HENNESSY, Ralph L.
Vice Admiral (Ret'd)
DSC, CD, RCN, BA
5 September 1918 to 13 June 2014
Crossed the bar, ever so peacefully on 13 June, most cherished and beloved husband of Diana and the late Constance O'Neil, predeceased by his brother LCol Brian Hennessy (Margaret) and sister Joan, much loved Dad of Diana, Michael (Leslie Lahey), Terence and Tim (Dore Vanden Heuvel), and grandfather of Brendan Hennessy and Twyla Heuvel-Bernier.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland he was the eldest son of Col Patrick Hennessy, DSO, MC, Croix de Guerre, Medaille de la reconnaissance Française, and Ellen Robb, and grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson of soldiers.
In August 1936, when he enrolled in the Royal Canadian Navy as an Officer Cadet, he became the first Hennessy in four generations not to serve in the British Army in time of war.
Between 1936 and 1939 he underwent training with the Royal Navy which included service on Non-Intervention Patrols during the Spanish Civil War and on the Africa Station. The former was his first experience facing enemy fire. At the outbreak of World War II he was a newly commissioned Sub-Lieutenant and part of the commissioning crew of HMCS ASSINIBOINE where he spent nearly four years of the war. In August, 1942, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross following ASSINIBOINE's successful surface battle against the German U-boat, U-210 which was presented to him by HM King George VI on May 11, 1943.
Particular war time memories include: his two appointments in command of ASSINIBOINE, the first when he was 24 years old, participating in the early stages of the chase for Bismarck and screening the battleship HMS Prince of Wales with Prime Minister Winston Churchill embarked for the historic meeting off Argentia, Newfoundland to draft the Atlantic Charter and the second was in the final winter of the war.
In 1945 he commissioned the destroyer HMCS MICMAC as her first Commanding Officer. He was promoted Commander in 1948 and served at sea in command of HMCS MICMAC, as Executive Officer of HMCS QUEBEC, and in the rank of Captain as Commander First Canadian Escort Squadron and CO HMCS ALGONQUIN. He also had numerous shore appointments in Ottawa, Halifax and London, England. In London, he served as Deputy Naval Member of the Canadian Joint Liaison Staff and Chairman NATO Military Agency for Standardization. He was appointed to Naval Headquarters in 1958 as Director Naval Training, followed by promotion to Deputy Chief Personnel, then Commodore Personnel Atlantic Coast in 1964.
He returned to the newly established Canadian Forces Headquarters as Member and Chairman of the Minister's Manpower Studies (Officers) and Military Manpower Studies (Men). In July 1966 as the controversial integration and unification of the Canadian Forces was occurring, he was promoted directly from the rank of Commodore to Vice Admiral, serving as Comptroller-General of the Canadian Forces and as Principal Naval Advisor thus being the 11th officer to serve as de facto head of the RCN from 1966 to 1968. He was appointed Chief of Personnel in 1969 before retiring in 1971 after 35 years' service.
His decorations include: The Distinguished Service Cross; The 1939 - 45 Star; The Atlantic Star with France and Germany Clasp; The Defence Medal; The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp; The War Medal 1939 - 45; The Canadian Centennial Medal; The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal; The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, The Canadian Forces' Decoration with two Clasps and the Corps of Commissionaires Medal with three Clasps.
Remembrance Day was always an emotional day for Ralph with memories of his father who was killed in action in Hong Kong in 1941, after surviving the Boer War and WW I and of shipmates who lost their lives. He could never forget the merchant sailors; those they picked up and those they had to leave in the water. They shall not be forgotten and we must never forget the debt we owe all veterans.
Following retirement from the RCN, he was appointed by Order-in-Council as the founding Executive Director of the Standards Council of Canada (Ottawa), in which position he served for 12 years. During this period, he also served as Vice-President of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO, Geneva) from 1976 to 1981, the first Canadian to hold that office.
He was also actively involved in the Corps of Commissionaires Ottawa Branch including two years as Chair of the Board of Governors and subsequently as an Honorary Governor. He is a former President and long-time member of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club. Always learning, in May 1995 he was graduated from the University of Waterloo with a BA in History (Dean's Honours List). Latterly his love of the sea, and that of Diana's, was satisfied through cruising to numerous destinations and reuniting with friends and family from around the world.
He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and friend. As an officer and leader, he took exemplary care of his sailors and their welfare. A consummate gentleman, he epitomized integrity, loyalty and trustworthiness.
The care, attention and love that Dr. Ngo-Minh and his Rideau 1 South team provided Ralph during his four year residence at The Perley Rideau was exceptional. He/they have been consummate professionals who came to love him. From the depth of my heart, my thanks for all of your care, support, and personal kindnesses - Diana.
Friends are invited to visit at the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 315 McLeod Street, Ottawa (at O'Connor) from 1900 - 2100 on Monday 23 June and from 1300 - 1700 on Tuesday 24 June.
The Funeral will take place at 1100 on Wednesday 25 June in the Sacred Space of The Beechwood National Memorial Centre, 280 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa, followed by Interment at The National Military Cemetery and a reception at Beechwood.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, HMCS Sackville, PO Box 99000, Stn Forces, Halifax, NS B3K 5X5 or The Perley Rideau Veterans Health Centre Foundation, 1750 Russell Road, Ottawa, Ontario, K1G 5Z6 would be most appreciated by the family.