Remember the Rainbow Redux: An Alternate Royal Canadian Navy

Bell Recovery 2014
August 11, 2014

Bell of WWI Cruiser HMCS Rainbow recovered from the bottom of the Pacific.

Craig Leroy for the Vancouver Sun.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of HMCS Rainbow at The Battle of the Farallon Islands, Canada's first naval engagement during the First World War. The battle was commemorated today by a coordinated effort over 20 years in the making.


Crew of HMCS Rainbow posing for a photo around the aft 6" gun.
Left as the only warship to protect the Canadian West Coast from the German warships, Rainbow was little more than an outdated ship originally purchased for training but as was common with the neglected Canadian military, servicemen had to make do. Commander Walter Hose, who had transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy with Rainbow just a few years earlier, set his ship to sea with only 122 men under his command. Rainbow would eventually meet the cruiser SMS Leipzig off the Farallon Islands where she valiantly fought to the last however, she eventually foundered and took 109 young men down with her.

Since the original discovery of Rainbow’s wreck in 1995 and its subsequent classification as a National Historic Site of Canada, no major expeditions have been undertaken since a plaque laying in 2004. Working closely with the HMCS Rainbow Association, the Royal Canadian Navy has released photos this morning confirming they have recovered the bell of HMCS Rainbow. Following the ceremonial laying of wreaths by HMCS Cormorant, HMCS St Laurent and USS Russell, the bell will be returned to CFB Esquimalt for restoration. The bell is planned to be housed at the Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum following an exhibition at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.


Bell of HMCS Rainbow being retrieved from an ROV on the seafloor.

The tragedy of Rainbow is commonly viewed by Canadian historians as the turning point of the Canadian Navy, public support and fierce lobbying had finally given the “ugly duckling” of the Canadian Military it’s legs in an uncertain world. The rallying cry of “Remember the Rainbow!” remains one of the most memorable Canadian quotes of the early 20th century.

Hello everybody, I'd like to welcome you to my new and hopefully much improved timeline regarding the Royal Canadian Navy! This timeline originally was started June of 2019 however, due to miscellaneous issues with myself and another currently ongoing timeline on a similar topic, I decided to put my timeline on hold for the time being. That changes today though, I'm coming back onto the scene in hopefully a big way with a revamped timeline and a lot more relevant resources on the topic. As of right now, the previous timeline present here is going to be decommissioned and redirected to this thread, this solution seems a lot simpler than editing all of the posts on another thread and trying again. I plan to have this timeline follow the idea of a Canadian Navy from the founding of the nation itself to the present day (2020 at the time of writing) with the style of writing currently being a rotation from authoritative narratives to vignettes with potentially reoccurring characters and photo galleries. I currently plan on a minimum of two updates randomly per week until I settle into a structure however, this may increase depending on my overall activity.

That all being said, I'm looking forward to finally being back in the saddle and getting this timeline flowing properly this time! I hope you all enjoy.
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The Birth of a Nation
With the establishment of the British North America Act on July 1st, 1867, the freshly minted Canadian Federal Parliament was handed the responsibility of defense from their colonial mother. The three provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada (Ontario and Quebec) had previously all held some modicum of responsibility for their own defense through their colonial administration however, all of these tasks now had to be compiled into an already rapidly expanding list of responsibilities. Defensive considerations were some of the major topics in the talks leading to Confederation especially considering the American Civil War raging over the border to the South and most importantly, the Fenian raids had been encroaching into Canada for some time.


A reproduction of the famous painting "Fathers of Confederation", showing the founding politicians and figures behind the pivotal event.

Named for the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish Republican organization which was originally based from within the United States, these raids were a series of armed conflicts between these Militants and various local Militias present in the colonies that would eventually make up Canada. The Fenian invasion of Campobello Island, New Brunswick in April 1866 would be a unique event as it caused enough of a panic that the commanding British officer in Halifax dispatched a force of over 700 British soldiers by sea to face the raiders, eventually causing them to flee. While indeed helpful, this situation were the exception rather than the rule and Canadians were usually left to mainly fend for themselves against the raiders. Around this same time period ironically, the current British government had become rather incredulous of the value of assigning any major naval force to North American stations. While not explicitly advocating for full abdication of the North American stations, Britain wished for Canada to attempt to assist them more in various locations, mainly in reinforcing the Great Lakes and their surrounding areas with additional fortifications and troop emplacements. Westminster had put forward legislation in 1865 which allowed colonies the ability to create their own naval organizations with the authority to man “a vessel or vessels of war". This also extended to raising/maintaining a number of seamen and volunteers at the expense of the colony itself. This agreement ended with a stipulation stating that any of these volunteers had “entered on the terms of being bound to general service in the Royal Navy in an emergency.”

Some cities had operated naval militias under a separate act put into place in 1862, mainly consisting of several sixty strong companies based at Kingston, Hamilton, Garden Island, Oakville, Toronto, Port Stanley and Dunville. These had originally been formed to help ward off potential incursions across the border during the American Civil War but largely due to inadequate supplies of clothing and equipment, these forces had done little besides occasional spring and summer training exercises. Nova Scotia would also raise ten various companies of Naval Militias resulting in a 500-man strong force. These units were finally put to use at the Battle of Fort Erie in June of 1866 when the Dunville Company pursued fleeing Fenian forces across the Niagara River with the steam tug W.T. Robb while the Toronto Company would rent the steam vessels Magnet and Rescue for potential future action. While these rudimentary “naval” units were successful in their assigned roles, problems of almost non-existent training and lackluster overall ship specification showed a clear need for future investments.


An illustration of the steam tug W.T. Robb in her pre or post gunboat configuration.

In spite of the fact that these raids eventually failed in their original task of pressuring Britain to remove itself from Ireland, it solidified one of the major advantages of Confederation as a whole. Pooled defensive resources against any kind of internal or external threat would make any attacks on a singular territory much less likely to succeed or be considered entirely. While the majority of battles were fought on land by the Militias, the Naval Companies began to falter slightly especially once the United States had began interfering with Fenian operations across the border itself. As with many issues upon the founding of Canada, one of these was the permanent operation of Great Lakes gunboats and the naval militias that would crew them. The two gunboats Rescue and Michigan eventually were fully purchased by the Canadian government which made them the first naval vessels operated by the Canadian government. The British would later directly pay for the armaments, wages and crews of these vessels until 1868 when the British colonial secretary believed the major Fenian incursion had ended and Canada should take over upkeep for these ships. London would later echo this sentiment the very next year when they stated that Canada needed to rapidly decide the composition of its military strength, especially around the Great Lakes. London asserted that this must be done at the expense of the Dominion however, Ottawa refused and shot back that their admittance into the British Empire had put them under the protection of Britain. The pair of ships would be laid up and the Militias, now void of purpose, equipment or guidance, scattered to the wind or were folded into the newly forming land-based militias.

