Sunday, 25 February 2018

Warren Walker collection - RCN, RN, and other images - UPDATED

To follow up on an earlier post of photos from the collection of CPO Warren Walker showing flying operations from HMS BATTLER, I promised to display the remainder of the photos here. Warren's collection included a good number of photos of other ships of the Royal and Royal Canadian Navies, among others. 

I have elected to organize the photos loosely by the Navy being represented as well as the class of ship being displayed, and not in chronological order, as the latter is harder to determine.

Mr. Walker appears to have served in a number of RCN ships during his career, including (I believe) HMCS SAGUENAY in the 1930s, HMS BATTLER and HMS VINDEX in the summer of 1945, HMCS IROQUOIS, and HMCS ALGONQUIN and the weather ship HMCS ST. STEPHEN after the war. I have updated this post with Mr. Walkers service information, provided by his son Wayne, which appears at the bottom of this post.

Where available, I am providing the original captions as they appeared on the prints of each photograph, but only if I believe they are correct. I have also provided links to the Canadian Navy of Yesterday and Today site and Wikipedia where I believe appropriate.

A crew photograph from HMCS IROQUOIS, with Warren Walker on the far right of the front row.
Canadian Navy

In 1946, the RCN obtained its first aircraft carrier in the form of HMCS WARRIOR (formerly HMS WARRIOR), a light fleet carrier of the COLOSSUS-class. Although the RCN manned the escort carriers HMS NABOB and PUNCHER during the war, those ships were commissioned into the Royal Navy. WARRIOR served until 1948, after which the RCN traded her back to the RN in exchange for HMCS MAGNIFICENT.

Caption reads "HMCS WARRIOR coming out of dock". HMCS WARRIOR was the RCN's first aircraft carrier.
WARRIOR was not suited to service in Canadian climes, and the North Atlantic in particular, and she spent most of her time on the West Coast.

As a result of her short career, there are not a large number of photos of her in RCN service.

HMCS WARRIOR approaching HMC Dockyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The carrier wharf was located under where the Macdonald Bridge was constructed.
Before the war, Mr. Walker served in a River-class destroyer, probably HMCS SAGUENAY. The River-class was a somewhat homogeneous class of Royal Navy destroyers of the C, D, E, F, G, and H sub-groupings, plus SAGUENAY and SKEENA which were built specifically for the RCN but which started off as essentially copies of the RN's A-class. Based on the captions and what little research I have been able to do myself, I believe the photos below were taken around the same time, many of them from the deck of SAGUENAY and featuring SKEENA. I believe that many of the photos were taken in the Caribbean, and SAGUENAY was assigned to Caribbean exercises in early 1939 so this fits. SAGUENAY lost her stern to a collision with a merchant ship on 15 November 1942, and she did not re-enter active service - so all photos here were taken prior to that event.

There was no caption on this image, but I'm assuming it was taken onboard an RCN ship - presumably SAGUENAY. At first I thought this was taken in Halifax, with the Halifax Shipyard in the background, but the far shore does not look right for Dartmouth.

"Some of the boys." Presumably taken at the same time as the above image, I was able to zoom in an identify the white line on the right as a breakwater - so definitely not Halifax. 

I'm assuming the ship in the background is HMCS SKEENA.

SKEENA wearing the pendant number D59. After 1940, she wore the number I59. This appears to be an abnormally calm sea.

Another photo of SKEENA wearing the D59 pendant. She appears to have a canopy rigged over the foc'st'le as well as the quarterdeck and the "B" and "X" gun mountings, suggesting the photo was taken in a warmer climate and the crew was trying to keep the sun from shining directly on the deck plates.

The caption reads "Cruise down river HMCS OTTAWA in distance."

Unnamed River class destroyer. 

Caption reads "SKEENA and part (port?) of Diamond Isle.

Three River-class destroyers rafted together. The outer two ships are SAGUENAY and SKEENA (not sure which is which) and the inner ship is a later vessel of the class - possibly OTTAWA. At far right is the bow of what I assume to be a cruiser, and there is a photo of a LEANDER-class cruiser below in the RN section to which I assume the bow belongs. 

