Halifax, N.S. 9 October, 1993


Commander Robert J. Williamson, CD

UNTD 1957-1960



As we investigate the theme of a Canadian Naval Identity at this conference, the University Naval Training Divisions, (UNTD), celebrates its 50th anniversary. At a reunion this summer in Halifax, two hundred former UNTD cadets ranging from admirals to sub-lieutenants, judges, executives and teachers, gathered to reminisce about the incomparable experiences that Canada’s unique officer training program had provided for them. As they relived their youth, it was clear that the naval ethic had altered their lives and they in turn had engendered a maritime awareness in our society.


Yet in the beginning, unable to shake the “college-boy” image of its origins, the UNTD was regarded by some dour senior officers as a “cosy club”, but in fact it has proven to be an indispensable naval link to Canadian society and the backbone of the Naval Reserve. Being a product of the Canadian university system and the Naval Reserve, the UNTD has tempered the influence of the Royal Navy and played its part in creating a Canadian Naval Identity.



It may be hard to believe, given the “total force” philosophy and professionalism of today’s navy, that until 1943 there was no professional program for training naval officers in Canada. While members of the RCN could avail themselves of training in the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England, there was nothing for the Reserves of the RCNVR. This situation is all the more incredible when one realizes that by 1945, two-thirds of Canada’s naval ships were commanded by RCNVR officers.(1)


Between 1939 and 1943, the best that Canada could do to fill the vacuum created by the war was to recall retired officers and recruit “direct entry” candidates. Finally by 1943, HMCS Royal Roads was opened for RCN recruits while selected members of the RCNVR could attend Kings College in Halifax. It was at this time that the University Naval Training Divisions were organized as a result of the urging of Professor Jack Baker at the Ontario College of Agriculture in Guelph. He was referred to the closest RCNVR Division which was HMCS Star in Hamilton and there the embryogenesis of the University Naval Training Divisions took place.

Under the proposed plan, university students were granted exemption from military call-up if they attended 110 hours of training per academic year. Naval training was provided in fifteen universities, each of which was situated near a Reserve Division which supplied the instructional staff for general training during the year. In the Spring, a two-weeks’ course was taken at either coast, and third year students in science and engineering were encouraged to train for an entire summer with the navy, ashore or afloat. The UNTD sent 554 officers on active service and helped to satisfy the demands of a highly technical war.(2) It also provided for the first time, equal access to officer training for French Canadians.


As Cdr. Baker was to the creation of the UNTD, Cdr. Herbert Little was to its post-war survival and reorganization. His own recollections of how unprepared he was for war in 1939, made him realize the importance of having an officer training program for Reservists. In 1946 when military training was no longer required as part of college courses, some changes were necessary in the UNTD. The modern peacetime UNTD program dates from Naval Board minutes 10 April, 1947, which approved “an officers’ training program of four years duration, designed to produce officers for the RCN and RCN(R) with training carried out in ships, shore establishments, and Naval Divisions, making best possible use of all existing facilities. Maximum strength not to exceed 1800”.(3)


At that time, students joined the UNTD as Ordinary Seamen (Arts and Science), Stoker Second Class (Science and Engineering), Probationary Sick Berth Attendant (Medicine) or Probationary Writer (Business & Law). If they passed their first summer and an interview board, they became officer candidates and were identified by a white cap tally. After completing four years, they became Acting Sub-Lieutenants. In 1949, the seaman’s rig was dropped and all UNTD cadets wore navy battle dress uniforms, white twist badges and peaked caps as officer cadets. Two full summers of at least fourteen weeks training were required to qualify for officer status.

Recognizing the potential of the UNTD program, the concept was expanded into a scholarship scheme to capture more recruits for the RCN. This Regular Officer Training Plan which began in 1952, made slow but steady inroads on UNTD recruiting. In fact, a number of UNTD candidates transferred to the ROTP, reducing the number of UNTD that joined the RCN upon graduation. Then came the Venture program in 1954 to entice the adventurous young man who didn’t necessarily aspire to a university degree. This created severe competition for training and accommodation facilities at the coast. This is when the UNTD began to feel the pinch as it moved from pillar to post in search of classrooms and billets. However, the knockout blow came in 1968 with the passing in parliament of the notorious Canadian Forces Reorganization Act. Like so many other navy institutions, the UNTD disappeared as an identifiable training plan. The position of Staff Officer UNTD terminated and the recruiting offices were closed on university campuses across the country. When this critical link with the university student was severed, the concept of naval officer recruiting conceived by Professor Baker in 1943, came to an end.