The foundation which these Militias were built was rather uncreatively named the Militia Bill. This bill was put into order by the Minister of Militia and Defense George-Étienne Cartier in 1868 and as such provided Canada with a 40,000-man active militia and the provision to call up a reserve militia consisting of every able-bodied man in the age bracket of sixteen to sixty. This was hoped to provide a suitable force for internal matters while also allowing for a defensive force to be brought up in the event of a land war being declared. Expectedly, the need or even drive to create some naval organization was not present within the Canadian Government of the period. To cap the entire situation, the Militia that was propped up by the Government was reportedly poorly funded, this leading to early talks about curtailing numbers to a point where equipment could be more readily provided or to raise funding. The establishment of two vital ministries, namely Militia and Defense alongside the Marine and Fisheries clearly established the fact that the government was content to lay the responsibility of naval defense at the feet of the Royal Navy. With the original three “Canadian” founding provinces located on the North Atlantic coast and relatively close to British home stationed sea assets, no major issues was generated in their continued protection. In fact, the Eastern provinces were viewed as some of the most secure to attack from the sea of any colony under British rule, even with the recent Fenian raid in memory. As a result, Canadian defensive budgets were excessively low and allocated government funds were largely funneled into the building of the nation as a whole and the potential for lucrative transcontinental developments with other nations.

The Fenian raids would continue sporadically until 1871 but in a somewhat strange turn of events, it did not cause military spending to increase or raise popular interest in the potential for a major military force. Setting the precedent for the centuries to come, Canadians as a whole were not particularly interested in the establishment of any professional armed force, let alone a large standing army. Mainly reinforced by the fact that defensive natured responsibilities and military funding as a whole were rather vaguely placed under both British and Canadians governments, especially with Britain retaining sole control of practically all foreign policy. This early arrangement brought the Canadian government to the conclusion that British land and naval forces could be called upon during times of need, only requiring the Canadians to have a citizen militia in place to hold the line against localized attacks of a foreign power or possible civil unrest.


A Welcome address held for returning Militiamen of the Fenian Raids held at Champ de Mars, Montreal, 1866.

As events would soon show however, this reliance on British naval power could have potentially dire implications whenever the interests of Britain would clash with that of her newest Dominion.
Treaties, Schooners and Fish aplenty.
Even while Canada was putting themselves up against the Fenian’s, their neighbors across the border had thrown them into somewhat of an unpleasant situation. In 1866, the Americans had come to the decision to preemptively end the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854. The treaty itself was extremely valuable due to the fact that it classified a large section of Canadian raw agricultural and material exports for the United States as duty free, side stepping the previous American tariff on natural resource imports into the country. The Americans in return received fishing rights off the East Coast of Canada alongside joint navigation rights to the interior waterways of Canada. Even once America pulled out of this treaty however, her fishing fleets continued their normal routes along the inshore waters of the Maritime Provinces and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Ottawa was furious with the United States for circumventing their treaty and continuing to allow their fishermen to roam freely on Canadian territory yet, even more ire was directed towards Britain.

London of late had been preoccupied in maintaining a sound and friendly relationship with the United States, British Officials were squarely unwilling to adopt any measures which would protect the local Canadian fishermen’s rights and livelihoods in their own home waters. A half-hearted measure of a licensing system was put into place, but it was nowhere near adequately enforced on either Canada or Britain’s part. The dissatisfaction within the Canadian Government came to a head when the Royal Navy officially informed Canada that it would be decreasing its overall presence in the North American station after 1869, meaning there would be a large decrease in the amount of naval ships to help enforce fishing disputes. The Minister of Marine and Fisheries of the time, Peter Mitchell, set about announcing that the Canadian government would commission six armed schooners manned by what he termed “Marine Police”. These officers would hold authority backed by the Canadian Government by relation, hopefully that of the Royal Navy itself. In his own words, “All national rights of fishery on our own coasts are threatened and the time has arrived when we must either abandon this authoritative right or assert to maintain it.”

These schooners proved to be a sound investment in 1870 alone, twelve American vessels were seized after being caught illegally fishing by the schooners La Canadienne, Daring and Lady Head. The United States soon settled these differences alongside many more under the 1871 Treaty of Washington. Alongside the implementation of the treaty, the nation bore witness to a large trimming of the United States Navy in the wake of the American Civil War, so the need for the Marine Police themselves was also disbanded in 1873. Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald would comment about the situation, “There is not the slightest chance of a row between the United States and England so with that, Canada ought to take advantage of this to keep down our militia estimates.”


The Marine Police Schooner La Canadienne, note the commission pendant which was worn at the main masthead to signify armed vessels on enforcement duties.

Sir John A. Macdonald himself would not be long for the Canadian political system and was succeeded by Alexander Mackenzie’s Liberal government in 1873. A new figurehead of the nation was followed by the same tired requests from Britain, this time regarding the reinforcement of artillery-based defenses in Quebec, Montreal and Kingston. The Royal Navy argued that over the last twelve years in Halifax alone, they had invested substantial time and funding into the upkeep and gradual upgrading of the garrison and coastal defenses. Ottawa shot back with what was rapidly becoming their favorite response, they would be more than willing to supplement or replace British troops garrisoned in Canadian ports during wartime but nothing more. Ottawa’s main concern was to avoid any kind of commitment to Britain that could potentially lead the Admiralty to cut down the North Atlantic Squadron even further.

The British had recently begun construction in Esquimalt on the West Coast in order to establish a significant naval station in the Pacific, partially under the rare influence of Ottawa. When British Columbia was admitted into Canada in 1871, part of the agreement with Ottawa was the establishment and maintenance of a significant naval base within the province. This was seen as a double edged sword by various Canadian politicians as investment by the Royal Navy in Canada and their associated protection for the other coast was indeed rather agreeable however, some figures put forward that this “Pacific Station” could eventually see the Royal Navy weaken their Atlantic standing to spread their defensive obligations across two coasts. Projected telegraph lines and the future trans-Canada railway made the potential usefulness of Esquimalt to the Royal Navy steadily increase. Similarly to the pledge made on the East Coast, Ottawa would provide militiamen for coastal defenses and garrisons but as ever, they did not seek to overstep their bounds and fund anything considered “naval” in character.


Various Royal Navy warships in Esquimalt Harbor, date unknown.

