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Frederick Sherwood. (HANDOUT)
Frederick Sherwood. (HANDOUT)

Lives Lived: Frederick Henry Sherwood Add to ...

Submariner, loving family man, real estate broker, raconteur. Born June 25, 1914, in Winnipeg; died May 14, 2013, in Ottawa of old age, at 98.

The second of three children born to Marion (Torrance) and Edward Shanly Sherwood, Freddie grew up in Ottawa. When he was 7, the family moved to Rockcliffe, a then-rural residential village that he described as heaven.

Freddie’s first foray into the workaday world was in 1932 as an office boy at the Bank of Nova Scotia. He was, as he put it, “a reluctant recruit – a long, gangly and naturally lazy 18-year-old who did not react well to the idea of hard work.” However, a transformation occurred the following year when, drawn by the possibility of some fun and a free West Indies cruise, he joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR). Here Freddie “found himself,” and for the next several years he flourished spending his free time on reserve activities.

In mid-1940, Lieutenant Sherwood was loaned to the Royal Navy. In England he volunteered for the submarine service, and by Christmas he was patrolling off Norway under the command of submarine ace Ben Bryant. For most of the next two years, Freddie served with Bryant, including eight months in HMS Safari in the Mediterranean, where the battle for North Africa was raging. Safari arrived in Malta toward the end of the siege and was met by jubilant crowds, an experience that brought tears to Freddie’s eyes whenever he described it decades later.

After receiving the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), Freddie was given command of his own “boat,” an achievement that made him a small part of submarine history. He was the first Canadian and the first volunteer reservist of any country to command an RN submarine during the Second World War.

By March, 1944, Freddie was commanding HMS Spiteful on the way to Ceylon, where he met Mary Clarke, a third officer Wren, on a blind date. Several lengthy patrols followed, then Spiteful was ordered back to Britain. Before he left, Freddie saw Mary a second time and became convinced that she was “the one.” Two months later he proposed to her in a letter. Shortly after the war ended, she accepted. By this time Lieutenant-Commander Sherwood had been awarded a Bar to his DSC, becoming Canada’s most highly decorated submariner (a distinction he still holds).

The couple married in 1946. After settling in Ottawa, Freddie went to work for his father, a successful real estate broker. By the mid-1950s he and Mary were raising three children, Marion, Philip and Tim. Naval influences were strong in the Sherwood family. Whenever the children complained about their circumstances, Freddie would reply with his favourite maritime adage: “It’s not the ships, it’s the men in them.”

Freddie and two partners eventually took over the family business, and in 1970 he served a term as president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. Retirement came in 1989 and with it more time to devote to his two grandchildren and charitable work. When macular degeneration robbed him of most of his sight, he endured with great stoicism and continued to contribute to the community.

Freddie enjoyed recounting stories from his life, preserving them in his memoirs It’s Not the Ships. He will be remembered most of all for his charitable sense of humour and his gentlemanly qualities. As a staff member at his retirement home put it: “His attitude of living every day with grace, kindness and gratitude toward everyone around him has been an example of life.”

Philip Sherwood is Freddie’s son.

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