A very modified officer training program replaced the UNTD. With greatly reduced numbers it was strictly a Reserve component identified under the convoluted title of Naval Reserve Officer University Training Program, NROUTP. It didn’t take long for this awkward title to be reduced to NROC, Naval Reserve Officer Cadet. It applied to both men and women and they wore the universal green uniform of the Canadian Forces. The white twist, endemic to the UNTD, was replaced by a thin gold stripe. Cadets were trained in one of three MOCs (Member’s Operational Career) codes; MARS (Maritime Surface), NCS (Naval Control of Shipping), and LOG (Logistics). Most Reserve Commanding Officers found that because of low recruiting quotas, supply did not meet demand.


Fifteen years later, in 1983, a UNTD lobby group including Commodore Cooper, pressed for the return of the title, “UNTD” as a part of the planning for the 75th Anniversary of the Canadian Navy. Reunions of all kinds were organized with the encouragement of Vice-Admiral J. C. Wood, Commander of Maritime Command (MARCOM). He asked everyone to enhance their sense of professionalism and teamwork by supporting the Navy’s 75th Anniversary theme of “Pride and Commitment”. As a result a two hundred seat UNTD reunion dinner was organized at HMCS Star on April 27, 1985. Cdr. Little was the guest of honour. A national reunion followed in Halifax during July and a western reunion in Victoria during August. However, it was at the Star reunion in April that the Chief of Reserves, Rear Admiral Tom Smith, (a UNTD graduate) first announced that the name UNTD, as a navy officer training plan was to be reactivated. He noted that it was most appropriate that this announcement was made at the Naval Division where the very first UNTD was formed in 1943. No association with universities was to be resumed. Therefore, the UNTD was to be revised in name only for a new generation of cadets. It has been calculated that close to 7,000 young Canadians have qualified for a naval commission under the aegis of the UNTD and more will now follow in the years to come.



The UNTD flourished for twenty-five years from 1943 to 1968 when universities were expanding, students needed summer jobs and the navy needed a program to tap this student resource for both the Royal Canadian Navy and the Reserve. But above all, the UNTD movement was popular. What young man could resist the appeal of travel and adventure or a visit to some exotic foreign port? Capturing the sentiment of the time, Don Rae, Class of ’52, and now a Medical Doctor in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, borrows the words of Mordecai Richler and says we joined because “we belonged to a generation that sprang to adolescence during World War II. Too young to fight, we were forever shaped by the war all the same…. the headlines, the battles, the casualties. We would never think of wearing the flag as underwear.” Today, most young people are not aware of the great pride that Canadians took in the performance of our Armed Forces during World War II. To be a member of this organization through the UNTD, was a opportunity and an association to be treasured.(4) Patriotism, an elusive element in today’s society, was nurtured by programs like the UNTD.


While cadets found navy life to be very demanding, its rewards were many. The UNTD program offered students excellent training, adventure and good companionship, but most of all it offered travel. The old adage of join the navy and see the world was certainly very true in the post war world until the early sixties. Many of the stories told by officer cadets of that era involve visits to many regions of Canada and foreign ports around the world. This broadened the knowledge and experience of these young men and built character as no other set of circumstances ever could.


I personally found that as a UNTD officer cadet I really appreciated the opportunity to explore and discover parts of the world that most people would normally never visit. This developed in me a wonderful awareness of history and geography and motivated me to expand my reading. Some cadets count their lives much richer for the memorable associations that they made. A senior civil servant from Jamaica, Gordon Wells, relates this story.


