Tuesday 5 December 2023



On October 24th of this year a letter was sent to the Minister of National Defence questioning the choice of the Leonardo 127/64 Main Gun System for the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) program. Rather to my surprise a reasonably sounding letter was received in reply

 Dear J. G. Murray:

I am writing in response to your email addressed to the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, about the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) program and the choice of deck guns. The Minister has asked the Department of National Defence to review your correspondence and reply on his behalf.


Thank you for providing your input and comments on this important matter. I have consulted departmental staff and they have advised me on the following.


The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) requirements include the need for a 127mm/5in Main Gun System (MGS). The selected Leonardo 127/64 Vulcano MGS fully meets the RCN’s requirements, and it is a proven weapon system that is in service with various allied navies.


There are obvious benefits to have commonality between CSC, the United Kingdom Type 26 and Australian Hunter Class Frigate, all of which are based on a common Type 26 parent ship design. However, in this case it was not feasible for Canada to procure the same MGS being used by the other two nations due to a lack of production line for such gun systems, namely the BAE Mk 45 MGS. While the United Kingdom and Australia are able to reuse existing guns currently in-service within their fleets, Canada does not currently employ a BAE Mk 45 MGS. Accordingly, reusing existing weapons was not possible and it was infeasible to purchase used weapons from other navies to be refurbished for CSC.


Canada is confident that the selected MGS is the right solution for the RCN.


Thank you for writing, and I hope that this information is helpful.


Yours sincerely,


Taylor Paxton

National Defence Corporate Secretary

Needless to say this response raised more questions then it answered. I replied as follows.

Taylor Paxton,
 Thank you for your reasonable response to what, in retrospect, seems to me to be an unnecessarily sarcastic letter. Your note does raise several points however. It is still not clear why the RCN requires such a large calibre weapon when they do not seem to have needed one in the last thirty years. Also, on a point of clarification, the Royal Navy has never used a similar weapon and, as they have no such used weapons to update, it must be assumed they are procuring new systems for their Type 26 frigates.
 I am pleased that "Canada is confident that the selected MGS is the right solution for the RCN." but I would be more confident if my last letter to the minister had not been responded to with the following automated reply:

Contact the Minister - Thank you

Thank you for writing to the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence. Please be assured your correspondence will be reviewed in due course. However, the whole-of-government approach to limit the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) could affect the handling of correspondence, and there may be delays.

Your patience is appreciated.

  Thank you again for your reply and I look forward to hearing from you again regarding this matter. 

Kind regards,

J. G. Murray 

It is hard to understand how it is possible for the Department of National Defence can believe that there is no production available for the BAE Mk 45 MGS. It is even harder to understand why BAE who are both the manufacturer of the gun and part of the design team for the CSC would not have made this clear to them. 

In an attempt to find some answers I have written to BAE as below.

To Whom It May Concern,

I have recently been in correspondence with the office of the Minister of National Defence regarding the choice of main gun armament for the Canadian Surface Combatant frigate program. Specifically, I questioned the choice of the Leonardo 127/64 Vulcano MGS over the BAE Mk 45 MGS as used by our allies on the frigates they are building based, as the CSC is, on the British Type 26.

I was told that “it was not feasible for Canada to procure the same MGS being used by the other two nations due to a lack of production line for such gun systems”. Further it was suggested that those nations were “able to reuse existing guns currently in-service within their fleets”, which struck me as unlikely.

As BAE Systems is the warship design partner on the Canadian Surface Combatant programme and as BAE Systems appears to be marketing the Mk 45 MGS to prospective customers, and providing it to the Australian and British frigate programs, can you tell me if the Department of National Defence is correct in there belief that there is a lack of a production line for these systems.

I look forward to hearing from you with respect to this matter.

Kind regards,

J. G. Murray

In the event any answers are forthcoming I will pass them on. 

Saturday 11 November 2023

Lest we Forget: Sergeant Ernest “Smokey” Smith, VC

 Sergeant (Ret’d) Ernest “Smokey” Smith, VC

It is not clear why anyone would ever choose to join the Canadian Armed Forces.

Ours is not a country that celebrates its military heroes. Our governments have traditionally cared little for those who serve or who have served. It is widely believed that once a year, on November 11, an act of contrition and remembrance when we go through the motions of honouring those who served is more then sufficient to meet our obligations to them.

It must be assumed that those who join must do so for there own reasons.

Earnest Alvia Smith was born on the third of May, 1914, in New Westminster, British Columbia. Like many others Smith struggled to find regular employment during the great depression of the 1930's. In March of 1940 he joined the Canadian Army becoming part of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. 

Although his armed forces career included episodes of what was characterized as insubordination and inappropriate alcohol consumption Smith achieved the rank of sergeant before he left the army. 