A photo taken from SAGUENAY's foc'st'le, looking over at SKEENA - possibly taken at the same time as the image above, but before the canopy was rigged over the bridge. Positive ID can be made in this photo because both ships have the protrusion on the forward face of the bridge, and the ship on the right wears the badge of HMCS SKEENA (the small object in the middle of the bridge face). 

For reference, here is SKEENA's badge from

Looking aft under the starboard side lifeboat, probably onboard SAGUENAY, and the protrusion on the bridge suggests the trailing ship is SKEENA.

Two other River-class destroyers, possibly SKEENA and OTTAWA.

I believe this shot is taken looking aft from the bridge along SAGUENAY's starboard side. The gun beside the sailor's left shoulder appears to be a 40mm/39 (2-Pdr) Mk.II single anti-aircraft gun, which is consistent with the armament of a River-class destroyer up to 1942.

A 4" gun crew at work, probably on SAGUENAY. River-class destroyers mounted the 4.7"/45 QF Mk.IX gun on the Mk.CPXIV mounting.

HMCS ST. LAURENT (H83) alongside in HMC Dockyard with another River-class destroyer approaching in the background. ST. LAURENT arrived in Halifax from the west coast in September, 1939.

 HMCS ST. LAURENT (H83) with another River-class destroyer rafted up on the outside. The protrusion on the bridge of the outside ship suggests it is either SAGUENAY or SKEENA. It might be that this image was taken not too long after the image above, and the ship outside of ST. LAURENT is the same ship seen approaching the jetty in the image above.

HMCS SAGUENAY (D79) alongside at HMC Dockyard. SAGUENAY later wore the pendant I79.

SAGUENAY alongside to the left and another destroyer rafted outside of her, with a Royal Navy cruiser behind. Based on the twin funnels of equal height and the tall bridge superstructure, this would appear to be HMS YORK. YORK was transferred to Halifax in September 1939 upon the outbreak of the Second World War, so this may date this photo.

Looking aft along the port side of what I assume to be SAGUENAY.

Unidentified River-class destroyer (but not SAGUENAY or SKEENA based on the flat face of the bridge).

HMCS FRASER (H48) was sunk during the evacuation of France after being rammed by the cruiser HMS CALCUTTA. This is how she would have appeared before the war. I believe the two davits on the stern are for handling depth charges. 

This is the second HMCS OTTAWA (H31), which served the RCN from 1943 to 1945. Previously named HMS GRIFFIN, she was transferred to the RCN in March 1943 to replace the earlier OTTAWA which was sunk in September 1942. During the war, these ships were modified from the original configuration, and OTTAWA here is a good example: A-mount gun on the foc'st'le has been replaced with a large Hedgehog ASW mortar, B-mount carries illumination rocket rails on the gun shield, there is a Type 271 radar over the bridge, the aft funnel is cut down, and Y-mount is removed in favour of depth charge throwers. The forward torpedo tubes remain (behind the after funnel), but the aft set have been removed. 


A sailor stands under the guns of HMCS IROQUOIS (based on the artwork on the gun barrel muzzle covers).

And other ships:

The first HMCS PROVIDER. She served as a base supply ship for various flotillas of Fairmile motor launches during the war, both in the Caribbean and Canadian waters.
Due to a shortage of escorts, the RN and RCN were desperate for destroyers, and accepted a number of ex-USN four-stackers left over from the First World War.

HMCS ANNAPOLIS, one of the ex-USN destroyers provided to the British under the lend-lease agreement, and subsequently passed to the RCN. This appears to be a very early photo of her - not only has she not yet received the Type 271 radar, but she hasn't yet lost the aft (4th) funnel after she burned out her #4 boiler within a month of arriving in Halifax.
During the 1949/1950 period, Mr. Walker was assigned to the weather ship HMCS ST. STEPHEN for 30 day stretches, at which time the ship was assigned to the North Atlantic weather station, or "Baker" station, between Labrador and Greenland. ST. STEPHEN was modified from a River-class frigate

The weather ship HMCS ST. STEPHEN, possibly in St. John's, NL.
Both ST. STEPHEN, and STONE TOWN, were sold to the Department of Transport in 1950 and served in this role until approximately 1967. One book I have suggests STONE TOWN was not modified as a weather ship until after she was sold to the Department of Transport, but this photo clearly shows her still with the pendant 302, indicating she was still in the RCN. She also still has her gun.

