Renowned U-boat author receives Maritime Achievement Award

Captain (ret’d) Michael L. Hadley. Photo supplied.

Captain (ret’d) Michael L. Hadley. Photo supplied.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer 
A former naval officer is among the first recipients of a freshly minted award by the BC Government House Foundation and the Maritime Museum of British Columbia.

Captain (ret’d) Michael L. Hadley of Victoria is an accomplished author and educator, whose works about the elusive submarines of the Kriegsmarine earned him one of six inaugural Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Maritime Achievement. 
The award recognizes individuals and organizations in the province who have made noteworthy contributions to maritime interests in science, technology, business, applications of maritime skills, nautical heritage and culture, art and academic endeavours. 

A Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Hadley is renowned for his writing on German U-boats and the Battle of the Atlantic. He says growing up during the Second World War inspired him to get to know the enemy and his culture, and master his language and live in his country.

The award, Hadley says, came by as a surprise.

“To find myself among such a varied group of recipients of the medal; I felt very grateful to be counted among such fine people,” said Hadley.

Hadley credits his experience in the Royal Canadian Navy and language studies for an inside track of the culture and inner workings of Germany’s efficient ship-sinking submarines.

“My naval identity gave me unrivaled access to German naval veterans, many of whom became friends,” says Hadley. “We shared a common naval culture, though our national histories differed, the inculcated skills of decision-making, leadership, focus and drive as well as commitment to fellowship amongst the crew.”

In his forthcoming memoir Boxing the Compass: A Life of Seafaring, Music and Pilgrimage, he emphasized how spending much of his life on the ocean grew out of what Farley Mowat once called a romantic predilection for the sea and ships.

“Whether through direct experience or my own literary imagination, the sea and seafaring have provided me with reference points, cues and motifs. They have given shape and context to my reflections,” wrote Hadley.

The Maritime Achievement Award’s other inaugural winners include:
  • Richard Chappell, Regional Vice President of Operations at Westwood Shipping Lines;
  • Alec Dick, Ahousaht First Nation, Board Chair Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary;
  • Robert Lawson, Boatwright, Maritime Historian;
  • Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria School of Earth and Ocean Sciences; and
  • Robert Abernethy and Jean Gaudin, co-owners and shipwrights with Abernethy & Gaudin Boatbuilders Ltd.
Award steering and selection committees comprise members of the Government House Foundation, Maritime Museum of BC, representatives from the broader community, and professional mariners administering the award. Nomination forms for the 2024 awards are at

Michael L. Hadley, Author and Sailor

Michael L. Hadley, 87, began his sailing career as a Union Steamship Deckhand and then embarked on a 30-year career in the Naval Reserves (NAVRES) in 1954.

He first served aboard former RCN cruiser HMCS Quebec and then HMCS Oshawa, HMCS New Glasgow, HMCS Fortune, HMCS Cape Breton and HMCS Mackenzie and was also posted to the RCN’s former Great Lakes Training Centre.

During his NAVRES days, Hadley also earned a PhD in Germanic Language and literature from Queen’s University, later teaching these subjects as a professor at the University of Victoria. While teaching at UVic he served as Commanding Officer of HMCS Malahat (1974-1979).

Some of Hadley’s other published works include:
  • U-Boats against Canada: German Submarines in Canadian Waters (1985);
  • Count Not the Dead: The Popular Image of the German Submarine (1991)
  • Tin Pots and Pirate Ships: Canadian Naval Forces and German Sea Raiders (1991) (co-author with Roger Sarty);
  • God’s Little Ships: A History of the Columbia Coast Mission (1995); and
  • Grand Admiral Dönitz 1891-1980 (2000);
  • Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea (2017).

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