Pirate Unmasked as Royal Canadian Navy Commander Angus Hetherington Rankin



Colonel (Retd) Andrew Nellestyn OStJ KCStG CD PhD PEng

(OStG) Cascadia Commanderie Commander Steven Mohns’, KCStG

It all began quite innocently with a photograph of the Order of St George (OStG) Cascadia Commanderie Commander Steven Mohns’, KCStG, participation as the Reviewing Officer at the June 9, 2019  #15 Navy League Cadet Corps (NLCC) Captain Rankin Annual Ceremonial Review. As Past President of the Organization of Military Museums of Canada (OMMC), I was naturally curious as to the corps’ history and the provenance of the person whose name honours this exemplary youth organization which focuses on citizenship, civics, team work and leadership development.

Little did I anticipate the astonishing coast to coast chain of events which followed when I enquired about Captain Rankin!  His identity was all but unknown. Some posited that he was a pirate who, with predatory intent, sailed the high seas flying the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones. Not unreasonable as the cadet corps parades at HMCS Discovery on Dead Man’s Island, Stanley Park, Vancouver.

Thus, as Sherlock Holmes would say, The Game Is On, and so was launched a countrywide investigation as to Captain Rankin’s persona which involved the Canadian War Museum, The Military Museums of Calgary, the OMMC, my Royal Military College (RMC)  1965 classmates who served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and a legion of others in the investigatory evidence chain. All proved to be unproductive.

But as often happens in the search for the unknown and mysterious, serendipity, fate, unexpectedly intervenes. Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the guise of a YouTube video Moments in Time produced by Deborah Morrow, DStG, proved to be the secret map to the treasure chest. This excellent video details the history, mission and activities of #15 NLCC Captain Rankin.  And that was not the end of the mystical, mysterious trail!

It so happened that a descendant of the deceased Captain Rankin was searching his family tree for his elusive and illustrious ancestor and found reference to our pirate on YouTube.  Shivers me timbers!  The pirate turned out to be a distinguished WWII Royal Canadian Navy Commander by name of Angus Hetherington Rankin, who, among other vessels, commanded the corvette HMCS Sackville, and whose contributions to the war effort and distinguished naval career, were uncovered by Captain (N)(Retd) Michael Braham and Lt(N)(Retd) Melanie Graham, DStG.

Thus, and all things must end happily, the cadet corps can now celebrate and proclaim its renowned namesake and plans to do so formally at an event jointly sponsored by the OStG Cascadia Commanderie and the NLCC, attended by Navy,  local and municipal dignitaries, at the historical HMCS Discovery on, yes, Dead Man’s Island, Stanley Park, Vancouver. How eventually all comes, felicitously, full circle! Destiny prevails!

Commander Angus Hetherington Rankin

Commander Angus Hetherington Rankin, RCN, Order of the British Empire (OBE), Commander HMCS Sackville -Awarded as per Canada Gazette of 10 June 1944 and London Gazette of 8 June 1944.



Born 10 December 1914, Angus Rankin joined the Royal Canadian Navy Voluntary Reserve as an Acting Sub-Lieutenant in 1936.  He was mobilised for World War II service in August 1939.  During the war he commanded the armed yachts Husky and Ambler, the minesweepers, Port Hope, Chignecto and Kapuskasing, and the corvette, HMCS Sackville.

In 1945 he transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy and led a distinguished career ashore and at sea, including command of the minesweeper Portage, and his final posting in command of the Fleet Maintenance Ship HMCS Cape Scott.

He retired from the RCN in the rank of Commander on 10 December 1964.  He passed away on 8 December 1993.   This biographical information and the accompanying photograph are reproduced from The Nauticapedia web site.

Although Angus Rankin retired in the rank of Commander, the title of Captain is applied as an honorific signifying his command of several warships both during WWII and post-war.

It should be noted that HMCS Sackville is Canada’s oldest warship and is the last of Canada’s 123 corvettes. She has been restored to her war configuration and is home to exhibits and artifacts dedicated to the legacy of those who served at sea during the Battle of the Atlantic.HMCS Sackville during WWII

HMCS Sackville today