Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Yachtsmen at War: Schooner Days DLXVII (567)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 12 Dec 1942
Full Text
Yachtsmen at War
Schooner Days DLXVII (567)

by C. H. J. Snider to Oshawa Yacht Club at annual meeting


SOME think of yachtsmen

As softies, sissies,

Bottle cruisers, very wealthy,—

"Luxurious" is the word

Because some people's Bible

Is Hollywood and comic strips.


BUT when this country

Needed submarine patrols

Three winters ago

Ottawa sent for yachtsmen.

Canada hadn't enough chasers

And couldn't buy any

Because the U.S. was neutral.

But yachtsmen could.

The U.S. could still sell

To soft sissy individuals

If they had cash or credit.


SO twelve yachtsmen

Had their own little yachts

Requisitioned by the government,

The twelve went to the U.S.

And bought twelve cruisers,

Big, fast pleasure yachts

They'll never dream of owning

(Except in a nightmare)

Fit to cross the ocean.

They ran them to Canada,

Crews and all (some German!)

—And Ottawa had twelve fast cruisers

Ready for subs by spring,

Where we had none before,

And the twelve yachtsmen,

Had their old yachts back,

And letters of thanks.

THAT same spring

The British Navy was told

"France has quit.

You've got to get our army

Out of there somehow,

Or 300,000 Tommies

Will die in German prison camps."

The Navy might have said:

"With what? We haven't a punt now

That's not working overtime."

The Silent Service kept silent

But sent for the yachtsmen,

Softies, sissies, bottle cruisers,

Very wealthy, luxurious,

Who had laid their toys by

To fire watching,

Plane spotting,

Sandbag filling,


—Those who couldn't go

Blockbusting in Italy

Or to fight at sea

Or die in the desert—


THE NAVY said to those, left:

"Bring those soldiers home."

And the miracle of Dunkirk


Wrought by motorboats, canoes,

Ketches, barge yachts,

Cabin cruisers, pleasure boats.

A. V. Alexander's dinghy like as

Shuttling back and forth

Across the English Channel

Till the whole army was saved

And the yachtsmen

Went back to their

Fire watching, plane spotting,

Sandbag filling, airwardening,

—Those who hadn't been

Machine gunned in the Channel-

Being, of course,

Softies, sissies, bottle battlers,

Very wealthy, "luxurious"

On $20 a week

After paying income tax

BUT their deed

Got into the papers;

It helped get the U.S. solidly with us.

North American Yacht Racing Union

Began the recognition.

They remitted the fees

Of all British yachtsmen

For the duration.

American neutrality crumbled

Into a Wendell Willkie,

America got into the war.

CANADA woke to the fact

That we really needed a navy;

Needed forty-eight thousand men

Instead of eighteen hundred we had.

—And got them.

From the yachtsmen?

No, there are not that many.

All who tried couldn't get in the Navy.

But all did try to get somewhere

Of service to the country.


OSHAWA Yacht Club

Has done well

To put its founder,

Hon. Gordon Conant,

At the wheel of H.M.C.S. Ontario

As Premier,

And have his sons

And 56 others of the 156 members,

In the fighting forces.

IN my town

The Queen City Yacht Club

Has an even hundred members;

Forty-two are in the fighting forces.

The Shellbacks

Have a mailing list of 200 members;

Their noon hour meetings

Are now attended by 30 or 40,

The others are all working at war

One way or another.

The Royal Canadian Yacht Club

Has 324 members on active service,

Hundred and two in the Navy,

Six have given their lives

At Dieppe;


Flying over Germany.

The Royal Canadian is a big club,

Total membership 1,980.

That membership breaks down

Like everybody's income

After normal tax, graduated tax,

Gas tax, radio tax

And boat license tax

Has been deducted.

The club has 898 resident members,

Three hundred and thirty

Have been at war.

The National Yacht Club

Has 205 members.

At least 67 are on active service.

Frenchman's Bay Yacht Club

With their wee boaties

Have 15 of 40 members fighting.

Ashbridges Bay, with 70 members,

Has 25 in the services.

Soft, sissy, wealthy, luxurious

Yachtsmen—all of us,

At a basic rate of $1.30 a day

If in service

And $20 a week

If staying home to pay taxes.


Yes, plenty.

Of 73 officers, 42 ratings,

In our new navy's Honours List,

Fourteen are yachtsmen I know.

Maybe the others are yachtsmen, too

I think they qualify.

Andy Wedd's

Distinguished Service Cross

Is for landing marines at Dieppe

Under heavy fire

Chuck Bonnell, of our C-boats

(Market price $600),

Wears the same Service Cross

Aboard his 2-man submarine.

Peter Thompson of Oakville

Has the Cross and two mentions

—Motor gunboat service

He won't talk about.

Billy Briggs, D.S.C., H.M.C.S. Orillia,

Oiled at sea from a torpedoed tanker,

And got her into port.

Jimmy Prentice of Victoria

Got the Distinguished Service Order

For ramming a submarine

With H.M.C.S. Chambly

Roy Smith and four others

Got the Polish Cross of Valor

In H.M.C.S. Restigouche

For saving Poles trapped in France.

Restigouche, Windflower, Bras d'Or,

Raccoon, Ottawa, Charlottetown,

Spikenard, Margaree, Levis, Otter,

Fraser, Assiniboine, Moose Jaw,

Chambly, Morden—

That rescued every soul aboard

That torpedoed liner—

Names of our ships, some sunk,

All glorious—

And at least one yachtsman

In each one of them.

ON American yachtsmen

No figures to hand.

They've enrolled by thousands

In navy, army, air force.

Their yachts by hundreds

Are in the U.S. Coast Guard

On active patrol, manned by

Yachtsmen, not by coastguardsmen.

YACHTSMEN in Britain

Make still better showing;

One hundred per cent.

Doing some kind of war work.

TAKE away our gasoline,

As you have;

Priority away our anti-fouling paint,

Our varnish, hardware, cordage,

Binoculars, monkey wrenches.

But leave us still

The winds of heaven,

The waves of the lake

To use if we can use them

To entertain ourselves,

And men of the fighting forces,

And kids who want to sail.

(They'll submarine or fly

Next year or next).

And when you see

Those who are left of us

Trying to get a bit of sun, or fun,

In what is left of our craft,

In what is left of our life,

With what is left of our earnings,

Just remember—

Softies, sissies,

Bottle cruisers, very wealthy

"Luxurious" as we may be

(On $20 a week after tax deductions),

We're doing our best

To win the war

Like you are.


Don't know which this laddie's club is but he's qualified for all.

Snider, C. H. J.
Item Type
Date of Publication
12 Dec 1942
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.8670854648118 Longitude: -78.8258807299805
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Yachtsmen at War: Schooner Days DLXVII (567)