About the CNTHA

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Author: Don Wilson
Published: Jul 17th 2009
Updated: 6 days ago

The Canadian Naval Technical History Association (CNTHA) is made up of a group of volunteers, many of whom are retired Naval Engineers. There is a great deal of energy around Committee tables, taking advantage of the considerable knowledge and experience available. Over the past number of years, the CNTHA group - more specifically the CANDIB Project group - has provided valuable information to be included in the Collection and lodged with DND’s Department of History and Heritage.

At the end of July 2004, steps were taken to register the ‘cntha.ca’ domain and subsequently the CNTHA website was moved to its own home. The Canadian Naval History Association website is now operating under its own name and with our own website. Visitors will find our comments page where you can reach us to discuss joining the group. There is no cost for joining.

The Canadian Naval Technical History Association (CNTHA) is a volunteer organization working in support of the Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH) in Canada’s Department of National Defence. DHH has an ongoing project to capture and preserve our country’s naval technical history. Interested persons may become members of the CNTHA by contacting DHH or the CNTHA Chair, Pat Barnhouse.

A prime purpose of the CNTHA is to make its information available to researchers and casual readers alike. So how can you get to read some of it? For the moment there is only one physical copy of the Collection situated at the Directorate of History and Heritage located at 2429 Holly Lane. For a description of its contents please see The CNTHA Collection.

Earlier writings

Several years ago, our former CNTHA Chair, Mike Saker, wrote the following for the CNTHA Newsletter:

New group to look at Navy’s industrial history.

In late November a group of about 20 interested people gathered in downtown Ottawa for a special meeting of the Canadian Naval Technical History Association. In addition to many of our usual members, half a dozen new participants joined us at the request of Rolfe Monteith to discuss the challenge of assembling the story of the industrial side of our naval technical heritage. As many of you know, Rolfe is one of our Association’s founding fathers, but to me he also represents our conscience. When Rolfe calls from somewhere in England, asking “How’s it going?” things tend to get going as a result! This occasion was one such event. While it is still early days, a core of interested people has started to construct a framework around which the history of Canada.s naval industry can be preserved. I am most pleased to see this new initiative. Those currently engaged in this activity are: Don Jones (group leader), Doug Hearnshaw, Colin Brown, Gord Moyer and Brian McNally.

Alas, another of our founding members, Phil Munro, has announced that he will be stepping down from the executive of the CNTHA. Over the years, Phil has performed sterling duty in managing our ever-growing collection of documents. On behalf of the Association, I want to thank Phil for his service and guidance along the way. We hope that he will be able to continue to participate in our meetings.

Canadian Naval Defence Industrial Base (CANDIB) Research Project

A group established to organize and coordinate the gathering of historically interesting information, data and the anecdotal recollections of participants in the Defence Industrial Base developed in Canada in response to Canadian Naval requirements in the period from 1950 to 2003. The role of the Team portrayed here is to establish realistic goals for the Project, set guidelines for the gathering of information, determine the manner in which the information will be stored and made accessible and to gather together an array ofsubject Team Leaders to manage the collection of information for each of the areas of activity in which the navy’s activities impacted the industrial base throughout this period.

The CANDIB Mission Statement:

To document the development of the Canadian industrial base as it evolved in support of warship construction and naval equipment programs between 1930 and 2003, and the affects these programs had on that industrial base.

Earlier the CANDIB Project Team was Chaired by Ron Rhodenizer who, unfortunately passed away at an early age - having placed his stamp on the Team, its objectives and method of operation. The Chair was then taken up by Tony Thatcher who continues to this day as Chair.

Other Work Groups

At a meeting in the fall of 2009, it was decided to roll CANDIB and all other working groups together under the overall umbrella of CNTHA. Henceforth, CANDIB would become a Working Group and continue its work related to the Naval Defence Industrial Base. Another working group formed in 2009 to conduct research related to Combat Systems.

It is anticipated there will be other groups formed in the future to embrace other systems that make up Naval ships. Site visitors are invited to browse the Working Groups menu item.

