Roger’s interest in Canadian Naval history began when he joined the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps WARSPITE in 1977 in Kitchener. At Remembrance Parades Roger would listen intently to the fascinating stories being told by the veterans, they would talk about their experiences during the Battle of the Atlantic. He realized there is a better way of telling our history then the dates, times, etc. that is taught in our schools. We need to become story tellers, pass on the stories of our history and the dates, times, facts will become a joy to hear and remember.
Roger remained with sea cadets for six years attaining the rank of Chief Petty Officer First Class and was Coxswain of the corps. During this time he was sent for basic training at CFB Cornwallis in Nova Scotia and received basic and advanced sail training at CFB Kingston.
Roger received training in several other areas including marksmanship, First Aid, CPR, fitness and canoeing. He also received his wings as a Hovercraft Pilot, Para-Recue Wings and parachuting. Roger earned the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award which was presented to him by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in London, Ontario.
The advance sail training allowed Roger to teach sailing for three summers at CFB Trenton and he was part of a team of sea cadets that raced nationally and internationally in sailing. His team was ranked fifth in Canada and 32nd in the World Albacore Sailing Regatta.
Roger was fortunate to be selected for a callout with the Canadian Navy. He joined HMCS OTTAWA (III), a destroyer, on her Caribbean deployment in 1981, serving in the active Canadian warship for three months. Here he learned the workings of a naval ship and learned the various jobs and duties as a crew member.
In 1982, Roger joined the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve as a commissioned officer in the Cadet Instructors Cadre. He worked closely with several sea cadet corps and was posted to CFB Trenton as a sail instructor. Roger left the CAF Reserve in 1985 to start a new family and focus on his career.
Also in 1982, Roger started the Pre-Hospital Emergency Medical Services Course (Paramedic) at Conestoga College in Kitchener, graduating the following year. Rogers interested in Para-medicine and the ambulance field began while receiving first aid and CPR training as a cadet.
In 1983 Roger moved to Trenton, Ontario and began his career as a Paramedic, where he is still employed today. One of his duties involved Public Relations Officer and he began writing articles for the local newspaper. Roger has served his entire career in the field, providing emergency medical response to the public. Other duties has included working on the Y2K committee with emergency preparations for the millennium, working with the Quinte International Air Show developing emergency response procedures, Kosovo Refugee Induction, coordinating the EMS participation in the repatriation of Canadian soldiers in Eastern Ontario, training and supervising.
Roger’s activities as a paramedic were recognized when he was awarded the Governor General’s Medal for Exemplary Service in Emergency Medical Services in 2007. Major-General Richard Rohmer presented Roger with the prestigious medal in a ceremony in Toronto.
Roger has also worked as a volunteer with the Murray Township Fire Department as a firefighter for three years. His duties included the automobile extrication team, fire prevention, home inspections and public relations.
In 1993, Roger was asked to help start a new Navy League cadet corps in Trenton. The corps was named after the Canadian corvette HMCS TRENTONIAN. He joined the corps and was given the training officer position, designing a new training program for the cadets. Several aspects of his program have been adopted into the national program for the Navy League of Canada. Roger eventually took command of NLCC TRENTONIAN and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
During this time, Roger’s interest in TRENTONIAN was piqued and he began researching Trentonian, initially, to give the cadets a history of their namesake. As the research continued and the information collected, Roger quickly realized this was not a simple project, but a story of national and international importance and he began his goal to write a book.
When Roger’s term as commanding officer was complete, he was appointed as Area Officer for Eastern Ontario with the Navy League of Canada. He had seven cadet corps under his command with over 60 officers and almost 250 cadets. At this time he developed an officers training program for the volunteers that is still in use today.
Roger’s activities were recognized by the Navy League of Canada with a Meritorious Service Award, the National Presidents Award and the Navy League of Canada Long Service Medal. When his term as Area Officer ended in 2008 he left cadets to concentrate on writing and photography.
As a photo artist, Roger has sold several pieces of his art and has been shown in several galleries. Several of his photographs have been published. Using digital photography, he prefers to “capture the moment” instead of manipulating and forcing a picture.
Roger’s writing continued, he had several freelance articles published in newspapers as a paramedic, firefighter and Navy League officer, but now was the time to start building a portfolio for publishing. His first magazine article was published in Esprit de Corps in April 2007, called “HMCS TRENTONIAN, A victim of friendly fire.” The next article to be published was in the Canadian Emergency News magazine titled “Highway of Heroes,” in May 2008.