My fellow Cadet Captains and I were invited to a reception given for the officers by the U.S. Admiral in Boston. As was to be expected, the three of us were largely ignored and stood in a corner talking to each other. After a while a gentleman came over to us and introduced himself. He appeared genuinely interested in our youthful experiences in the navy. He was a Senator from Massachussetts. In talking to us he expressed surprise that of the three Cadet Captains, only one was Canadian, the other two being from Northern Rhodesia and Jamaica. He must have been impressed with our exuberance because he invited us to have dinner with him at his club. Many years have passed and I have now only a hazy recollection of a most splendid evening at a large, elegant club by the sea. In retrospect I no doubt would have made a greater effort to record the evening’s events in my mind had I known that our amiable host with an affinity for the navy was to become the President of the United States and was to have his life end abruptly and tragically.(5)

Most cadets remember that the training was excellent. Commander D. Stock, a lawyer in Woodstock, Ontario recollects that

the specialists training in Supply was useful in administrative appointments which I and fellow graduates of the UNTD Supply Course had over the years. Certainly there is no doubt that for those of us who went on course in Hochelaga, it was one of the highlights of our UNTD training. On reflection, one wonders if all UNTD cadets should perhaps have had this type of exposure to training in administration and logistics. I believe we received a legacy of training and experience which made us all better officers in the Naval Reserve and better professionals in our civilian careers.(6)

Part of the reason for the excellent training was men like LCDR Noel Langham, Staff Officer Cadets, SO(C), from 1957 to 1965. In the history of the UNTD, his tenure and dedication to the program holds a place beside the revered Commanders, Baker and Little. Langham established an evaluation instrument to measure the effectiveness of winter training. If cadets did not pass, they were not allowed to proceed to summer training. Then as a means of improving morale, Langham established a UNTD Proficiency Trophy for the best division in Canada. To meet budget cuts, cadet quotas were lowered and standards raised. General List training was introduced requiring all cadets to take the same standard program for the first two years on the East Coast. Langham was enthusiastic about the new focus of UNTD training at HMCS Cornwallis and proud of the high standards achieved in the divisions such as Winnipeg, Montreal and Vancouver.(7)

Since its inception at Ontario Agricultural College and McMaster University, the UNTD program has enroled thousands of students from various universities all over Canada. Statistics from the Directorate of History, NDHQ, show that for the period 1953-1957, almost seventeen hundred men from across Canada were accepted as cadets of which sixty-three percent completed their naval training programme, graduated from university and received a Queen’s Commission. Of that number ten percent or just over one hundred, transferred to the RCN, six hundred and sixteen or fifty-seven percent transferred to the Active List of the RCNR and three hundred and fifty-two or thirty-three percent to the Retired List.(8) These figures, based on a five year average, are fairly representative of the record of retention and dispersement of students who joined the UNTD and are comparable to statistics for graduates of Royal Roads and better than the ROTP.(9) Projecting them over the twenty-five year life of the original program and allowing for later cutbacks to enrolment in the sixties, approximately seven thousand young men, the cream of Canada’s universities, were brought into the maritime sphere of influence. The acting sub-lieutenants pay that they received for summer training allowed them to pay for their university tuition. In effect, the navy paid for the higher education of some of Canada’s best students and future leaders.

Richard H. Baker, a successful lawyer in Toronto and first president and principal builder of the UNTD Association of Upper Canada remembers, “My three summers in the UNTD led to a commission in 1964 and to another summer in 1967 with the Reserve as Training Officer in the gate vessel HMCS Porte Quebec out of Esquimalt. In total I spent ten months on ships courtesy of the UNTD and RCNR. I regard this as enviable experience and one for which I am grateful. In looking back I realize that it was the sheer daily excitement of new vistas, experiences and challenges; the friendships and camaraderie that I shared; the discipline, self-reliance and confidence that naval life instilled in us that made the UNTD the best summer job of our generation”.(10)

Jim Forrester, now a retired Superintendent of Education, says, “As I think about my UNTD training, memories of the summer aboard HMCS Beacon Hill (Leaky Bill) come flooding back even after forty years. I remember watching the departure from Esquimalt of the destroyers; Cayuga, Athabaskan and Souix, a few days after war was declared in Korea. They were the only Canadian fighting force ready for immediate service. It made us realize that we were committed to more than a summer job when we joined the navy. We personally experienced that commitment a few weeks later when we were called to action for a local emergency. A contingent of cadets were sent ashore at Sydney, B.C. to help fight a fierce forest fire caused by a long drought”.(11)

