Navy

The Sailor statue carries on legacy of retired navy veterans, after group disbands

New ownership of Halifax statue marks end of an era for Atlantic navy vets

A group of retired petty officers and chiefs who spent 30 years preserving the heritage and history of Canada’s navy has disbanded, but not without one final gesture.

The Atlantic Chiefs and Petty Officers Association consisted mostly of retired members of the Royal Canadian Navy, and was inaugurated in 1988. They contributed to many causes, including helping save Halifax music venue The Carleton, when it was slated for demolition in 1992. They ceased operations on Dec. 31, citing low membership and attrition as root causes.

But they leave behind a lasting legacy: a statue.

The Sailor was erected in 1991, at an estimated cost of $300,000, without the use of public funds. Now the association has handed it over to the Halifax Regional Municipality, who will be responsible for its preservation.

The Sailor’s significance

J. Gaylord Kingston served as the association’s president for more than 20 years. He began a career with the Royal Canadian Navy in 1953 and served as a gunnery armour, meaning he prepared, repaired and maintained guns, but never saw combat.

“When I joined in ’53, the Koreans heard I was coming, so they quit,” said Kingston with a grin.

He said The Sailor is the most significant symbol of the organization and is very pleased the HRM has taken over ownership.

“The statue represents going to sea and a devotion to duty,” said Kingston. “The thing about The Sailor is that it is self-maintaining. The weather takes care of him. He’s bronze, he’s not going to rust, he’s not going to fall apart. He’s solid.”

Sailor plaque
Text found at the base of the statue honours Canadian veterans.   Benjamin Wilson

Coun. Waye Mason helped arrange the transfer of ownership.

“The statue is a fitting tribute, to the sailor and the love for the sea, seen by residents and the millions of visitors and tourists who visit our great city,” reads a letter that Mason wrote to the association president.

From Halifax to Londonderry

The statue also had a global influence, inspiring a replica statue in Londonderry, Ireland. The main difference between the two is that the statue in Halifax depicts a cheerful sailor headed to sea, while Londonderry’s has a grizzled man returning home.

Kingston said the decision to end the association was difficult.

“We had gone down from 1,400 strong in the early ’90’s, to less than 400 across the country,” he said.

As of 2011, the Royal Canadian Navy consists of 8,500 regular and 5,100 reserve sailors, as well as 5,300 civilian personnel.

Modern times and a new navy

Kingston said modern technology and culture changes were main factors in the group’s inability to secure new members.

“We were the wavy navy. We were paid less, but made our own fun. Now, the new navy as we call it, doesn’t have much interest in tradition or history,” said Kingston.

28 comments

  1. Sad to see the Association close. That statue will be a wonderful everlasting memorial to those who went to the sea to serve their country.

  2. It is a very good article by Ben Wilson. However, it must be noted that the credit given to retired naval officers for the Sailor is misplaced. It was the Atlantic Chief and Petty Officers Association that was responsible for the Sailor’s existence.

  3. How sad to see the Association die. At least the monument will stay to remind of the sacrifice and dedication to their country and the RCN shown by the Association members.

  4. Sad thing to here. I was one of a group who joined in 1988 (number 115) I knew the gaylord and sailed with him on the terrible Nova LOL God speed all hairasses who conducted their business with our great assn.

    Bill Venator retired C2SN

  5. I’m sad to read of this but hope the statue will be as looked after as they did.
    The statue means so much to me as my father who was a Royal Navy sailor from 1942 on Atlantic Convoys between Derry Halifax and St John’s.
    This statue, of which I was so excited to find in Halifax and have taken many photographs, reminds me so much of him and all the sailors that served.

  6. As far as I know, being a member, the West Coast Chiefs and Petty Officers is still active, though our numbers are also diminishing.
    As well, there is a similar though slightly different statue,located near the Inner Harbour in Victoria.

  7. I am so very sorry to see this organization come to the final end. You all need to be so very proud of the achievements over the years. The comradeship over that period of time as well. You maintained the corporate knowledge, and plodded on to new and more adventurous things, like the hotel and the Statue. I am so very glad to see the City will realize the importance of this statue and it’s contribution to the city, which is yours as well. Gaylord over the years you steered this organization along with the likes of many others too numerous to mention. I have been honored to speak at your meetings, and was proud and still am of the tie you gave me. Fair Winds and Following Seas, and from a younger generation of C & PO, thanks you for all you have done for us over the many years you have been here. Cheers mates.

  8. My time with the Association was from a distance as I lived many miles outside Halifax. It was a sad time when our association folded however the new breed of sailor had no interest and the old salts were fading away.
    My thanks to Gaylord (former shipmate) and his team for their dedication in holding the association together this long.

    Douglas Moore, RCN Ret’d Middleton formerly of Cornwallis

  9. Hi Gaylord. Remember me? I was your CO in Skeena and you were my senior WS. Remember with great fondness your sense of humour. Did you really hail from Trois Pistoles? I seem to think this was your signature line.

    Congratulations for this fine work. I wish I had known. It is indeed a magnificent legacy. I have a great photo of self taken beside it on a recent visit to slackers. Gladly send you a copy if you are interested.

