Keynote Address - Admiral John Rogers Anderson CMM CD


Good Evening; Former Naval Persons, Colleagues, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Let me start by issuing two disclaimers:

1) I am not the John G. Anderson of the class of 56 and

2) I am not a VENTURE graduate – although I did have the pleasure of serving as the Commandant of the Naval Officers Training Centre (VENTURE) in the early 1980s following in the footsteps of Dick Waller and Doug Henderson.

I was surprised and deeply touched when over a year ago I received a request from the Reunion Committee via Wilf Lund to be your guest here this evening.  In subsequent discussions with Wilf I understand that the organizing committee felt that in my own naval career I had likely worked with at least one VENTURE graduate from every class of the program.  Well you were correct.  Shortly I will indulge in a tour de horizon and discuss a few of you and your class mates and in doing so hope to illustrate just how critical you all were to the successful development of our navy.

With permission from Wilf I would like to draw on some of his outstanding historical research to begin at the beginning:

  • Responding to a crisis of a shortage of officers the Naval Board took a decision in October 1953 to create a new officer training establishment that was to be up and running one year later
  • The “Venture Plan” was created as an entry point for all branches – executive, engineering, electrical, supply, pilot
  • Venture Cadets would undergo two years of professional training including sea time and education beyond Senior Matriculation
  • The plan was to continue for 10 years
  • There would be no new money for the plan
  • VENTURE was to be a so called “low profile” to avoid any suggestion that the navy was moving away from the tri-service concept.

Now enter Captain Bob Welland as the commander designate of VENTURE.   Wilf has written extensively about Welland’s response to the challenge of setting up a new and complex organization and have it up and running in less than a year.

Perhaps two Wellandisms would best describe his approach to the challenge: “Never lose it’s not fun” and do everything “full-throttle”.

Welland subscribed to the belief that to be a naval officer was to belong to a special breed, a so called “band of brothers” with a unique calling to duty and service. The Welland touch would be apparent in every aspect of cadet development - work hard-play hard but always follow the rules of the game, be a gracious winner or a good loser, continuously strive for excellence, suffer in silence, neither howl for the moon nor cry over spilt milk, and always think in the terms of what is best for the naval service. Welland also wrote a primer on social graces for cadets called “Neptune’s Notes”.  Measured against today’s standards the manual would be considered elitist, sexist and deliciously politically incorrect. But it did express the RCN cultural norm of 1954.  His philosophy guided and directed the operation of HMCS VENTURE through the 12 years of its existence.

The emphasis at VENTURE was to be officer development not behaviour modification. Building officer-like-qualities was the primary objective. This would be achieved by immersing the cadets in a professional naval and academic environment under constant supervision “operating full-throttle” 24/7 for 11 months a year. A cadet’s daily bread would be the Royal Canadian Navy; his credo service above every personnel consideration. His first duty was to his ship and his men.

On 10 September 1954 VENTURE opened and the first intake began their training.  Eleven more classes would follow.  Who were these young men and where/when did they appear on my horizon?

While attending UBC I trained weekly with the UNTD division at HMCS DISCOVERY.  In my final year, 62-63, a LT Gordon Longmuir (57) appeared as a navigation instructor.  He had just completed his 7 year Short Service appointment and had commenced further education that would eventually see him through a successful career in our diplomatic service culminating in his appointment as the Canadian Ambassador to Cambodia.  Our paths would cross again later in our careers when, he is Foreign Affairs HQ, and I in National Defence HQ, were involved in our national response to parts of the Russian nuclear powered satellite, COSMOS 954,  fell in the Northwest Territories.

Gordon was not, however, the first ex-VENTURE cadet with whom I first came in contact.  In my first summer of ROTP training in HMCS NEW GLASGOW, the leader of our sailing team was John Pirquet (60) who had transferred to MILCOL and was now in the ROTP training stream.  John was a wonderful sailor and we did well in our races, often against VENTURE teams who had earlier been his classmates.  Sadly John is no longer with us.

Again in NEW GLASGOW, one of the ships officers was LT Pat Crofton.  One day we were working on the quarter deck when a tall Sub Lieutenant crossed the brow and we were startled to see that Lt Crofton had been demoted!  We finally figured out that in fact it was Pat’s brother Mark Crofton (58) who had arrived for a family consultation.  We were greatly relieved to say the least.  Years later Mark and I would work together in NOTC when I was the Commandant and he the Executive Officer.  Mark would be my temporary relief as Commandant when I was moved to Halifax to command the 1st Destroyer Squadron.  HMCS SKEENA commanded by Guy Boucher (56) was in my squadron.