While the UNTD provided mutual benefits for the navy and the students, the entire country profited as well. The citizen-sailors produced by this cadet training program were dedicated and broadly educated Canadians, who were confident and self-disciplined leaders. They became very successful in their professional careers. It conceived several officers of flag rank: Vice Admiral J. Allan, former Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Rear Admirals; R. Yanow, former Maritime Commander Pacific, T. Smith and W. Fox-Decent, former Chiefs of Reserves and Cadets. Several UNTD cadets reached the rank of Commodore including: R. “Buck” Bennett, P. Partner, E. Ball, M. Cooper, E. Bowkett, J. Drent, R. Marin, J. Toogood, and B. Moore.(12)

Other successful graduates can be found today as leaders in public life and national institutions. An abundance of political leaders have sprung from the ranks of the UNTD such as: former Liberal Leader Robert Nixon of Ontario, and Cabinet Ministers; R. MacLaren, A. Ouellet, W. Rompkey, J. Brewin, R. Farquhar (President of Carleton University), A. Kroeger (Senior Deputy Minister), D. Dodge (Deputy Minister of Finance), A. May (former Deputy Minister of Fisheries and now President of Memorial University), and Senator M. Pitfield. Another UNTiDy in Ottawa is W. A. B. Douglas, Director of History at NDHQ. Also among the list of UNTD graduates can be found many authors and celebrities such as the nationally acclaimed editor, Peter C. Newman, and media personalities; Peter Trueman and Gwynne Dyer.(13)

Commander Donald S. Bethune, CD, RCN (ret’d) who served as UNTD training officer at McMaster University after the war, says that in 1948, “I returned to a career in the RCN but even there, my association continued with the UNTD in the training squadron ships: La Hulloise, Swansea, and Crescent in 1951; the Coronation Cruise in 1953 and the TRAMID amphibious exercises of 1954 and ’55.

Many of the cadets that I had the privilege to have served with, laughed at, and despaired of, became successful naval officers, judges, politicians, doctors, lawyers, academics, business executives and all round worthy Canadian citizens. I claim no credit, but garner a great deal of satisfaction from having been there at the beginning. I cherish the good fortune to have known so many fine young men in their formative years”.(14)

Receiving a Queen’s Commission was like being awarded a second degree. It was a very demanding program, and became a vital factor in creating a repository of trained officers for both the regular force and reserve navy. It is estimated that over three thousand officers were transferred to the active strength of the Naval Reserve. Without them the high calibre of the RCNR could not have been maintained. The quality of the leadership generated by this system of officer training has produced most of the commanding officers of naval reserve units since the late sixties.

Senior Officers were concerned about the effect that a successful UNTD program would have on enrolment in Royal Military College and Royal Roads. Cdr. Little, however, felt that the main lesson of World War II was the value and economy of having a strong nation-wide Reserve. He writes, “I recalled vividly how unprepared I was for war – no naval training, no uniform, only an ardent desire to help – and felt the importance of bringing order into the training of young men for naval responsibility. The Naval Divisions which Admiral Walter Hose had far-sightedly established in the early twenties would be markedly strengthened by a steady influx of officers who had completed a thorough course of training ashore and afloat.” (15)

But the recurring theme of the Chiefs of Naval Staff in their forewords to the “White Twist” after 1949 was the disappointingly low number of UNTD cadets who transferred to the RCN after graduation. With the conflict in Korea and the growing commitment to NATO, the ceiling complement for the navy was raised to 21,000 and the Regular Force was desperate for officers. Vice-Admiral E. R. Mainguy noted that in 1952, eight hundred and ninety UNTD cadets were trained at the coasts, placing an extremely heavy burden on existing training facilities and staff as well as the Canadian taxpayer. He cautioned that much higher dividends were expected from the UNTD program.(16) The fact that such pressure was put on the UNTD indicates that Royal Roads was not producing sufficient permanent force officers to meet the navy’s needs. To answer these complaints, Cdr. Little prepared a written report which resulted in the creation of the Regular Officer Training Plan (ROTP) in 1952.

