Tracking Down the Members of the University Naval Training Division (UNTD) 1943–1968

by John M. MacFarlane 2012 (UNTD HMCS Scotian 1966)

Bill Clearihue

Bill Clearihue (Photo from the Nauticapedia Collection.)

Bill Clearihue still characterizes himself as a Quebecois. He was appointed as an Officer Cadet (UNTD) RCN(R) serving in HMCS Donnacona (while attending Concordia University) in 1964. He was living in St. Laurent QC at the time of his recruitment. He served in HMCS Cornwallis for summer training in 1965. He served in HMCS Porte St. Louis (for Great Lakes sea training) 1965. He served in HMCS Naden for training in 1967. He served in HMCS Porte Quebec for Sea Training 1967. He was appointed as an A/Sub-Lieutenant (RCN(R)) 1967. He served in HMCS Stadacona for Communications Course Alpha in 1968. He was appointed as a Sub–Lieutenant RCN(R) 1968. He served in HMCS Donnacona as Divisional Officer Communications Division 1968–1970. He transferred to the Primary Reserve List upon moving to Toronto in 1970. In Toronto he pursued a career in the pharmaceutical industry. His UNTD (University Naval Training Division) experience never left him.

During the Second World War the Canadian navy was short of qualified officers and sought ways of producing more of them. Naval Order 2854 (19/06/1943) stated that units “will be known as University Naval Training Divisions of the university to which attached, short title UNTD.” The first division had been initiated in September 1942 by Professor A.W. Baker, a professor at the Ontario Agriculture College, as an experiment. There were already successful air force and army versions of this officer training programme in operation and a naval one was needed.

Professor Baker was taken into the service as a Lieutenant–Commander RCNVR and toured Canadian universities in cities where reserve divisions existed to set up UNTDs. Captain Brock, Commanding Officer Reserve Divisions, accompanied Baker to the University of Toronto. Baker went on to establish 16 Divisions in 1943 and 14 were in operation by the end of the academic year with the others recruiting in the fall. By the end of the War Baker had been promoted to Captain (SB) and had returned to his civilian career. On June 11, 1945 he handed over the UNTD to Commander Herbert Little RCN(R) who was then serving at Naval HQ in Ottawa, who took over the task of ensuring the programme’s survival in the peacetime navy. He was appointed as the Staff Officer (University Naval Training Division) under the Director of Naval Reserves.

Originally students entered the UNTD as Ordinary Seamen or as a Stokers Second Class on the strength of RCNVR Divisions, and were dressed as seamen. Training was carried out during the academic year – but they were not called for active service until they graduated. Two week training courses were held at the beginning of the summer and ended as soon as possible to free up students to go on to summer jobs.

For 1946–1947 training consisted of 60 hours of drill and lectures during the academic year with two weeks in the fleet each summer and one full summer of voluntary service. After graduation and successful completion of the UNTD programme, the officer candidate was eligible for a commission in the RCN(R). In 1949 the men who were still dressed as seamen were advanced to the rank of Officer Cadet RCN(R) and dressed as subordinate officers with a round white collar and peaked cap. There were 17 divisions based at RCN(R) divisions across Canada. After three years of training the Cadets were promoted to the rank of Acting Sub-Lieutenant. Later, probably for economy of budget, the training was reduced to two years of training before commission. In the final year, 1968, commissions were given after one year of training.

From 1943–1946 members were appointed as Ordinary Seaman or Stoker 2/c RCNVR, wore a square rig uniform, and were assigned serial numbers in the V-series. After the Second World War all members were transferred to the new RCN(R). In 1947–1948 members were appointed as Ordinary Seaman (Officer Candidate) RCN(R), and continued wearing a square rig uniform with a white cap–tally, assigned serial numbers in the R–series. In the Spring of 1948 members were appointed as Naval Cadet (RCN(R), and wore #5 Battledress (looks like an ‘Eisenhower jacket’), with White Twist rank collar badges, and assigned serial numbers in the U–series.

In 1968, after twenty–five years of training officers for the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve, the University Naval Training Division was disbanded in the wake of the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces. I was a member of the final uptake of this unit in which I spent two and a half years of my impressionable youth. Afterwards in the mobility of careers I rapidly lost contact with my old shipmates – but occasionally ran across other former members across Canada.

Ojibway Division 1968

Ojibway Division (UNTD Summer Training 1968 – the last and final year of the UNTD) A typical summer training division made up of members from across Canada.

Rear l–r: Rabatich, Clement, Houle, Mohanna, Belanger, Rudge, Jonassen. Centre l–r: Ayer, Gamache, Marshall, Perry, Markowitz, Smith. Front l–r: Zinman, Moist, Bill Hilborn, Bill Celhoffer, Slt. Kuiper, Dowdell, John MacFarlane, Buchanan, Stacey. (Photo from the Nauticapedia Collection.)

