Little Bits of History

Canada’s Navy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2014
Canadian Naval Ensign

Canadian Naval Ensign

May 4, 1910: Canada gets a Navy. Canada is a separate nation but still part of the British Empire with Elizabeth II as ruling monarch. However, the Constitution Act was passed on July 1, 1867, the Statute of Westminster on December 11, 1931, and the Canada Act on April 17, 1982 finalizing the shift from colonial to Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy. It is the second largest country by total area and the common border shared with the US is the longest land border shared by the same two countries. The entire world has a coastline measuring 221,208 miles and of those, 125, 567 are in Canada. She has the most coastline miles of any nation in the world with nearly four times as many miles as the second place nation – Indonesia. (All statistics from the World Factbook – other resources vary.)

As Canada moved away from British control and resources, it made sense to have her own Navy. As the country with the largest coastline (regardless of who did the measuring), she needed to protect her coasts. It should be noted that much of the coastline is in the far north, but there is still considerable area to cover. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is part of the unified Canadian Forces which also include the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The three branches have active personnel of 68,250 with 8,500 of the regular navy and 5,100 reserve navy personnel. They are supported by 5,300 civilians. General Thomas Lawson is the Chief of the Defense Staff with Vice-Admiral Mark Norman the Commander of the Navy.

The Canadian Navy has three destroyers, twelve frigates, four patrol submarines, 2 support ships, twelve coastal mine countermeasure ships, and eleven unarmed patrolling and training vessels as well as several auxiliary vessels. The RCN has been active in both World Wars, the Korean War, the First Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and many UN peacekeeping missions and NATO operations. Originally called the Naval Service of Canada, the name changed the next year to the RCN. For the French speakers of the country, they are known as the Marine royale canadienne. The entire navy consisted of two ships in 1910, the HMCS Niobe and the HMCS Rainbow. By the beginning of World War I, they were six ships strong.

The bill signed into law creating the navy on this day had four major provisions. The establishment of a permanent navy was the first. Without sailors, a navy doesn’t matter so the second provision called for a reserve and a volunteer reserve, both of which could be called up in an emergency. Also part of the bill was the establishment of a naval college. This last mandate was met when the Royal Naval College of Canada was established in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1911. The midshipmen graduated as qualified (but not mandated) for the Imperial or Canadian Navy. Their education in Naval Science included coursework in Applied Science, Engineering, Math, Navigation, History, and Modern Languages. They remained in existence until 1922 and education about 150 men.

When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars. That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship. – Dick Gregory

There’s this misconception that the Navy is this cruise ship, and you get to go out and sail around, and every now and then, you have to swab the deck. But, no, it is a very impressive group of young people that live at sea, in this place that’s very uncomfortable. They exude a pride that is well-deserved. – Tom Hanks

I left Scotland when I was 16 because I had no qualifications for anything but the Navy, having left school at 13. – Sean Connery

There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the navy of Charles the Second. But the seamen were not gentlemen; and the gentlemen were not seamen. – Thomas B. Macaulay

Also on this day: The Little General – In 1814 Napoleon I is exiled to Elba.
Nicaragua – In 1855, William Walker left to conquer Nicaragua.
First and Only – In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected.
Boom – In 1988, a large explosion outside Las Vegas was the start of the PEPCON fire.

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