The navy had come to realize what a good thing they had with the UNTD. It gave them access to the country’s brain power. The problem was that most of this resource was going into the RCNR not the RCN. Commander Little remembers that the Chief of Naval Staff addressed a gala dinner at HMCS Carleton in 1951. While speaking of the need to recruit officers for the RCN he made the statement that “the UNTD was not the answer”. I can still see and feel a hundred pairs of eyes turning to concentrate on me. Stung by any criticism of “my baby”, I prepared a paper on recruiting in the universities and proposed a new detailed plan. Later I was informed that the Personnel Members Committee of the three services had adopted my proposals and promulgated them as the Regular Officer Training Plan, the familiar ROTP that is still a recruiting arm of the Canadian Forces today. Thus I can claim to be the father of both the peace-time UNTD and ROTP.(17) The recruiting of university students for the Canadian Forces was now fully exploited and clearly divided into Permanent Force and Reserve elements. By opening the door to recruiting at universities, the UNTD played its part in the social history of the RCN.

In addition to providing commissioned naval officers, the UNTD has given other benefits to the Navy. Vice-Admiral John Allan, CMM CD, former Deputy Chief of Defense Staff and the most senior ranking UNTD graduate, wrote the following, “Over the years and particularly when I was MARCOM, I concluded that the most important of the other benefits was the constituency that the members of the UNTD, individually or in groupsprovided to the Navy in the cities, towns and villages across the nation. The development of this constituency is the direct result of the impact of the UNTD graduates’ contribution to their communities in the course of their business and social activities. These officers, in the main, are and act as informed advocates as they speak with understanding of the Navy. They thereby help our fellow citizens who, from time to time, have difficulty in contemplating knowledgeably the way ahead for our fleet”.(18)

Since 1985 there has been a steady growth in UNTD associations holding regular reunions, weepers and mess dinners. Professor Baker would be pleased that his brain-child was alive and well, continuing in the purpose and tradition that he had envisioned half a century ago. Cdr. Little was awarded the Admirals’ Medal in 1991 for his outstanding contribution to Canada’s maritime destiny through the development of the UNTD. He writes that the letters “UNTD” were once meaningless to all but an esoteric few. Now they stand for a distinctly Canadian organization with influential members from St. John’s, Nfld to Victoria, BC.(19)


In some respects the UNTD is a product of the influence of Royal Navy traditions and philosophy but also distinctly Canadian, shaped by our North American situation, social attitudes and political mores.

The Navy League of Canada was founded in 1896 a few years after its parent organization in Britain. Its purpose was to assist in maintaining imperial policy and command of the sea. It urged matters of national security upon the public and politicians while promoting in the country’s youth, good citizenship and knowledge of the sea.

It was in keeping with this mandate that the Navy League of Canada played a significant part in the creation of the Naval Reserves in 1923. The Minister of Defence called upon local Navy Leagues to mobilize their resources, recommend candidates for an officer corps and identify suitable training facilities.(20) It should be no surprise that the founding father of the UNTD, Professor Jack Baker, was a member of the Navy League who prior to 1943 had taken a very active part in establishing the RCSCC “Ajax” in Guelph. It is little wonder that he had an active interest in recruiting for his local RCNVR Division and promoting a naval officer training program at his university based on Navy League ideology.

Even though Canada had only voluntary war service during World War II, she generated the third largest navy of the allies. A voluntary policy was necessary because conscription has always been considered an imperial issue in Canada, one that cuts close to the bone and unhappily brings racial and economic instincts to the fore. Therefore government policies during World War II were designed to skirt around this issue. It was such polices that brought about the UNTD.

In June 1940 the National Resources Mobilization Act gave the government the power to call out every man in Canada for military training, but only for the defense of Canada and only on our soil and in territorial waters. These concessions made the legislation tolerable to Quebec. There were many exemptions, including married men and university students. It was considered essential to shelter those human resources that formed the fountainhead of Canada’s future. According to E.L.M. Burns, this act accomplished little except to persuade the public that a determined action was being taken to defend Canada and that young men were obliged to serve in the armed forces.(21) This was an important chrysalis stage for a socially complex country influenced by North American isolationism and so ill-prepared for war.