Bill Clearihue has a passion for identifying and tracking down the definitive list of all former members of the University Naval Training Division. He travelled extensively in his work and kept running across former members of the UNTD. Everyone seemed to show an extraordinary interest in former shipmates and friends and pass along information. Over the years he became informally well connected to a network of former UNTDs. He wrote articles about the UNTD for Bob Williamson’s newsletter – digging out facts and separating fact from fiction. Williamson is a charming helpful man who was himself active in recording the history of HMCS Star and publishing a book on the UNTD (a book of reminiscences "UNTidy Tales"). He invited Clearihue to become the assistant editor. Clearihue began compiling a list (the Nominal List) of all the former members that he knew about in November 2010.

About this time he inherited the archives of the late Gil Hutton and the papers of Captain Baker (the founder). He took on the task of organizing these papers and looking for a way to make them more widely available. He started working with the old newsletters and annual year books of the UNTD called "The White Twist". I met him through an internet contact soon after he started cataloguing the names when I was asking around if anyone had thought of undertaking such a task. I discovered that he had already listed about 2,000 names - and I offered to give him my own list to marry with his own. Within two years Clearihue’s list has grown to an impressive 6,000 names. He estimates that there were about 8,000 members and hopes to be able to record all 8,000 of those before he is done.

During the 18 months he’s been working on the List Clearihue notes that dozens of former members have died. Many of them became more visible through their obituaries – and former members who had been their friends provided anecdotes which have been recorded. He notes that the median age of former members is 74 and aging. The youngest members would be about 62 today.

The UNTD Association represents the interests of UNTD members. Clearihue says, "I make the beginnings of the current Association, as 1985. In that Navy’s 75th Anniversary year, the "Mulroney Moves" previously referred to, gave the Navy a lot to look forward to. For ex–UNTDs they found their Name returned. Three big UNTD Reunions were held that year, first in Hamilton, then Halifax, then Victoria, which directly spawned the "White Twist Club". It was an ambitious national outfit with Regional and City Divisions right across the country. They had a charter, an organizational structure, by City and by era, with executive positions filled. Of those initially involved, and still living, only 2 are still involved – Brooke Campbell (then representing Vancouver) and Bob Duncombe (representing Ottawa and the Central Region). Beyond 1987, not much more mention is made of that organization."

He goes on to say, "By pure chance I ended up at the reunion at HMCS York in 1987, which was billed as the "20th Anniversary of the UNTD Centennial Graduation Class", a two day affair of which approximately 20 members were present as well as others from HMCS York from different years. At the mess dinner on the 2nd day, some of the founders of what would become the UNTD Association of Upper Canada were in attendance. That event, I believe helped spawn that organization. In April 1988 a Weepers was held at YORK as the inaugural event. The name was chosen partly because of the existing UNTD Association of Ottawa, which Bob Duncombe was still running. It was largely a Southwest Ontario–centric group drawing on the large number of members living and working in the Toronto area. Membership was opened to all former members (including the men and women from the three years the program name was revived in 1985–1988)."

Clearihue recalls that "Richard Baker was the Inaugural President and Gil Hutton the Newsletter Editor, the other Founders being Douglas Broad, Mark Llewellyn, Reg Kowalchuk and Bill Brown, and from there the History is very well documented in the 40+ editions of the Newsletter. The other watershed year was 2001, with the dropping of the word ‘Upper’ in the name and re–organizing to again be a nationally–focused organization. It is notable that the unbroken Association history from 1985 on, is so far, equal to the lifespan of the UNTD Program itself. It is also noteworthy that the original ‘raison d’etre’ has remained pretty much the same, in a nutshell, that being essentially camaraderie, while leaving the politicizing to the Naval Officer’s Association of Canada."

Clearihue says that as it is currently constituted the UNTD Association will be a "last man standing" group as the membership ages. He wonders out loud, "should the organization embrace everyone who trained as an officer for the Canadian naval reserve? Why should a change of name to ROUTP in 1969 exclude potential members?" "Surely," he asks, "it is the participation in the continuum of programs, regardless of their names, that continue the training that characterized the UNTD?" If his vision was to be embraced the organization would have a future as long as there is a naval reserve – and would draw in the estimated 4,000 participants (men and women) who were trained or commanded by former UNTDs and ‘sprinkled with the UNTD dust of commitment and values’.

He notes that the Army’s COTC and the Air Force’s URTP (the other service equivalents of the UNTD) do not have a similar organization. He speculates that their loyalty was primarily to their regiment or squadron rather than to a cadre of training. Considering that he uses publicly available sources of information almost exclusively his list is quite extraordinary and valuable.

The UNTD Nominal List of former members can be found on–line for those interested in referring to it. Clearihue will keep these lists updated and they will be available on The Nauticapedia archive. The UNTD Association of Canada website will be of interest to former members of the UNTD wishing to connect with their old friends and shipmates.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2012) Tracking Down the Members of the University Naval Training Division. 2012.


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