Navy

Navy

Menace Below The Surface: Navy, Part 7

PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--PA171102 Workers add the finishing touches to two drifters being built for the navy at Lauzon, Que., in 1917. The attack on Allied merchant shipping off New England in October 1916 by U-53 changed Canada’s naval requirements overnight, and laid the groundwork for the development of the navy for the balance of the 20th century. Suddenly Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Kingsmill’s motley little fleet, the St. Lawrence Patrol, looked like the work of a genius. Within days, the Admiralty reversed its opposition to the development of local Canadian forces and urged the “rapid expansion of (the) Royal Canadian Navy coastal anti-submarine patrol.” The Canadian government responded by ordering 12 sma...
Navy

Kingsmill’s Little Fleet: Navy, Part 6

PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA-PA167307 Trawlers and wooden drifters formed part of the East Coast patrol during WW I. On the day 100,000 men of the Canadian Corps captured Vimy Ridge in April 1917, the Royal Canadian Navy had 10 ships in commission and a dozen auxiliary vessels, manned by fewer than 9,000 sailors. The fleet was larger by the time Canadians spearheaded Allied victory in Europe in 1918, but when heavily armed U-boats cut a swath through the east coast fishing fleet that year, the RCN still had nothing to fight them with. “Mr. (George) Desbarats fiddled while our fishing fleet was sunk,” one critic complained of the deputy minister of the naval service. The German operated in “our own waters, performing deeds of piracy and destruction ...
Navy

Niobe's Brief Operational Career: Navy, Part 5

PHOTO: NOTMAN STUDIO, national Archives of canada—PA028497 Niobe sits in dry dock prior to her service in World War I. Part 5 As war clouds gathered over Europe in July 1914, the Royal Canadian Navy’s only East Coast ship—HMCS Niobe—lay mouldering alongside the dockyard in Halifax. More than twice the size of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Rainbow and requiring 700 officers and men, the RCN’s flagship was simply too big and too expensive to operate in the grim years prior to 1914. Moreover, unlike the West Coast, which was half a world away from the seat of British imperial power, Canada’s East Coast was guarded from any major European threat by the concentrated power of the Royal Navy in the eastern Atlantic. In the summer ...
Navy

Saved By A Few Good Men: Navy, Part 4

PHOTO: NOTMAN STUDIO, national Archives of canada--PA028499 Members of the Royal Naval College of Canada's class of 1912 practise rowing near Halifax. By the time Canada was at war in August 1914, only tiny Rainbow, her crew augmented by volunteers, was able to respond. Indeed, she defended imperial interests in the eastern Pacific—from Chile to the Bering Sea. Her captain, Walter Hose, described these days as a “heart-breaking starvation time” for the Royal Canadian Navy. In the last two years before the war, more Canadians deserted from the service than joined. George Desbarats, the deputy naval minister, sympathized with those who bolted from the “irksome and distasteful” life in ships alongside, and made no effort to bring the deserters back...
Navy

The Original Rainbow Warrior: Navy, Part 3

From top: (Inset) Commander Walter Hose on the deck of HMCS Rainbow; HMCS Rainbow set off in August 1914 to find German cruisers along the American west coast; Canada’s first submarines, CC.1 and CC.2 were purchased by the Province of British Columbia in 1914. Ninety years ago this August the world slipped into the Great War: An unprecedented four-year slaughter that left 20 million dead, empires in ruins and much of the world map redrawn. It is generally admitted that Canada came of age during that bitter conflict, at an appalling butcher’s bill: 61,326 dead on active service from a mobilized ...
Navy

A Sea Of Politics: Navy, Part 2

His Majesty's Canadian Ship Niobe visits Cornwallis, N.S., in 1912. She had become part of Canada’s navy in 1910. Inset: Sir Charles Kingsmill in 1908. The Naval Service of Canada came into being on May 4, 1910, when royal assent was granted to Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Naval Service Act. By the end of that year Canada had two training cruisers in service and the prime minister had plans to build five more, plus six torpedo-boat destroyers, a naval college, a naval school to train lower deck personnel, and a system of naval reserves. But by 1914 virtually none of this had come to ...

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