Canadian warships ‘pay off’, not decommission

Naval historian – With respect to the recent article by T.W. Paterson entitled “Second HMCS (sic) Annapolis is making waves off B.C.’s rain coast”, may I point out to you that Mr. Paterson certainly did his research.

From the naval point of view, however, may I note two commonly made mistakes in his article? First, HMC ships “pay off”. American warships decommission. The term “to pay off” originally referred to the seamen being paid their back wages and it came to be applied to the ship herself. This term can be dated back several centuries and is still in use in the RCN.

Second, when a Canadian warship is placed in commission, she receives among other things, the title “HMCS”. When she pays off, she loses this title and simply becomes “the former (Canadian) destroyer” Annapolis. Technically, therefore, “HMCS Annapolis” no longer exists and hasn’t since she paid off in 1996, the year I retired.

Please pass my regards to Mr. Paterson on an otherwise very fine article.

David J Freeman David J Freeman LCdr, RCN (Ret’d) Naval historian Naval historian