between the transfer rails, alongside the traction chain.
Now that SACKVILLE is inside the shed, her refit can begin, and is expected to last several months at least.

A complete gallery of my processed images of SACKVILLE's lift and transfer is linked here.