Gerry Tarum

Tags:  histories written 
Author: Gerry Tarum
Published: Apr 22nd 2017
Updated: 4 years ago

Preamble: This is a Written History.

Technical History of LCDR (ret’d) G. S. Tarum, Combat Systems Engineer from 1962 to 2010.

This is a description of the employment of a small team of technical personnel led by LCDR G. Tarum responsible for installation and maintenance of communications and other electronic systems associated with DDH 280 and AOR Class ships. This also included maintenance support of all ship borne systems and equipment. Time period was from 1962 to 2010.

Aboard HMCS CAPE SCOTT Jul 1962 to 1965 (Rank PlLT4) - we conducted trials of Combat Systems, primarily Radar Repeaters and Navigational Aids, on ships coming out of refit or regular operational Sea Trials where I was the designated expert. I also directed installation of 500 Watt HF radios in 205 Class ships which were under conversion. This installation was normally performed by HMC Dockyard Halifax, but with the assistance of ships staff we completed seven installations successfully in half the time normally taken.

During 1962 HMCS CAPE SCOTT went into a minor refit in Lauzon at Davie Shipyard and the communications and Radar equipment was updated and set-to-work by myself. At that time I also installed a 500 Watt HF radio with Dockyard assistance.

When HMCS CAPE SCOTT sailed to Easter Island to take a team of experts to look at the historical figures myself and two other technicians manufactured six sets of cables used for installation of a Sonar System in Air Force Surveillance Aircraft. This was a Task that had been contracted out previously. There was considerable pressure exerted to make sure Naval Technicians could perform the manufacture based on drawings provided by NDHQ. We successfully completed the cables in less time than allotted and the systems were installed and performed successfully. While in Halifax, HMCS CAPE SCOTT accompanied the fleet on spring exercises in the Bermuda area and repair parties completed repairs on all systems which would normally be done by the Dockyard. During the exercises I was in charge of the Electronics repair party from HMCS CAPE SCOTT and not only did repairs on all electronic systems but conducted trials on systems in the accompanying ships.

In April of 1965 I was promoted to Commissioned Officer and after an Officers Training course in CFB Cornwallis was posted to the Electrical Division at Fleet School. I was employed as an instructor in Communications and Radar equipment and was designated as the Divisional Officer for all electronic technicians on course in the Fleet School. This in itself was a full time job. I was the MARCOM representative when NDHQ eliminated the Electronic Technician (LT) trade and made all technical personnel User/Maintainers. The decision to eliminate LT’s was made by NDHQ and an Air Force officer delivered the message to me. I informed all LT’s on course for whom I was their Divisional Officer and it caused a lot of discussion with the Admiral (MARCOM). A lot of upset was caused among existing LT’s and many problems were caused by introducing personnel from User trades into the new User/Maintainer trade with people who had very little technical training. Several ex-Radar Plotters (RP) operators were injured working on High Power HF Transmitters and one was reported to have been killed from touching the live antenna of a 500 Watt transmitter while it was operating.

In April of 1967 I was posted to NDHQ Ottawa as a DMCS-6 communications project officer. I was the project officer for the design, drawings, procurement, installation, set-to-work and trials of communications equipment for DDH 280, AOR (HMCS PRESERVER and PROTECTEUR), Auxiliary vessels and 257 Conversion Ships. In addition I conducted installation and set-to-work of Communications equipment in HMCS OKANAGAN and ONONDAGA (0 Class submarines) at the RN Chatham Dockyard in the UK. There were considerable problems with drawings because the Chatham Drawing Office was responsible for making working drawings without any experience in Canadian drawing standards. Installation of the HF radio transmitter on ONONDAGA was delayed a week due to an error in the remote control drawing which had been prepared by Chatham Drawing Office. This error was very difficult to find and required many hours of additional night time work for myself finally determining that ash from a cigarette made a “U” look like a “W” when the drawing was printed out for the Remote Control box of the AN/ARC 505.

The installation of equipment during the build of the DDH 280’s over the period 1969 to 1975 at Sorel and Lauzon was a very demanding task. I obtained two large trailers from the Air Force which were set up as work shops at MIL in Sorel and Davie Shipyard in Lauzon. I had two Chief LT’s, one at each shipyard, who were on site to resolve problems and assist in setting up the command console. The LT’s were posted to the RNO establishment and administered by them. We did initial testing of the new UHF radios in the trailers before installation and also any other communications equipment that required repairs during trials. I was able to get several of the standby ships crews to help with set-to-work and they were a very good addition to the team. The communications console was very problematic, particularly for HMCS ATHABASKAN in Lauzon. All the multi-pin connectors had been installed by electricians from the construction industry who had no experience with installation of 35 pin connectors. As a result, during an extremely hot two weeks in August, when the shipyard closed for vacation, myself and the team removed and re-installed every connector before the console would perform to specs. The other three ships had some problems but nothing like HMCS ATHABASKAN however, when she went for Acceptance sea trials the Communication Systems performed totally to operational requirements it was the only system that performed perfectly. It was not the same for 3 or four of the other systems. The Machinery Control System broke down several times during trials, the gas turbine engine did not work and had to be replaced and the ship was dead in the water several times due to other equipment breakdowns.