My early commissioned training at sea began in HMCS SASKATCHEWAN.  I was working on my watch keeping certification and found on the 2nd Officer of the Watch roster a LT Thomas who had just joined the ship. Hum, what was this?  At that point in his career, Chuck Thomas (56) was cross training as required by the general list concept to add a bridge watch keeping ticket to his engineering qualifications.  Much later in our careers I worked under Chuck’s leadership in NDHQ when he was Chief of Maritime Doctrine and Operation, Commander Maritime Command and finally Vice Chief of Defence Staff.  It is not long ago that I thought my golf game was good enough that I could join him on the golf course!

Service in HMCS ST CROIX was next.  The Navigation officer – Lt Barry Hagen (59) was a man of infinite patience when it came to teaching his subordinates the fine art of celestial navigation.  Our Weapons Officer, Lt Bernie O’Reilly (57), is someone I credit with keeping four very unhappy Sub Lieutenants in the navy. The reason for the unhappiness has nothing to do with VENTURE and is a story for another time.

I qualified as an Operations officer on Long Course #5.  Half of the graduation class of 12 were VENTURE graduates:

  • George Braithwaite (58) our class leader
  • Barry Hagen and John Simpson (59).  John finished first on our course and won the Westinghouse Award
  • Frank Dennis, Dale Gibb and John Nethercott (all 60)

My first east coast ship was HMCS BONAVENTURE.

  • I relieved Tim Porter (58) as AIO Officer and later on in our careers I would relieve Tim as Commanding Officer of HMCS RESTIGOUCH.  Toward the end of our service careers, Tim was my career manager.

Also in the ship’s company were:

  • Richard Neveu (67)
  • From the class of (65); Graeme Evans, Dennis Jackson, Phil Kenny, Dave Simms and I believe Jeff Gilmour all working as air controllers

In the air wing over the two years I served in the carrier:

  • Peter Hamilton, John Veronneau (both 56)
  • Jim Cantlie (58)
  • Dave Cramton, Jack Ford (both 59)
  • Herb Harzan, Russ Rhode and Sandy Kerr (63-1)
  • Tim Kemp, Bill Ainslie (both 63-2)
  • John Cody (64)
  • Larry McWha (66)
  • Wes Postma (64) who supervised many carrier landings as “paddles”.

In the Commissioning crew of HMCS IROQUOIS:

  • Again Richard Neveu and Errol Collinson (Both 67)
  • And later Bill Johnston (67), as fine a navigating office as you will ever find and Jav Stevenson (57) as the OIC of the HELAIR Det also a great ship mate.

Even at Staff College in Toronto VENTURE grads were ever present:

  • A guy called Major Brygadry always had a question for our guest speakers. Turns out he was a member of the Class of (59) disguised as an air force officer.   Until recently I was not aware that he had been a Cadet Captain at VENTURE.  One of his class mates, Sieg Deleu (59), speaks very highly of how Stan looked out for him and took Sieg to his home to celebrate Christmas when Sieg was so far away from his own Belgium home.
  • Also members of my course were: Brian McKenzie (57) Roger Chiasson (62) Ken Scotten (61) Jim Dickson (64) Ron Perks (59) Jav Stevenson (57)
  • On staff at the time was Tom Essery (59).

Other VENTURE Graduates that come to mind are:

  • Mike Wickware (67) who worked with me at NOTC
  • Graeme Evans (65) who was one of my Executive Officers in RESTIGOUCH
  • Jim Dodgson (61) who did his Long Weapons Course opposite my Long Ops Course.  He and his wife, Judy, have been lifelong friends
  • Wilf Lund (61) who worked tirelessly with me during the nuclear submarine program
  • Ed Panchishin (59) a Supply Officer, with whom I served but cannot remember where
  • Jerry Tannous (65) another Supply Officer with whom I served.

One member of the class of 60 I did not meet until after I took off my uniform.  At one of my early meetings of the NATO Council at NATO HQ in Brussels I was introduced to the Belgium Military Representative, none other than LGen Rene Hoeben (60), Belgium Air Force.  What a surprise.  That Belgium connection is present with us this evening through Pierre Yans, also from the class of (60).

While serving in Brussels I also had the pleasure of working with Lee Myrhaugen (63-2) who was the Deputy Military Representative in the Canadian Mission to NATO.

