I REMEMBER: 2399 BILL LANDYMORE
As captain of HMCS Iroquois, he knew every sailor by name
RCNC016 CHRISTOPHER PRATT
Christopher Pratt, captain (RCN) retired, writes about Admiral Bill Landymore, whose obituary appeared Dec. 15 in The Globe and Mail.
Not one person who knew him would be able to write a full memoir of Bill Landymore’s long and eventful life. Although short in stature (as many admirals seem to have been), he was oversized in every other dimension, from the depth of his parade ground voice to the breadth of his generous heart. His classmates at RMC nicknamed him “shadow,” but he was no shadow in real life, in which he was always the embodiment of all three elements of the RMC motto: “Truth, Duty, Valour.”
Above all, he lived in the knowledge that morale is the key to success. No “popularity Jack,” he was instead imbued with the “Nelson touch,” that ability to motivate and bring out the very best in his men. He worked in subtle ways to make the rigours of life at sea more tolerable. While in command of HMCS Iroquois in Korean waters, he could address every sailor on board by name and knew their family circumstances.
Small wonder that his sudden forced retirement came as a shock to the fleet. After defence minister Paul Hellyer told him to retire, he considered taking drastic action. On the flight back to Halifax, he told me that he had thought of asking for a court martial, which would have brought the whole conflict into the open. He was prevented by the thought that might result in destroying the very thing he was trying to preserve – the identity of the navy during the process of unification.Nobody who was there will forget the scene in the Halifax dockyard on the day of his departure. Had he so much as lifted a finger, the sailors would have walked ashore in protest. Instead, in his farewell message (I still have his handwritten draft), he told the sailors to stand fast and do their best to keep the naval spirit alive. The sendoff was tumultuous. Flags flew from every yardarm, sailors cheered and the band played. It was a day in history.
Lacking self importance, he laid aside his rank after his retirement and asked to be called Bill. And behind his bluff exterior lay a mind that was always ready to have some fun. One time, he startled a meeting of the staid Naval Officers Association in Toronto by arriving in a Beatles wig.
He spent his retirement on his farm overlooking the sea, and gave himself to raising funds for charities and serving on a hospital board. And even when he himself became a hospital patient, with his hearing gone and his memory sometimes failing, his courtesy never failed. Not long ago, a friend of mine who is a retired chief petty officer stopped by to pay a visit. The admiral looked at him and announced, “McBride … radar plotter … Iroquois.”
Fraser McKee of Toronto also writes about Bill Landymore.
About three years after his spectacular firing by Paul Hellyer, I was serving as the local president of the Naval Officers Association and decided to call Adm. Landymore to see if he would be a speaker at a forthcoming dinner and review his feelings after events.
I spoke to Mrs. Landymore in Nova Scotia who said he wasn’t available just then. When pressed, she advised that he was at Grace Hospital in Halifax. When I expressed concern, she laughed and said he was working in the laundry. It seems the hospital services staff were on strike, and the board members, including the admiral, were voluntarily filling in.
When I did reach him a few days later, he said he no longer discussed unification publicly. “That would simply cause problems for the current maritime commander,” he told me. “I’ve made my point, and the commander’s job is difficult enough without me adding fuel to the fire.”
Not only was Bill Landymore a dedicated naval commander, but he was prepared to step in and help at any level and yet not contribute to the difficulties of others.