The next major jolt to the Canadians was the Russo-Turkish War (1877 – 1878) and the following breakdown of Anglo-Russian relations. Panic erupted among citizens of British Columbia who worried about the potential for a Russian attack on the West Coast. The Mackenzie government would respond to these cries by issuing a request to London for the stationing of “fast cruisers” in Pacific waters. London would provide nothing but sharp rebuke, affirming that they alone would decide the stationing of Royal Navy warships in a crisis. Although the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 would put an tamper to the panic somewhat, the brief scare caused the Royal Navy to again request financial investment of Canada into their own defense. Besides the ever-present issue of coastal defense batteries, the Admiralty recommended that Canada consider arming merchant ships in order to potentially push off enemy raiders alongside an investment in naval mines. Naval mines were not well regarded by Canadian officials due to the perceived damage and interference they would cause in the civilian maritime trade. Sharper individuals within both parties would counter with the fact that raiders would also interfere with civilian trade yet predictably, the issue was quietly pushed aside.

Prime Minister Mackenzie would state “Canada is above shirking her duty in providing the defense of her own coast.” All parties who heard this decree knew it was little more but a bold-faced lie. Small improvements were implemented in Esquimalt such as a garrison of troops and gun batteries borrowed from the Royal Navy, but this was nowhere near a suitable commitment. Control of the Canadian government would again return to John A. Macdonald and yet, Canada’s approach to the issue of naval defense would stay rather flat footed and noncommittal at first. The Prime Minister would later begin to take a slightly more positive outlook on the topic of naval defense. He confirmed that Canada could arm “swift ships of commercial nature” at her own expense to protect her many shores but most importantly, he proposed the idea of Britain recruiting personnel in Canada, if of course Britain was ready to foot the bill for doing so. This all came with the caveat that regardless of anything proposed, “London should not expect Canadian commitments during times of peace and furthermore, Ottawa’s support of any naval spending must address Canadian needs”.


Militiamen attending to one of the RML 64-pounder 71 cwt guns present at Finlayson Point or Victoria Point, 1885.

Ironically, a call for action was put fourth by the Leader of the Canadian land-based Militia, Major General Edward Selby-Smyth. His persistent cautioning of the fact that Canada’s various ports were “for all extents and purposes, defenseless” helped push his idea that a naval branch of the Militia would be a key improvement. This proposed naval branch was as he described, “not for adding to the naval strength and supremacy of the empire beyond the purposes contemplated in the Colonial Defense Act.” Some speculate this amendment to the former statement came as a result from threats to his position from upon high in Ottawa. As one could expect, the politicians were not particularly willing to further increase militia spending in a period of peace and did not want to establish another set of naval militias. Somewhat miraculously though, they seemed finally willing to make something approaching a commitment. The Admiralty in London was informed that Canada was willing to host a warship for training in home waters if it was supplied by the Admiralty. This offer was stipulated with the clause that acceptance of a vessel would not imply an explicit obligation that Canada would form any kind of naval militia in the immediate future.

With this encouraging potential start, the Department of Marine and Fisheries dispatched a representative to Britain to inspect the warship offered by the Admiralty, a steam corvette named HMS Charybdis.
Sea Monster Ahoy!
December 2, 1880. Portsmouth, UK.


Peter Astle Scott let out a long sigh as he placed the paper onto the table in front of him. It had indeed been fourteen long years since he had retired from the Royal Navy however, he found it hard to believe a ship like this could possibly exist outside of the reserve fleet. When he was contacted by the Canadian government requesting his services in the inspection of a Royal Navy ship, his enthusiasm about potentially getting back into the saddle was almost palpable. Retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, fishing and hunting expeditions could only tamper his boredom to a point. The call back to action as the Captain of warship, even one of a Dominion, was something he couldn’t turn down. Of course, the handsome payment upon her arrival in Canada was just dessert.

Although if this old ship could make the journey across the Atlantic remained to be seen. Scott had been absolutely floored when he came aboard Charybdis, especially considering the ship itself had just returned from the China station in November. Scott had seen and served aboard his fair share of old ships, chief of most being HMS Terror before her ill-fated Arctic expedition under Sir John Franklin. She had been 26 years old when Scott had been aboard her and over the 4 years he served as her mate, she had been nothing like what he saw before him. He had arrived at Charybdis herself in late November and had been entombed in the ship ever since, evaluating every inch of her leaking, rotting corpse. It had been no wonder the Royal Navy had offered this ship as a gift; he would have spit in the face of any person trying to offer this as a seagoing command!

With the assistance of an overeager young Engineer from the Department of Marine and Fisheries, the pair had rapidly discovered the ship was a somehow still floating nightmare. A split bowsprit, barely functional boilers, funnel sheeting that closely resembled paper, a cracked 68 pdr gun barrel, completely fouled bottom, wood rot, fissured beams and to top it all off, paint resembling a long abandoned English farmhouse. How a Captain of the Royal Navy had allowed a ship under their command to fall into such disrepair was beyond Scott, although he wouldn’t have minded asking her previous Captain in person. His concerns to the Canadian delegate in London had fallen on deaf ears, he had insisted the ship needed to make the journey and Canada was willing to pay any expenditures to make that happen.

He would need to speak with one of the Dockyard managers ashore, the Canadians would want a time-frame and price tag for bringing this scow back up to a respectable state. As he stood and made his way towards the decks above, he could help but think, if Charybdis was indeed named for a mythical sea monster, she was the most pitiful monster he had ever had the displeasure to see.


HMS Charybdis, date and location unknown.
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White Elephant
Charybdis would be accepted for Canadian service in December of 1880 however, the results of said survey would have her placed in dock for repairs for five months. She would eventually make her way across the Atlantic and arrive in Saint Johns, New Brunswick in June 1881 but or a little over a year, Charybdis and her experiences in Canada could be charitably described as “troublesome”. Even though upwards of $30,000 had been spent on bringing the ship back up to a usable state, many corners had apparently been cut and the ship still showed her years hard service. Local press outlets mentioned the arrival of the ship in passing, no fanfare or even extended comments on the ship itself was made. Her notoriety only increased when she would later brake loose from her moorings in a storm, causing havoc in the harbor as she was attempted to be corralled. Following a later incident where two citizens fell through a rotten gangplank and were drowned in the harbor, the local authorities were at the end of their rope.

Due to the crewing requirements and the lack of a setup stage for any naval militia, Charybdis sat completely unused and largely derelict for her entire Canadian service. Not once did she leave her moorings under Canadian control. The local press would quickly rally to label her as “Canada’s White Elephant”, commenting “the squandering of public funds in order to bring this rotten tub across the ocean without any idea of what is to be done with her is inexcusable.” In the House of Commons, members of the opposition assembled in great number to lampoon the poor ship, largely to no opposition from the reigning party. One member of the House would state, “I am not quite sure where the flash of genius originated that suggested the propriety of this acquisition of this terrible monster.”


