Remember the Rainbow Redux: An Alternate Royal Canadian Navy

Red Tape Across the Atlantic
One very slippery slope regarding the foundation of the Canadian Navy would be it’s overall jurisdiction. This would be within not only the empire but the world as a whole. As early as their refits in preparation to journey to Canada, both Niobe and Rainbow fell victim to these issues. Upon competition of both refits, the Admiralty contacted Ottawa in order to hash out standing issues in their minds. According to the Admiralty, they could not permit the ships to sail without having the Canadian government allow the Dominion crew members to be subject to the ‘Naval Discipline Act’ of the Royal Navy, allowing them Admiralty to enforce rules and keep a tidy ship during the crossing. In order to circumvent this issue, the Admiralty pressured for both ships to be commissioned into the Royal Navy, therefore being under the aforementioned act but the vessels would be under full control of the Canadian government upon arrival. Ottawa was completely blindsided by this news and understandably furious. The previously passed ‘Naval Service Act’ has specifically stipulated that Canadian crews were subject to the ‘Naval Discipline Act’ and even if such measures were not in place, the King himself was overall commander in chief of the Canadian Military and could therefore dictate disciplinary actions of issues occurred. This misunderstanding seeded mistrust in Ottawa over the competency of the Admiralty who while already criticized for their unreliable advice, was now seen as unable to keep itself informed as to Canadian naval acts and policies.

Even through all of this, the Admiralty remained headstrong and refused to budge on the issue. Ottawa quickly locked itself into a standoff. It took Rear Admiral Kingsmill and the Canadian Minister of Justice traveling directly to Britain in order for the issue to be resolved. The pair of ships would sail under the proposed instructions of the Admiralty however, commissioning would be done as Canadian ships with Canadian control, regardless of when this might have been done. It was a rather strange sight to see a warship flying the blue ensign but as was expected, the commanding officer of Rainbow had wished to remain within his professional boundaries and did not cause a fuss. Commander William Macdonald of Niobe on the other hand, was not as accepting of sailing his warship across the ocean under the flag of a non-military vessel. Instead, he directly requested the Queen to present him with a white ensign for his vessel, which she graciously awarded him with. A silk white ensign would accompany Niobe across the Atlantic, much to the chagrin of both the Canadian government and Admiralty.

The next conflict soon arrived at the feet of the Canadian government in the form of a memorandum titled, “Status of Dominion Ships of War”. This document completely shattered the previously established notions back at the 1909 Imperial Defense Conference by once again changing the Admiralty’s opinion regarding the dominions legal status. Some of the memorandum was agreeable with it requiring dominion navies have proper training and be able to integrate into the Royal Navy, the bombshell was the question of jurisdiction. The Australian Navy was essentially assigned the task of filling the void left in the pacific left by the Royal Navy removing themselves from the area. As they planned to purchase and operate a fleet unit, they were assigned a vast swath of the pacific to govern. As Canada did not purchase a battlecruiser centered fleet unit, in the view of the Admiralty, did not have a sufficient geographical role to fill. Canada should therefore be ineligible to have any area assigned to its navy outside of territorial waters. The Pacific coast would be essentially protected by Australia and the Atlantic was to be tentatively protected by the 4th Cruiser Squadron of the Royal Navy in peace and wartime, Canada would effective be unable to send it Navy outside of territorial waters.



Crew members of HMCS Rainbow relax around the 6"/40 main battery guns and their protective breakwaters, the climate of BC (both politically and physically) being much more palatable than their brothers in Halifax.

Even the assistance of Governor General Grey did little to sway both the Admiralty and Colonial Office as when Grey requested permission to be aboard Niobe on a Spring 1911 sail down through the West Indies, both British parties flatly rejected him, noting Canadian ships could not leave Canadian waters until these matters were resolved between both governments. Grey was denied what he coined as “the symbolic inauguration of this new navy”, the navy itself was robbed of valuable and much needed training. Niobe was confined to a dockside training platform in Halifax. Rainbow had a somewhat more spirited time as could generally be described for her entire early career, she conducted fisheries patrol duties within the waters of British Columbia alongside training for the foreseeable future. While the ships themselves were largely filling the roles they were originally acquired for, the blow to the domestic Canadian Naval force both in pride and politics, was rather severe.

Minister Brodeur was growing tired of the seemingly continued attacks on any semblance of dignity and sovereignty within his nation and in a number of correspondence to Lord Grey, quite clearly laid out his feelings on the subject.

“When it was decided at the Conference of 1909 that a Canadian Navy would be established, I thought that this navy would be permitted to go outside of territorial waters. Otherwise it would have been obvious as you yourself state, that no navy can exist under such restrictions. If they had told me at the time that the existence of the Navy would depend on some restrictions of that kind, I would certainly not favored it’s establishment in this country. Then was the time to raise the question instead of letting the Canadian government go on with the establishment of a navy, acquire vessels and then be told that they must remain within the confines of the coast. Nothing of this kind was then said when it was mentioned. Now they state we cannot go outside territorial boundaries without passing automatically under their own rules and regulations.

I do not see why they would not trust Canada in the management and control of her navy. Do they fear some illegal action on our part? We have had for years upon years a Fishery Protection Service which has come constantly into contact with a myriad of foreign vessels. We have indeed seized vessels at various intervals but we never did anything which brought the Imperial Authorities under any kind of measurable scrutiny. I am not even aware as the Minister of any difficulties that have even happened to make such a connection. Having personally taken part in the 1909 Conference and having strongly urged on my compatriots on the principal of a Canadian naval force, I am personally placed in a very awkward situation. If there was no fear on my part that the idea of the Canadian Navy would be jeopardized, I would have to take steps that would otherwise not conform with the obligations that a Minister has to fulfill in the discharge of his duties.”