I was on travel status from DMCS 6 while my family remained in Ottawa and I travelled back and forth from Ottawa on weekends. I lived in a trailer while in Quebec and my wife was left in Ottawa for a total of 4.5 years with three children to bring up. In the winter of 1971, 186.6 inches of snow fell and travel by car back and forth was very risky at times.

During the build of CFAV QUEST in 1968 I designed and purchased a communications system for the vessel and did the set-to-work and trials in Vancouver. The system was based on merchant marine equipment and there were considerable problems getting it to work to the different standards. The wire antennas for transmission required modification in order to get maximum output during set-to-work trials. Sea trials were completed several months later by the Dockyard and the complete system worked as required.

The crypto system in 257 Conversion ships, being converted in HMC Dockyard Victoria at the same time, experienced a lot of problems and required considerable overtime effort. The team of myself and personnel from the Dockyard Crypto shop figured out all design problems and got the system operational. This helped tremendously for the other conversion ships.

In June of 1973 I was posted to the Electrical Engineering section (LENO) of Ship Repair Unit. My responsibilities were associated with evaluation and resolution of problems reported in failure reports in Combat Systems from all classes of ships and auxiliary vessels. I also conducted sea trials on a prototype sounding receiver developed by Defence Research Establishment Ottawa (DREO) and fitted on HMCS FRASER during a port visit to Lunenburg. While FRASER was approaching I was able to get a ride on the ships helicopter which flew over Lunenburg to drop leaflets announcing the ships visit and open house. The trial was successful and I did a second evaluation of the receiver in HMCS PROTECTEUR during a supply mission to a French Village in Haiti. The ship was loaded with school supplies, desks etc., for a school which was being built by the Catholic church. There were also considerable medical supplies and canned food as well as telephone poles to get power to the church. The ship’s doctor and dentist held a two-day clinic where they diagnosed numerous cases of TB and pulled hundreds of teeth. The night before the ship sailed for home the natives held a party for the crew with food that consisted of a goat and rice barbecue with garbage pails full of over proof rum. Needless to say it was quite a party. We had stopped in Norfolk on the way to Haiti and the ship had a St. Patrick’s Day party with green beer for invited guests from the naval Dockyard. Also quite a party! The sounding receiver passed the set-to-work trials successfully.

I went to sea for a week in HMCS ONONDAGA, off Osborne Head Gunnery Range, to perform an antenna pattern test on their HF antenna mast. What an experience. On the way out of Halifax harbour, during the first dive, the cover on the emergency escape hatch came loose and the sub had to do an emergency surface. We sat on the surface bobbing around for 11 hours while a tug came out to tow us back into harbour. We sailed again the next day without any problems. It was like living in a travel trailer. All the officers slept and ate in a small room and everything had to be put away after being used. I slept on the couch where everyone sat while eating. For being aboard ONONDAGA I became an honorary submariner. We also had problems doing the antenna pattern because of the old system at Osborne Head, but completed the trial. Everyone at home said I smelled like diesel oil when I got back.

I was informed in May of 1975 that I was to be posted to Fleet Maintenance Group (FMG) as the Senior Repair Officer (SRO) and Project Manager for the movement of all FMG equipment from CAPE SCOTT to a new facility adjacent to the Submarine Squadron. Prior to going to FMG I attended a 60-day computer programming course on the underwater Combat System at Combined Support Division. I learned all about the SQS-501 and also that I did not want to be a computer programmer. Prior to my appointment to FMG I also presented a military paper to MARCOM on the concept of amalgamation of three agencies consisting of technicians on disability status doing trials and awaiting postings. I submitted my documentation to MARCOM and I was given the task of implementing my recommendations while I was moving FMG from HMCS CAPE SCOTT to a workshop within HMC Dockyard and getting it up and running. I visited NDHQ to discuss filling the 110 billets which existed on paper and was quite successful.

In July of 1975 I took over as SRO and Deputy Commanding Officer of FMG. The move of all repair equipment, including a foundry, took six months and it was a very demanding job for myself and several senior chiefs. But once all the delays, associated with getting efficient Dockyard assistance were finished, FMG was in business. The facility was opened by the NATO chairman and eventually designated as a NATO repair facility which provided support to STANAVFORLANT in Halifax, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and other US ports by repair party whenever required. With DDH 280 FMG technicians and total support from the Admiral in Maritime Command we were able to perform tasks that sailors had never done before. This included a snort mast replacement in a submarine, main feed pumps in destroyers (including one from a NATO nation), rewind of electric motors, temporary repair of superstructure on an AOR after an accident in Puerto Rico, and replacement of obsolete parts on pumps and motors by moulding new parts in the foundry. We also produced all ships badges and memorabilia presented by ship’s captains to visiting ships and dignitaries.

