Second editions mark Submarine Centenary

Submarine Centenary

Julie H. Ferguson is presenting Celebrating Canadian Submariners: 1914 to 2014 on Sunday, Aug. 3 at 2 p.m. at the Maritime Museum of B.C., Bastion Square, Victoria. The event is free and focuses on the submariners rather than the boats — from the prairie boys in 1914 who’d never seen the sea, let alone a submarine, to the highly trained sailors who serve in our Victoria class today. This is their story.
Both books will be available for purchase and signing.

Unbeknownst to most Canadians, Canada has a long and colourful submarine service history – to be exact, 100 years of service this year.

To honour the centenary, Julie H. Ferguson’s publishers have released updated, second editions of her two books: “Through a Canadian Periscope: The Story of the Canadian Submarine Program” and “Deeply Canadian: New Submarines for a New Millennium.”

“Canada has had such vibrant history with regard to its submarines, it’s a shame more people don’t know about it,” says Ferguson, a retired reserve naval officer. “With my books, I always wanted to inform Canadians on the subject, and hopefully with renewed interest due to the centenary I can reach a few more.”

She was inspired to write both books when she asked her husband LCdr James S. Ferguson (Ret’d), who was captain from 1979-1981 of the now decommissioned submarine HMCS Okanagan, where she could read more on the subject of the Canadian submarine service. “He was surprised when he realized there weren’t any books,” says Ferguson. “And so was I.”

That realization encouraged Ferguson to write one, and a year later set her on a decade-long project that would take her across Canada and the United Kingdom, speaking with veterans, serving members, and historians, and delving deep into archives.

Her first book, “Through a Canadian Periscope” explores the history of the Canadian submarine program, beginning in 1914 with the purchase of CC1 and CC2. The acquisition of Canada’s first two submarines is the stuff of Hollywood movies, filled with backroom deals and a clandestine escape.

She also interviewed all but one of the Second World War Canadian submariners, gaining invaluable firsthand accounts of their service in all theatres and all types of submarines, including full-sized and midgets, X-craft and chariots.

Ferguson recalls reservist Freddie Sherwood, twice-decorated Commanding Officer of the S-class submarine HMS Spiteful, when talking about the anecdotes she collected during her research almost 20 years ago.

“He was a funny, humble man. Even after 40 years he had almost perfect recall. His stories matched the patrol reports almost to the letter,” she says. “That was unusual, as I had a lot of trouble sorting out memories from facts during the writing phase.”

Without the advantage of the Internet during the research, she relied solely on visiting and calling people to get the information she needed.

“I spent a lot of money on airline tickets and phone bills. It was a tedious process. I don’t think I fully understood the enormity of the task I had undertaken, but I was determined to complete it.”

When it came time to write the manuscript, technology had progressed to primitive home computers.

“Without that computer I don’t think I could have completed the book,” she says. “Manipulating the masses of data on a typewriter would have been a monumental task, so I am thankful for better technology.”

In 1995, Dundurn Press released the first edition of her book “Through a Canadian Periscope” to considerable acclaim.

“These men went to great lengths for their country and their stories needed to be told,” she says. “Hopefully my books will ensure their exploits get passed on, and the efforts of these men will not be forgotten.”

“Deeply Canadian: New Submarines for a New Millennium,” published by Beacon Publishing, is part-sequel to her first book. It tells the story of the Victoria class submarine acquisition and why it was necessary for the navy and Canada to continue our submarine component.

Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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