Knowing it would be difficult to have a publisher accept the large manuscript that TRENTONIAN was turning into, Roger decided to write a smaller book of general interest in the Canadian Navy. He wrote his first book “Warships of the Bay of Quinte”, detailing the service of six of Canada’s warships. The work took eleven months to research and write, then another two years to find a publisher.
Dundurn Publishing accepted the manuscript and Warships of the Bay of Quinte was released in April 2011. Roger’s work has received several excellent reviews from Canadian journals and publications and international reviews in the United Kingdom. There have been international sales as far away as Australia.
Following the release of Warships of the Bay of Quinte, Roger has been invited to speak and sign his books throughout Western and Central Canada and the Maritimes.
Rogers’s research on the Canadian Navy has allowed him to participate and contribute to several institutions, events and activities in Canada and abroad. When the History Channel was finishing the documentary on HMCS REGINA, Roger was contacted by the research team to confirm a similar incident that both ships faced and members of the crew that may have been in TRENTONIAN. He has also provided material to the Porthcurno Cable Museum in England, detailing the friendly fire incident with the Americans and the British cable layer that TRENTONIAN was escorting. A new museum display was created with the research that Roger provided. He has also contributed to information at the museums in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and St. Peters Canal in Cape Breton.
In the fall of 2014, Roger donated the photographic collection that he has amassed during his research, from the veterans he has interviewed, to the Naval Museum of Alberta in Calgary. These photos come from private collections and have never been available to the public. The Naval Museum of Alberta has the largest collection of Canadian navy photographs in Canada. Roger will continue to donate the photographs he collects from veterans, ensuring that our historical photographic record is kept available.
Dundurn published Roger’s second book, White Ensign Flying. The story details the life of HMCS TRENTONIAN, from building and construction to her final moments when she was torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel. The story of this remarkable warship is told from three sources. The history of the ship has been gathered from many national and local archives, giving an accurate and historical account of the ship. Roger has interviewed over 30 of the men who served in the ship and relates their personal stories from training in Bermuda as a new ship and crew, to hunting submarines on the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel, to taking part in the Normandy Invasion. This includes the final moment of their ship when she was torpedoed and six of their shipmates were killed. To bring the history and the stories to life, Roger has collected over 300 photographs of the ship, many of them personal photos of the crew, giving a living pictorial story to HMCS TRENTONIAN.
To complete this work, Roger has spent twelve years researching and locating survivors of Trentonian ensuring that this story is complete and accurate. White Ensign Flying was released in March 2014.
Roger has been an active supporter and member of several important and worthwhile organizations, including; the Canadian Naval Research Society, Canada’s Naval Memorial Trust -HMCS SACKVILLE, Project Ojibwa, Naval Marine Archive -The Canadian Collection, The Navy League of Canada and the Hasting-Quinte Paramedic Association.
The Litwiller family has a proud history of serving Canada in uniform. Roger’s grandfather served during WWII in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. His oldest son Aaron is currently a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Roger and his wife Rhonda were married in 2006 and they have a blended family of six children. Together they share many common interests and enjoy travelling throughout Canada and abroad.
Roger sums up his life, “I have been blessed with many great experiences, I have driven a warship, piloted a hovercraft, responded to life threatening emergencies in ambulances and fire trucks. I have been a paramedic, sailor, soldier, firefighter, researcher, teacher, artist and author. But my greatest joy has always been father and husband.”
HONOURS and AWARDS
Exemplary Service Medal for Emergency Medical Services
Governor General of Canada -Presented by Major-General Richard Rohmer
Long Service Medal
Presented by -Navy League of Canada
Letter of Commendation
Vice-Admiral R.D. Buck, RCN, Chief of Maritime Staff
Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award
Presented by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Navy League of Canada -National Presidents Award
Presented By -Navy League of Canada
Letter of Commendation
Pierre Yans, Captain, RCN (Ret’d). Vice-President and Navy League Cadet Chair, Navy League of Canada.
Distinguished Service Award -Paramedic
Presented by -Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Association
Meritorious Service Award -Paramedic
Presented by -Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Association
Meritorious Service Award -Navy League of Canada
Presented by -Navy League of Canada
Life Saving Award
Presented by -Regional Paramedic Program for Eastern Ontario -Multiple Awards