Grey was similarly frustrated to Brodeur. He had been an advocate for an independent Canadian naval force for years but also as a British representative, he had to respond cautiously in turn.

“It is fair to remember that while volunteers, a fair number of personnel currently manning both ships are still indeed Royal Navy personnel that have effectively been lent to the Canadian government by the Admiralty. The Admiralty has done everything in its power to meet our convenience in these matters, so in these circumstances, I feel you will agree with me that we ought not to push them on a course which will cause great inconvenience to both parties. The English regard this seemingly simple issue as one of great moment and difficulty, I implore you to reconsider any publicly brash statements.”

While it can be all too easy to place all of the blame for such conduct on the Admiralty itself, the main issue was not especially the naval forces of the dominions, but instead the dominions themselves. The dominions as a whole had been exercising increased autonomy and control of their own land and seas however, the issue of their jurisdiction outside of territorial waters had never before been heavily considered. The Royal Navy held itself as the most powerful navy in the world and to potentially have members of their fleet (aka the dominions, as even if internally they are seen as unique, the rest of the world largely views them as British) acting outside of Royal Navy interests could damage their overall reputation and cause an international incident. The issue was urgently needing to be resolved and as a prominent Montreal lawyer was dispatched to discuss the problems with the Admiralty and surprisingly, the Royal Navy and British government were completely willing to negotiate. When Laurier arrived in Britain alongside Ministers Borden and Brodeur for the Imperial Conference of 1911, every issue besides one had been successfully negotiated. The only remaining duty left was to publicly sign and approve the documents at the conference itself. To the relief of all parties involved, both parties had came out of negotiations in a positive position.

British Prime Minister Asquith opened the conference with the following statement,

“There are proposals put forward from responsible quarters which aim at some closer form of political union as between the component members of the empire, and which, with that object, would develop existing, or devise new machinery, I pronounce no opinion on this class of proposals. I will only venture the observation that I am sure we shall not lose sight of the value of elasticity and flexibility in our imperial organization, or the importance of maintaining the principal of ministerial responsibility to parliament. I will refer to one other topic of even greater moment, that of imperial defense. Two years ago in pursuit of the first resolution of the conference of 1907, we summoned here in London a subsidiary conference to deal with the subject of defense, over which I had the honor to preside. The resorts achieved particularly in the inauguration of dominion fleets adopted by Canada and Australia, are of far reaching character. It is in the highest degree desirable that we should take advantage of your presence here to take stock of possible risks and dangers to which we are or may be in common exposed; and to weigh carefully the adequacy, and reciprocal adaptive was of the contributions we are respectively making to provide against them.”

Being the most senior prime minster present, Laurier would follow the opening. He would state, “It is my happy privilege of representing here a country which has no grievances to set fourth and very few suggestions to make. If there is one principal upon which the British Empire can live, it is imperial unity based upon local autonomy.”

As both Canada and Australia were included in the following agreement, both parties were required to agree to the following 15 stipulations regarding their naval forces.

1.) The naval services and forces of both dominions were to be controlled exclusively by their respective governments.

2.) Training and discipline within the forces of the dominions must be generally the same as the Royal Navy to permit the potential for proper interchangeability.

3.) The King’s Regulations, Admiralty Instructions and the Naval Discipline Act are all valid in relation to the navies of the dominions but should any changes be desired, these will be communicated with the British government.

4.) The Admiralty agreed to lend to the younger services, during their infancy, whatever flag officers and other officers and men might be needed, such personnel to be as far as possible, from or connected with the dominion concerned, and in any case volunteers.

5.) The service of any officer of the Royal Navy in a dominion ship or converse, was to count for the purposes of retirement, pay and promotion, as if it has been performed in that officers own force.

6.) Canadian and Australian naval stations were created and defined: the Canadian Atlantic station covered the waters north of 30 degrees North and west of 40 degrees west, except for certain waters off Newfoundland, and the Canadian Pacific station included the part of that ocean north of 30 degrees north and east of the 180th meridian.

7.) The Admiralty would be notified whenever it was intended to send dominion warships outside of their own stations, and a dominion government, before sending one of its ships to a foreign port, would obtain the concurrence of the British government.

8.) The commanding officer of a dominion warship in a foreign port would carry out the instructions of the British government in the event of any international question arising, in which case the government of the dominion in question would be informed.

9.) A dominion warship entering a foreign port without a previous arrangement because of an emergency, would report her reasons for having put in to the commander in chief of that station or to the Admiralty.

10.) In the case of a ship of the Royal Navy meeting a dominion warship, the senior officer should command in any ceremony of intercourse or where united action should have been decided upon; but not so as to interfere with the execution of any orders which the junior might have received from his own government.

11.) In order to remove any uncertainty about seniority, dominion officers would be shown in the Navy List.

12.) In the event of there being too few officers of the necessary rank belonging to a dominion service to complete a court martial ordered by that service, the Admiralty undertook to make the necessary arrangements if requested to do so.

13.) In the interwar of efficiency, dominion warships were to take part from time to time in fleet exercises with ships of the Royal Navy, under command of the senior officer, who was not, however, to interfere further than necessary with the internal economy of the dominion ships concerned.

14.) Australian and Canadian warships would fly the white ensign at the stern and the flag of the dominion at the jack staff.

15.) In time of war, when the naval service of a dominion, or any part thereof were put at the disposal of the imperial government by the dominion authorities, the ships would form an integral part of the British fleet, and would remain under control of the Admiralty during the continuance of the war.

