No man-made border breaks the frothy turbulence of the indivisible sea.
The North American continent has now become a single fortress, to be defended at sea against all aggressors who would infringe upon the freedom of the two great nations sharing its bounteous land.
The spectacular rise of the United States Navy as the world’s leading sea power is spreading northward. In a quiet revolution, the Royal Canadian Navy is today assuming an increasingly important role in the naval defense of the free world.
With a 40,200 mile coastline, bordering on three great oceans, and an expanding economy based on trade lifelines flung out over the world, Canada has always been a maritime nation.
Today, the seas which acted as protective moats in the past are no longer safe frontiers. They must be defended or become highways for enemy destruction of Canada’s world trade—the basis of the country’s past economic development and still the most buoyant factor in the current business boom.
International trade plays a much more vital role in the Canadian economy than it does in the affairs of the U.S.A. America depends on foreign trade to absorb less than 7% of her gross national product, while Canada’s exports account for 30% of her total wealth.
Canada has the second highest per capita foreign trade figure in the world; on the basis of dollar value, it ranks only behind the U. S. and Britain. About 60% of her exports and half her imports move by water. Last year 77 million tons of ocean shipping entered or cleared Canadian ports, carrying 39 million tons of cargo.
Because of this overwhelming dependence on the world’s sea lanes as the foundation and nurture of her wealth, the country’s economy is dreadfully vulnerable to enemy naval attack.
Canada’s coasts flank the merchant ship routes between Northern America and Northern Europe and Asia, making Canadian coastal bases essential in the support of either offensive or defensive action in the upper zones of the Atlantic and Pacific. The formidable task faced by naval defense planners is to build an impenetrable fence around half a continent, fronted upon two oceans and accessible from a third, meanwhile making sure that the country’s industrial veins are adequately fed from overseas.
The architects of Canada’s naval policy have had to govern themselves by economic considerations. Canada, with only two-and-a- half million taxpayers, cannot afford naval defense to take care of every potential watery threat. To maximize the effectiveness of the modest fleet available, naval planning has been directed at reducing the number of points requiring simultaneous defense by the development of a convoy protection antisubmarine fleet.
A look at the R.C.N.’s fleet today reveals only the skeleton of tomorrow’s bigger and better Navy. Canada now has one aircraft carrier, two cruisers, eleven destroyers, and about sixty escort and control vessels of various types. Of these, about one third have yet to undergo extensive conversion and modernization. But the R.C.N. is steering an ambitious course which, by the end of the present expansion program, will give it a fighting strength of over one hundred warships.
Involving over twenty shipyards, the Navy’s $330 million growth has, in various stages of construction, or on order books, fourteen destroyer-escorts, twenty coastal minesweepers (six are to be given away to other NATO countries), five gate vessels, one arctic patrol ship, and thirty smaller craft. Launchings and christenings are already cropping up with some regularity in current orders of the day. The entire flotilla is expected to be in the water by 1955.
Once in hand, the fleet will be among the world’s foremost for a job the Canadian Navy inherited in World War II and in which it has been given a key role in present defense planning: the hunting and killing of submarines.
Pride of the future R.C.N. will be the destroyer-escorts, which represent the first warship to be completely designed and built in Canada. Concentration of equipment below decks and atom-shielding gives them the sleek silhouette of an ocean-going greyhound. They are the first Canadian ship with an allaluminum superstructure, an innovation saving one hundred tons in weight, permitting the installation of additional equipment and an increase in the proportion of living space.
Crew of the 366 foot vessel and its intricate electronic system and high-powered armament is 270 officers and men. Function of the new escorts will be to replace the frigates and corvettes of the Second World War and their design is such that in the event of a national emergency they could be produced rapidly and in quantity.
The minesweepers now being built have a displacement of 390 tons, are 152 ft. long, with a beam of 28 ft. Diesel-powered, they will be equipped with latest navigational radar and minesweeping equipment. The arctic patrol ship is a modified version of the U. S. Navy’s Eastwind. class of icebreaker. It is built with stabilizing fins, an innovation in North American shipbuilding, and carries two helicopters. The gate vessels are of a trawler-type and will be used to manipulate the entrance to harbors guarded by submarine nets.
