Two submariners currently serving as part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force 150 discovered an unusual connection with CMF’s Deputy Commander when they realized they had served on the very same submarine, but several years apart.

(L to R:) Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Cooper-Mayer, Commodore Ed Ahlgren (CMF Deputy Commander), and Lieutenant (Navy) Devin Matthews stand together with a special cap and commemorative coin from HMCS Windsor during a presentation outside CMF Headquarters, March 17, 2021. The three submariners all qualified on the vessel (formerly HMS Unicorn), fifteen years apart. (Photo: Lt Nicholas M Stevenson RN)

Lt(N) Devin Matthews and PO1 Patrick Cooper-Mayer of the Royal Canadian Navy, were posted to the HMCS Windsor in 2005, where both sailors started their training and were soon awarded their dolphins, the coveted symbol of the submarine service. But HMCS Windsor was not always a Canadian submarine. In 1998, Canada purchased four Upholder Class diesel-electric submarines from the Royal Navy. One of these, HMS Unicorn, was where the now-Deputy Commander of Combined Maritime Forces, Commodore Ed Ahlgren, served and qualified as a submariner in the early 90s.

Lt(N) Devin Matthews with the commemorative HMCS Windsor coin presented to Commodore Ed Ahlgren by himself and PO1 Patrick Cooper-Mayer, March 17, 2021. Both sailors earned their coveted submariner ‘dolphins’ on the vessel, previously HMS Unicorn. (Photo: Lt Nicholas M Stevenson RN)

Having come across Cmdre Ahlgren’s biography, both Matthews and Cooper-Mayer realized that they had a collective naval link with their Royal Navy colleague. To mark their shared service, they concocted a plan to formally recognize their unique bond; “Needless to say, the international Diesel-Submariner community is very small and closely-knit. Both myself, and PO1 Cooper-Mayer, felt it was important to reinforce our shared history with the Royal Navy. It was especially important to us, seeing as Commodore Ahlgren qualified for his dolphins on the same submarine as us,” said Lt(N) Matthews.

“We reached out to the current Commanding Officer of the Windsor, and his support for our idea to recognize our fellow submariner, and predecessor, was immediate and heartfelt.”

(L to R:) Command Master Chief Petty Officer Edward James, Royal Canadian Navy; Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Cooper-Mayer, Royal Canadian Navy; Commodore Ed Ahlgren OBE, Royal Navy; Lieutenant (Navy) Devin Matthews, Royal Canadian Navy; and Commodore Daniel Charlebois, Royal Canadian Navy stand together during a presentation outside CMF Headquarters in Bahrain, March 17, 2021. PO1 Cooper-Mayer, Lt Matthews, and Cmdre Ahlgren all earned their submariner qualifications on the same vessel, fifteen years apart. (Photo: Lt Nicholas M Stevenson RN)

In a short ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain on March 17, 2021, Lt(N) Matthews and PO1 Cooper-Mayer of the Royal Canadian Navy, and part of the Combined Task Force 150 team, presented Commodore Ed Ahlgren, Deputy Commander of the Combined Maritime Forces with HMCS Windsor’s coin as a symbol of their fraternity. All three submariners spoke fondly of their time onboard Unicorn/Windsor, proud of the “Silent Service” and their unique international history.