In the end, the governments of the dominions ended up with all of the issues they had resolved, besides one for Canada. The Canada and Australia were both more than willing to adhere to any Admiralty regulations within reason while keeping their navies overall power within their own hands. Leaving the conference with much expanded territorial authority had been a massive boon and in the Admiralty’s eyes, even a Canadian fleet unit as was proposed lacking a battlecruiser would still be a worthwhile addition to the Royal Navy abroad. That aforementioned issue which went unresolved was that of the naval ensign. As with Australia, Canada had been previously moving to adopt the standard British White Ensign, the face of the Royal Navy for hundreds of years. Even with that being considered, both Prime Minister Laurier and Governor General Grey had both privately agreed that Canada should have a unique naval ensign that while inspired by the White Ensign, must have some degree of significance to the people of Canada. Any effective steps to shake off the notion of the Navy simply being another branch of the Royal Navy under a new name were vital from both a recruitment and political viewpoint.


Artists impression of what Lord Grey's proposed Canadian naval ensign could have looked like, it is unknown how large the maple leaf in the middle would actually be.

There was not a particularly large amount of effort put into such a flag, it is widely believed that Governor General Grey simply constructed it himself with little help. Regardless, The eventual flag was based off the White Ensign and featured a green maple leaf of indiscriminate size placed directly in the middle of the flag, overlapping the cross of St George. The flag never left the eyes of the upper echelons of Canada’s government and when Lord Grey proposed the idea alongside an example to the Admiralty in Britain, the result was rather expected. Grey was refused and as can be read above, Canada would fly the White Ensign, this was not up for debate. It can be imagined that the very idea of a Dominion wishing to deface the emblem of the Royal Navy with such a comparatively childish attempt was not warmly received by the Admiralty. While the design of the flag was indeed of questionable quality and the idea was not heavily pushed by any party, the choice to include a maple leaf was backed by a surprisingly rich history on both the civilian and military aspects of Canada. Early settlers in what would become Canada adopted the symbol as their own throughout the 1700’s with it growing in popularity, eventually making its way onto Canadian coinage, provincial coats of arms and prominently featured in the de facto national anthem of the nation, ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’. Personnel of the Militia and eventually the Canadian Army sported the maple leaf as both regimental symbols and national identifiers throughout conflicts as the recent Second Boer War. While the Maple Leaf did not make it into the ensign of the Canadian Naval Service, it’s significance to the Navy would become far more evident in the next major conflict.

The issue of naval jurisdiction sadly meant that Niobe was unable to attend the June 24, 1911 Spithead naval review to celebrate King George V and his coronation. Canada would end up being present at the festivities with midshipmen Victor Brodeur and Percy Nelles alongside 35 enlisted men who formed a marching procession. These days would prove to be the high point of the Canadian Navy for sometime to come as on August 29, 1911, the Canadian Naval Service was authorized by the Colonial Office and his Majesty to use the prefix “Royal”. From this day forward, the Royal Canadian Navy was now completely established. The abbreviation RCN was used as shorthand and all ships of the service would see the prefix “HMCS” used to signify their distinction from their Royal Navy counterparts.


Canadian Naval Stations in both the Atlantic and Pacific after the 1911 Imperial Conference, Canada gained considerable jurisdiction all things considered.
 
I do kind of understand both sides of the coin in regards to the flag issue. The navy isn’t really seen already as extremely Canadian and having even a flag that’s a bit more different would be a big gain. On the other hand we’ve seen from those Admiralty rules that while these ships are largely independent, they also are basically RN ships to the international community. I wonder if the Canadians could have defaced the white ensign with their coat of arms or potentially the leaf but not directly on the middle? Perhaps larger and to the right side of the flag? I’m interested to see what you mean by the maple leaf being important in the next war.

Keep it up and congrats on 100+ posts.
 
Whiskey on the Rocks
Political patronage has always been a sticky issue regardless of the country and Canada is no exception. Prime Minister Laurier’s long-standing rule to always have a prominent Quebec figure at the head of the Department of Marine and Fisheries and by extension, the Navy, resulted in a rather large amount of this patronage. One of these promises was to Bowman Brown Law, a liberal member of parliament for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Coinciding with the Old Home Week celebrations in Yarmouth and across the coast of Nova Scotia, Brodeur was called to Britain for the Imperial Conference. Wishing to have Niobe tour Yarmouth and the surrounding coastal towns for the festivities and to help drum up support for the Liberals and their navy, MP Law contacted the naval staff to hopefully schedule a visitation. The Chief of Staff and his Secretary both denied the request. Sending Niobe off to amuse citizens would be a disruption of her current training scheme and a gross misuse of government resources. MP Law was not deterred and asked again, being declined for a second time. MP Law demanded that the Chief of Staff cable Minister Brodeur in Britain and remind him of the promise he made, the Naval staff did no such thing. MP Law faced potential backlash from the local population if the navy did not show so furiously, he made a daring move.