HMCS STONE TOWN, also fitted as a weather ship, served on the West Coast in the Northern Pacific.

Preparing a weather balloon for launch from HMCS ST. STEPHEN. The triangular shape is a radar target, so that the ship can track the altitude of the balloon.
During the war, the RCN obtained two V-class destroyers, which were renamed ALGONQUIN and SIOUX in Canadian service. After the war, ALGONQUIN received a comprehensive refit into a "fast ASW frigate" similar to the Royal Navy's Type 15 frigates, and with some of the equipment to be fitted to the new ST. LAURENT class destroyer escorts that the RCN build in the early 1950s.

This photo shows the crew of ALGONQUIN sometime between her big refit and her paying off in 1970.
Royal Navy

There are several photos of the Royal Navy's "R" class battleships (sometimes noted as ROYAL SOVEREIGN- or REVENGE-class) in this collection. Completed during the First World War, at least two of this class - RAMILLIES and RESOLUTION - participated in convoy escort duty in the early parts of the Second World War. I am therefore assuming that these photos were indeed taken during the war, and during convoy escort operations.

RN "R" class battleship in what I assume to be Halifax Harbour.

"R" class battleship at sea. Later in the war the after mast appears to have been rebuilt to carry radar, reinforcing my assumption that these photos were at the latest taken during the early years of the war.

"R" class battleship at sea.

An "R" class battleship at sea, as seen from what I assume to be HMCS SAGUENAY.

Royal Navy Emerald class light cruiser - the class consisted of only two ships, EMERALD and ENTERPRISE, both of which were stationed in Halifax during the Second World War. This would appear to be ENTERPRISE, which received a prototype gun mount forward in the early 1930s, and as a result her bridge was rebuilt and moved forward.

The Royal Navy LEANDER-class cruiser HMS ORION. Caption reads "HMS ORION Sunday." ORION was assigned to the North America and West Indies station in 1937.

This is the cruiser whose bow appears in the previous image. The funnel gives it away as one of the Royal Navy's LEANDER-class of cruisers. The location is possibly Ireland Island, Bermuda. This may be another image of ORION, but I can't be sure.

Royal Navy light cruiser, probably Town class (Southampton group).

US Navy

There is unfortunately only one USN image in this collection:

The ship in the background looks like a USN battleship, and from comparing to my WWII edition of Jane's, I'm going to suggest that it may be a TEXAS class ship - either TEXAS or NEW YORK. I am also guessing the photo was taken during the 1930s.


I have many resources to identify warships, but civilian ships often give me a hard time, so I resorted to crowd-sourcing the identification of the following two liners via Twitter. Within several hours, I had my answers, and Twitter users by the names of Robert Kirk and Jose Damota responded with the names of the two ships. After reviewing myself, I believe both ships are a close visual match for the names I am assigning to these images.

RMS Empress of Australia. According to "The River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy" by Ken Macpherson, SAGUENAY and SKEENA met up with Empress of Australia on 15 May 1939, and escorted her and her passengers - the King and Queen - to Canada for a Royal Tour. This photo could have been taken at a few points during that tour.

S.S. Statendam with the bow of a warship to the right.

I don't where or when this was taken, but it doesn't look like a naval vessel to me.

I would once again like to thank Warren's son Wayne for sending me these photos and allowing me to display them here. Wayne was kind enough to allow me access to the original prints in his possession, and I was able to set them up to be copied with a high-resolution digital camera to get the most out of the prints.