In 1947, Smith wed Esther Weston and they had two children, David and Norma-Jean. After his retirement from the military, Smith opened a travel agency with his wife, "Smith Travel", which was in operation from 1969 to 1992. The couple retired in 1992, and Smith's wife died four years later, in 1996.

 In retirement Smith devoted much of his time to helping his fellow veterans, assisting in Remembrance Day activities and representing veterans at the 2000 consecration ceremonies of Canada's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier having aided in negotiations for the return of those remains.

Smokey Smith died at his home in Vancouver on August 3, 2005, at the age of 91.

 After his death his body was placed in the foyer of the House of Commons to lie in state on August 9, 2005, making him only the ninth person to be accorded this honour; government flags flew at half-mast on that day. He lay in repose at Vancouver's Seaforth Armoury on August 12, with a full military funeral in Vancouver on August 13. His ashes were scattered at sea in the Gulf of Georgia.

These honours were not, as one might hope, those commonly granted to one who has successfully lead a full and productive life, rather they were in remembrance of his service career, one night of that career in particular. 

On the night of October 21/22, 1944 Private Smith was a member of a unit ordered to establish a bridgehead across the Savio River in torrential rain. His three-person PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) team met with a German counterattack of three PzKpfw V Panther tanks, two self-propelled guns, and thirty infantry.

Smith and one companion (Pvt. Tennant) made there way across an open field to acquire a more advantageous position from which to recon and attack the enemy. Almost immediately, one of the German tanks spotted the two and fired, injuring Tennant. Smith moved into firing position with his PIAT, firing it from a distance of merely 10 metres. The tank was disabled, but the German soldiers riding on its back dismounted. rushing Smith who engaged the enemy with his Thompson submachine gun.  As the attack continued Smith held his position until the enemy withdrew, defending his wounded partner and driving the Germans armour and infantry back once more. By the end of the night, one Panther and both self-propelled guns had been destroyed along with numerous enemy soldiers killed or wounded.

In later years Smith would describe the action in simple terms, “Our objective was to cross the river and that's what we did. We got in there and we weren't there too long before we were attacked by tanks.” “In the end there was just Jimmy and I, and then he got wounded so that left only me. So, I had to stay out there by myself.”

The motto of the Canadian Army is "Vigilamus pro te" which is Latin for 'We stand on guard for thee'.  

It is not clear why anyone would ever choose to join the Canadian Armed Forces.

Perhaps in the end it is enough for some to know that they stood with those who Stand on Guard.

Tuesday 24 October 2023



When writing a blog such as this it is all too easy to fall into a negative and possibly unhelpful tone. To remedy this lamentable situation I have decided to take the high road and offer some positive suggestions directly to the Minister of National Defence. Hence the following letter has been sent to the minister.

The Honourable Bill Blair, Dear Sir,

Having recently sent a letter to your department asking for information about a procurement decision I received in return an automatically generated response which included a large selection of other departments and organizations I could try to find answers to my questions. Sadly your office was next to last on the long list of of people who might be able to help me in my quest. Perhaps even more sadly the robot who sent the response apparently believes that Anita Anand is still the Minister of National Defence.

I choose not to believe that you, and your office, are of so little consequence. In fact I decided to take this opportunity to pass along a suggestion that you may find of use.

As you know Canada has chosen the OTO Melara 127/64 LW Vulcano gun system from Leonardo for use on at least the first 3 of our new CSC Type 26 Frigates.

While some will question the need for a 5” naval gun I worry that even those who support such a choice will fail to see the many advantages that I am sure this particular choice of weapons system will have for Canada and the R.C.N.

It is possible that these advantages may not be obvious to those nitpicking types who inhabit the opposition benches, the media and anyone else who does not properly understand Canadian defence procurement policy.

There are those who might be tempted to point out that by purchasing this particular weapon systems we have forfeited commonality with the UK and Australia who are also procuring Type 26 Frigate variants and who have both chosen to arm their versions of this ship with a different 5” gun, the BAE MK 45 Mod 4 naval gun.

As this is the same weapon used by the United States Navy there are even some who might question the decision to choose a more expensive gun over the option of arming our new ships with the same weapon used by our principle ally.

I am sure that, in the long run, the wisdom of spending more money in order to procure a weapons system different from our allies, which in turn will make it more difficult to maintain, will become apparent. However I must admit that I do wonder what kind of timeline we are looking at for this wisdom to become clear.

While we are waiting, no matter how long it takes, for what I am sure is the inevitable vindication of this choice I believe there is an opportunity for the department, and your office, to seize the moral high ground and silence any critics of this procurement decision once and for all.