MP Law was in a fairly good relationship with William Stevens Fielding, the former Premier of Nova Scotia, and the current Minister of Finance. Even though Fielding was also in London, he intervened on Law’s behalf, sending a telegram to the Naval Service in Ottawa asking for MP Law’s request to be granted. Brodeur had barely arrived back in Canada before MP Law was on him regarding the promise, this time getting a signed letter from the Minister granting the visit. Just before this signed letter though, the naval Chief of Staff had tabled a memorandum in complete protest of the visitation. Commander Roper rightly pointed out in this paper that the opinions of the naval staff members should be obtained before the Minister promises anything regarding movement of naval assets. Rear Admiral forwarded the memo, expressing his complete support and condemnation of the delay in training. Kingsmill added to the memo with his opinion that it would be impossible to carry out the required training related to the vessel if these visitations became customary. This mess for lack of a better term, clearly demonstrates the issues the Royal Canadian Navy suffered from in its early days but nonetheless, Brodeur sent Niobe to Yarmouth. Arriving on July 14, Niobe participated in the festivities rigorously. The ship was effectively skeleton crewed in port as all of the crew possible were rotated out to enjoy the activities. The ships band was the busiest out of their compliment, being lent to the town for the duration of their stay. Over 4,000 guests would tour the ship over its 5 day escapade while a formal ball would be held to honor their presence. Niobe would depart Yarmouth on July 19 following a rapid deterioration of the weather into a heavy gale. After visiting many other ports of call, Niobe found herself off Cape Sable on the night of July 30. As the ship crept through dense fog at 7.5 knots looking for the southwest ledge buoy, they passed the buoy and due to the visibility and heavy tide, Niobe found herself crashing into ‘Pinnacle Rock’. As the Commander had just reached the bridge but not fast enough to avoid the grounding, Niobe was lifted by the swell and thrown back against the rocks. Crew members were thrown off their feet with multiple sustaining minor injuries as the hull was shredded against the seabed.


US revenue cutter Androscoggin, rather similar atleast in outward appearances to her Canadian fisheries enforcement counterparts.

The ship was heavily damaged, the only thing keeping the ship afloat was zealous damage control efforts and the fact the boiler rooms themselves stayed relatively sealed. After everything was said and done, Niobe had lost her stern post and rudder with after most section of the keel being completely destroyed. The starboard propeller was gone while the port propeller had lost half its blades. The port engine room had completely flooded, and its opposite was enduring 16 feet of water. The ships freeboard had been reduced to only 10 feet at its highest point over the waterline and the largest puncture in the hull was measured as 25 feet long and 10 feet wide,. It was later noted that according to Commander Macdonald, “there was 19 holes in the ships bottom large enough to drive an automobile through.” Niobe sent out a call for assistance and was almost immediately responded to by the US revenue cutter Androscoggin. The cutter kept a wide birth to Niobe and prepared to take on survivors if the damage worsened. Niobe eventually worked her way off the rocks however even with both bow anchors down alongside a stern anchor, the sea was violent to the point of dragging Niobe stem first back into the rocks. Luckily hitting around the reinforced ram bow, this did comparatively little damage. The 16 men in the two boats launched to send out the stern anchor were lost in the fog when the 5-inch-thick ropes holding them snapped.

The ships CGS Stanley, CGS Lady Laurier and the tug McNaughton all arrived in under a few hours from Yarmouth to deliver additional damage control equipment and personnel to assist Niobe. The ships boats were put out a few feet over the water to allow prompt launching in case the ship foundered as over 300 enlisted men and boys were brought up on deck before painstakingly being taken off by rescue ships. Miraculously, Niobe held together long enough to move under her own steam to a safe inlet, Shag Harbor, 10 miles up the coast. She made a respectable 7-mile jaunt in 24 hours on half a propeller and no rudder, having to be assisted by the tug along the way. The inlet itself was chosen for its rather shallow depth of 36 feet and a soft sandy bottom, if Niobe were to founder, she would be recoverable and all crew could likely escape. During this time, divers assessed and used mats to repair some of the larger openings within Niobe’s hull. The damage below was immense, and the divers exclaimed when they came topside that they were not sure how the ship was still afloat. The additional pumps and shoring materials made Niobe safe enough for the return trip home and as a tow, the cruiser HMS Cornwall was dispatched to bring them to Halifax. Cornwall had been training cadets off Newfoundland before she was dispatched and somewhat humorously, also managed to fall victim to the rocks that got Niobe. 2 miles away from where Niobe hit, Cornwall managed to ground herself briefly and take on 2,000 tons of water but worked herself off in enough of a condition to bring Niobe home.


HMCS Niobe in drydock following her grounding damage, some of the impact can be seen covered by the wood near the bow.

As Niobe slid into Halifax harbor and was pier side, the chopping block of the Admiralty was readily awaiting its next victim. Rear Admiral Kingsmill knew this firsthand and it was more than likely possible he would be down one or more officers by the time this was all over. Kingsmill himself would release a letter to the press congratulating the conduct of the Canadian enlisted personnel during the accident,

"The discipline on the Niobe by the boys and young recruits was everything that one could wish for. With the ship in the position she was, a gale of wind blowing and dense fog overall, the Canadian boys behaved fully up to the traditions of the British Navy. The discipline left nothing to be desired. Of course, the ship's crew and officers displayed fine discipline, but I am speaking now of the Canadian boys and recruits."

After Cornwall was repaired and Niobe cycled into the dockyard for a stay that would last 6 months, the hellish procession known as an Admiralty court martial was now underway. Anticipating this, Commander Macdonald personally cabled London and requested the court martial, seeking to clear his name. Due to the rather bare nature of the Canadian officer structure, the Royal Navy was required to send the entire 4th Cruiser Squadron to Halifax in order to have enough officers to properly hold the appeal. The cruisers HMS Leviathan, Berwick, Essex and Dongal were all present with their officers. The witnesses charged were Officer of the Watch Lieutenant Lord Allister Graham, Navigating Lieutenant James White and Commander Macdonald, all three charged with the causing, or suffering to be caused, the stranding of Niobe.

