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100 Years of Our Navy

A Celebration

3 July 2010

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On Saturday, July 3, the Archives and Collections Society (ACS) held the opening reception to 100 Years of Our Navy, an exhibition celebrating the centennial of Canada's Navy, ongoing until August 8 at The Victory, 205 Main Street, Picton.

A diverse crowd of over one hundred people, including Canadian Forces Chief of Maritime Staff, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden and Prince Edward County Mayor Leo Finnegan, gathered to share in the celebration. At four bells in the mid watch, signalling 2pm civilian time, ACS Executive Director Paul Adamthwaite welcomed the guests and introduced Mayor Finnegan, who remarked, "it's a privilege for me to be here and bring greetings from the County of Prince Edward." Adamthwaite thanked all supporters, volunteers, and staff who made the celebration possible before discussing the history of the Canadian Navy in the first century of its existence.

Adamthwaite described how the Navy had evolved from "humble beginnings" in 1910 to becoming the third largest navy in the world by the end of World War II, with over one hundred thousand men and women serving full time and on a volunteer basis in the Reserves, Wrens, and Cadets and further hundreds of thousands employed in the supporting infrastructure. After the Second World War, the Canadian Navy developed its Anti-Submarine Warfare capability, took part in the Korean War, the Cold War, and both Gulf Wars, as well as engaging in humanitarian efforts, collaborating with NATO and the US Navy while maintaining its strong connections with the Royal Navy.

Mayor Finnegan, Vice-Admiral McFadden, and Dr. Adamthwaite

Adamthwaite then introduced Vice-Admiral McFadden as a "man who has seen out the first century, and who is going to be in charge of the start of the second century."

Vice-Admiral McFadden opening remarks

Vice-Admiral McFadden began his speech with the observation that the interest in the Navy is growing throughout Canada: "… in the centennial year, there has been as much opportunity as I've ever had in my life to travel this country and meet with more Canadians from more walks of life with an interest in what maritime affairs are about, and why this country has and needs [emphasis from transcript, Ed.] a navy, and it has been an extraordinarily positive and encouraging thing for me."

Vice-Admiral McFadden praised the unique ability of Canadians, and of the Canadian Navy in particular, "to build friendships, to make connections," adding that "we do it better than anyone else on earth," after which he received animated applause. Vice-Admiral McFadden went on to declare that the Canadian Navy is "undeniably a force for good in this world, it's a force that continues to promote relationships so that we can prevent conflict, but it's a force that at the end of the day, if conflict is required, will prevail."

Vice-Admiral McFadden discussed the significance of the centennial as "one of those times where we've been offered an opportunity to get out and explain who we are, what we do, and why we do it. I have been immensely encouraged and impressed by just how wide that constituency is, and how that connection takes us to places that I couldn't have imagined," the work of the ACS being one notable example.

Vice-Admiral McFadden concluded by thanking ACS for its commemorative efforts: "the work of this society, your interest in coming out today, is a small part, but is one grain of sand on a beach," adding that "we need hundreds of thousands of more connections because we will be an expensive entity to maintain, but it is an expense and investment this county has no choice but to make because our navy will be even busier in its second century than it was in its first."

Adamthwaite, upon remarking that "no navy exists without the people who are involved," presented McFadden with an honorary membership to the Archives and Collections Society in recognition of his contribution to maritime heritage.

Following the speeches, RCN veteran George Devonshire called Our Navy's 100 Years a "remarkable show. Certainly worthwhile." To County resident Daisy Wannamaker, the exhibition brought back fond memories of her father, who was a naval officer, and her husband, who went overseas during World War II.

Guest and staff

Artist Don Macmillan, CSMA, whose graphite paintings are on display, found "the whole thing very impressive." In addition to works by Macmillan, naval paintings and prints by CSMA members Hamish Berchem, Yves Bérubé, Pat Burstall, Bo Hermanson, John M.Horton, Alan Nakano, Peter Rindlisbacher, and Ray Warren hang on the walls.

Modeller, Hugh Charlebois and Brian McLaughlin

Among the models showcased are local artist Hugh Charlebois's flower-class corvette HMCS Demorestville and Type VIIC German U-boat from World War II, in addition to the superbly accurate model of the Foundation Franklin tug by Robert Holden.

Holden's wife Marilyn felt that the exhibition "brings forth everything we needed to know and more about the navy" and she "particularly enjoyed reading about the stories of many people that are here." Madelaine Johnson, one of the ACS summer students who has been interviewing people from the Quinte region who served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), the Royal Canadian Naval Reserves (RCNR), the Wrens (WRCNS), the Sea Cadets, and the Maritime Command of today's Canadian Forces, particularly enjoyed the "human element" of the exhibition.

In the display cases are photographs, newspaper clippings, badges, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia that tell the story of Canada's Navy. Commander, Lieutenant, and Cadet uniforms are also on display to full effect with the help of mannequins on loan from the Picton Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and City Revival. Slide shows on the naval careers of the Plomer and Grimmon families and the early years of the Canadian Navy featuring postcards donated by Allyson Dawson, are also available for viewing. Wendy Anderson of Picton called it an "informative and inspiring celebration." Quebec lawyer Jack Miller enjoyed the exhibition immensely, calling it "superb" and remarking that "there were some really powerful moments."

Visitors enjoying the displays
Chief of Maritime Staff and Shiela Pigeau of 91X

The entire event was broadcast live on 91x Alternative Radio. The Archives and Collections Society extends special thanks to Metro for supplying a delicious "birthday" cake; recognition to Peter Hill for providing music appropriate to the occasion and for luring so many guests into the building with his bagpipe playing; sincere gratitude to volunteers Hugh Charlebois, Doug McMain, Mary Wellein, and Margaret Whittelton and a very special thank you to everyone who contributed their stories and memorabilia to 100 Years of Our Navy.


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