HMS Charybdis undergoing repairs while still in Royal Navy service, Esquimalt, 1870.

Charybdis would be returned to the Royal Navy at Halifax however due to her condition, she was kept in Halifax until she was broken up in 1884. For years to come, any attempt at naval procurement by the young Dominion was always met by the cautious tale of Charybdis and the lack of planning surrounding her arrival. One of the issue had simply been traded for another as he Americans had again moved to make a fuss. With plans announced to again remove itself from previous fisheries treaty and with the Department of Marine and Fisheries largely busy with surveying of the recently gifted Arctic territories, the stage was set yet again for potential conflicts. The recently withering fishery economy of the Atlantic provinces had further emphasized the knock-on results that could come from American encroachment into Canadian waters. In response to this, the Fisheries Protection Service was officially established as a permanent enforcement fixture of Canadian waters.

Before the crash modernization project of 1886, an iron hulled replacement for the old schooner La Canadienne was the sole ship available for Atlantic patrols. This would soon change as the force rapidly rearmed itself with modern vessels for the planned aggressive interceptions of American fishermen. Although this force was clearly a non-military force with limited jurisdiction, care was taken to project an air of authority in their appearances. Under the new Department Minister George Eulas Foster, the Service was provided naval styled uniforms, followed a quasi-naval inspired command and featured heavily discipline. A great deal of effort was made to court retired Royal Navy officers both at home and abroad to lead these ships, further reinforcing the idea that this force may finally be the nucleus to a proper naval force. As always, these ships would fly the Canadian coat of arms accompanied by a commissioning pennant issued under special warrant by the Admiralty, distinguishing the ships as armed men of war. Ordered from Polson Iron Works in Ontario, these ships would be under construction while negotiations were underway. CGS Constance was launched in 1891, followed closely by her sisters CGS Curlew and CGS Petrel. These ships would carry a multitude of small arms, machine guns and eventually 12 pdr naval cannons, giving them the moniker of "screw ram-bowed gunboats" by the American government.


CGS Constance in two separate liveries over her career, her prominent false ram bow and ornate decorations making her rather striking.

Canada’s last real attempt to appease the Americans was made in 1888 when an agreement was raised with Washington regarding a simple license would have to be purchased by American fishermen to grant them commercial access to Canadian ports and waters. Foster’s successor as Minister was Charles Hibbert Tupper who had been somewhat dejected as Ottawa had completely expected Washington to agree to what it thought was a more than fair agreement. His ships would be quickly sold off and his Department would be dissolved back into various other branches, although this would never come. The US Senate would formally reject this agreement which alongside a lack of enforcement assistance from Royal Navy assets, the Canadian put to work with their new ships. The fishermen of the American East Coast rather humorously seemed more open to following the agreement itself than the American government, causing the main focus of the Department to be pushed towards recreational fishing on the Great Lakes. Recent scientific findings had pointed to American recreational fishermen on Lake Erie and Lake Huron heavily damaging fish stocks due to illegal fishing out of season and major use of seines and gill nets in the areas.

CGS Petrel was ordered to patrol Lake Erie during the 1894 fishing season, explicitly to make examples out of any illegal American fishermen who had been prowling the lakes.
Lake Bound Buccaneers
Previous excursions against American poachers on the lakes had proven one thing, the lawbreakers intended to run free regardless of if they had to open fire on enforcement officials. Due to this fact, it was unadvised to employ only steam launches in these enforcement deployments. With a length of 116 ft, a beam of 22 ft and a draught of 11 ft, Petrel was larger than most vessels the Fisheries Patrol and with a top speed of roughly 10 knots, she was fairly maneuverable against some of the older steam tugs on the lake. Although her Nordenfeld quick-firing machine guns would not be mounted for some years, her armory included an extensive number of Spencer repeating rifles, Colt revolvers and naval cutlasses for protection and intimidation. This was partially assisted by the Fisheries Enforcement regulations of all seaborne officers equipped with naval style uniforms.


The typical uniform worn by Fisheries Enforcement Officers on the Lakes.

With an experienced Captain at her helm and a crew of roughly 30 men, Petrel arrived for the 1894 fishing season with something to prove and prove she did. On May 8, 1894, lookouts aboard Petrel spotted two ships in Canadian waters with many small boats scattered nearby. With that seemed to be a mass illegal harvest of Canadian fish, the Canadians moved in for an inspection. As they did, both ships began to raise steam, prompting a chase. As the Petrel pulled up alongside the two mother-ships, officers armed to the teeth with cutlasses and revolvers with crew lining Petrel’s decks with rifles, the officers found themselves pointing their arms at 50 wealthy American fishermen of the Dayton Peele Fishing Club. The raising of steam had been the galleys of both ships being operated in order to serve lunch to their patrons and each small boat consisted of two or three people fishing by hook and line. With understandably less vigor, licensing checks were conducted, and every single fisherman was found to be fishing illegally.

All involved were arrested by the crew of the Petrel who took all parties involved and their ships into the town of Amherstburg for detention. The fishermen and their hired captains were only held in custody for a few hours and were thereby released however, the yachts Visitor and Leroy Brooks were impounded until fines could be issued. The president of the Peele Fishing Club penned an extensive letter to the Canadian Minister of Marine explaining the situation and subsequently, the Department declined to press individual charges as they were convinced there was no explicit intent to break the law. Although due to the fact that an organized Club accepting membership fees should have informed their patrons of required licensing, a $40 fee was charged per ship alongside the required fees connected with the overall seizure.


Leroy Brooks in her early yacht appearance, this vessel is said to be still sailing today however the information is unsubstantiated.

The overall incident was rather minor and resolved rather quickly however, parties within the United States blew the situation out of proportion. A group of advocates lobbied the state government to step in and retaliate with seizures of their own yet the state fully supported the Canadian actions. A clear violation of Canadian law in Canadian waters did not justify hotheaded action. Accusations of heavy handedness were also raised but conveniently did not include why such measures were put into place. Perhaps the most timeless example that surfaced from the entire situation was the front-page print present in the Detroit News. Depicting the “Battle of Lake Erie” was an exaggerated cartoon showcasing a multitude of Petrel’s arm crew threatening fishermen in rowboats with swords, cannons and Gatling guns. Reflecting the previous Battle of Lake Erie, the main caption read as “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” The accompanying poem and general tone of the article that followed reinforced the opinions of the general public with their distaste of the wealthy class in depression times and their support of Canadian actions.


`Rah for the gallant Petrel; 'Rah for the Petrel's men;

Here's to their red hot visit; Here's may they come again!

It's rather a butt-end visit; but who in hades cares.

Since the big guns frowned from the portholes on bunch of millionaires!

Go for 'em Johnny Crapaud; go for 'em Bob Canuck;

Truss 'em up Johnny Thompson, swinge' em just for luck."

