Acknowledgements and thank yous
This website is intended to pay tribute to those who served in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Marine and participated in the perilous convoy passages to and from North America and Britain in the Second World War.
This project would have been next to impossible without the willing and generous assistance provided by the librarians, archivists, curators and document and image specialists at many of Canada's public institutions. They not only responded to my many requests for documents, images and information but frequently pointed me to other possible sources I would never have known about.
Thank you to Stéphanie Séguin at the Musée des beaux-arts in Montreal for scanning and sending me the voluminous contents of their Riordon artist file and Erin Rutherford at the Art Gallery of Ontario organised their artist file for a personal visit in the midst of Covid. The contents of these files led me to realize there was sufficient material available to create a website story.
Annabelle Schattmann, Janelle Goertzen and many other staff at the National Library and Public Archives were always helpful and kept my visits and many document retrieval requests well organised. Virtue Tran in particular went above and beyond in responding to my requests. Phillip Dombowsky, archivist at the Library of the National Gallery of Canada, dug out much information on the Continental Galleries and Amy Rose was attentive in organising my visit.
Ashlyn Prasad and Jaclyn Pollock at the Vancouver Maritime Museum were diligent in getting me proper images of the North Atlantic Convoy works in their collection. Amber Laurie at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax generously found the time to personally show me their convoy series painting of the Tribal Class destroyer.
Michael McCormack at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia sent me an image of their Riordon naval picture and pointed me to the MMA for theirs. Lisa McNiven of the Halifax Naval Museum answered many questions, gave me the grand tour of their fine museum and dug out their ship files for HMCS Fundy and HMCS Kenora. Thanks also to David Mawhinney, archivist at Mount Allison University in Sackville, for his insights into the character of Ralph Bell and useful directions to other sources.
Meredith Maclean, collections specialist for the war art collection at the Canadian War Museum was very generous with her time in showing me their collection of Riordon paintings and answering many questions. Shannyn Johnson guided the process of getting high quality photos of the collection for myself and the War Museum website.
Neil Bell, (Lt Cmdr, RCN(R), Ret'd), of Hamilton Naval Heritage patiently answered many questions from a landlubber. Neil is also a guide at the HMCS Haida museum and spent the best part of a day showing me the ship from stem to stern. If you are near Hamilton this is an absolute must see. Haida is one of the Tribal class destroyers that Riordon so frequently depicted.
A heartfelt thank you to Margaret Morris (also RCN(R), Ret'd) of the Crow's Nest Officers Club in St. John's for her support and efforts to connect my Riordon research with the community of people closely connected to Canada's naval history. She also welcomed me for a wonderful and informative visit to the Crow's Nest.
Michelle Macleod from McGill University's Visual Art Collection supplied images and particulars on the book, Canada's War At Sea, and Lori Podolsky from the McGill Archives supplied some key statistical data. Véronique Greaves from the Musée nationale des beaux-arts du Québec sent me an image of the naval painting they purchased in 1943, Riordon's first sale to a major public institution. Donna Doucette of Memorial University in St. John's retrieved the program, with its charming cover page, for the 1951 North Atlantic Convoy exhibition in that city.
James Day and Pat Barnhouse at HMCS Bytown in Ottawa sent me an image of their painting, Depth Charge Attack, which appeared in the very first exhibition in Montreal. The archivist at DND's Directorate of Heritage and History, Isabella Sun, passed on their Riordon biography which confirmed a number of details.
James Riordon of Montreal was very kind in allowing the use of the biographies of John, Charles and Carl Riordon and other material. He also sent a photo and offered much encouragement for the project.
Alan Klinkhoff's early interest, enthusiasm and support for this project were key in encouraging me to follow through and see it to completion. His art galleries in Montreal and Toronto (www.klinkhoff.ca) regularly feature works by Eric Riordon.
Diana Vandermeulen, a fine multidisciplinary Toronto artist and designer, got this website up and running and gave me the look and organisation I wanted. She made everything work. Her website is: dlvdm.ca
Andrew Rookley offered feedback and encouragement for this project. He has a new gallery, Rookleys Canadian Art, in Ridgeway, Ontario and offers Riordon paintings, among many others. His website is: rookleys.com
Betty Ann Anderson & Paul Alanthwaite run an amazing establishment, the Naval & Marine Archive, in Picton, Ontario. It is a mecca for naval & marine history researchers and also features a large display of fine art, all with nautical subjects. They also have hundreds of books and periodicals, including rare and out of print items, for sale. It is an absolute must for anyone who loves ships and sailing. navalmarinearchive.com
A brief reading list and some online sources
These are a few of the many books consulted I found particularly informative and enjoyable to read.
