The 1960s

The Commissioning of HMCS SASKATCHEWAN

From CROWSNEST Magazine, Vol 15, No. 3 March 1963

The Cover of Vol.15 No.3 march 1963 Crowsnest Magazine, shows the Red Ensign being lowered on the SASKATCHEWAN, and being replaced by the White Ensign of the RCN.

THE LATEST member of the RCN’s family of anti-submarine destroy-escorts — the gleaming HMCS Saskatchewan—was commissioned into the fleet at Esquimalt on Saturday, February 16.

Close to 550 invited guests attended the afternoon event. They represented all levels of government, industry, business, and the armed forces. Guest of honour was Hon. E. Davie Fulton, Federal Minister of Public Works; who arrived at the scene in company with the RCN’s principal guest, Vice-Admiral H. S. Rayner, Chief of Naval Staff. Representing the Province of Saskatchewan and its premier was Hon. C.C. Williams, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Labour.

The setting for the ceremony was colourful. The freshly painted warship was secured at the end of the big government jetty adjacent to HMCS Naden.
On the jetty facing the ship were two large bleacher units, covered with canvas as protection against threatened rain that never came. Dividing the bleachers was a dais, with special seats for distinguished guests participating in the ceremony.

Guests started arriving early. Some were seated and thumbing through commissioning booklets an hour before the start of ceremonies. As 3 p.m. approached, activity broke out everywhere. Led by Cd. Off. Tom Mimer and Drum Major PO Gordon Brown, the lively band of Naden played and marched to its position at the end of the jetty. Close behind came the ship’s 50-man guard and others of the ship’s complement of 12 officers and 236 men. They formed up immediately in front of the bleachers

Proud Ship, Proud Father

Saturday. February 16. 1963, is a date Lt.-Cdr. Alan Alexander Henley is not likely to forget — and the same applies to his wife, Sheila.

It was just a few minutes after three that afternoon. Commissioning ceremonies for the new destroyer escort HMCS Saskatchewan had begun. Along with his fellow officers and all members of the ship’s company, evecutive officer Lt.-Cdr. Henley was listening intently to Vice-Admiral H. S. Rayner, Chief of Naval Staff, who was delivering an address.

The XO’s eyes were all that moved. First toward the dais filled with VIPs, and then in the direction of his ship.

Then it happened. From the bow of the nearby shiny, new ship a leading seaman unobtrusively conducted a set of pre-arranged hand signals.

“Girl. One. Both fine.”

It can be assumed that Lt.-Cdr. Henley then suddenly relaxed — as much as the circumstances would permit.

He had taken his wife to the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria that morning. The hospital had phoned the ship. They were the proud parents that eventful afternoon of a daughter — a sister for 18-month old Carolyn Jane. And there’s a rumour the little lady might have Regina as a middle name.

With the arrival of Mr. Fulton and Vice-Admiral Rayner, the ceremonies commenced. One by one the principal speakers on the dais addressed the assembly on that chapter of the new warship of greatest concern to them. Admiral Rayner welcomed the destroyer escort into the RCN, saying the Saskatchewan and others of her class are part of a fast-moving replacement program. “As these ships commission, we say goodbye, one by one, to the famous Tribals and others of war-time vintage.”

“HMCS Saskatchewan,” the Admiral continued, “is a manifestation of the Navy’s progress in maintaining an efficient fleet whose purpose to to ensure that Canada, in co-operation with allied and friendly nations, will have unrestricted use of the seas.”

Noting the new destroyer escort was the second ship of this name to wear the maple leaf on her funnel, the Admiral recalled a piece of the past. “I vividly remember seeing the first Saskatchewan, silhouetted by starshell, during action in the English Channel at the time of the invasion of Normandy. That ship served freedom’s cause on the North Atlantic and also in the Bay of Biscay. The battle honours earned by her war-time company now pass to the new Saskatchewan.”

The guest of honour, Mr. Fulton remarked: “Our Navy, like our Army and Air Force, is a part of the great insurance premium which must be kept up until such time as words about peace are followed by deeds that actually lessen the threats to peace.”

Harold Husband, president of Victoria Machinery Depot Co., Ltd., Victoria shipyard which built the hull of HMCS Saskatchewan; and H. A. Wallace, vice-president and managing director of Yarrows Ltd., which completed the ship, both outlined their respective shipyards’ part in the building of the ship.

