Auxiliary Fleet celebrates 70 years

Members of the Auxiliary Fleet gather for a group photo at Dockyard, Sept. 28, prior to their 70th Anniversary celebration. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Members of the Auxiliary Fleet gather for a group photo at Dockyard, Sept. 28, prior to their 70th Anniversary celebration. Photo by Peter Mallett, Lookout

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Members of the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Fleet (Esquimalt) received congratulations, high praise and sweet birthday cake during their unit’s 70th anniversary celebration on Sept 28.

Following a barbecue at the Work Point Gunroom, Rear-Admiral Art McDonald kicked off the lunchtime event’s awards ceremony by noting the vital importance of the Auxiliary Fleet in Maritime Forces Pacific’s day-to-day operations.

“In my time in the navy I’ve had 10 years of operating out of this harbor, and I’ve had the chance to see the fantastic work you are doing day-in and day-out. What you have been doing collectively as a unit over 70 years is amazing; it has enabled RCN [Royal Canadian Navy] operations over that time.”

The Auxiliary Fleet is an operational support branch of the navy that is responsible for port management, ship assist, coastal towing, fuelling operations, moorings, defence research, and environmental response and training.

Incoming Port Operations and Emergency Services Branch Commanding Officer, Cdr Andy Muir said recognizing the Auxiliary Fleet for its work is something most sailors feel strongly about.  

“This is a day for the entire base to celebrate the accomplishments and legacy of the Auxiliary Fleet,” said Cdr Muir. “They are the personnel who get our ships out to sea; they are the unsung heroes, the men and women who are there 24/7 to support RCN operations.”

During his address, Doug Kimmett noted the 70th anniversary event should have taken place in 2015, but the unit was so busy with port operations the ceremony was put off until this year.  

The Auxiliary Fleet was founded in 1945 and has seen sweeping changes since, both in its size and responsibilities.

Longest-serving member of the unit Frederick Webb is very familiar with the changing workplace since he started working for the Department of National Defence 57 years ago. He joined the RCN in 1959 and spent 35 years with the Auxiliary Fleet, first working as a deck hand and then being promoted to jetty crew supervisor. Webb said the unit’s resiliency through all the cuts, restructuring and changes in responsibility has much to do with seasoned staff members like himself who draw on years of experience in the navy and with the Auxiliary Fleet.

“I have seen some huge changes in my time here, but the Fleet has maintained its ability to adjust to whatever the situation is,” he says.

While Webb received recognition for his years of service last year, other long-serving members of the Auxiliary Fleet were honoured with commemorative certificates from the Government of Canada for their years of service. Recognized were Steve Milne for 45 years; Jonathan Purdie and Ed Gerow, both for 35 years; Rob Barr and Bob Beauregard for 25 years, and Terry Berkley was acknowledged by the Auxiliary Fleet for his years of service.

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