VAdm Andrew Laurence Collier: A life of service and devotion

Vice-Admiral Andrew Laurence Collier was the 17th Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy. RCN/MRC

VAdm Andrew Laurence Collier: A life of service and devotion 

By Sabina Kukurudziak,
Naval Training Group  

 Monday, June 3 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Andrew Laurence Collier. Remembered as a leader, mentor, and devoted partner, VAdm Collier left a lasting mark on those who knew him. His unwavering commitment to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and his passion for navigation continues to inspire generations of mariners.  

 In recognition of his contributions, in December 1997 the RCN named their new facility housing the Navigation and Bridge Simulator, the Vice-Admiral A.L. Collier Building. “I was invited to give a speech at the grand opening” recounted Ms. Betty Murphy, the widow of VAdm Collier who later remarried. “I was so nervous, but I wanted to do it for Andy.”  

 Ms. Murphy gave the inaugural speech and broke a bottle of champagne against the side of the building, officially christening it in her late husband’s honour. The building, located in Esquimalt, B.C., as a part of HMCS Venture – the RCNs Leadership Centre – is an enduring tribute to VAdm Collier’s dedication to educating and mentoring the next generation of naval officer.  

 Thinking back on her husband’s approach to life, Ms. Murphy noted, “His prime goal was to always do a good job, no matter what it was he was doing.” This philosophy guided VAdm Collier throughout his distinguished career, earning him respect, admiration, and numerous accolades.  

 “My life with Andy was outstanding,” reminisced Ms. Murphy, When asked about her late husband, she was more than enthusiastic to share many wonderful memories of their time together, including those related to his naval service. From his early days as a Cadet in 1942 to his retirement in 1979, his journey was market by excellence, bravery, and leadership, all of which are honoured to this day. 

The Vice-Admiral A.L. Collier Building at HMCS Venture in Esquimalt, B.C. RCN / MRC

 Born in Kamloops, B.C. in 1924, VAdm Collier joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a Cadet during the Second World War, training with the Royal Navy (RN) in the United Kingdom from 1942 to 1945, an experience that would fundamentally shape his future. Upon returning to Canada, he served in various ships including HMCS Stadacona, HMCS Nootka, and HMCS Shearwater (the RCN air station near Dartmouth, Nova Scotia). Specializing in navigation, he took the RN Navigation Qualifying Course at HMS Dryad, located in Hampshire, England in 1948 and later attended the Navigation Direction Training Centre at HMCS Naden in Esquimalt, British Columbia.  

 In 1950, VAdm Collier was assigned to HMCS Cayuga as the navigating officer during the Korean War. At the time, he was responsible for leading six destroyers up the narrow and heavily mined estuary known as the Daido-ko, ensuring the successful evacuation of Port-Chinnampo. Ms. Murphy noted that “he was very humble and would never brag,” but this was one of her husband’s proudest moments, one that earned him the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).  

 Outside of his professional accomplishments, VAdm Collier was a devoted husband and friend. Friends and colleagues affectionately referred to him as “Big Andy”. A testament to his physical stature as well as his persona. He met his future wife, Betty Murphy, in Shilo Manitoba where she worked as a nurse. He was stationed as the head of Training Command in Winnipeg but, following their introduction, immediately started making frequent trips to Shilo. He proposed while during a visit to Niagara Falls, and they wed in April of 1970.  

 In the following years, VAdm Collier continued to excel in his profession, ultimately leading to his appointment as Commander of Maritime Command in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1977 until his retirement in 1979. Upon retirement, the Colliers decided to move to Florida, where they purchased a sailboat and spent the next 3 years exploring the pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters of the Bahamas. “Sailing was one of Andy’s greatest passions, but I had never sailed before,” recalled Ms. Murphy, “So these were some of the most special years, getting to share his passion. Andy was such a patient teacher.”  

 After retiring from the RCN and returning from their Caribbean adventure, VAdm Collier took on the role of Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard in 1980, and later became President of the British Columbia Ferry Corporation from 1984 until his passing in 1987.