Hugh Leir was born on 19 November 1921 into a large, well established
family in Penticton, BC (the family home, known as Leir House, is now
a community cultural and arts centre in Penticton). Rear-Admiral Leir
rose in the navy's ranks over a remarkable career that included witnessing
some of the most dramatic naval battles of WWII and surviving the horrors
of being a Japanese POW for three years. In 1940, upon finishing his
schooling at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, he joined the
Royal Canadian Navy as a cadet. He received his initial naval training
at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England, before joining the
Royal Navy's fleet at sea.
service at sea during the Second World War as a member of the Ship's
Company of the newly commissioned battleship HMS PRINCE of WALES included
the engagement between that ship, in company with the redoubtable battlecruiser
HMS HOOD, and the German battleship BISMARCK and heavy cruiser PRINZ
EUGEN. That sea battle saw the HOOD blown up and PRINCE of WALES badly
damaged. Later that same year of 1941, while still serving in HMS PRINCE
of WALES, he survived the sinking of that battleship in company with
the battlecruiser REPULSE by Japanese land-based aircraft off Malaya.
to the cruiser HMS EXETER he survived the sinking of that ship by Japanese
carrier aircraft in the Indian Ocean and was taken prisoner. He spent
the next three years in Japanese POW camps while officially listed as
killed in action. Upon his liberation in 1945 by allied forces he calculated
what his rank should be by that point and duly promoted himself accordingly
having informed Royal Naval authorities that he was indeed alive!
In the post war
years Rear Admiral Leir served in the Royal Canadian Navy in five destroyers
and two frigates,including Korean War service in HMCS ATHABASKAN. He
commanded HMCS CRUSADER, a destroyer and served as the Executive Officer
of the aircraft carrier HMCS BONAVENTURE. He followed this in a position
as the Fleet School Training Commander at HMCS STADACONA, the Canadian
naval base in Halifax.
He commanded the
destroyer HMCS SKEENA with the Pacific Fleet in 1962 followed by command
of HMCS VENTURE, the Naval Officer training establishment in Esquimalt,BC,
in 1963 . August 1964 saw him appointed to a position at Canadian Forces
Headquarters in Ottawa. He was appointed Commander, First Canadian Escort
Squadron, based at Halifax in 1965. In the following year upon promotion
to Commodore he became the Senior Canadian Officer Afloat Atlantic.
In 1967 he attended
National Defence College followed by a posting to National Defence Headquarters
in a Director General level position in 1968.
He was promoted
to Rear-Admiral on June 18, 1970, and appointed Commander Maritime Forces
Pacific (MARPAC) serving in that capacity for three years until he was
assigned as the Chief of Maritime Operations in Ottawa. He retired from
the Canadian Forces on 14 August 1975 and took up his hobby of carpentry
in Victoria where he still resides.