FMG sent repair parties for technical support during major exercises, when designated by MARCOM and the capabilities of the shipwrights on site, after the accident in Puerto Rico where HMCS PROTECTEUR ran into a jetty, proved to be outstanding. I was observing the benefits of repair parties and was able to provide guidance and support to the team. My report to Senior Officers in MARCOM on return to Halifax was well received.

We received numerous commendations and my Engineer officer (Lt (N) Duncan Leslie) was awarded the Order of Military Merit for his outstanding capabilities. After three years FMG had proven that sailors can perform any repair required to keep the fleet operational. There were a lot of complaints from SRU about FMG taking jobs away and FMG was eventually disbanded and the personnel moved to the Ship Repair Unit.

After three years at FMG I was posted to NDHQ (July 1978) as section head of DMCS 8, an Electronic Warfare Engineering section of eight engineers. It was very interesting because the CANEWS EW system was under development to combat the threat faced from the Warsaw Pact. I attended several EW courses in Europe and became involved with NATO’s Project Group 25. Group 25 was to design and purchase mobile vans which simulated the Warsaw Pact electronic signature and were to be carried on NATO ships for training operational staff. While at the first meeting of Group 25 I met the RN Captain who had been selected as the Group’s Head. He was looking for an engineer to help set the team up in RNAS Yeovilton to design, purchase, and get the team operational in a hangar in Yeovilton. He knew I had the right background and experience and asked me if I was interested and I was. I returned to Ottawa and was able to find an available temporary billet from DMCS and do the necessary paper work to get posted for three years to the Maritime Electronic Warfare Support Group (MEWSG) at RNAS Yeovilton. I was the project engineer responsible for preparing the van specifications, buying the equipment through the Royal Navy, designing and setting up the equipment facilities and being the maintenance officer once the project was in operation. The personnel had not been identified and were intended to come primarily from the USN out of FEWSG in Norfolk Virginia.

Two of the potential staff, myself and a US Navy commander were stationed at Northwood, UK, CINCHAN headquarters, and spent many hours making sure the personnel had all been identified, contracts issued for vans and equipment, and making sure workshop and equipment facilities were ready to go. We also spent a lot of time in Brussels solving many problems associated with establishing a new project and finally preparing to return to Canada. The MEWSG project became operational around 1985 but was disbanded when the Cold War ended.

I was posted to the Canadian Patrol Frigate (CPF) program in July 1983 as the manager of the maintenance team set up to resolve any problems during construction. It was a job that was exactly the same as I had done several times before so when Sperry offered me a marketing job associated with the CPF program. I resigned from the Navy and joined Sperry, managing CPF support services for sale to Paramax. Sperry had a contract to design and build distribution and control boxes for all systems in the CPF. These boxes were designed and built at the Sperry plant in Rockland, ON and I was involved in the contract negotiations with Paramax and after success with negotiations regarding price and delivery I assisted with the design, testing and installation of 40 or 50 individual boxes for each CPF. I also was tasked with selling airborne equipment built by Sperry in Phoenix Arizona and was successful in selling airborne navigation systems to the Canadian Air Force for their helicopters.

In June of 1986 I was hired by Computing Devices as a military marketing manager for the Standard Display which they were in final negotiations with Litton Systems and DND for sale to the Navy for the DDH 280 ships for the Tribal Class Update and Modernization Project (TRUMP). There were considerable problems with the final design of the display and I was involved in helping with resolution of the associated computer problems. We did final testing of the display in the Paramax CPF training facility in Montreal and the Standard Display was installed in all 280’s and subsequently in the Canadian Patrol Frigate.

In 1994 I went to work for ADGA working on closure of the Naval Radio Station in Newport Corners, NS. Then shifted to Coast Guard projects such as the study of the maintenance procedures being used by Coast Guard technicians, wrote a manual for Director General Ships (DGS) and several proposals, including costs, to Coast Guard HQ for new ships. While working for ADGA a problem was identified with the cataloguing of the remotely controlled surface target (Barracuda) built by Meggitt in Alberta and used by the Navy for training operational personnel. I was asked to take on this responsibility and until July 2010 re-wrote the systems manual and catalogued every item for entry into the stores system. Prior to that I had not been involved in cataloguing so had quite a task ahead of me which I in fact completed. In July of 2010 I was let go by Meggitt due to a misunderstanding and decided to stop working for DND. I was 75 years old and was ready for retirement.

November 2016