As you may or may not know, in the past Canada purchased a similar weapons system. The DDH-280 Iroquois Class destroyers of the 1970’s were armed with an OTO Melara 5” weapon. At that time those guns were named after the OTO Melara technicians who installed them in Canada. The names given to the four guns were Pasquale, Tulio, Leno and Luigi.

As I am sure you can immediately appreciate there is a tremendous opportunity here to get out ahead of any similar naming convention that might arise and at the same time advance the progressive agenda of the Canadian Government, the Department of National Defence and, not least, the Liberal Party of Canada.

There may still be those who use words and phrases like “combat effectiveness”, “firepower", "lethalityor “bang for the buck” when trying to describe the missions and goals of the Department of National Defence. I think it fair to say that a more enlightened observer will use phrases like “creating high quality middle class jobs” and “empowering historically disadvantaged communitieswhen attempting to identify the modern purpose of the Canadian Armed Forces.

It is with this understanding that I urge you contact OTO Melara and insist in the strongest possible terms that any company representatives who accompany these new guns to Canada for installation include BIPOC members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community whose names reflect the new reality of a vibrant and ethnically diverse Italy.

The last thing we need is for these guns to be saddled with names associated with cis-gendered males with all their unfortunate connotations.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to wish you the best of luck in your ministry and be assured that I will be happy to offer any other advice I feel can help.

J. G. Murray

PS, you might want to do something about that whole “To contact the Minister of National Defence:   https://www.canada.ca/en/government/ministers/anita-anand.htmlsituation.

UPDATE:  After filling out the requisite form and sending my letter I received the following response;

Contact the Minister - Thank you

Thank you for writing to the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence. Please be assured your correspondence will be reviewed in due course. However, the whole-of-government approach to limit the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) could affect the handling of correspondence, and there may be delays.

Your patience is appreciated.

Honestly, you have to see it to believe it.


Tuesday 17 October 2023



Halifax class frigates of the R.C.N. have been in service since 1992. All twelve ships of this class are armed with a single Bofors57mm Mk 3 gun as their main gun armament.

This comparatively small calibre weapon is designed to engage airborne targets, such as aircraft and missiles. They have a limited capacity in an anti-surface warfare role and have negligible value in the naval gunfire support role.

It has been announced that Canada has selected Leonardo Naval Gun Systems to supply OTO127/64 LW Vulcano 127mm(5 inch)naval gun mounts for the R.C.N.’s new multi-role combat ships (CSC).

These weapons are primarily designed for use in the naval gunfire support role along with a useful capacity in the anti-surface warfare role. Their utility for anti-aircraft fire is best described as secondary.

In other words they have almost the exact opposite characteristics of weapon they are effectively replacing. This raises several questions.

Has the R.C.N. been lacking a necessary capacity since the OTO Melara 5-inch (127 mm)/54 calibre guns were removed from the DDH-280 class destroyers in the early 1990’s?

How many times in the past thirty years has the R.C.N/Government of Canada felt the lack of ability to pound ground targets with large amounts of naval gunfire?

Just who is it that believes that that using multi-billion dollar, 8000 ton warships in littoral waters to deliver fire support is going to be a common occurrence in the next thirty years?

Canadian Defence Matters will raise these questions with the Department of National Defence. In the event any answers are received they will be passed along.





Friday 11 November 2022



A small black case with a crown on it, inside two military medals and a faded picture.

The First World War British War Medal was authorized on 26 July 1919. It was awarded to all ranks of Canadian overseas military forces who came from Canada between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918, or who had served in a theatre of war. Naval personnel were required to have 28 days of mobilized service or to have lost their lives before this period of service was complete. The recipient's name, number and rank are engraved on the rim.

The Victory Medal was a First World War medal was agreed to by all allies in March 1919. The medal was awarded to all ranks of the fighting forces, to civilians under contract, and others employed with military hospitals who actually served on the establishment of a unit in a theatre of war between 05 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. As with the War Medal the recipient's name, number and rank are engraved on the rim.

The name engraved on the rim of these medals is F G Peters Boy VR7016, RNCVR

RNCVR stands for Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve. It was a naval reserve that was established in Canada in May 1914 and existed until 1923. During the war, 8,000 officers and ratings joined the RNCVR for service at home or overseas, including those in the Overseas Division. The RNCVR crewed 160 vessels, mainly patrol vessels protecting the shores around Canada and convoy escort duty. The RNCVR rose to prominence during the war, but, along with the Royal Canadian Navy, was neglected after the war drew to a close in 1918. Reservists were demobilized, and the organization of the RNCVR was allowed to lapse due to cuts to the Royal Canadian Navy's budget.

