A sea cadet at RCSCC LION from 1963 to 1968, I joined the Naval Reserve at HMCS STAR in 1968 as a Bos'n. I was an Officer Cadet in the ROUTP, commissioned in 1971, and awarded my watchkeeping ticket in 1973. I served at sea, at one time or another, in all five Gate Vessels and HMCS FORT STEELE & CHAUDIERE as well as the Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent and served as OIC of the patrol vessels RALLY and RAPID. At STAR from 1968 to 2007, I served as XO twice and then as CO from 2002 to 2005. I rounded out my career by serving as SSO Training at NAVRESHQ in Quebec City in 2008, retiring in 2009 as CO of HMCS HUNTER in Windsor. I was Executive Director for the Friends of HMCS HAIDA till 2011 and have been an active volunteer onboard HAIDA since she arrived in Hamilton in 2003.
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HMCS ORIOLE, the oldest commissioned vessel in the Royal Canadian Navy, will be visiting Hamilton on 9 June, just days short of the 70th anniversary of her commissioning.
Built in 1921 for George Gooderham, the Commodore of the RCYC (Royal Canadian Yacht Club), she is a steel hulled Bermuda ketch, 102 foot long overall and with a 94 foot tall mainmast. From 1954 to 2017, she was used to teach seamanship to naval officers on the west coast and regularly participated in the Victoria to Maui Ocean Race and the Swiftsure International Yacht Race.
After a refit at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, she continues to teach the importance of basic seamanship to the sailor of the 21st century, and to act as an ambassador for the Royal Canadian Navy.
The Kingston Class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel, HMCS GLACE BAY (MM 701), will be visiting Hamilton from 24 to 29 June as the first stop of her deployment to the Great Lakes. GLACE BAY, commissioned in 1996, is well travelled, having assisted in the SwissAir disaster in 1998, conducted mine countermeasure exercises in the Baltic, taken part in a number of counter-drug operations in the Caribbean, visited the Gulf of Guinea off Africa and spent time in the Canadian arctic as part of Op Nanook.
An excellent article from The Canadian Encyclopedia about our own Jennifer Bennett, who, as the article notes, joined STAR as an Ordinary Wren in 1975
Jennifer Jane Bennett, teacher, school administrator, women’s advocate, senior reserve naval officer (born 11 August 1958 in Hamilton, Ontario). Bennett became the first female rear-admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and the first female to be appointed chief of reserves and cadets, the most senior reserve officer position in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Education and Civilian Career
Bennett was born into a naval family. Her father served in the Naval Reserve and retired as a commodore, while a sister and brother also joined the Naval Reserve. Bennett graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Physical Education degree in 1981; the next year, she received a Bachelor of Education from Queen’s University. She completed a Master of Arts in Leadership and Training from Royal Roads University in 2005. In her civilian life, Bennett worked as a teacher and administrator at public and independent elementary and secondary schools in Ontario and British Columbia from 1983 until 2008.
Bennett enrolled as an ordinary Wren in 1975 in HMCS Star, the Naval Reserve Division in Hamilton. In 1977, she became an officer cadet in the logistics branch and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant on 23 August 1979. In 1981–82, Bennett served in Kingston’s Naval Reserve Division, HMCS Cataraqui, while attending Queen’s University.
Bennett was promoted to lieutenant (navy) in 1982. She attended the Canadian Forces Staff School in Toronto in 1985 and was promoted lieutenant-commander in January 1987. In 1989, she attended the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College, also in Toronto.
In 1991, Bennett was appointed executive officer (second-in-command) in HMCS Malahat, the Naval Reserve Division in Victoria. Four years later, she was promoted to commander and became the unit’s commanding officer on 1 January 1995, serving until 30 July 1998. Later in 1998, Bennett was appointed the logistics branch advisor for the Naval Reserve. In 1999, she was appointed commanding officer of the Naval Reserve basic recruit detachment in CFB Borden and attended the NATO Defence College in Rome.
Bennett was promoted to captain (navy) in January 2000 and appointed director reserves in the chief of reserves and cadets division at National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa. In 2003, she became the director of professional development and director of the Ottawa detachment of the Canadian Defence Academy.
Bennett was promoted to commodore on 1 December 2007 and appointed commander Naval Reserve, a position she held until 15 January 2011. On 15 April 2011, Bennett was promoted to rear-admiral, becoming the first woman to achieve that rank in the RCN. In May 2011, she was appointed chief of reserves and cadets (now known as chief of reserves and employer support), the first female to hold that position. This made her the most senior reserve officer in the CAF and advisor on Canada’s reserves and the two DND-sponsored youth programmes.
Between August 2015 and July 2018, Bennett was director of the general strategic response team on sexual misconduct in support of Operation Honour, the CAF’s programme to prevent and address sexual misconduct. She then became director general of litigation implementation and served in that position until December 2019. As such, she led the implementation of settlements for former CAF members who were affected by the LGBT purge while serving in the CAF, RCMP and federal civil service between 1955 and 1996.
Women’s Advocacy Appointments
Bennett also served as an advisor, champion and speaker on women in leadership and defence in Canada and internationally. In this role, she worked with members of NATO and the UN, as well as other nations, regarding the integration of women into the military and developing a more diverse and inclusive military culture. She was the first female Defence Champion for Women, representing women in the CAF, as well as DND civilian employees, between January 2013 and September 2018.
In 2018, Bennett led the NATO Gender Key Leader Seminar at the Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations in Sweden; she was the first international officer in that role.
Bennett retired from the CAF in December 2019. In retirement, she has served in several voluntary positions in the Navy League of Canada, DND’s Defence Advisory Board and the University Naval Training Division Association Board of Directors. She is also a patron and member of the Advisory Committee of the Juno Beach Centre.
Honours and Awards
Canadian Forces Decoration (1987) with three clasps (1997, 2007, 2017)
Canada 125 Medal (1992)
Queen Elizabeth II Golden (2002) and Diamond (2012) Jubilee Medals