The CNTHA Goals

A. To collect and document information on Canada’s Naval technical history with a focus on:

  1. Progression of the use of new or different technology in naval technical activities;
  2. Effects of the Navy’s procurement and construction activities on the defence industry;
  3. Technical infrastructure supporting naval platforms and equipment (standards, QA, project management, procurement approach, documentation, ship repair unit, etc.); and
  4. Recruitment, training and development of Naval engineers.

B. Increase accessibility to Canada’s Naval technical history.

Goals A1 through 4 will be achieved through the Oral History program and the Working Groups.
Goal B will be achieved through the CNTHA website and through various communications activities.

CNTHA is trying to capture unique Canadian technology such as equipment integration, design, application of foreign technology. Many projects actually occurred outside DND’s normal project approval process and hence are not documented. We want to record innovative steps and unique technical development while the information is available from the people that were involved. Any relevant information, documentation and the like is gathered and stored in the CNTHA Colletion at the Directorate of History and Heritage.

“Canadian” is interpreted to be work done in Canada rather than by Canadian companies as most defence industries are multinational.

It has been stated that CNTHA has two customers, DND’s Directorate of History & Heritage and individuals who want to write articles about naval history.

A CNTHA Strategic planning discussion, held on 19 April 2012, noted the following:

  1. It was considered ideal if CNTHA “does itself out of a job” by ensuring the Navy is doing all the right things in preserving history.
  2. It would be worthwhile checking if the Government of Canada Archive Act had any relevant guidance in preserving history.
  3. CNTHA should establish ongoing lectures on history to be given in Fleet School/CFNES. A 10 minute writing challenge and giving out mementos also were suggested.
  4. Continue with the ongoing projects.
  5. The MARI-Tech paper provided a good high level view of naval technology evolution.
  6. CNTHA should produce an e-brochure that could be sent out every 2 months to persons of interest in industry, DMRS and DGMEPM. It would be short, quickly readable and continually changing, have a theme. It could include a trivia question, historical article of the month; include a contest, mascot and pictures.
  7. The Strategic Plan should be reviewed regularly. This was reaffirmed by the committee Apr 13.

It has been suggested that CNTHA become more active in the technical organizations within the Navy. With this in mind, ongoing discussions with the Maritime Equipment Program Management Division (MEPM) led to the drafting of a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation designed to encourage the establishment of a culture in which naval technical history is preserved and made accessible to future generations. In June, 2017 the MOU was signed by Commodore Simon Page, DGMEPM and Pat Barnhouse, CNTHA Chairman. The resulting cooperative effort is certain to ensure CNTHA will become better informed of activities and events of significance to ensure these events are captured and shared. It is clear that the MOU will benefit both the MEPM Division and CNTHA.

Our website

As noted above, the CNTHA website had its beginnings in 2004. A cms-based website was built by Webmaster Don Wilson, using readily available open source software (Joomla). Over time it became apparent that such sites are quite vulnerable to intrusion and it was decided to find a more secure alternative. In due course - in 2017 - the Webmaster’s son Jeff Wilson undertook to rebuild the site using more current static website technology. The result is a much more intrusion-resistant website that is expected to be more stable and able to withstand all challenges.

The CNTHA collection of Oral and Written Histories continues to grow. The Histories are broken down into three groups:

  1. Transcribed Histories;
  2. Recorded (Oral) Histories; and
  3. Written Histories.

Contributors and website visitors alike should be aware that the Webmaster does, on occasion, find reason to make minor amendments to the website entry. When this happens, the change will be contained in brackets as follows [ , ed] following the change.

Website challenges

Our intrepid website developer and host and the Webmaster took the time to write about the CNTHA website overhaul. Avid readers of the Maritime Engineering Journals and their CNTHA Newsletter centrefolds will find the report was previously published as the feature CNTHA Newsletter article in the Summer 2016 issue of the Journal.

Readers will find this report interesting, recognizing that some editing was done for the website version.