Some of Canada’s Naval Football Stars

by John M. MacFarlane 2012

Doug von Dersch

Doug von Dersch (ex-UNTD) while playing for the Hamilton Tiger Cats

Professional football and the Canadian Navy – a connection? Yes! In fact the Navy won the Grey Cup in 1944! The members of the war-time ship’s company at HMCS Donnacona (including HMCS St. Hyacinth) formed a football club that played in the Quebec Rugby Football Association. At least eight members of the Toronto Argonauts professional team were also members. The team, officially known as the St. Hyacinth-Donnacona Navy team (aka "The Donnies") played a full season in 1943–44. The sports activities were an adjunct to training and other duties and the team travelled in a military truck to and from games.

At that time the Grey Cup game was played between teams from the Ontario and Quebec Rugby Football Associations and the "Big–Four" professional football teams of the day (Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton). It is a little known fact that in a game played on November 25, 1944 the HMCS Donnacona Football Team (Montreal QC) played the Hamilton Flying Tiger Cats to win the 32nd Grey Cup before 3,871 fans at Civic Stadium in Hamilton Ontario. Navy won the game with a score of 7 to 6. The team was coached to victory by Bill Hughes (a US–trained player) who was also head coach of a high school football team in Montreal. The team was disbanded in 1945.

On September 19th, 1945 the Canadian government freed up servicemen who had previously been restricted to playing for military teams. Doug Harvey was then able to play for the Montreal Hornets who joined fellow West Hill High School alumnus Don Loney on the line–up. Harvey would go on to play hockey for the Montreal Canadians. Some of the better known football names included:

Ian Andrew Barclay was a member of the RCN Football team from HMCS Donnacona–St. Hyacinth that defeated the Hamilton Flying Wildcats 23 to 14 in the Grey Cup football championship on November 25, 1944. He was appointed as a Sub–Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR (With seniority dated 22/12/1941). He was appointed as a Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR (With seniority dated 12/1942). He served in HMS Copra for Combined Operations. He served in HMCS Niobe. He served in HMCS Donnacona 1944. (He was released in 1945.) He died in Vancouver 07/06/2008.

Bruno Bitkowskih

Bruno Bitkowski

Bruno Bitkowski played professional football for the Hamilton Tiger Cats. The Ottawa Roughriders retired his number (#40). The Bruno Bitkowski Memorial Trophy was given to the outstanding lineman in the Canadian Inter-university Sport (CIS) Football league. The "Bruno Bitkowski Trophy" was awarded to the most gentlemanly male athlete, from its inception in 1966 until the award was retired in 1986. What is not widely known is that he was appointed as a Naval Cadet (UNTD) RCN(R) 1950-51. He served in HMCS Hunter for the UNTD (University Naval Training Division) 1950–51. He was released from the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve in 1951.

Doug von Dersch

Doug von Dersch accepts the Gushue Shield with great pride

Doug von Dersch, from Innisfail AB, was appointed as an Officer Cadet (UNTD) RCN(R) 1966. He served in HMCS Tecumseh for UNTD while attending the University of Calgary 1966–68. He served in HMCS Cornwallis for Training 1967 where he was the winner of the W.J. Gushue Shield for the Best Athlete in 1967. Dersch was older and physically more powerful than any other Officer Cadet in the entire intake. It was terrifying to play against him on the field and even if you were on his team prudence to avoid being run over was usually observed. Doug did not return for his second year of training. Bigger things awaited him. After his naval service he played professional football as a Linebacker for the Montreal Alouettes in 1969. He played as a Guard and Linebacker for the Edmonton Eskimos 1968 & 1970. He played as a Linebacker for the Hamilton Tiger Cats (#54) in 1971 (14 games) and 1972. He was a Linebacker when he played for the Toronto Argonauts (#51) in 1972 retiring after that season.

Doug Harvey is remembered for his skill and service as an NHL hockey player for the Montreal Canadians. He was born 19/12/1924 in Montreal QC. Before the Second World War he played high school football at West Hill High School in Montreal. He was appointed as an Ordinary Seaman RCNVR for Second World War service. He was appointed as a Chief Petty Officer (RCNVR) before he was demobilized. On September 19th, 1945 the Canadian government freed up servicemen who had previously been restricted to playing for military teams. Doug Harvey was able to play for the Montreal Hornets (a one season wonder team) where he joined fellow West Hill High School alumnus Don Loney on the line-up. Harvey went on to play star NHL hockey for the Montreal Canadiens after his football career.

Hamilton Francis Hindle was born in Victoria BC in 1916, and raised in Hong Kong and Vancouver BC. He was an avid football player, coach and fan and he was known as "Mr. Football" for his dedication to the sport. He was appointed as an Ordinary Seaman RN 1936. He transferred to the RCN and Commissioned From the Ranks. He was appointed as a Warrant Engineer RCN (With seniority dated 01/05/1943). He served in HMCS Trentonian 1943. He survived the sinking of HMCS Trentonian in 1944, earning a Mention–In–Despatches. He served in HMCS Uganda. He was appointed as a Lieutenant (E) (Star) RCN (With seniority dated 01/05/1949). He was appointed as a Lieutenant (E) RCN (With seniority dated 25/07/1950), (Korean War service). He served in HMCS Stadacona for the 5th Branch Officer’s Educational Course 1954. He was appointed as a Lieutenant–Commander RCN (With seniority dated 25/07/1958). He served in HMCS Naden for HMC Dockyard on Staff of Commodore Superintendent. He was retired in 1967.