Graham’s defense largely rested upon the conclusion that it was unfair to hold him responsible for the stranding of the ship when he had been relieved of the watch before the accident had occurred, which was perfectly fair. While he was diligent enough, it was found that he should have stayed on the bridge during such a troubling period. Graham was well aware of the existence of the Cape Sable lights, and the time they should have been discernible from the ship however, when this time passed and the lights were not seen, he did not immediately report the fact to Commander Macdonald or the Lieutenant White. It was the duty of Graham to place lookouts above and below to ensure the safety of the ship, but he did not think he had a chance, as the fog closed around the ship very rapidly. Graham would place lookout duties with himself. Graham failed to ascertain position of the ship by cross bearings of the local lights. In the end though, he was sentenced to be reprimanded, little more than a black mark for his record however, Graham felt and expressed that he had held a rather good record as an officer, which Macdonald and White backed up thoroughly. Graham was lucky, Lieutenant White was not so.

At the age of 24, Lieutenant White had moved to Halifax with his wife and two children when he retired from the Royal Navy due to over staffing of navigators. He took up a position with the Royal Canadian Navy until the accident had occurred. This section of the court martial is often highly debated as White himself was much more articulate with a substantial argument compared to Graham yet, was given the harshest punishment of all. White had been extremely tired due to not sleeping the day before and took his leave, instructing Graham to let him know when the Cape Sable Lights were spotted, this never came. White rather convincingly argued that the stranding was due an abnormal tide, which was impossible to foresee, an uncharted rock or a mixture of the two. The abnormal tide was indeed proven due to the aggressive nature of Niobe’s damage and the existence of uncharted rocks have been amply proven by the grounding of Cornwall. White also maintained he had not been informed of the facts as he should have been and Commander Macdonald went on record stating, "Up to the night in question, I have had the highest opinion of you as a navigating officer. You have always been most careful, conscientious, and exact, and I have complete confidence in you as a navigating officer. I also consider you an excellent pilot." Regardless of these facts though, he was sentenced as guilty and summarily dismissed from Niobe.

When later asked to comment about the affair, White simply stated "The Niobe went ashore and someone had to suffer for it”, leaving it at that.


Commander Macdonald of HMCS Niobe.

The final person to be tried was Commander Macdonald himself and as White’s career had for all practicalities already been sacrificed at the alter, Macdonald had a chance to successfully prove himself of any wrong going. His presentation to the court was as follows,

"At 9:58, after getting away from Yarmouth, I rounded Blonderock buoy, and shaped course S.74 E. The night was very clear. Up to this time no abnormal tide had been encountered, and nothing to lead me to suppose that any corrections other than those allowed for in tide tables would be necessary, I am firmly of the opinion that Lieutenant White's computation of tides was the correct one, which the point of our stranding proves, and that had there not been an abnormal tide the ship would have made the southwest ledge buoy even in thick weather. About 10:15, I gave my night order book to the officer of the watch on the forebridge and pointed out to him that the ship was making the southwest ledge buoy, to see that the ship was not set in to northwards, and on no account to get to port of his course, but to keep generously to starboard. At this time, the night was extremely fine and starry, I then went into my cabin on the forebridge. On being called at midnight, I came out of my cabin and found that the ship had run into a fog. I called out Lieutenant White's name and was informed that he was not on the upper bridge. I then sent for him. As the reduced speed had not enabled me to hear the southwest ledge buoy’s whistle, I determined to haul out, and went into the chart house to determine a course, and had just leaned over the chart when the ship took ground. The time from my first being informed that the southwest ledge buoy was sighted to the time of grounding was about 20 minutes. I beg to state that the cause of our grounding was an abnormal tide, due either to the gale, the previous night in the Bay of Fundy, or to perhaps a hurricane in the West Indies. I would ask the members of the court to place themselves in my position on the night in question, to remember that at 10:25, when I gave the order book and instructions to the officer of the first watch, the night was exceptionally fine, exceptionally clear; that no abnormal tide had been experienced, and that I was kept in ignorance of the fact that Cape Sable light had not been seen when we were closely approaching it; that when I was called about the time I expected to be, I was definitely informed that the buoy had been seen and heard immediately before the fog closed down in the position I expected it to be seen. I am of the opinion that neither the charts, tide tables nor sailing directions give the seaman, not possessed of local knowledge, any idea of the danger of the locality. I am not claiming to have grounded on an uncharted rock, though this may well be the case, and I think that this locality probably abounds in uncharted rocks, which only ships of deep draught discover."

Following his explanation and consideration by the court, Commander Macdonald was found to be free of any guilt and as was tradition, was given his sword back by the ranking officer of the court. On a personal level though, many officers held Macdonald in a lower regard, assuming him negligible for not ensuring his crew had been following proper procedures.

Canada would be deprived of half her naval fleet for a substantial and vital period in its history. When Niobe would emerge from the drydock in January of 1912, she faced a far more hostile nation.
 
I do kind of understand both sides of the coin in regards to the flag issue. The navy isn’t really seen already as extremely Canadian and having even a flag that’s a bit more different would be a big gain. On the other hand we’ve seen from those Admiralty rules that while these ships are largely independent, they also are basically RN ships to the international community. I wonder if the Canadians could have defaced the white ensign with their coat of arms or potentially the leaf but not directly on the middle? Perhaps larger and to the right side of the flag? I’m interested to see what you mean by the maple leaf being important in the next war.

Keep it up and congrats on 100+ posts.
Apologies, I missed your congratulations. I greatly appreciate it, we're slowly getting up there in attention and chapters. It's nice to see the regulars keep popping up, my attention seems to be kept alongside some others it seems ;) I personally kind of like the idea of Canadian having a distinct ensign but Lord Grey's attempt was a bit lazy and I completely agree, potentially doing something like this for an ensign? I like that much more than simply throwing the leaf in the middle.

