Paymaster Cmdr. F.R.W. Nixon, R.C.N.
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Francis Robert Woodcock Nixon, always known as Jack, was born in Duncan, B.C. on 8th February, 1904. His family farmed on Thetis Island, close to Chemainus, B.C. on Vancouver Island. He received his early education at Ganges’ Private School on Saltspring Island, a small school run and owned by his future father-in-law. In 1914, Jack’s father died unexpectedly leaving his widow with two young boys to raise. Financially, things were very tight.
Jack went to the Royal Naval College of Canada at Naden to complete his education and prepare for a career as a Naval officer. Just after his 17th birthday, on 15 February 1921, he was given the opportunity by Cmdr. Nixon (no relation), the Commander of the College, to leave the college early and go to sea as a Paymaster Cadet. This meant he would now be able to contribute much needed money to his mother.
Jack served on HMS Hood (18 March 1921 – 21 March 1922) when she was on her world tour with the Prince of Wales. He became a Paymaster Midshipman on 16 January 1922, one year after leaving the college. He returned to Canada on HMS Vindictive and transferred to HMCS Naden in Esquimalt, B.C .(April 1922 – December 1922) He returned to the Hood from 28 January 1923 – 20 January 1925. He became an Acting Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant on 14 January 1924, shortly before his 20th birthday. On leaving the Hood, the Captain reported that “he conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. Most hardworking and zealous and has a keen sense of duty. Should make an efficient and reliable Accountant Officer.”
From April 1925 until August 1927, Jack served on HMS Vindictive. During this time he was promoted to Paymaster Lieutenant. He then returned to Victoria for leave and temporary duty at HMCS Naden (13 August 1927 – 28 February 1928). This gave him time to propose to Nora Tolson and make plans for a wedding on 3 July 1928.
After their wedding and a brief honeymoon, the newlyweds climbed aboard a train to start their married life in Ottawa where Jack was working at Headquarters (N.I.D.). These were happy times. They canoed and camped in the Gatineau Hills and on the Ottawa River, skied for the first time, met many other young couples, and made some lifelong friends both in and out of the Navy.
Jack and Nora moved from Ottawa to Halifax. From February 1931 to May 1932, Jack was taking courses – many of them in England. As well as taking an Accountant Officers’ Technical Course in Portsmouth, he earned a diploma in the Practical Meat Inspection in City Markets from the Corporation of London, and a Certificate (with honours) in Competency in Cooking from the National Training School of Cookery in London. This gave him the knowledge to competently victual a ship – one of the duties of a Paymaster and Supply officer. Nora joined him in England so they were able to explore the countryside and visit relatives.
In May 1932 Jack and Nora returned home to Vancouver Island and HMCS Naden. They settled in Esquimalt and started their family. In February 1933, their first daughter, Margaret, arrived. In March 1933 Jack was promoted to Acting Paymaster Lieut. Commander. In January 1935 they had their second daughter, Edith. Jack’s career was progressing well, their children had their grandparents nearby, and life was good. When he left Naden in December 1935, his commanding officer reported that “Paymaster Lieut.-Cmdr. Nixon conducted himself with utmost zeal, loyalty, ability, and tact and in every respect to my entire satisfaction.”
In January 1936, Jack, Nora, and their two girls were transferred to Halifax where they lived in a rented house at the head of Bedford Basin. Jack was an Accountant Officer for HMC Ships and Establishments East Coast. In July ’38 his commanding officer, Cmdr. Creery, reported that he “found his sound judgment and advice of great benefit.” On 1 December, 1938 Jack was promoted to Commander. He was responsible for guiding the Accounting Branch through its tremendous expansion as war approached. In October 1940, he was made Command Accountant Officer. During this busy time, the family moved from Bedford to a house close to the Naval Base in Halifax.
In April 1941, Jack decided to go to England to inspect the Canadian Naval installation he had been setting up from Canada. Nora was expecting their third child in July so it seemed like an opportune time to go so he would be home for the baby’s arrival. He left on the Nerissa.
After the loss of the ship and her husband, Nora stayed in Halifax for the birth of their third daughter, Frances. As soon as the baby was old enough to travel, she packed up her children and returned to Victoria where she raised her daughters. Nora never remarried. She died in 1995. Nora and Jack now have 7 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. They would be very proud!
Frances Stocks, daughter
Rob Stocks, grandson