Some Sketches of Interesting Canadian Naval Personalities

by John M. MacFarlane 2014

While many personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy have distinguished themselves in their naval careers a number have stood out in other aspects of their lives as "personalities".

Ken Adams

Rear–Admiral Ken Adams RCN

Rear–Admiral Ken Adams RCN was appointed as a Naval Cadet RCN 1919. He served in the Royal Naval College of Canada (Tenth Term) 1919. Adams was faced with career adversity as there were no vacancies in the RCN after his graduation from the Royal Naval College of Canada, he entered the Merchant Service and obtained a Master Mariner’s Certificate. In 1927 he was the Master of a small coastal freighter, the A.G. Lillie, for Victoria Petroleum, which had a number of stations in Victoria, the Gulf Islands, and up the British Columbia coast. In November 1927 the A.G. Lillie burned in Sturdies Bay BC (Galiano Island). He was later the Master of the Attaboy. He is also said to have engaged in commercial fishing. Before his World War Two service he also worked in the merchant service for Canadian National Steamships. These experiences enhanced his capabilities and after his recall to the Royal Canadian Navy he rose to become a Rear–Admiral RCN.

Lieutenant–Commander George Rupert Monckton (Monckton–Arundell) (RCN) succeeded his kinsman in 1980 as the 12th Viscount Galway (in the peerage of Ireland), and as Baron Killard, and his family name was changed to Monckton–Arundell. Even more noteworthy is that he received six campaign stars and three medals and a clasp for Second World War service. It is believed that this, along with Chief Petty Officer David Sadler RCN, was the most Second World War service medals received by any member of the Canadian navy and possibly in all of the three Canadian services.)

Captain Edward Theodore Cowper Orde (RCNVR) was injured in the Halifax Explosion of 1917. He lost an eye for which he wore a prosthetic glass eye. He was a very social gentleman and over the years acquired a set of interchangeable glass eyes (in various shades of red) to match the good eye of the wearer. As a social evening or mess dinner might wear on he would ‘update’ his glass eye to match the red tint of the other as it slowly grew bloodshot. Eventually at the end of the evening he would slip in a final example of an eye in which, it is said, he had replaced the pupil with a tiny white ensign or another which was shaped like a skull and crossbones! As he gazed at the eyes of fellow guests they would begin to doubt their own sobriety.

Chief Petty Officer David Sadler (RCN) received six campaign stars and three medals and a clasp for Second World War service. It is believed that this, along with Lieutenant–Commander George Rupert Monckton RCN, was the most Second World War service medals received by any member of the Canadian navy and possibly in all of the three Canadian services.)

Midshipman Jean Francois Vanier (RCN) is the son of the late Governor–General Georges P. Vanier. Few Canadians realize that this most distinguished humanitarian served in the Royal Canadian Navy at the beginning of his career. He was appointed as a Naval Cadet RN in 1942 and served at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth. He transferred to the RCN and was appointed as a Midshipman RCN in 1945. He served in H.M.S. Vanguard (He served in HMS Vanguard for the Royal Tour of South Africa in 1948.) In 1948 he was appointed as an A/Sub–Lieutenant RCN. In 1949 he was appointed as a Sub–Lieutenant RCN and resigned in 1950. He is best known to the world for his humanitarian work and for founding a worldwide network of homes for disabled people.

Captain George Worth (RCN) left the navy during the downsizing of the 1920s and is reputed to have put his training to work developing code and cypher systems for rum runners that enabled them to communicate effectively and efficiently. In 1911 he had served in the first term of the Royal Naval College of Canada. He was mobilized for the Second World War retiring as a Captain (RCN) and serving as Director of Naval Communications in Ottawa in 1948 (apparently using his civilian experiences as a rum runner).

Commander (SB) Duncan McIntyre Hodgson (RCN(R)) was the son of ’Archie‘ Archibald Arthur Hodgson (1869–1960) (the scorer of the winning goal for the Montreal Hockey Club in the first Stanley Cup final). Duncan McIntyre Hodgson’s grandfather owned the Canada Central Railway who amalgamated it with the CPR and became one of the handful of corporate officers of the newly formed CPR. Duncan McIntyre Hodgson married Hylda Annie Ross, the daughter of Captain J.K.L. Ross RNCVR. McIntyre himself caught a a 997 pound Bluefin tuna while fishing with a rod and reel from a small rowing boat, and without a harness. (At the time this was the world record catch).