 
Apologies, I missed your congratulations. I greatly appreciate it, we're slowly getting up there in attention and chapters. It's nice to see the regulars keep popping up, my attention seems to be kept alongside some others it seems ;) I personally kind of like the idea of Canadian having a distinct ensign but Lord Grey's attempt was a bit lazy and I completely agree, potentially doing something like this for an ensign? I like that much more than simply throwing the leaf in the middle.

that does look rather a bit better I would have to say. Although while a Canadian ensign I think would do nothing but help the navy think of itself and show itself as more independent, the ensifn in the end is still a defaced(?) Royal Navy ensign. it seems you will never keep the french happy.
 
Don't Give Up The Ship! New
August 4, 1911. Halifax, Nova Scotia.

First Lieutenant Edward Atcherley Nixon, alongside the cadets, had spent the majority of the morning marching briskly through the surrounding area of Halifax. The specific route today had been around Bedford Basin and out into Dartmouth proper. The cadets were more than familiar with this route by this point in their tenure at the Naval College but none of them expected a stop at the dockyard’s armory. The old Lee-Enfield Mark I* rifles, fondly termed as "emily", were handed out to the eager hands of the young boys. While lacking live ammunition to the dismay of the lads, their glistening bayonets bobbling up and down surely made a similar impression to the citizens of Dartmouth as they looked on with bemused stares. The march itself was rather enjoyable but Lieutenant Nixon had something else sitting in his mind, a personal favorite event that he insisted was hosted every Friday. Training staff for the college itself had always been hard to come by and being one of the main instructors, Nixon had used his connections to bring aboard any teachers, civilian or otherwise, to assist his students. One of those civilians was Archibald MacMechan, a local university professor who had graciously volunteered each Friday to teach naval history to the cadets. Nixon had helped MacMechan prepare today's lecture and as a stand out moment in Halifax's history, the Lieutenant was fairly excited himself. The lecture itself was to take place in its usual spot, the large annex present alongside the college itself. Nixon checked his pocket watch which displayed 2 pm, he could almost hear the steps of the cadets making their way from the mess room. As all 26 cadets poured in and eventually tapered off, MacMechan began his lesson. The topic of the day was 1813 Naval Battle between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake, a somewhat famous naval engagement around Halifax. MacMechan was a rather skilled professor and as his lesson flew on by at dictation speed, each cadet struggled to write verbatim what their instructor was teaching. Prompt reporting under stress was a valuable skill and Nixon would take personal responsibility afterwards to ensure his cadets showed such skills.


Painting of HMS Shannon leading the former USS Chesapeake into Halifax harbor.

MacMechan’s riveting retelling of the engagement itself was something to behold. Not a single detail was left untouched as he faithfully sundered on about the captains of each vessel, descriptions of the ships, the quick and deadly engagement itself and capped the entire lesson off with an almost eyewateringly patriotic narration of Shannon escorting the captured Chesapeake into Halifax harbor. While the Canadians did not have a direct influence on the battle, it was very much a closely held engagement for the citizens of Halifax in general. Following a show of gratitude from Nixon and the cadets alike, the Lieutenant took the stage in the professor’s place.

He stared out into the faces of the young men in front of him, “Cadets, what do you think was the most important factor in deciding the battle in Shannon’s favor?”

Cadet Percy Nelles stood from the crowd, “The difference in the crews sir?"

“Correct.” Nixon stated, “This is the most important distinction I want all of the cadets here today to take to heart. While war on the sea has changed dramatically since the days of sail, the importance of the crew has not. How you conduct yourself as navigators, engineers, gunnery officers and leaders will dictate the success of both day to day operation and engagements with the enemy. Stick to your craft or duty with the utmost dedication. Your instrument or conduct may very well be the reason for victory or defeat. Take to heart the qualities of a man who can steel himself against enemy fire and stay cool in the face of adversities. Battles are decided at anytime, be it the peak of their intensity or before they even begin.”

“Another fact as well." He paused for a moment, "Commander James Lawrence may have lost his ship and his life but his action during the battle was something to also consider. His cry of Don’t Give Up the Ship was a valiant final action to his fellow crew. Later United States Naval officers would later make this cry something to be remembered, a classic example how a small action can have even larger results. Even in death and defeat, an individual can make a lasting difference upon their ship, crew members and the fate of their country. While I do not want to impart onto you such pessimism, know that your duty extends to even when you depart this Earth. No matter how dire or hopeless a situation, keep your head level and your demeanor cool. I wish to see the day that one of you cadets merrily sail your implement of war through this great harbor of Halifax and repeat the deed of Broke so many years before.”

With that, Nixon released the cadets for their next training session. With their journals in hand, headway was made towards his office. Sitting behind his desk, his eyes reached the letter he had received earlier that morning. Lieutenant Stephens had addressed him a rather worrying rumor. Ever since Prime Minister Laurier and his underlings had made their way to London for the recently concluded Imperial Conference, the Conservative party head Robert Borden had been aggressively growing his sphere of influence against Laurier. While this was mainly regarding the trade agreement with the United States, the shipbuilding plan, and the Royal Canadian Navy itself had come under heavy fire politically. While speculation at this point, there was considerable talk that Laurier very well might be ousted following the September election. Nixon suppressed a shiver at the thought of what the Conservative Party would do to the very recently founded Canadian Navy. They had issues with equipment, personnel, and funding as it of now and if what he had heard was correct, the Navy might simply be abolished under a new administration. Regardless of that though, Nixon broke the thought from his mind and thumbed the first journal on his desk. Regardless of what the politicians decided, he would teach his cadets until they dragged him from this building, kicking, and screaming.



