Naval  Association  of  Canada

Association navale du Canada 


Salty Dips - the Background

“To spin a dip” is a sailor’s expression meaning, “to tell a story”; “salty” because they are “of the very essence of the sea”. The principal aim of the Salty Dips collection of volumes was to print as many entertaining and informative stories as possible of individuals who have served in the RCN and Canadian Navy.

The idea for Salty Dips came from Hal Lawrence, author of A Bloody War and Tales of the North Atlantic, who was convinced that the personal recollections of Canadian participants in the wars at sea during WW 1 and WW II, and naval operations between wars are valuable to an understanding of Canadian history. In 1979 it was decided to regularly gather small groups of naval veterans in the HMCS BYTOWN Mess to tape-record the reminiscences of a principal narrator and make the recordings available to the Directorate of History, Department of National Defence. Transcripts of the recordings were circulated and before long, the idea came to publish. Salty Dips Volume 1- “When We Were Young and In Our Prime” was printed in 1983 and met with considerable approval by reviewers and success in the marketplace.

Subsequent volumes appeared at irregular intervals. For the most part, the stories in Salty Dips are oral or personally written history, recounted by those who participated in the events described. Although considerable effort has been expended to make sure that the “hard historical” information is correct, Salty Dips accept the fact that memory and research are sometimes faulty, particularly decades after the event. Yet there is much to be learned from these stories, including an idea of the attitudes that allowed rather ordinary men and women to perform extraordinarily under often difficult conditions.

As most of the stories in Volumes 1 through 8 dealt with events that took place before 1965, Volume 9 deliberately attempts to fill in the post-Korea years—more than half of the Navy’s life—to demonstrate that, far from slipping into anonymous inactivity, the Navy, even with reduced resources, has fought other wars, cold and hot, and been involved in a variety of peace-keeping and humanitarian operations around the globe. Volume 9 contains dips demonstrating that the navy didn’t die with Unification and that, despite a reduction in the number of ships and personnel, life in the modern Naval Service could in fact be just as exciting and challenging as it ever had been. As such, Volume 9 contains stories from naval personnel who have participated in modern wars, in multi-national and UN peace-keeping or humanitarian operations, and who have toiled in exotic locations in Asia, Africa, Central America, the Persian Gulf, and Eastern Europe—wherever hostilities or other extreme circumstances demanded.

Unique to the Salty Dips collection, Volume 9 – “Carry On” is available in both hard cover as a table book and in soft cover to complete and complement your collection.

In 2010 the Canadian Navy celebrated its Centennial.  To honour this event, NAC-Ottawa produced a CD containing the nine volumes of the books known as Salty Dips, the first eight revised to include many photographs not in the original printed versions, many new footnotes to help clarify terms and acronyms that are no longer in common use, and indexes. There is also a “master index” to guide the reader through the stories in the nine volumes.

Part of the stated purpose of the Canadian Naval Centennial was to “build and strengthen in Canadians an appreciation of their Navy”. To this end the Salty Dips Centennial Collection CD gathered in one place the reminiscences of men and women who served their country at some time over the last 100 years in the Navy and Merchant Service. These are not stories limited to war; included are many stories of peacetime experiences.

There are interviews with some who were present at the formation of the Royal Canadian Navy and its participation in the First World War. There are Dips by some who witnessed the near abolition of the Navy during the 1920’s and the depression years of the 1930’s. There are wonderful Dips by Veterans of the Second World War and by those who participated in the Korean War, the Cold War, Peacekeeping in Africa, the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan; and yes, many Dips from the years in between.

In 2014 the RCN celebrated the centenary of Canadians who served in submarines; those of the RCN and Canadian Navy, as well as those Canadians who served in those of our Allies principally the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy. As a result, Volume 10 – “An All Round Look” was published. 

 This volume differs from its predecessors in that rather than interview individuals, the Committee went to the submarine community for their stories as well as others who had sailed in submarines as riders, worked ashore in support of submarine projects, logistic support and maintenance activities, and as told through a couple of tales a couple of individuals who went to sea to observe how submariners lived in their underwater environment. Volume 10 is truly a unique collection of stories.

It is anticipated that Volume 11 of Salty Dips will be published in 2021.  Stay tuned for information on how to get your copy

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