Besides this event, the 1894 enforcement season had been an outstanding success. Petrel and her accompanying steam launch Dolphin had impounded a total of five ships and confiscated over 200 nets of differing sizes. The Canadians presence on the lakes during this and the following seasons had made its impression and even as Petrel and her kin were slowly outran by faster American ships in the following years. The conspicuous nature of Petrel's white clad paint and distinctive ram bow did nothing but draw attention, intimidating as many people as she alerted to her presence. Even with that said, the arms race between the American poachers and Canadian enforcement officers would continue even until the modern day.
Hey everybody, I meant to include this in the post today however obviously I forgot. Due to circumstances that I bet most people can guess, my schedule has been pretty rapidly cleared of any upcoming events. As such, I'm going to be hopefully ramping up the progress of the story soon to hopefully retain my sanity and perhaps even help you all with yours.

Stay tuned, we're picking up steam again :)
Snakes in the Grass
The late 1800’s was generally seen as a sort of dark age regarding naval progress within or even regarding Canada. Ministers, Officers and politicians came and went, many words were uttered and no real action was undertaken. The specter of Charybdis hung low over any attempt at development and quickly was loaded into a metaphorical cannon and fired in the general direction of any pro-Navy figure. One of the few silver linings was the fact that due to its connection to the rest of North America through the Trans-Canada Railway, the Esquimalt naval base and the surrounding areas was reinforced with additional shore batteries. The main contribution from Canada in this time period was paying a 25% subsidy to the Canada Pacific Railway upon their commission of the three Empress class ocean liners. This was to ensure that the Empress of China, Empress of Japan and Empress of India were specially fitted with areas able to take gun platforms and alongside Admiralty stocks of 4.7” guns at Hong Kong and Vancouver, the trio could be quickly armed to counter Russian raiding cruisers.


RMS Empress of Japan passing through the First Narrows of Vancouver Harbor, June 1893.

While the Australian colonies were hard at work operating warships and planning defensive measures, Canadian politicians were generally seen to be doing what they pleased and what they pleased had little to do with allocating funds towards naval developments. The next up and coming personality Lieutenant Andrew R. Gordon, acting Commander of the Fisheries Protection Service. Yet another former Royal Navy officer who had retired to Canada, Gordon’s plan was relatively simple in comparison to others that had came before. Looking to the recent HMS Rattlesnake, Gordon wished for a pair of similar ships to be purchased and given to the Fisheries Protection Service. Unlike many of the proposals before, Gordan had provided an extensive 35-page report lacking all fluff and moving directly from point to point. In Gordon's opinion, the main threat to Canada was Russian or French armed mail steamers carrying significant amounts of weaponry. With the Admiralty unable to promise force deployments to protect Canada during wartime, such ships would be a huge value.


This pair of ships would serve as fisheries protection ships in peacetime and warships in a time of conflict against enemy cruisers. High speed and fair range allowed the ships to effectively enforce fisheries laws while also remaining effective as seagoing combat vessels. The 4” armament, torpedoes and quick firing smaller guns would be at an obvious disadvantage against a 6” armed merchant cruisers however such an enemy would be averse to risk damage so far away from friendly bases. Torpedoes especially had recently seized naval professionals across the globe in an iron grip of psychological warfare, even if their actual effectiveness was rather limited. The combination of range, high speed, good armament and low cost factored into their suitability alongside their compact dimensions which would allow them to travel through the Welland and St Lawrence Canals, serving the lakes as well as the coast.

The scheme itself was well received internally and eventually made its way up the chain to Prime Minister Macdonald. Although it was cleverly disguised as a fisheries protection plan, Macdonald saw directly through the ruses true purpose to set up the nucleus of a naval force. With the caveat of purchasing the ships themselves first under the guise of unarmed survey or fishery vessels and arming them at a later date. Gordon’s status as a lowly Lieutenant forced him to pitch his idea to the Admiralty through the Canadian high commissioner, a man largely clueless to any specifics of naval matters. In a series of blunders, the commissioner did not actually include Gordon's lengthy report to the Admiralty and only passingly mentioned about purchasing similar vessels to Rattlesnake for use as Fisheries patrol ships. The Admiralty dismissed the ‘proposal’ out of hand and recommended the Pheasant class of gunboats. Such ships were heavily armed, yet slow, old and featured high masts alongside not being able to move from the Lakes to the open ocean. These ships were used previously by the Admiralty on fisheries protection duties and were seen as perfectly adequate, something Gordon rejected wholeheartedly.


Pygmy class gunboat HMS Partridge circa 1893, her dated features are quite apparent in comparison to HMS Rattlesnake above.

Gordon’s attempts were likely to never succeed even if the Admiralty had received his entire paper. What they saw as a lowly lieutenant proposing a non-traditional role for a relatively new type of ship was seen as a kind of heresy by the Admiralty. Torpedo gunboats were designed for the specific purpose of screening battle line units from enemy torpedo assaults, there was no room for deviation in the Admiralty's eyes. With respect to Gordon, his ideas about the more general usage possibilities for torpedo gunboats was rather prophetic given what the type would eventually transition into but as was common, he was ahead of his time. Gordon would attempt to see modified versions of his scheme come to fruition in the future but his premature death in 1893 spelled an end to this particular endeavor. His death would again leave a vacuum within the Department of Marine and Fishers and the Department of Militia and Defense that would not be filled for quite some time.

Although with a certain American naval officer unleashing his theories of sea power upon the world, the public perception of the necessities for a national navy were about redefined.
Old Men and Their Papers
While some parties throughout history have played down the importance of 'The Influence of Sea Power Upon History' and indeed it being portrayed as the sudden gospel for naval power on the world is not particularly true, it’s value cannot be overstated to both the general public and governmental bodies. Mahan’s way of words describing the various strengths and weaknesses of both maritime and land locked nations played up to the social Darwinism commonly found within this time period. As the various other powers of the world were ideologically reinforced to build their navies up along the lines of Britain, the influence on the civilian population was arguably just as significant.

As January 1895 rolled around, a new civilian organization was formed in Britain referred to as the ‘Navy League’. Their purpose was clearly outlined as “spreading information showing the vital importance to the British Empire of the naval supremacy upon which depends it’s trade, empire and national existence.” Many of the patrons of the league extended from the British aristocrats down to the common hobbyist, the thread of imperialist pride held the organization together. While the league itself grew, it eventually hit a puzzling contradiction. The organization pushed for the improvement of port facilities in the Dominions and the establishment of naval reserves in the colonies however at the same time, their ingrained support of the Admiralty caused issues. Admiralty ideals of a centrally controlled Royal Navy with colonial monetary contributions clashed with the growing sentiment aboard for locally controlled squadrons, leaving the Navy League uncomfortably sitting on their hands.