However, by September 1942, the National Selection Service Act was passed, making among other things, military training compulsory for all fit males in University. This opened the door for the creation of the UNTD providing a period of summer training for students. It also allowed the government to mobilize the brainpower of Canadian universities. Having gained access to this valuable resource, the navy was not willing to abandon the concept during de-mobilization. This gave rise to the UNTD as a voluntary naval officer cadet program in all major universities both French and English.

The UNTD originally took on the recruiting philosophy of the Royal Navy. That is to say, university recruits were brought in through the ranks to provide them with a lower deck experience. Commander Little reports that the UNTDs being dressed as seamen, were generally used as extra hands despite protestations that they were officer candidates. Consequently they were taught little and treated with indifference. The programme appeared in imminent danger of foundering. The serious flaw was that the trainees were dressed as seamen and dumped in with the crowd. There had to be a change. He felt there were enormous possibilities for the UNTD concept if a real officer training programme could be arranged.(22) In 1949 they were provided with their own special status as UNTD Cadets. While they wore the white twist badge of the Royal Navy midshipmen, they had the university status of United States Naval Academy midshipmen; a category unique to Canada.

My concept, says Commander Little, was to use the United States Naval Academy and its Naval Reserve programme in universities as our guide. The naval service had to have appeal and present a challenging career if it was to compete successfully with industry and business for the best graduates. A nation-wide Reserve had to be strong and well trained if it was to meet the immediate requirements of any crisis. In the future, the navy as a profession would have to demand ever higher standards of education in all ranks. Why not establish that as our criteria from the beginning?(23)

As Director of Naval Intelligence during World War II, Commander Little was aware of the creation of the UNTD. However it wasn’t until he took over the appointment as Staff Officer UNTD in 1946 that it became obvious to him that ships and their contents would become increasingly complex. Personnel would have to change with materiel. The navy would need university trained officers with knowledge of specialized, complicated installations and the leadership qualities to command highly trained technicians.

However it was not until 1957 when a study by Commodore Patrick Tisdall said, “a fundamental knowledge of sciences and humanities is an essential requirement for command of a modern ship”, that the navy finally required a university degree for its officers.(24) Up to that time Royal Roads had based its education of naval officers on the British apprenticeship system: a two year college program on top of a junior matriculation followed by an all-round vigorous naval training at sea. In contrast, a UNTD cadet did not receive his commission until he had earned his university degree. Like the American naval system, the UNTD produced a well educated officer corps in contrast to the RN and RCN that produced a well trained naval officer(25)

In 1950 the two philosophies were married when Defence Minister Claxton stated that he wanted the Active and Reserve forces working side by side, wearing the same clothes, getting the same pay, and achieving the same standards as citizens and servicemen. Thus the UNTD summer training scheme was to include the Canadian Service College cadets of Royal Military College and Royal Roads. For the first time they shared the same facilities

courses and ships. As one cadet said, “There has been a separation and consequent lack of understanding between the potential officers of the permanent force and reserve force for too long. Now the way is open for a greater spirit of co-operation and comradeship.”

Furthermore, the introduction into Canadian universities of the ROTP, a by-product of the UNTD, forced the naval college at Royal Roads to raise its academic standards and relinquish some of its RN training philosophies and traditions.(26)

Because the naval college at Royal Roads had operated on the British system of training naval officers, there was initially no thought about Quebec and few French Canadians applied.(27) Consequently, the only convenient access to naval officer training for them was through the UNTD. In this respect, the UNTD provided a very valuable window for French Canadians to lend their talents to this country’s naval leadership. It should be noted that the present Senior Naval Reserve Advisor, Commodore Jean-Claude Michaud, is from Quebec.

It has been stated in “The RCN in Transition, 1910-1985” that when the new Canadian flag was raised over naval ships and establishments on February 15, 1965, the RCN was already distinctly Canadian, largely because of the evolution of its education and training system.(28) The UNTD officer training program has clearly played a significant role in developing that Canadian identity.