Don Loney was born in 16/11/1923 in Ottawa ON. He moved from Ottawa with his family to Montreal where he started playing high school football at West Hill High School. He played High School football with the Montreal Pats. During his war time naval service he played with the Ottawa Combines and the HMCS Donnacona football team. In 1945 he played with the Montreal Hornets. He won a scholarship to play for North Carolina State but returned to Canada after one year. In 1946 he played in the Grey Cup winning game for the Toronto Argonauts. He was selected as East All–Star Centre designations and again in 1947, 1948 and 1949. He played for Ottawa 1947–51 and was the Co-Captain of the Ottawa Rough Riders football team in the 1951 Grey Cup victory. In 1950 he won the Jeff Russell Award as the Outstanding Player in the East. He coached several RCN football teams based in Halifax. He came out of football retirement and played one season for the Calgary Stampeders in 1954. After his naval service he was head football coach of St. Francis Xavier University X-Men between 1957 and 1973. The X–Men won nine conference championships and 6 Atlantic Canada Bowl championships. In 1966 he led the X-Men to a Vanier Cup national championship. Since 1973, the Atlantic Bowl MVP award has been named after Loney. In 1974, when he retired, his team had 133 wins, 31 losses and two ties. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. He was known as the ’Father of Maritime Canada football’. He died 19/06/2004 in Sherbrooke NS. His naval career was quite extensive. He joined the RCNVR in the winter of 1942. (He was commissioned from the ranks). He was appointed as a Probationary Sub-Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR in 1944. He served in HMCS Cornwallis on Executive Officer’s Course 1944. He was demobilized 1945. Later he was appointed as a Lieutenant RCN(R) (With seniority dated 28/09/1948). (He transferred to the RCN through a Short Service Appointment). He was appointed as a Lieutenant (SSA) RCN (With seniority dated 28/09/1948). He served in Naval Headquarters. He was appointed as an Ordnance Lieutenant RCN and served in HMCS Naden for an Ordnance Course in 1952. He served in HMCS Shearwater as a P&RT Officer in 1955. He was appointed as a Lieutenant-Commander RCN(R) but was released in 1957.

Harry William Barry Manning was not known as a player. After his naval service he was a well-known Winnipeg lawyer, and served on the Board of Directors of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football Club. He was appointed as a Probationary Sub-Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR 1942. He served in HMCS Kings (Officer Training Establishment) 1942. He was appointed as a Sub-Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR (With seniority dated 12/10/1942). He served in HMCS Winnipeg. He was appointed as a Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR (With seniority dated 10/1943). He served in HMCS Coppercliff. He was demobilized in 1945.

John McFetrick was a mover and driving force in the wartime HMCS Donnacona Grey Cup championship team of 1944 and became President of the Montreal Hornets – a team that played one season with the four pre–CFL Canadian professional football teams. He was appointed as a Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR. He was appointed as a Lieutenant-Commander (Temp.) RCNVR (With seniority dated 01/01/1943). He was appointed as an A/Commander (Temp.) RCNVR 1944. He served in HMCS Star as Commanding Officer 1941–44. He served HMCS Donnacona as Commanding Officer 1944-45. He was demobilized in 1945.

Moe Segal attended Ottawa Technical High School. He played as Co-Captain and Linesman of the school’s football team and they were Ottawa Junior City champions in 1943. He was appointed as an Ordinary Telegraphist RCNVR 1943. He served in HMCS Donnacona for Communications training at HMCS St. Hyacinth. He served with the RN at the Royal Naval Barracks in Plymouth UK. He was demobilized in 1945. He played on the RCN team in the Quebec Rugby Football Association. He was unable to play in the Grey Cup game of 1944 as he had been previously injured. After his naval service he played for the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1946. In 1947 he played for the Ottawa Trojans. His team won the Ontario Rugby Football Union title in 1947 but were defeated in the Grey Cup game. He retired from professional sports and went into the men’s clothing business. At the end of his career he was working in commercial real–estate. In 1995 he was inducted into the Canadian Forces Sports Hall of Fame. He was appointed as a member of the Ottawa Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Milovick Memorial Game

Program from RCN Memorial Game

There were many other members of Canadian Navy football teams - and that served as a rallying point to raise morale. For example, when the popular naval aviator Lieutenant (L) Michael Milovick was killed in a flying accident in 1952 while serving in HMCS Shearwater there was a memorial football game played in his honour.

References:

I.A. Barclay:

  1. Government of Canada The Canadian Navy List Ottawa ON;
  2. Starshell (NOAC Newsletter) Obituaries Winter 2008/2009;

Bruno Bitkowski:

  1. Government of Canada The Canadian Navy List Ottawa ON;
  2. Williamson, R.J. (1993);

Doug von Dersch:

  1. White Twist (UNTD Yearbook) 1967;
  2. http://www.cflapedia.com/Years/1971.doc;
  3. Personal Communication 2011;

Doug Harvey:

  1. http://habslegends.blogspot.com/2006/06/doug-harvey.html;
  2. http://www.hockeybookreviews.com/2008/07/doug–doug–harvey–story–by–william–brown.html;

Hamilton Hindle:

  1. Obituary Victoria Times Colonist 01/1999;
  2. Government of Canada The Canadian Navy List Ottawa ON;

Don Loney:

  1. Government of Canada The Canadian Navy List Ottawa ON;
  2. The Navy List Volumes I, II and III (HMSO London UK);
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Loney;
  4. http://www.cflapedia.com/Players/l/Loney_don.htm;

H.W.B. Manning:

  1. Government of Canada The Canadian Navy List Ottawa ON;

John McFetrick:

  1. Government of Canada The Canadian Navy List Ottawa ON;
  2. Williamson, R.J. (1993);

Moe Segal:

  1. Hall of Famer Moe Segal still a winner. Canadian Jewish News. By Irv Osterer, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin. Wednesday, 17 December 2008.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2012) Some of Canada’s Naval Football Stars. Nauticapedia.ca 2012. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Navy_Football_Stars.php

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