Badge of the Navy League, clearly drawing inspiration from Royal Navy ship and land based badges.

The flowing ideals of imperial and nationalist pride were felt throughout the dominions although surprisingly, the first non-Britain based branch of the Navy League was set up in Toronto in 1895 with many more following in the years to come. At this point though, the League mainly pushed a straight naval equivalent to the land-based militia, not so much a national naval force. With Prime Minister Laurier and his Liberal government coming to power in 1896, the Navy League doubled their efforts in hopefully bringing a new Prime Minister into their corner. Yet again though, Laurier like Macdonald before him was a rather uninformed spectator of naval matters. Following a lengthy memo forwarded to Ottawa by the Colonial Defense Committee, Laurier was swept up and hurried to the Colonial Conference. A meeting about naval matters before the formal proceedings found Laurier far over his head in an embarrassing state. After a proposal from himself for a general fund for empire defense, he was quickly rebuffed by the premier of New South Wales regarding the fact that while his area had been financially supporting their local naval squadron, Canada was essentially sitting back and doing nothing.

Laurier’s frankly laughable statements regarding the fact that “Canada was in no need of naval protection” and therefore should not have to pay any donations forward to the general needs of the Empire made him the fool of the meeting. After this initial embarrassment, Laurier had realized two things. His limited experience in the matter meant he would need experienced opinions for any actions to be taken, opinions that the Admiralty thus far had been unhelpful in providing alongside the fact that any promises would have to both please the Admiralty and his own Liberal base, something about as likely as the sky falling down around his shoulders. Therefore, when naval matters were thus brought back to light within the conference itself, Laurier had taken the stance of silence. When it was offered that Laurier be given a private audience with one of the Admiralty’s Sea Lords for guidance, Laurier shocked all in attendance when he announced there was nothing to discuss. He followed closely with a statement closely reading as such, “The naval question does not have the same importance to Canada as it does for many of the other colonies, due to the fact that war with the United States is not a serious possibility. Any differences between the two nations is simply family troubles.”


Laurier's usually roaring and thunderous speeches did not translate well against other members of state, especially within naval matters.

The issue was settled for Canada and Laurier had escaped financially unscathed for the moment. While Australia and New Zealand both reinforced naval commitments to Britain, Canada was noted as to have no made such an offer by the leading figures of the Conference. Ironically after this meeting, Laurier was practically forced into looking into matters of defending Canada from a potential US invasion after the 1895 Venezuela Crisis had shown how unready Canadian defenses truly were. A memorandum titled “Naval Control on the Great Lakes” found its way to both the leader of the Militia and the Fisheries Protection Service. It outlined arming small vessels with stocks of British purchased Lee Enfield rifles and Maxim machine guns and detailed plans for equipping the three previously built Fisheries protection ships with 6 and 12 pounder weapons. The Petrel, Curlew and Acadia had been designed to take these weapons but not expressly fitted as to not invalidate the Rush-Bagot Agreement and spark a naval arms race on the Lakes. To help rapidly fit out in a crisis, these weapons and their related materials were to be transferred from the Militia to the Fisheries Service.

Following another commission organized by Laurier to help place Canada’s military footing somewhat securely, Major General Edward Leech had made a surprising recommendation. The main pillar of this report would be alongside the armament fitting on various ships, Canada would require a naval orientated militia. The related excerpt from the publicly released section of the report reads as follows.

“As a most important element in the defense of Canada, I cannot impress the necessity of the naval defense of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The Militia Act of 1886 contemplated the formation of a naval brigade, and I strongly recommend that, steps should be taken with that same intention. Training ships with instructional staff might be obtained from the Admiralty. I feel sure that the formation of such a force would be productive of most valuable results, not only as a strong and most important element of defense, but as a means of educating the seafaring population, and of improving the shipping interests in the inland waters of Canada.”

The size of such a naval brigade was hoped to be 2,000 strong with 1,500 being trained sailors for combat purposes and 500 as firemen for various ashore facilities. Two-armed training ships able to also be used in a wartime situation were also proposed alongside more combat orientated refits to Fisheries craft and training for existing personnel. Large stocks of quick firing guns of various calibers were also requested to be stored in secure warehouses alongside major lake bound cities for use in emergency conversions of local ships into warships. These measures were further reinforced as the United States boldly put forward a change to the Rush-Bagot Agreement in 1898. Since the onset of the Spanish-American war, the Americans had been keen to utilize their naval industries on the lakes and more so forced a change stating that if they could build warships on the Lakes for uses outside of the Lakes, the Canadians and British could operate two unarmored but armed vessels under 1,000t for “naval instruction and training” alongside 6 police, revenue and fisheries cutters. After further stipulating that only one warship could be built on the Lakes at a time and would have to completely vacate the Lakes before another could be started, the Canadians and British relented, not wishing for the Americans to throw away the treaty and fill the Lakes with warships.


A warship in a similar vein to USS Michigan/USS Wolverine would have likely served Canada's needs well as a training ship, almost 80 years of service is hard to beat.

In the end, all of the Commission findings bar the transfer of guns to the Fisheries service would slowly fade following the joint Canada-UK commission to resolve the Alaska boundary dispute. Even with the plucky prodding of Vice Admiral Jackie Fisher from his basing in Halifax being pushed away by a busy and frustrated Laurier, the naval issue was once again left to simmer. Even with yet another set back though, Laurier and his government had finally validated the idea of Canadian naval elements with serious consideration and members of both political parties had taken notice. Ears were raised, queries were placed and the rumor mill within Ottawa had more material than usual.

The world stage had made matters of naval defense an issue not particularly able to be hidden away from. Modern naval issues and warships could be perused in copies of Brassey or Janes and the newly finished Spanish-American war especially had alarmed nations all over the world. Commodore Dewey’s bold assault into Manilla Bay and the subsequent destruction of the Spanish fleet alongside its shore defences was troubling. Gobbling up Spanish possessions in the area, Canada especially was provided with a front row seat regarding what their neighbor was truly capable of. The Toronto Navy League worked tirelessly to underline the fact that “a Canadian naval reserve or drilled militia with the most modern weapons and realistic training able to be provided is absolutely essential to a sound national defense.” This general concept was widely circulated, reaching Canadian politicians all across the nation, even making its way to the Governor General and Laurier himself. While the proposed use of Royal Navy reserve ships for training did conjure the ghost of HMS Charybdis from it’s recently dug grave, the sentiment was further sweetened by League estimates that a force of 5,000 men could be potentially kept at a ready status for a yearly expenditure of only $250,000.