I would like to mention a number of VENTURE graduates who on leaving the navy either early in their life or post-military service have contributed greatly to our country:

  • Bud Abbott (59) who on completion of his 7 year appointment studied medicine, specialized in Gynaecology/obstetrics and delivered over 10,000 babies (yes that was 10,000)
  • Fred Mifflin (56) retired as a Rear Admiral, entered politics and served in the Chretien government as Minister of Fisheries.  He was also a key member of the Government Committee that recommended moving the Headquarters of the army, navy and air force back to Ottawa
  • Jim Green (56) who went into law and at the age of 35 was appointed a Judge of the BC Provincial Court
  • Peter Cairns (58) who retired as a Vice Admiral and worked as the Executive Director, Canadian Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Association.  Peter relieved me as Commander Maritime Command
  • Jack McGee (60) after taking off his uniform enjoyed a long and very successful career in the field of education; Dean of Science and Technology at Brown College in Toronto, President of St. Clair College in Windsor and President of the Justice Institute of BC
  • Ken Scotten (61) was the establishing director of the NOTC (VENTURE) virtual trainer and founder of the mentoring programme employing primarily VENTURE graduates with command experience
  • Peter Baldwin (62), a naval pilot, who transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy and eventually headed that navy’s aviation program, retired as a Commodore
  • Robert Baugniet (63) who on completion of his 7 years transferred to the Reserve navy and eventually, in the rank of Commodore, was Head of the Naval Reserve
  • Wilf Lund (61) who upon departure from the RCN resumed his studies, earned a PhD in History, and has been a significant contributor to the third volume of the official history of the Canadian Navy.  He has also written and published extensively on other RCN historical topics
  • And finally a number of graduates who took up the pen or computer key board to write:
    • Al Snowie (66) The Bonnie, HMCS Bonaventure
    • Robert Graham (56) who twice served as Chief Cadet Captain, has written “The CHIEFTAN”, Personal memories in Poetry & Prose
    • Malcolm McCullock (61) has written “The Way of a Seabird"
    • Gordon Longmuir (57) as long serving editor of “The Signal"
    • And others who have recorded the impact VENTURE had on their personal development, one of whom is Sieg Deleu (59).

I have mentioned quite a number of VENTURE graduates so far.  Some are no longer with us, some are not present this evening and some of you are in this room.  Those of you here tonight who I have not mentioned are no less significant to the development of our navy during your time in it.

This has been a perhaps too long ramble about VENTURE graduates and my interaction with them.  However I cannot end my presentation without mention of the social life of the cadet.

During my preparations for this evening I became aware of “The List” maintained by the Executive Officer.  This List contained the names and contact information for young ladies who might be available to attend various social functions held by the Cadets of VENTURE. Well annotated unofficial copies circulated around the cadet blocks as well.  New names were always being added by parents keen to have their daughters meet suitable young men.  It was said girls would call up pretending to be their mother to get their name on the list.  I am aware that Royal Roads had its own list and I suspect many names were on both lists.  So, the competition for dates and rental cars was heavy if the two colleges had scheduled balls on the same day.  My own cadet summer training included a formal Ball and I suspect these lists were used for that occasion as well.  In my own case I imported a delightful young lady from West Vancouver as my date!

I understand the balls held in the VENTURE gun room were quite spectacular affairs.  Wings and strings, the Naden band and good food were the order of the day.  The cadets did the decorating according to a theme.  The Duty Officer policed the place to try and prevent the consumption of alcohol, often with little success.  One of the tricks, if you knew your date well, was to have her bring your Micky in her purse.  Apparently the girls knew the drill and it worked well.

I know there are several women present this evening who could likely tell this story from their perspective.


All of you are veterans of the Cold War.  Some of you have experienced Gulf War One or have contributed to UN peacekeeping missions.  Be it service on the bridge or in the engineering spaces of minesweepers, frigates, destroyers, aircraft carriers or submarines or in the cockpits of our maritime aircraft or in the offices or schools of our shore establishments you have all contributed to the peace and stability of the world order in which our country has participated.  The historical importance of the VENTURE program must not be forgotten.  Your Association must continue to ensure that those following in your footsteps do not let the memory of the VENTURE program fade away.

Heart of Oak

This is a heart of oak carved by our son and presented to his Mother.  I would extend this image to each of you in this room who in one way or another carries a heart of oak today – developed through hard work, dedication and commitment for your navy and grounded in your early development as naval officers in HMCS VENTURE.  Thank you all for your service to our country.

Thank you so much for hosting Anne and me and for honouring us to be with you on this important occasion. God bless.