- On The Triangle Run, by James B. Lamb, MacMillan of Canada, 1986. One of a number of convoy themed titles by Lamb who was an active participant on an escort ship. All are very well-written and with a wry navy humour.
- Convoy, by Martin Middlebrook, Allen Lane, 1976. A detailed and riveting acount of perhaps the greatest convoy battle of the North Atlantic, that of convoys SC 122 and HX 229.
- HX72 - First Convoy To Die - The Wolfpack Attack, by David O'Brien, Nimbus Publishing, 1999. A well-told tale of this subject. Also contains the best descriptions I have seen of the organization, formation and despatching of the convoys. Worth reading for that account alone.
- Minesweepers of the Canadian Navy - 1938-1945, by Ken Macpherson, Vanwell Publishing, St. Catharines. A complete list of minesweepers of the RCN in WWII. With images, specifications and brief histories. Macpherson produced similar books on corvettes, frigates and River Class destroyers as well as a comprehensive tome on all the RCN ships from 1910 to 1981.
- 50 North - Canada's Atlantic Battleground, by Alan Easton, The Ryerson Press, 1963. Another excellent memoir by a commander in the convoy battles.
- The Battle of The St. Lawrence, by Nathan M. Greenfield, HarperPerennial, 2005. A well-researched account of the only WWII battle fought entirely within Canadian territory, includes a detailed account of the destruction of convoy QS 33.
- Commanding Canadians: The 2nd World War Diary of A.F.C. Layard, UBC Press, 2005 A traditional Royal Navy commander in charge of non-traditional Canadian volunteers. Highly detailed accounts of convoy escort operations including descriptions of training, refitting, time in port, and some very frank opinions of the young Canadian RCNVR officers he commanded.
There are of course many more books of interest. A comprehensive and very well annotated bibliography of the Royal Canadian Navy can be found on the website: forposterityssake.ca. This site is also a treasure trove of stories, histories, lists and statistics. This is the site where Riordon's narrative of the North Atlantic Convoy exhibition is preserved. They also have the most comprehensive collection available of Canadian Navy Lists. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the RCN.
Also recommended is nauticapedia.ca. This site has many videos and image galleries, the focus is on west coast naval topics and should be of interest to everyone. The story of the Wavy Navy reproduced on this website is published here.
An excellent online resource for researching both navy and merchant ships of the convoy war is convoyweb.org.uk. A fellow named Arnold Hague compiled, organized and indexed a staggering amount of data into a most useful and searchable research tool. Many others worked with him and are carrying on his legacy.
Equally excellent for convoy research is warsailors.com/convoy/html which has much detail found nowhere else and also links to the convoyweb site just mentioned.
Roger Litwiller is a navy veteran and author of a number of fine naval books. His website, rogerlitwiller.com, has many essays and photos on historical and current navy topics.
Charlie Dobie has thousands of naval photographs, links to numerous naval websites and many stories from navy veterans, old and young at rcnhistory.org
Searches for e.g. "naval art wwii" or "royal canadian navy convoys" on the canada.ca website will find many excellent articles and essays including Pat Jessups fine account of the artists who served with the navy as part of the official war artists program.
Canada's National Library and Public Archives and the Canadian War Museum have much readily accessible material on their websites and are well worth some extended searching. There is also a very good section on ship's histories on canada.ca.
A list of Canada's federal naval and maritime museums can be found at: canada.ca/en/navy/services/history/naval-museums-historic-sites
The veterans.gc.ca website contains many well written and moving reminiscences. Clarence Mitchell from Strathroy, Ontario served on a Town class destroyer and contributes a terrific account of his service on the Triangle Run, the same battleground where Eric Riordon served. https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/diaries-letters-stories/second-world-war/cmitchell
A not to be missed website is crowsnestnl.ca. The Crow's Nest Officers Club in St. John's is a legendary spot. During the war it was a place of refuge and relaxation for ship's officers, both naval and merchant marine. The walls are still covered in ship's plaques and insignias and can be seen up close on the websites virtual tour. The Crow's Nest is still open and thriving and carrying on the traditions of a navy town. I can also personally attest that they serve a tasty pint.