While all of this was occurring on the mainland, Vice-Admiral Fisher was eager to find a pet project to satisfy his boredom within the dreary Halifax station. With Ottawa not particularly willing to bite, a naval reserve setup from the relatively untapped colony of Newfoundland would have to do.


"Hello Newfoundland!"
you've let mad Jackie fisher loose on the poor newfies shall we expect a large light cruiser squadron or 2 from this

As much as I believe he would enjoy such a thing, Fisher will have to be content with Newfoundland providing reservists and personnel for the forseeable future :openedeyewink:
I's the B'y
In typical Fisherian fashion, Vice-Admiral Fisher had elected to directly query the governor of Newfoundland before speaking to any of the necessary organizations usually involved with the oversight of colonial militia establishments. Rumors had previously been circulating within Royal Navy circles that Newfoundland was rapidly coming around to the idea of potentially hosting a branch of the Royal Naval Reserves, mainly since the events of the Colonial Conference of 1897. At the Conference, Newfoundland was directly singled out by the other members in attendance for being the only one of the self-governing colonies to have completely ignored the call from Britain for aid in defense of the Empire. Between the humiliation in front of their peers, the press bringing the issue to the headlines of newspapers and a discussion between the Premier of Newfoundland and the Colonial Secretary. At the meeting, it was confirmed that both the British and Newfoundland desired the establishment of a naval reserve force in Newfoundland.


Once established, the naval reserves became a key part of the Newfoundland identity and their duty to the Empire as a whole, the naval elements within the above sheet music booklet for the 1902 'Ode to Newfoundland' provincial anthem is rather telling in this aspect.

To Fishers surprise, the government of Newfoundland had responded with much more vigor and receptiveness than their contemporaries in Ottawa or any of the Canadian provinces. While they could not offer comment on Fishers requests for specifics regarding the quantity of men expected, location of training areas and so on, the Admiral was reassured that the proper parties were being amassed to convoy the idea to the public. That same winter, posters detailing recruiting and the reserves in general were placed in all of the incoming and outgoing ports throughout Newfoundland. A large enrollment of fishermen was anticipated during their annual period of usual unemployment from June to October however, the issue of wages were pointed out. A Royal Navy reservist pay would indeed be an attractive proposal during the off season however, the seasonally outflow of fishermen over into Canada for their fisheries would be an issue. Newfoundland’s general wages were similar to Britain’s at the time however, the higher wages generally present within Canada could negatively affect the potential of the Newfoundland Reserve.

The initial testing of this idea proved to be a remarkable success. The newly elected governor of Newfoundland embarked on a tour of coastal cities at the end of the 1899 fishing season alongside the local RN Commodore G.A. Giffard, both of them boarding HMS Comus and HMS Columbine. This initial effort produced 300 interested individuals of which 50 would later embark on the following 1900 fall training voyage. This six month long inaugural trip was conducted aboard HMS Charybdis (ironic but not the naval equivalent to Canadian’s ghost of Christmas past, the next of name completed in 1896) and according to Giffard, the results were more than satisfactory. Giffard stated in a report to the Admiralty, “we all consider them to be now a useful and efficient body of men who would be a formidable addition to our stocks of personnel.” 44 of the original 50 men received promotions and the overall success of the operation reinforced the need for a reserve within the colony. Following this, Newfoundland agreed to setup a Reserve and purchase a hulk for training purposes. Although Newfoundland was relatively impoverished and during the setup processed had faced tough realities about funding the projects, monetary contributions from the Admiralty and Britain kept the project afloat to its conclusion.


Newfoundland's quality of personnel and willingness to serve quickly made them fairly well known to the people who relied upon them, this is reflected in the above British propaganda illustration.

With annual contingents of reservists being present aboard Charybdis, the men of Newfoundland quickly cemented their reputation amidst the ranks Royal Navy. The populations of men joining usually came from hard working fishing families who were well at home at sea with monotonous and strenuous work. Their impoverished upbringings caused them to be relatively resourceful problem solvers with their experience of working multiple odd jobs wherever was necessary to make ends meet. Newfoundlander's are quoted by Winston Churchill as "the best small boat men in the world", likely due to their common dory usage in the Atlantic Cod fishery. These men were no strangers to combat either, the 1902-1903 cruise found the Newfoundland reservists blockading Venezuela, shelling coastal emplacements and participating in various shore actions. Throughout these events, the Captain of Charybdis described the men as performing rather credibly, something rare for reservists and especially colonial reservists from a so-called backwater. During this cruise, the Newfoundland reservists were under the tutelage of a certain Gunnery Lieutenant named Walter Hose who ended up forming a great admiration for the people of Newfoundland. So much so it seemed that in his time serving he would marry a young woman from Newfoundland who he had met ashore.

In September of 1902, the screw corvette HMS Calypso was chosen as the training hulk and sailed across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. The placement of this hulk and therefore the reservists home port was something of a contentious topic within Newfoundland. The port town of Argentia was originally considered due to the fact that there was major concerns about placing a stationed 'warship' full of debaucherous sailors within alongside hoping to protect the reservists, of which many were married, from the supposed temptations of alcohol and women found within St. Johns. While there was indeed women and liquor aplenty within St. Johns, these peoples fragile sensibilities seemed to have clouded the fact that St. Johns was a major port and was year long filled with sailors, business as usual for the city. Another supposed reason for the placement in Argentia was it's proximity to the French territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a common area of territorial and fishing disputes. In the end, the convenience and accessibility of placing the organization within St. Johns was realized and Calypso would arrive for conversion and training ship duties in October of the same year.


HMS Calypso under sail.

While Laurier was no doubt very aware of the recent success within Newfoundland, the question of any Canadian naval commitments would yet again be set in it’s accustomed place on the back burner when the very government Canada stood upon was stretched to it’s breaking point by the recently started Boer War.
Lions and Tigers and Boers, Oh My!
The Second Boer war (usually simply referred to as The Boer war within Canadian circles) was seen as the first “Imperial war” where Canadians as a nation were directly involved. This conflict served to highlight the divisive nature of Canadian politics as a whole and was valuable foreshadowing to any potential Canadian naval developments. The Liberal government consisted of two main support bases, French Canadians based in Quebec and English imperialists based largely in Ontario but also spread throughout the country. "Quebeckers" generally wanted nothing to do with anything supporting the overall British Empire and would quite reliably cry out when even an inkling of Imperial sentiment was showed. Yet on the other side, the English Canadians generally pushed for increased assistance in the name of the Empire and decried inaction. Laurier’s status as both a prominent Quebec politician alongside some of his clumsily timed and poorly thought-out Imperialist statements early in his career had put him in an awkward situation, one where he was almost always forced into compromise. With the vehement support and opposition for sending support for the war in South Africa, naval matters fell by the wayside rather quickly, at least for Laurier.