As for “Boy” from its inception in 1910 as the Canadian Naval Service, until July, 1941, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) had a category of sailor known as “Boy.” They could join as young as age fourteen. This designation was inherited from the Royal Navy (RN), where it was used as a recruitment device to attract boys, often from poorer homes or even orphanages, who were too young to meet the normal entry age of eighteen.

During the hostilities of 1914-1918 the Navy was fighting a submarine war off its coasts and desperately needed Boys in the Seaman branch – “Men of Good Character and Physique” – who were sixteen years of age or older. Any boy approaching the RCN to enlist as a Boy was given only one option, the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve. Many would serve in Canada in whalers, anti-minesweeping and anti-submarine trawlers and a host of other patrol vessels.

At home, four Boys were lost out of a crew of thirty-eight when, in October, 1918, HMCS GALIANO, a patrol vessel, disappeared during a severe storm in Queen Charlotte Sound.

The service number on the medal leads to the only records available;



Frederick George Peters


Boy Seaman, VR7016, RNCVR


Died: 30 Oct 1918 at sea





 “PETERS, Frederick George, Boy Seaman, VR7016, RNCVR, MPK - 30 Oct 1918, HMCS GALIANO - Son of C. W. Peters, of 239, 18th Avenue West, East Calgary, AB.”

HMCS GALIANO was the only Canadian naval vessel lost in the First World War. She foundered on October 30, just weeks before the Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918.

HMCS GALIANO had been sent with supplies to the light house at Triangle Island off Cape Scott at the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. Her sister ship MALASPINA had been tasked to re-supply West Coast lighthouses and wireless stations, in particular the one on Triangle Island that was running perilously short of fuel. Before MALASPINA could sail, however, she crushed her bow on the jetty, creating the need for GALIANO to take on the stores and sail in her stead.

GALIANO arrived in a timely fashion at Triangle Island and thus accomplished her first task despite a green crew whose numbers had been reduced by the 1918 flu pandemic and a troublesome boiler. At 5 PM on October 29th, she set sail, bound for stations in the Queen Charlottes.

When she made her only distress call at 3 am the next morning, she was estimated to be within visual range of the light at Cape St. James 95 miles from Triangle Island.


The message was sent by GALIANO’s wireless operator Michael Neary, and received by his brother W.C. Neary, one of the operators on Triangle Island. She was never heard from again and went down with the loss of all hands.

There is no picture of Fred Peters attached to his records. We don’t know his date of birth or age, there is no mention of Mother or siblings, we know from inscription on the back of the picture found in the small black case that he must have had a brother. There must have been a family to receive the medals from a grateful nation, medals to passed down through the generations until they lost all meaning and were sold for scrap.

But Fred Peters is more than just a name on the Galiano memorial in Ross Bay Cemetery, more than a line in the book of remembrance in the Peace Tower in Ottawa. He was a young man, a son, a brother and one of those few who stood with the long line of those who really did “stand on guard for thee”.

               LEST WE FORGET

The medals of Frederick George Peters will be donated to the Naden Naval Museum in Esquimalt.



Thursday 11 November 2021

At The Cenotaph

 Lest we forget,

At The Cenotaph

I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,

Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:

Unostentatious and respectful, there

He stood, and offered up the following prayer.

'Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial

Means; their discredited ideas revive;

Breed new belief that War is purgatorial

Proof of the pride and power of being alive;

Men's biologic urge to readjust

The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;

Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;

And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.'

The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph

Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh

by Siegfried Sassoon

Monday 9 November 2020

Remember and Honour


Remember and Honour

The Remembrance Day Ceremony has played a major role in Remembrance since 1931. Every year, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Canadians gather to stand in honour of all who have fallen. Together, we observe a moment of silence to mark the sacrifice of the many who have fallen in the service of their country, and to acknowledge the courage of those who still serve. 

But not this year, this year ‘officials’ are asking residents to “remember in place” at home and watch the public service online.

The places where hundreds usually gather every year to remember those who fought for Canada will be closed and there will be no parade or screens for viewing the ceremony on site.

A limited number of official wreaths will be placed at Cenotaphs and the public is asked not to gather to place poppies on memorials. For the most there will be no Veteran’s parade, no Canadian Armed Forces parade, a reduced colour party with wreaths pre-positioned such that no wreath bearers or assistants will be required and no members of the Cadets or Junior Rangers will be present.

None of that matters. The size and scope of our yearly public acknowledgment of the debt we owe our veterans is not the issue.  What does matter is what we do every other day, as a society, as a country and as individuals to recognise and honour our veterans. It’s easy to wear a poppy and go to the cenotaph once a year and then forget. We do it all the time. Maybe this year we can forgo the public display and replace it with a full time commitment to remember.


The Act of Remembrance

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.