History has shown that naval issues have played an important part in our society and consequently there is an acute need to keep the public well informed and appreciative of naval needs. In 1910, the Naval Bill contributed substantially to Prime Minister Laurier’s defeat in the 1911 election. Another naval issue, providing thirty-five million dollars for Britain to build three battle cruisers, although defeated in the senate in 1913, undercut support for Prime Minister Borden, especially in Quebec. Now it is Prime Minister Kim Campbell and the naval helicopter issue. History is not on her side.

However, to get the public onside, the country needs a well-informed link between the navy and the civilian world. This is precisely what the Naval Reserve and particularly, a large cadre of UNTD officers can provide. Isolated in its small enclaves in Halifax and Esquimalt, the navy can only access the hearts and minds of the entire nation through well-placed, highly educated and influential citizen-sailors, the likes of which can best be provided by the UNTD program. Unfortunately, there have been in the past many shortsighted senior officers who did not appreciate this view.

In his personal recollections Commander Little wrote, “On June 11, 1946 I was appointed to Naval H.Q. on the staff of the Director of Naval Reserves indicating that the main thrust of the post war UNTD programme was to train officers for the Reserve. I was introduced to the National Conference of Canadian Universities and then I was left alone on the sea of academe. As time went on the professors turned out to be friendly while the pirates were dressed in naval uniforms. Support for the programme was by no means general among the senior officers. They had entered the navy as cadets or midshipmen in their early teens and received much of their training in the ships and establishments of the Royal Navy. It is not surprising that they looked with favour on the prescribed programme of the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, England with its strong emphasis on professional sea experience at a young age. They had little regard for the university student as depicted in “campus” movies and they were concerned with the effect that a UNTD programme would have on enrolment at Royal Military College and Royal Roads.(29)

After twenty-five years of producing well-trained junior officers for the Naval Reserve and creating a significant naval presence in universities and cities across the land, the UNTD was rolled into the unified ROUTP, Reserve Officer University Training Plan, in 1968. The results of that ill-conceived decision have been long and lasting.

The most serious blunder was the closure of recruiting centres on campus. With that decision, the key to the whole UNTD concept was thrown away. In a letter to the Secretary of the Naval Board in 1945 during demobilization, Commodore E. R. Brock, COND, stated emphatically that, “it is felt that the importance of contact with the universities cannot be overemphasized“.(30) Not only did the navy disappear from the centres of learning, but with the introduction of green uniforms, the navy disappeared from public view as well. People missed identification with the service of their choice and Naval Reserve Divisions began to run short of qualified officers.(31) Now after years of drought there are signs that the “well is running dry”. Indications are that Commanding Officers for Naval Reserve Divisions will have to be drawn from the RCN in future. Hellyer’s legacy may also mean a lack of Naval Reserve officers to run the new MCD vessels.

With the loss of contact at the universities, the Naval Reserve fell to recruiting officer candidates from within. This was somewhat akin to feeding on oneself and a throwback to pre-World War II days. Quotas were set so low that a few dropouts could reduce a training class by 50%.

Since 1985, UNTD Associations have formed across Canada composed almost entirely of UNTD Originals (pre 1968). With them that precious naval link with the rest of the country sputters to life, but they are an aging group with no one to pass the torch to across “Hellyer’s Gap”, the vacuum in the continuum of UNTD officers between 1968 and 1985. The prospect is that this important naval link will fade away unless steps are taken to recognize its value. Given the public ardor for military budget cutting in today’s post-cold war climate, steps need to be taken in local Naval Reserve Divisions to promote a naval presence, especially at universities.

Admiral Walter Hose solved his budget problem in 1923 by investing in people – he created the Naval Reserve. We may have to consider that philosophy again in the future. Unfortunately it will be difficult to go back to the post-war days when there was access to universities and when there were training ships available for 1000 UNTD cadets. Without officer training billets on frigates and foreign destinations, the appeal and the glamour for recruiting are gone. The UNTD is just another job, of interest only when there is nothing else available.

The future of a country depends on the kind of training its leaders receive in their youth. With financial restraint, recruiting quota limitations and an absence from the country’s seats of learning, the navy will have limited influence on tomorrow’s executives, judges, lawyers, politicians, doctors and educators.



