Fred Webb, sitting at his desk, listens on the radio, one of the key tools in his job as supervisor of jetty services at CFB Esquimalt. He retired from the job on July 26 at age 77 after 36 years, which followed a 20-year stint in the navy. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

CFB Esquimalt icon heads into the sunset after nearly 58 years

Former sailor, jetties supervisor Fred Webb will miss the people the most

Fred Webb III looks out the window of the 1894 jetty services building in the heart of CFB Esquimalt that was his workplace for the past 36-plus years. “Was” is the operative word, as he officially retired the day before at age 77.

Webb long ago came to love the base and develop great fondness for the people in it, from those on the ships to the men he worked alongside in the jetty services department.

“The changes that I’ve seen … have been just absolutely phenomenal,” he says, looking at the heavy construction equipment working between his shop and the jetty below, where on this particular morning a change of command is taking place on HMCS Vancouver.

Indeed, the changes to the base since he joined the navy in October 1959 as a fresh-faced 19 year old, did his basic training and was stationed as a gunnery mate on the Esquimalt-based destroyer HMCS Skeena, have been dramatic. Gone are many of the old buildings and all of the old ships, replaced by new structures and vessels.

Reflecting on the beginning of his nearly 58 years on the base, Webb recalls his first commanding officer on the Skeena, Cmdr. Richard Leer. He had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Second World War and was “an absolute gentleman” who never gave away what he had been through.

A short time later, as a crew member on HMCS Stettler, Webb found himself in the middle of a tense point in history.

“We were standing by to assist the Americans during the October missile crisis [in 1962],” he says. While there was a certain feeling of adventure as they prepared for whatever might come their way, he notes there was also trepidation knowing how serious things were getting politically.

In those days, many of his shipmates were veterans of the Second World War and the Korean conflict.

“They were our mentors, those guys gave us a feeling of confidence,” Webb says.

He had another guiding force as well, one much closer. His father, Fred Jr., served in the navy in the Second World War after spending years in the reserves, then became an officer in the early 1950s. He stayed in the navy until 1965, retiring as a lieutenant commander. Father and son were in the navy together for six years.

So what kind of advice did Webb’s dad give him?

“He always said, ‘treat your subordinates with respect, because there’s a lot more of them than there is of you.’”

After getting his 20-year medal, Fred III saw it was time for a change. He retired for a first time, but not before working himself into a civilian position with the Queen’s Harbour Master on the base.

Within a year he had switched hats and become charge hand for jetty services, handling such dockside activities as placing gangways, stands for special events and assisting tugs during the movement in and out of ships. Over the years he kept a thick journal filled with the names and requirements for visiting ships from various countries.

As for highlights from that part of his career, Webb listed being involved with the visit of the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1982, the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Navy in 1985 in Vancouver and the navy’s centennial here in 2015.

He has always felt his time in the forces made his transition to the jetty services position easier.

“Having been in the navy I was associating a lot with the personnel in the dockyard, so when I got into the civilian side of things I was still associating with those people,” he says. “I didn’t have to learn anything new basically, I knew how everything worked.”

Retiring at a more advanced age than most, he says, was a factor of his naval background, his continued involvement with the navy and his keen interest in all things naval.

“Once you’ve been in the navy, it’s hard to take the navy out of the guy.”

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Island Corridor Foundation optimistic about restoring rail service

If green-lighted, first priority would be Langford to Victoria route

Esquimalt senior’s complex getting redeveloped

The Esquimalt Lions Lodge is one of the projects to receive funding for affordable housing

Firefighters rescue horse stuck in Saanich mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Active investigation into reported sexual assault at CFB Esquimalt

An Oct. 5 allegation is being investigated by Canadian Forces National Investigation Service

Federal environment minister faces protesters in B.C.

Catherine McKenna defended her government’s environmental record during a funding announcement in Victoria

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

POLL: Have BC Ferry waits ever forced you to cancel your travel plans?

Many BC Ferry passengers heading out from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen on… Continue reading

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Dog psychic can help Vancouver Islanders better connect with their pets

Michele Wonnacott hosts one-day seminar in Nanaimo on Saturday, Nov. 17

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

Most Read