    In any event I would be most pleased to hear from you. I am now 73 and suspect you are in the bracket high. Some of our shipmates are already gone. Ray Beauchamp, the RP was the last one I heard of.

    Health is good, retired to sunny Queensland in Australi.

    Keep well old friend,

    Yours Aye,

    Steve Foldesi, CAPT RCN retd, RAN retd

  10. So very sad to hear this news. These are tough times for Canada’s navy, so few ships, so few sailors and so little concern by government and more importantly the public at large.

  11. I wish I had heard of the Association.I was in from 53 to 74.I knew the Gaylord well.I was a torpedo armourer.We never sailed together but knew one another well.If anyone knows where John is would really like to know.I sure would have become a member.

    1. So sorry to hear of the closing of the Chiefs and Petty Officers association.
      I had the pleasure to meet
      Gaylord when I was an Officer
      At HMCS Acadia. My daughter was the first Sea Cadet to receive a school scholarship
      From the association. Many thanks for your hard work and dedication in keeping the RCN
      alive. Bravo Zulu !!!

  12. This is an institution that shod be saved. There must be some way that it can be preserved. I for one would like to ask anyone to join me in resurrecting this association…

  13. Thank you going out to all former members of the Atlantic Chiefs and POs Assn for this great lasting tribute to those who served. Thank you also HRM for taking custody of our lad.

  14. I have this statue for 20 years now wood never part with it ,it is the real meaning of how it was in those days kit bags and a hammock then after that two kit bags to carry up the hill to Stad sorry to hear this is happening I will never part with mine Nov. 6 1957 first ship HMCS Crusader

  15. “As long as they and their deeds are remembered they shall not die.” The statue helps keep the memory and each and every one of them alive. It’s up to us to do whatever we can so preserve, honour and cherish their memories. The final entry in my father’s record of service from WWII ends with the somber line, “Has service on the High Seas.” Nothing more needs be said.

  16. Sad to hear the C&PO association has folded. This is the first I’ve heard of it as well. I agree, the “new” navy doesn’t care for history or tradition, it’s pretty evident. Even the legion is being run by a bunch of unqualified civvies with their own agendas.

  17. Just my opinion … I spent 30 years in the Royal Canadian Navy, I retired in 2007 as a Chief Petty Officer. The Generation before me had very little in their lives outside the Navy and held on any way possible. The ACPOA was a way to hang around with like minded people and “relive” the old days. My Generation had lives outside the Navy, and when we retired we moved on past “the old days”. The ACPOA did some great things, I will not take that away from them, but life moves on, that is what my generation did … “moved on” with our lives. My generation did not sit around all day at work drinking and socializing while the young lads worked their guts out. As a Junior, that annoyed me greatly and in fact a lot of them were just plain abusive to a lot of us who weren’t their drinking buddy. SOCIETY CHANGED! I do not regret a second of my Service, I had some good as well as bad times … BUT they were ALL GOOD TIMES. My Generation has moved on with our lives and families. IMHO, this is why Membership declined so quickly. The Generation before me were LIFERS, for the most part so was my Generation, but retired early to other careers. Today’s Generation for the most part look at their Service as a job, or an end to a means, and leave much sooner then the generations pervious.

  18. IT IS A SAD DAY INDEED TO LEARN OF THE CEASING OF OPERATIONS OF SUCH A GREAT ORGANIZATION.I ; FOR ONE WILL BE FOREVER REMINDED OF THIS ORGANIZATION, EVERY TIME I PASS BY THE SAILOR’S MONUMENT IN SACKVILLE LANDING.
    THIS MONUMENT MEANS AND GHAS AND WILL FOREVER MORE MEAN SO MUCH TO ME EVER SINCE IT WAS ERECTED IN 1991. MY ELDEST BROTHER MANSELL A, MEADE WAS A PROUD MEMBER OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVAL VOLUNTEER RESERVE WHO DURING THE DARKEST DAYS OF WW11 ON CONVOY DUTIES ON THE NORTH ATLANTIC ON BOARD HMCS SACKVILLE, BETWEEN HALIFAX AND LONDONDERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND. THANK YOU THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART ” THE ATLANTIC CHIEFS AND PETTY OFFICERS ASSOCIATION” FOR ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE TO HELP KEEP ETCHED IN OUR MEMORIES THE ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY AND ALL ITS MEMBERS PAST AND PRESENT WHO HAVE MADE THIS OLD NAVAL CITY PROUD OF ITS HERITAGE AND I WISH ALL PAST AND FORMER MEMBERS OF THIS ORGANIZATION GOD’S SPEED AND KNOW THAT THIS ONE HALIGONIAN WII BE FOREVER IN YOUR DEBT.MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND MAY GOD BLESS THIS GREAT COUNTRY- CANADA.

    1. Could not agree with you more Gerry (Gerald) Meade… and my father (Claude W.S.Ranson) served aboard Sackville for the majority of the War, so was probably a shipmate of your brother…

  19. So very sorry to read this. I had no idea the Association was so depleted of membership. A sad day.

Comments are closed.