Commander Nixon after his promotion and alongside a dog at the naval college.

 
Just a quick question regarding some feedback, so far I have used chapters written from the view point of an individual rather sparingly however as we move further and past the point of deviation, they will be used more commonly. Some of the plot threads and characters I plan on utilizing are a bit too complicated to properly articulate with only the normal "authoritative history book" style of the usual posts. Therefore, I'd like any possible feedback regarding these types of view point chapters. I'm not extremely comfortable with them as of late but I hope to be in the future.

Thank you all for your continued viewing, next chapter will be out soon :)
 
Shooting Politicians in a Barrel New
Riding high from his sweeping conference victory, Laurier made landfall back in Canada only to find for him a pre-set political minefield. The Conservative opposition had been nothing but busy in his absence as Laurier’s recently proposed reciprocal trade agreement with the United States was a veritable roundhouse kick to their hornets’ nest. In January of that same year, Laurier and US President Taft had agreed to sign an agreement regarding the free trade of natural products between nations. While the US Congress and Senate had passed the required legislation, the agreement was now to be decided by the Canadian political establishment. The Liberal party had placed its hope on the fact that the Prairie provinces would support such an agreement, giving them an excellent market for their largely agricultural materials. On the other hand, the manufacturing center of Canada which resided within Ontario and Quebec feared that this would remove materials from their own economy and place too much power in the economical juggernaut across the border. It was alleged by Frederick Monk that Laurier’s trade agreement with the United States only served to “dig a big ditch to hide the nefarious policy of his naval bill” and while this may be true, the Liberal party as a whole had been proponents of free trade for years and this was completely on brand for them.

While outwardly a strong strategy to both empower his supporters and quietly shuffle the RCN’s various controversies somewhere to be dealt with after the next election, this gamble would prove to be Laurier’s political downfall. As Canada and the United States had specifically utilized legislation instead of a formal treaty to dodge the approval of the British government, many parties viewed this as some beginning to a shady backroom deal. A lack of consulting with the British caused overly patriotic imperialist Canadians to start pointing fingers and leveling the charge of “traitor” against anybody in favor of this agreement. Another American annexation scare was also sparked when House of Representatives speaker Champ Clark fervently declared before the house, “I look forward to the time when the American flag will fly over every square foot of British North America up to the North Pole. The people of Canada are of our blood and language.” This was promptly capped off with remarks regarding this trade agreement as the first step in ending Canada as a country, being received with immense applause. This rightly caused panic within Canada and the Conservative party latched onto this incident to fuel their anti-America, pro-Britain stance. Another nail was struck into the coffin concerning the agreement when William M. Bennett, member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution that asked the President Taft to open negotiations with Britain on how the United States could properly annex Canada into it’s fold. President Taft rejected the resolution and the following vote only had Bennett himself voting for the resolution however, the damage was done. Bennett's resolution was taken into the Canadian media as substantial proof that the Americans were planning on an eventual annexation of their nation.

This would all result in Robert Borden and his Conservative party leveling a filibuster against the proposed legislation. As the Canadian political system did not yet possess a tool used to break such a tactic, Laurier was forced to dissolve parliament and call a general election more than a year before he had previously planned. In order to assist his party in breaking Laurier’s over 15-year stranglehold on power, Borden formed a shaky coalition with the two prominent French politicians of the time, Frederick Monk and Henri Bourassa, Conservative and Nationalistic politicians respectively. With establishment Conservative funding and the use of all the talking head newspapers, the attacks on Laurier personally began. Due to Laurier taking the reigns of previous naval developments, his opposition tied the failures and problems of the department directly to Laurier himself. The naval issue was front and center in Quebec but nowhere else in Canada. The only strong thread holding all of these precarious alliances together was their personal hatred for Laurier and his naval bill, eventually holding long enough to replace Laurier with Robert Borden on October 10, 1911. Ironically for the Quebec politicians, Laurier’s compromises and French-Canadian understanding was gone, replaced by the hardline imperialist sentiments of Borden’s Conservatives.


Political cartoon of the period lampooning Borden and Bourassa in their alliance against Laurier.

The nightmare of the Royal Canadian Navy had been realized, the complete control of the recently born service now rested in the hands of her mortal enemies. When Niobe emerged from dock, she was immediately placed alongside and waited for a concrete announcement from the new government regarding her fate. There she would lay for years with her gun breeches removed and her very hull rotting out from under her due to a lack of maintenance. Following the removal of the pro-navy Governor General Grey and the appointment of a new Minister of Fisheries alongside Monk to the Minister of Public Works, Laurier’s carefully stacked deck in the navies favor had came tumbling down. Luckily though, Borden opted to continue the honor system of not outright dismissing civil servants from a previous administration, meaning Kingsmill, Desbarats and the remainder of their staff retained their positions. Although honestly, Borden had nobody to replace any of these staff even if he wanted to. Only a month after his election, the tenders for Laurier’s fleet had been rejected, the Borden administration returned the deposits to their owners and closed the book on the entire project. Following this, Borden announced that he would be moving to repeal the Naval Service Act from existence, effectively executing the Royal Canadian Navy. Although he promised to replace the act with his own more effective legislation, this was little comfort. The only silver lining was the fact the Naval Service Act would remain on the books until such new legislation was drafted which would take considerable time. Borden would go on to say,

“As the government could not very well sink the ships and burn the buildings belonging to the current navy, the existing establishment would continue until a new policy could be formulated.”