Stuart Milton Hodgson served as an Acting Petty Officer RCNVR during the Second World War. He was a labour leader for the IWA labour union at Vancouver after the war. He served as Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories and then was appointed as Commissioner of the Northwest Territories serving 1967–1979. He was later appointed as the President of British Columbia Ferries. He was appointed as the President of British Columbia Transit and was appointed as a Permanent Member of the International Joint Commission in 1979.

Commander John Kenneth Leveson Ross (RNCVR) was appointed as a Captain in the 5th Royal Highland Regiment of Canada (Militia). He was found to be medically unfit 1914. (Transferred to the RNCVR). In 1914 he was appointed as a Lieutenant RNCVR and served in HMCS Tuna. He served in HMCS Grilse (In command) 1915–1916. He was appointed as a Lieutenant–Commander RNCVR 1916 and was appointed as a Commander RNCVR in 1917. When he was released he was the highest ranking officer in the RNCVR. More noteworthy, he personally donated $500,000 to purchase vessels for Canada’s First World War naval effort, and was subsequently appointed as commanding officer of HMCS Grilse. In 1919, Ross owned two of the best three–year–olds in North America. Sir Barton and the 1918 American Champion two–year–old colt, Billy Kelly, finished one–two in the 1919 Kentucky Derby. Sir Barton then went on to win the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to become the first–ever winner of the U.S. Triple Crown. On its formation in 1976, he was inducted posthumously into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. He also caught a a 720 pound tuna on a rod and reel which stood as the world record until it was broken by his son–in–law – Commander (SB) Duncan McIntyre Hodgson (RCN(R)).

Lieutenant–Commander Bent Gestur Sivertz (RCNR) was appointed as an A/Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNR 1939. (He was mobilized for World War Two service). He served in HMCS Stone Frigate (First Course) for Training 1940. He served in HMCS Stone Frigate as Navigation Instructor 1940. He was appointed as a Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNR (With seniority dated 15/02/1941). He served in HMCS Stadacona for Navigation School. He served in HMCS Kings (Officer’s Training Establishment) 1941. He was appointed as an A/Lieutenant–Commander RCNR (With seniority dated 01/07/1943). He served in HMCS Kings (Officer’s Training Establishment) as Navigation Instructor 1941. He was appointed as a Lieutenant–Commander RCNR (With seniority dated 01/07/1944). He served in HMCS Kings (Officer’s Training Establishment) as Commanding Officer 1944–1945. In this capacity he was responsible for the training and formation of many of the officers of the RCNVR. (He was demobilized August 1946). He may have been the last RCN officer to have served at sea under sail in a sailing ship to Australia. He served as a seaman and ship’s officer in the Merchant Marine 1922–1932. He served in the tugboat Alcedo as a Deckhand in 1922. He taught school 1936–1939 and after his naval service he served as a Foreign Service Officer in the Department of External Affairs 1946–1950. In 1954 he served in the Department of Northern Affairs 1950–1967 as Chief of the Arctic Division and as Director of the Northern Administration Branch 1957–1963. He was appointed as the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories serving 1963–1967. He retired from the Public Service in 1967. He was elected as a member of the Thermopylae Club in Victoria BC in 1934.

Captain Vernon (Vern) Wadsworth Howland (RCN) was the first Canadian Naval officer to reach the South Pole. He had this opportunity in 1964 while he served in HMCS Niagara (Washington DC USA) as Naval Attache and Naval Member of Canadian Joint Staff (Washington) and Senior Officer–in–Command. He realized a lifelong dream to visit Antarctica and visited a number of the U.S. Bases there. He flew into the South Pole at a time when such a visit required great logistical preparation and difficulty. He joined the navy as a Paymaster Sub–Lieutenant RCNVR (With seniority dated 10/06/1937) in the Toronto Division RCNVR and he was retired on 11/02/1973. It is thought that he is the only serving Canadian naval officer to reach the South Pole.


To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2014) Some Sketches of Interesting Canadian Naval ‘Personalities’. Nauticapedia.ca 2014. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Naval_Characters.php

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