Created by a government policy designed to avoid conscription but gain the maximum use of the country’s resources, the UNTD gave the navy access to the brain power it needed for a fleet undergoing rapid technological development brought about by World War II.

By involving all of Canada’s universities and naval reserve divisions, the UNTD opened the door to officer training for a large number of Canadian students including francophones.

During its heyday, while senior officers doubted the value of UNTD training because it departed from the Royal Navy tradition of naval apprenticeship, they expected it to fill the recruiting and retention gaps left by the military colleges, even though the UNTD was intended as a vehicle to meet the needs of the RCNR. In the end the RCN had to recognize the value in our modern society of a university degree for officers, something that the UNTD required from its inception. The RCN officer training program was modified through exposure and marriage to the UNTD by Claxton’s defense policies, thereby developing a truly Canadian identity.

The unification policy, while trying to Canadianize the armed forces, caused more harm than good for UNTD officer recruiting. By cutting off the vital contact with universities, the navy has lost the principal asset provided by the UNTD program. In addition, there is a danger that there will be a reserve officer shortage.

The navy has never fully appreciated the inherent value of having a large number of well-placed, highly educated and influential citizen-sailors in its back pocket. If investment in people is an important value, then serious consideration should be given to returning to the concept of the UNTD program as it existed prior to 1968. Given the inconsistency of our political system and the history of our government’s benign and sometimes malicious neglect of the navy, the history of the UNTD demonstrates that our navy’s investment in people can be its strongest legacy.

It is my belief that the UNTD is a quintessential product of the Canadian system, steeped in Royal Navy tradition but tempered by the social and democratic conditions that are uniquely Canadian. If you are looking for a Canadian Naval Identity, you will find it here in the UNTD.




1. CDR. Fraser M Mckee, CD, Volunteers for Sea Service, (Toronto: Houstons Standard Publications, 1973), 42

2. Gilbert Norman Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada, 2 vols. (Ottawa: Kings Printer, 1952), 2:273

3. Philip Chaplin, The University Naval Training Divisions, (Ottawa: Paper Published by the Directorate of History, N.D.H.Q., 1963), 10

4. CDR. Robert J. Williamson, CD, Spindrift, UNTiDy Tales of Officer Cadets, (Hamilton: The Printing House, 1993), 5

5. “Ibid”, 149

6. “Ibid”, 58

7. “Ibid”, 161

8. Chaplin, The University Naval Training Divisions, 14

9. The RCN in Transition, 1910-1985, Edited by W.A.B. Douglas, (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1988), 78

10. Williamson, Spindrift, UNTiDy Tales of Officer Cadets, 112

11. “Ibid”, 76

12. “Ibid”, 6

13. “Ibid”, 6

14. “Ibid”, 16

15. “Ibid”, 18

16. The White Twist, Edited by Cadet Richard H. Roberts, Introduction by Vice Admiral E.R. Mainguy, OBE, CD, Chief of Naval Staff, 1953 Coronation Year Edition, (Published at the Reserve Training Establishment by permission of Commodore K.L. Dyer, 1953), 7

17. Williamson, Spindrift, UNTiDy Tales of Officer Cadets, 46

18. “Ibid”, 2

19. “Ibid”, 12

20. CDR. Robert J. Williamson, CD, HMCS Star, A Naval Reserve History, (Hamilton: Superior Printery Ltd., 1991), 22

21. J. L. Granatstein & J. M. Hitsman, Broken Promises, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1977), 148

22. Williamson, Spindrift, UNTiDy Tales of Officer Cadets, 20

23. “Ibid”, 20

24. CDR. Tony German, The Sea is at Our Gates, (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1990), 241

25. “Ibid”, 240

26. The RCN in Transition, 1910-1985, 71

27. German, The Sea is at Our Gates, 240

28. The RCN in Transition, 1910-1985, 78

29. Williamson, Spindrift, UNTiDy Tales of Officer Cadets, 20

30. Chaplin, The University Naval Training Divisions, 9

31. German, The Sea is at Our Gates, 302