Sandy Gow


When Canada declared war on Germany in September 1939 the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR), and Royal Canadian Naval Reserve (RCNR) consisted of perhaps 3,000 officers and men. The RCN was manning six destroyers and seven smaller craft out of Halifax and Esquimalt. While the men of the RCNR had seagoing experience through the merchant navy and the fishing fleets, only a limited number of men from the RCNVR had managed to spend any time in RCN vessels. No reservist from either category that had any significant prewar training or experience in food supply or preparation for large groups could be located for an interview. However, former navy cooks who joined just before and during the course of the war have been interviewed by this author or by other researchers, as have seamen who served with these men and consumed the meals they prepared at sea. This study will examine the validity of the statement quoted in the title. It will look at the victualling and cook trades, the drafts (postings) these men had between 1939 and 1945, the type of trade training they received, the foods they were permitted to order and were given to prepare, the conditions under which they worked in different classes of ships, how the seamen responded to their meals, and the role they played in feeding the men as well as keeping up morale and playing their part in fighting the ship.