Chaney Fund

During the WWII years, Lawrence “Lon” Chaney was a stalwart Royal Canadian Navy Diver who got the job done. It didn’t matter what the conditions, even in the frigid icy waters off the coast of Newfoundland in the midst of winter. He took his job very seriously and that’s the kind of guy you wanted on your side when you were headed out to sea and into combat.

Originally from Vernon, BC, Lon became a boy Seaman at the young age of 14. In 1929, at 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy at the H.M.C.S. Naden Naval Barracks in Victoria as a Torpedo Rating. By 22 he was drafted as a Leading Seaman to the Royal Navy establishment HMS Excellent (Whale Island) in Portsmouth, England where he qualified as a Navy Diver (DV).

In his training for DV, he wore the Seibe Gorman open hard hat suit. It was highly successful for its time; however, the only ways that spent air could escape were from beneath the rim of the helmet or from below the hem of the diver’s rubber jacket. That meant, if you bent over, the suit would take on water and you would most likely drown.

In 1931, when Lon was 20 years old, he married Gertrude (Trudi) whom he would spend the next 70 years of his life with. Lon and Trudi welcomed a daughter, Doreen, into the world, but unfortunately she passed away early in her life, in 1951.

Lon served at both the east and west coast diving units. During winter months he and his divers carried out their duties in frigid below freezing waters and often through ice. The fighting efficiency and seaworthiness of ships had to be maintained. Divers did what they had to do in order to prevent delays and ensure escort groups were sound and ready for combat.

Eventually, Lon was promoted to Warrant rank, earning the title of “Mister.”

Before the end of World War II, the Navy had obtained some enemy diving equipment that was captured in Italy. It was sent to the Royal Canadian Navy to be tested off the coast of Newfoundland in the middle of winter. Divers were numbed with cold, but that was just part of the job. Mister Chaney said, “Now, however, this is not anything special.”

Lon Chaney was an inspiration to his staff. The sentiment was reciprocated in his admiration and respect for his divers. They were the cream of the Navy in his opinion. He had always felt privileged to serve and work alongside these divers.

His last appointment was Diving Officer West Coast and Officer‐in‐Charge of Operational Diving Unit. He retired in 1962 having attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

In 2004, Lon passed away at the age of 92.

The University of Victoria received a generous bequest from Lawrence “Lon” Chaney in 2005 to establish the Chaney Fund for bursaries awarded to undergraduate students entering their fourth year in the Department of Chemistry. Lon’s legacy will support numerous students in their pursuit of their educational goals and career dreams.


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