Canada’s first contingent going off to join the Boer War, the Royal Canadian Regiment going aboard HMS Sardinian in Quebec City, 1899.

Ironically, the next push for naval development would come from Laurier’s soon to be mortal enemy, A Halifax born Lawyer named Robert Liard Borden. Borden succeeded Sir Charles Tupper as leader of the Conservative Party in 1901 and strangely as one of his first movements in such a position was “a resolution in favor of the formation of a Royal Navy reserve amongst our sea faring men”. This was broadly accepted across party boundaries at the meeting of the British Empire League in 1901, one Liberal MP going so far as to add that Canada would soon need to make a choice about operating a large fleet of vessels to stop unlicensed American pillaging of fisheries on the West Coast. The Navy League secretary was quick to confirm their complete support with even the French members in attendance endorsed the idea, stopping before direct support though. French MP Frederick Debartzch Monk would state “French Canadians would not stand aloof in the studying of naval proposals and in the potential formation of a navy league, Quebeckers would give a good account of themselves.” A branch of the navy league would not be formed in Quebec for many years though, largely being seen as an Imperialistic sham however, Canada wise support for naval endeavors was slowly mounting.

One detail which was largely unknown to Laurier and the major Canadian politicians was the difference in the nationwide branches of the Navy League. The various branches would regularly have conflicting goals and ideas, greatly contrasting with the view from Ottawa that the League as a whole was completely homogeneous and only worked to spread the good work of naval affairs. Details could never be agreed upon if the methods to come to those details never matched. As this was going on, it appeared that the stars were beginning to align for naval developments in Canada. The hard-line view of “one sea, one navy” from London and the Admiralty had begun to thaw somewhat. London had asked the Admiralty of any changes to Canada’s strategic situation within the last few years and if the earlier recommendations and ability to create a naval reserve was still present. The Admiralty responded that no change had been made strategically however, they stated “as it is believed to be essential to the efficiency of a naval force that it should be administered by a separate department, my lords are of the opinion that any naval force which may be raised should be under the Canadian minister of the Marine and Fisheries and should be closely affiliated with the Royal Navy.” This specific statement both secured the fact that the Admiralty had no major objections to a local Canadian naval force and also stated that they believed the Marine and Fisheries should control it, not the Department of Militia and Defense.


The Spanish cruiser Almirante Oquendo, set afire and run aground in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in the Spanish-American War. After this show of American naval might, the Royal Navy became rather apprehensive about their ability to effectively project power from their overseas 'backwater' bases.

Barely a week later, more support came from within the Admiralty itself. At the inaugural meeting of the Victoria Branch of the Navy League, Rear Admiral A.K. Bickford, the Pacific Station commander, expressed his support for a Canadian naval reserve with a short speech. He would later draw the Admiralty's attention to the “dangerously weak state of the Pacific Squadron” however, this largely fell on deaf ears. The British were more than aware of the status of their pacific based units and its poor state was mostly on purpose. The expansion of the US pacific based units within the area had made it impractical to station enough modern warships in pacific waters to stand up to such a force, not even taking into account the fact that such a move would be a clear diplomatic shot over the bow of the US. London was in no position to push the United States into any negative views given their recent embarrassments within South Africa, the United States was one of the few remaining nations without any ill feelings towards the Empire. With America being excluded from the famous “two power standard” measure of the Royal Navy alongside the Admiralty effectively allowing the Americans full reign to create the Panama Canal, the British view was largely to allow America to have the Pacific in regards to North America.

As the soldiers trickled back from South Africa, they carried very different sentiments as they did when they had departed. Respect and admiration for their British comrades was replaced by open doubts and contempt for the British officers under which they served. A mixture of elitism towards colonial servicemen and incompetence within some of the gutless political appointee British officers had shaken Canadian confidence in their British counterparts. Widely held belief was that that their own units were every bit as competent or even more so than their British brothers, deserving to be commanded by fellow Canadians. The Militia did not want to mindlessly adhere to British military doctrine any longer and inevitably of the decline of both the Atlantic and Pacific squadrons, this new mindset eventually trickled itself into the naval minded figures within Canada. In fact, this era within Canada militarily was largely defined by a decrease in both Britain’s presence and confidence in their competency from a military point of view. The demand for increased professionalism and independence from their British counterparts was rapidly surfacing.


Veterans of the Boer War return to Canadian soil as they march up King Street, Toronto.

With the adoption of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance alongside the fears of a three-pointed Russian, German and French naval advances, the Admiralty had rapidly began decommissioning and removing active combatants from their far-flung colonies, concentrating them home in Britain for some decisive Mahanian engagement. As the Admiralty moved to enact this new overarching plan, the drawing down of Royal Navy assets across the Empire brought up countless red flags. The Navy League of Victoria had been talking about such an issue happening for years, Canadian Maritime interests without Royal Navy protection would have nothing whatsoever. A complete withdraw would have been disastrous for Canada, the public outcry and lack of protection would be something that Canada would be unable to rectify by herself without spending astronomical amounts of money. At the 1902 Imperial Conference in London, Laurier reaffirmed Canada’s distaste for direct contributions and said the following, “The Dominion of Canada highly values the measure of local independence which has been granted to it from time to time by Imperial authorities and considering that Canadian expenditures for defense services are confined to the military side, if the protection of Canadian shores could not be guaranteed by the Royal Navy, then Canada’s government would be prepared to consider naval defense as well.” This dual-purpose ploy and statement from Laurier alongside a statement resolving to create a naval reserve quite soon placed Laurier’s skill as a politician front and center.

The Admiralty did not want to convey the fact that they could not meet their responsibilities in protecting Canada and the other colonies but it also did not want to force action on a subject that was previously discussed with disdain in Canada, the fact that Laurier had even entertained the idea was major progress in the eyes of the Admiralty. Before the Conference ended, the First Lord tried to reinforce the idea of one united British fleet, able to move wherever needed at a moment notice to protect itself. In the view of the Admiralty, an allotment of ships to a certain area would only serve as cannon fodder to a properly prepared and organized opposing naval force. These messages of removing colonial protection did not sit well with the colonial governments and affected them for quite a time to come. Even with all of this going on in Europe though, Laurier was desperately needed back within Canada. His current Minister of Public Works had become almost militantly opposed to Laurier due to his actions in South Africa and was actively stirring up a rather large fuss within Canada, finally being resolved when Laurier removed him in a massive cabinet shift later that year. The newly appointed Minister of the Department of Marine and Fisheries was the former Montreal mayor, Joseph Raymond Fournier Préfontaine and his overall impact on the formation of a Canadian Navy would be rather sizable in the future.


Mr. Préfontaine sometime before 1905.