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DEMS at War! BookDEMS at War!

by Max Reid

D.E.M.S. and the Battle of the Atlantic 1939 - 1945

Leading Seaman Max Reid was “killick” of my mess when, as ordinary seamen in the University Naval Training Division in the summer of 1947, a group of neophytes first went to sea in a Canadian naval ship. He nursed us through two weeks of misery and delight (HMCS Nootka sailed in a full gale, and Number 1 mess adjoined the paint locker, just about as far forward as it was possible to go below decks, but the sun-washed houses and beaches of Bermuda compensated for the seasickness we had endured), and certainly taught me far more than I then realized about the sea and the service. Later, when he was the Torpedo and Anti-Submarine officer in both HMCS Ottawa and Kootenay, and I the navigating officer, Lieutenant COMMANDER Max Reid coached me successfully for Command Exams in his field of expertise. Now Captain Reid, RCN (Ret’d), has once more given me, as an official historian preparing a history of Canadian naval operations during the second World War, the much needed benefit of his experience and wisdom. This short account of Canadian contributions to Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) in the Second World War provides valuable insights, and leads to new material, for the historian. Equally important, it places on record, for all to read, the unsung activities of youngsters thrown more or less unceremoniously into an unfamiliar and often frightening world of seafaring men. He has opened up a most interesting subject, and I hope his efforts will lead to more being written about these men and what they endured.
Commander W.A.B. Douglas RCN (Ret’d)
Director, Directorate of History, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa


Max Reid joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve from North Bay, Ontario in early 1943. After training as a Seaman Gunner DEMS he served in the SS PRINCESS JOAN, SS BEATON PARK, SS DUNLOP PARK and the Norwegian freighter MV RIO BRANCO. At the end of the war he was a Leading Seaman/Gunlayer DEMS and transferred to the regular navy. In 1949 he was commissioned from the rank of Petty Officer and subsequently specialized in anti-submarine warfare.
During his regular navy career he served in nine Canadian warships, including command of H.M.C. Ships LANARK and TERRA NOVA. He retired in 1974, but remained in the Naval Reserve as a Convoy Commodore. Captain (N) (R) Reid is an Officer of the Order of Military Merit and holds the Canada Defense Medal with three Clasps, Victory Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Stars for the Battle of the Atlantic, Pacific, Burma and 1939 to ’45.
As of this writing, he was a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of External Affairs and served in Washington, D.C. as the Counsellor Defense Programs.

Commoners’ Men's History ISBN 978-88970-079-6 $14.95