Even with this said though, the Conservative government delivered the toughest pill to swallow in the form of the 1912 budgetary estimates. A massive cut was to come from the naval budget, moving from $3 million under Laurier to $1.6 million under Borden. The promise of a fair time in a new service with plenty of opportunity was essentially snuffed away, leaving the Royal Canadian Navy without the money and later, the personnel to even send their ships to sea. Royal Navy leased personnel, Canadian recruited men and even members of the Royal Navy who had joined the Royal Canadian Navy began to weigh their options in the rapidly sinking service and as is natural, sailors tend to leave a sinking ship. Miraculously though, the Royal Naval College of Canada in Halifax escaped any of Borden's budgetary cuts. While the admission slowed to only a mere trickle even compared to the previous meager years, this trickle would later prove to be invaluable in the years to come.

As Borden struggled to forge a naval policy for himself, he would become rapidly swept into the company of a figure who would leave his mark on the Canadian Navy for years to come.


 
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So there will be a few officers, but the RCN will still not see the funding it needs until WWI. It'll be interesting to see what happens. The RN might just think they should never have let the Canadians loose in the first place.
 
It’ll be interesting to see how Rainbow does in her duel with Leipzig mentioned in the OP-I doubt she sinks her, but whether she mission kills her or doesn’t scratch her will have interesting impacts on public opinion.
 
So there will be a few officers, but the RCN will still not see the funding it needs until WWI. It'll be interesting to see what happens. The RN might just think they should never have let the Canadians loose in the first place.
The one positive thing is that the officer cadre is the most difficult section of the Navy to keep stocked and therefore, the RCN will atleast have a handful of fairly well trained domestic officer alongside potentially any retired RN officers they can scare up during emergencies. Enlisted personnel are another problem though as you can scare up fresh recruits during a conflict alongside reservists, they are not the same was trained, regular force enlisted personnel.


Here is the totals regarding what I believe to be recruitment numbers for Rainbow and Niobe alongside totals for 1911 to 1912. Both ships did draw heavily from Fisheries Enforcement sailors and staff especially in regards to engine room staff.
 
It’ll be interesting to see how Rainbow does in her duel with Leipzig mentioned in the OP-I doubt she sinks her, but whether she mission kills her or doesn’t scratch her will have interesting impacts on public opinion.
The odds are not particularly with Rainbow from the outset. Her crew in such a period was largely made up of untrained volunteers and reservists and didn’t meet her basic crewing requirements. Her machinery was worn, meaning she could not make near her previously rated top speed and she relied on the outdated old gunpowder filled shells found within the dusty vaults of Esquimalts munitions dump. Leipzig on the other hand was a crack crew of well trained and well equipped german sailors. Although make no mistake though, Rainbows batteries of 6”, 4.7” and 12 pdr guns can still do more than enough damage to Leipzig potentially although in a clear weather closing engagement, Rainbow is incredibly likely to come out the loser.

We’re almost there, two more years and the deviations will finally begin:)
 
The odds are not particularly with Rainbow from the outset. Her crew in such a period was largely made up of untrained volunteers and reservists and didn’t meet her basic crewing requirements. Her machinery was worn, meaning she could not make near her previously rated top speed and she relied on the outdated old gunpowder filled shells found within the dusty vaults of Esquimalts munitions dump. Leipzig on the other hand was a crack crew of well trained and well equipped german sailors. Although make no mistake though, Rainbows batteries of 6”, 4.7” and 12 pdr guns can still do more than enough damage to Leipzig potentially although in a clear weather closing engagement, Rainbow is incredibly likely to come out the loser.

We’re almost there, two more years and the deviations will finally begin:)
I know, I’m following the other timeline involving rainbow, I’m just saying if she is sunk easily then I think an improved RCN would be easier to justify than if she mission kills Leipzig
 
I know, I’m following the other timeline involving rainbow, I’m just saying if she is sunk easily then I think an improved RCN would be easier to justify than if she mission kills Leipzig
My bad. Yes that’s a perfectly valid point regarding the effects Rainbows loss could have on the RCN however, Rainbow might not be the only factor at play regarding improving the RCN in this timeline. Her performance will definitely be a deciding factor in Leipzig’s reign of terror alongside her orders and the opinions of her Captain.
 
Canada Day Festivities 2020 New
July 1st, 2020

Halifax Regional Municipality Celebrates Canada's 153rd Birthday!

From hrmcanadaday.ca/events


Join the staff of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and the people of Halifax for our yearly July 1st celebrations. HMCS Bluenose has just completed her yearly repairs in time for this momentous occasion. Wayne Walters, grandson of Bluenose's famous Captain Angus Walters will be present as Bluenose will be docked in the Halifax waterfront open for tours through the duration of the afternoon. Don't miss a chance to walk aboard Canada's international goodwill ambassador and see the 'the Queen of the North Atlantic' from stem to stern! You've seen her on the dime but there is nothing like the real thing! Bluenose is one of the most well known and admired ships ever to be built on Canadian shores, her sterling service through her years as both a racing vessel, a hardworking fishing schooner and naval ship is fun for all ages. Admission to Bluenose and the nearby CSS Acadia is free for the day, make sure to stay for the evening to watch the fully rigged schooner strut her stuff with a ceremonial sail leading elements of the Royal Canadian Navy out to sea, following by fireworks later into the evening.



HMCS Bluenose coming into dock in Halifax, sometime during the 1960's.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians and anybody else celebrating this holiday!
 
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