30 March 2018 Update:

Wayne was kind enough to provide me with the following summary of his father's career:

Warren St.Clair Walker, 2965-H
Date of Birth: 7 May 1920 in Deep Brook, a student
Enlisted: 14 May 1937 at Halifax for seven years (start time 7 May 1938 because he had to be 18
to start official pension time)
Description “On entry as a boy seaman”: 5 feet 9 1/4 inches, chest 32 1/2 inches, brown hair,
hazel eyes, medium complexion, 2 in scar back left thumb.
On advancement to man’s rating: 5 feet 10 1/2 inches, chest: 35 inches
Stadacona as Boy Seaman: 14 May 1937 to 3 Oct 1937
Stadacona as Boy Telegrapher: 4 Oct 1937 to 22 Oct 1937
HMS Victory as Boy Telegrapher 23 Oct 1937 to 6 May 1938
HMS Victory as Ordinary Telegrapher 7 May 1938 to 21 Jul 1938
(HMS Victory was serving as a Royal Navy communications training facility)

HMCS Restigouche as Ordinary Telegrapher 22 Jul 1938 to 11 Oct 1938 (a Royal Navy River-
class destroyer transferred to the RCN in 1938)

HMCS Saguenay as Ordinary Telegrapher 12 Oct 1938 to 22 Mar 1939
HMCS Saguenay as Telegrapher 23 Mar 1939 to 22 May 1940
Stadacona as Telegrapher 23 May 1940 to 12 Nov 1940
HMCS Snowberry “ 13 Nov 40 to 12 Dec 1940 ( HMCS Snowberry was a a Flower Class
corvette used for convoy escort)
Dominion 15 Dec 1940 to 17 Jan 1941
HMCS Skeena 18 Jan 1941 to 10 Oct 1941 (I59, a Royal Navy River-class destroyer) escorted
convoy H141 Newfoundland to Iceland Jul/Aug 1941; convoy SC42 Newfoundland to Iceland
Sep 1941, 14 ships lost in three days;
HMCS Avalon I 11 Oct 1941 to 5 Nov 1941 (RCN base in St. John’s, Newfoundland during the
war to provide escorts for convoys)
St. Hyacinth, Quebec from 6 Nov 1941 to 28 Dec 1941
Stadacona 30 Dec 1941 to 31 Dec 1941
Stadacona as Acting Leading Telegrapher 1 Jan 1941 to 31 Dec 1941
Stadacona as Leading Telegrapher 1 Jan 1942 to 9 Mar 1943
HMCS Iroquois as Leading Telegrapher 10 Mar 1943 to 29 Mar 1944

Leading Telegrapher Warren St.Clair Walker, joined HMCS Iroquois, a new Tribal-class
Destroyer on 10 Mar 1943. He was the senior communications rating on board.
For most of June 1943, HMCS Iroquois was employed in the Western Approaches (to England),
escorting outward and inward Gibralter convoys. Then on 9 Jul 1943, the destroyers HMCS
Iroquois, HMS Douglas and HMS Moyola left Plymouth, England escorting the troopships SS
Duchess of York and SS California (carrying around 2,000 officers, men and crew) and the
ammunition ship Port Fairy to Freetown, Sierra Leone in Africa, in the high speed convoy “Faith”.
The SS Duchess of York was a liner owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway but re-commissioned
as a troopship by the British Admiralty.

Two days later, on 11 Jul, the convoy was 300 miles West of Vigo, Spain. It was a calm, cloud-
less evening. At 2035, a lone four engine German FW-200 aircraft appeared, circling the convoy 
but out of range. Half an hour later, two more arrived . The convoy was then attached by the
three Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft based at Merignac near Bordeaux. The accurate high-altitude
bombing left both the SS Duchess of York and SS California blazing fiercely. At 2136 the aircraft 
made for the Port Fairy, but Iroquois’ 4 inch and anti-aircraft guns drove them off. Three minutes
later there was another attack but the bombs fell astern, then the German bombers returned to
their base. HMS Moyola and HMS Douglas began to take off survivors from the burning
troopships, their flames serving as a beacon for U-boats lurking in the darkness. HMCS Iroquois
conducted an anti-submarine sweep then closed with the SS Duchess of York to take off 628
men, including nine Czech officers. Canadian seaman dived overboard to rescue people struggling
in the water who had jumped from the burning ships. The escorts HMCS Iroquois, HMS Douglas
and HMS Moyola, together with the Port Fairy, rescued all but 27 from the SS Duchess of York.
Fearing the flames from the ships would attract U-boats the SS Duchess of York and the SS
California were sunk by the escorts at 0135. The Port Fairy was then escorted to Casablanca.
Morocco where the survivors were put ashore. The attacked cost the lives of 46 servicemen and
crew from the SS Duchess of York and SS California.