In his address, Cdr. Mark W. Mayo, commanding officer of the Saskatchewan, stated clearly his three main objectives in his new command: A clean and orderly ship, an efficient ship, and a happy ship.

He noted this was the second Mackenzie class destroyer escort to be commissioned, with four more yet to come. He placed a special emphasis on the word “second”, and added: “We want HMCS Saskatchewan to be second to none”. (HMCS Mackenzie, name ship of the class, was commissioned in Montreal last October).

The Province ot saskatchewan had two gifts for the newly commissioned destroyer escort Saskatchewan—one permanent and one practical. The first was a coat of arms of the province, mounted on a wooden shield; the second a licence plate for the ship’s jeep, bearing the Saskatchewan’s hull number. Hon. C. C. William, Minister of Labour in the Saskatchewan government is shown here presenting licence plate No. 262 to Ord. Sea. William Stoddard, a native of Sas. katchewan, who will drive the jeep. (E.70858)

All speakers were introduced by Cdr. John B. Hall, resident naval overseer for the Victoria area. Religious portions of the ceremony were conducted by Rev. C. H. MacLean, Chaplain (P); and Rev. J. E. Whelley, Chaplain of the Fleet (RC). Present to accept the new ship into the RCN was Commodore S.M. Davis, Director General Ships, from Naval Headquarters.

Others on the dais were Rear-Admiral W. M. Landymore, Flag Officer Pacific Coast; Captain J. C. Gray, Principal Naval Overseer West Coast; Lt.Cdr. K. M. Young, Flag Lieutenant-Commander to CNS, and Lt. M. Tate, Flag Lieutenant to FOPC.

Cdr. Mayo outlined the immediate future of his ship; a series of trials and workups in the Esquimalt area until mid-April, then a move to Halifax and the Atlantic Command, followed by participation in exercises involving other RCN ships and other NATO countries. He said the Saskatchewan would return to Esquimalt next November to join the Pacific Command.

With speeches over, the ceremonials commenced. Acceptance papers were formally signed. The Red Ensign was lowered and simultaneously replaced with the White Ensign. In quick and smart order the assembled sailors manned their ship.

A heavy stream of guests followed behind for a special tour of the new DDE; and the VIPs headed for a brief gathering in the commanding officer’s day cabin. Later they all proceeded across the jetty to a large grey building to attend the commissioning reception. Within the Saskatchewan sailors of the ship were busily getting settled in their “home”.

Hon. E. Davie Fulton, Minister of Public Works, guest of honour at the commissioning of the Saskatchewan, signs the guest book on board the new destroyer escort, as Cdr. Mark W. Mayo, commanding officer, looks on. (E.70829)

Heavy clouds and a threat of rain gave way to a bright sunshine for the entire commissioning ceremony. As the reception neared its end, fog rolled into Esquimalt Harbour.

But HMCS Saskatchewan had been commissioned in sun and brightness— a happy omen for a proud ship.

The ship had further reason for pride when, following his return to Naval Headquarters in Ottawa, the Chief of the Naval Staff sent the following message:

“Congratulations on a first class commissioning ceremony on Saturday, February 16."

“The excellent bearing, smart appearance and obvious enthusiasm of the Saskatchewan’s ship’s company contributed much to the auspicious beginning of your first commission."

“Well done.”

The new destroyer escort is named after the Saskatchewan River, a great river of the western plains and one of the early Canadian pathways of settlement.

The 366-foot, 2,900-ton Saskatchewan has a beam of 42 feet and a mean draught of 13.5 feet. Her twin-geared turbines give her a designed speed of 28 knots, and the ship’s normal complement is 12 officers and 236 men. Antisubmarine weapons and her principal armament, including two “all-directional” three-barrel mortar mountings; homing torpedoes; one twin 3-inch 70calibre radar-controlled gun forward, and one twin 3-inch 50-calibre gun aft.

Work on the ship commenced at Machinery Depot Co. Ltd., Victoria, in August 1959 and she was launched on February 1, 1961, and moved to Yarrows Ltd. for completion.

Six days after their new ship was commissioned, officers and men of HMCS Saskatchewan were inspected by Rear-Admiral W. M. Landymore, Flag Officer Pacific Coast. (E-70885)