Highly censored newspaper accounts of the event, with HMCS Iroquois picking up the survivors,
called the ship’s crew action as “one of the outstanding rescues of the war, both from a standpoint
of its success and on heroism displayed.”

The plaque was presented to HMCS Iroquois in 1943, and was also mounted in the newer HMCS
Iroquois, DDH280. After the rescue, Captain Holmes of the Iroquois and two seamen were
presented the Czechoslovakian Military Cross for rescuing the nine Czech officers who were on
board the troopship.

Dad never spoke of this wartime action in which, as the senior communications rating on board
the Iroquois, he must have played an important role.

The Rest of the Story

Once HMCS Iroquois reached Casablanca, Morocco, the survivors were dis-embarked and she
was refueled and reprovisioned, everything had been eaten by the extra passengers. Instead of
going to Sierra Leone she was assigned to escort a convoy back to England. Aboard was a
German officer who had survived the sinking of U-506, sunk off Gibralter. Iroquois left the
convoy at Lands End and made for the naval base at Devonport, England to bring in the German
U-boat officer for interrogation by Naval Intelligence.

While returning to Devonport, the German officer’s jacket was taken at Captain Holm’s order to
be laundered. When the jacket was returned, the officer jokingly remarked that apparently
someone wanted a souvenir and had taken his U-boat officer insignia off the jacket. Capt. Holmes
became very agitated and gave an ultimatum over the PA system that the badge was to be
returned by 0800 or there would be no shore leave once the ship reached Devonport. A “ship’s
buzz” came around immediately after the ultimatum to the effect “if you have the badge, keep it.
To hell with Holmes”. The badge never showed up. Accordingly, all shore leave was stopped
when the ship reached Davenport.

The crew, mostly made up of young volunteers from across Canada, not accustomed to naval
discipline, especially Royal Navy discipline, took this very negatively. When ordered to sea on 19
July to escort another convoy, the lower deck hands, all Ordinary Seamen, refused to get up
steam and they shut down the ship. Leading Telegrapher Walker was locked in the communications area by the leaders of the “job action”. After negotiations with some very senior
shore-based naval officers, the Captain was relieved and taken ashore for medical reasons.
Shortly thereafter, HMCS Iroquois, and it’s Canadian crew, was re-deployed to Scapa Flow,
Scotland, (seen as a move to “punish” the ship’s crew for their un-Royal Navy like behavior.)
When the ship arrived in Scapa, Leading Seamen and below were mustered forward and blasted
by the Rear Admiral of Destroyers. Petty officers and above were mustered aft and blasted as
well. Capt. James Hibbard then joined HMCS Iroquois as her new Commanding Officer. The
defiance was never classed as a “mutiny” but as a “refusal for duty”. As a result, HMCS Iroquois
was assigned to Murmansk Convoy duty for six months.

(Dad had mentioned this little story to me and I had access, back in the early 1980's, I read over
the Secret Board of Inquiry file at the National Archives. It was subsequently declassified after 50
years, and a book was written about the incident.)

St. Hyacinth 30 Mar 1944 to 26 May 1944
Stadacona 27 May 1944 to 23 Mar 1945
HMCS Peregrine 24 Mar 1945 to 1 Apr 1945 (HMCS Pereguine was a land based ship in Halifax,
used as a training facility)
Niobe 2 Apr 1945 to 4 May 1945 (RCN HQ in Scotland)
HMS Vindex 5 May 1945 to 22 May 1945 (D15 - a Nairana-class escort carrier)
Niobe 23 May 1945 to 31 May 1945
HMS Battler 1 Jun 1945 to 28 Jun 1945 (D18 - an Attacker-class escort carrier)
Niobe 29 Jun 1945 to 5 Jul 1945
HMCS Pereguine 9 Jul 1945 to 17 Jul 1945
St. Hyacinthe 18 Jul 1945 to 29 Oct 1945

Once again, thank you to Wayne for providing this information, which provide useful background to the photos earlier in the post.

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