Another important shipbuilding activity is an extensive refitting and modernization program, involving eleven destroyers, seventeen frigates, and twenty minesweepers. The ships will emerge flush-decked, with latest available submarine detection and hunting devices.
One of the most significant developments in the R.C.N. since World War II has been naval aviation. Today, the air component is firmly established with one aircraft carrier, the Belfast-built Magnificent, and three air groups. The Maggie, as she has become known, is the navy’s largest ship. She is 700 ft. long, and her displacement when fully loaded is 19,550 tons. She has a speed of about 25 knots, and can carry some 32 aircraft. A crew of 1,200 mans the ship and flies the aircraft which in 1952 logged more than 18,000 air hours and made over 25,000 landings. A new modernized carrier now under construction by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Ireland, to be named H.M.C.S. Bonaventure, will replace the Maggie, upon completion. The $20 million, 18,000 tons vessel will be equipped with a new steam catapult developed by the Royal Navy which permits aircraft to be shot off the deck without the carrier alternating course to suit wind direction.
Behind the fleet in being today is a permanent force numbering 15,800 officers and men, which is to be enlarged to 21,000 by the end of the present expansion program. There are also 22 reserve naval divisions across the country with some 7,000 part-time sailors.
Cooperation between the Royal Canadian Navy and the big brother United States Navy, a prominent feature of the North American scene for almost half a century, has never been more dynamically demonstrated than by the common naval effort that has been waged under United Nations sponsorship in Korea.
Despite a marked postwar decline in naval strength, the opening shots of the Korean war did not find Canada’s Navy unprepared. Just ten days after the June 25, 1950, surprise Communist attack across the 38th parallel, three R.C.N. destroyers left Esquimau, B.C., for Sasebo, Japan, and on July 29 reported for duty under United Nations Command.
For the past three years Canada has constantly maintained on a rotation basis destroyers in the Korean war theatre. They have been patroling off Korea’s coast and have participated in bombardments of shore installations and trains, demolition of Russian-made contact mines, and the covering of evacuations.
By the end of March, 1953, Canadian ships had sailed 720,000 miles (36 times around the world) in Korean waters and fired more than 120,000 rounds at the enemy. Only one ship has been hit. During a patrol in October, 1952, the Iroquois was struck by a Communist shell which killed three of her crew and wounded three others.
The two navies work together on a broad scale of activities including tactical doctrine, communications, logistics, and sea-training. American underwater craft are frequently used for R.C.N. anti-submarine exercises. Battle workups for Canadian destroyers proceeding to the Korean theatre are carried out in Hawaiian waters with units of the U. S. Navy, Army, and Marines.
The U.S. Navy opens its educational doors to Canadian sailors for many courses not available in Canada. While this includes instruction for all branches, the most commonly applicable fields are aviation, medicine, logistics, ordnance, electrics, and electronics. Aviation officers of both navies are exchanged for periods of up to two years.
There is also a great deal of cooperation between the hydrographic departments of the two navies and a joint expedition is now planned to survey the Beaufort Sea area, in the lower Arctic Ocean. Major naval equipment not available in Canada is procured from the U.S.N., and recently the American Navy began purchasing equipment from Canada including 3 in. 50 cal. guns.
Probably the most important phase of joint activity is sea-training carried out under NATO auspices. “Mainbrace,” the 150-ship exercise in northern European waters; “Emigrant,” involving United States and Canadian warships returning to their home ports from “Mainbrace”; “Castanets,” a trade protection maneuver in United Kingdom waters; and “Cordex” for combined practice in harbor defenses and minesweeping in Halifax, are the most recent major exercises involving units of the two fleets.
Sea training throughout the Navy has recently been stepped up at both coasts; training cruises took Canadian ships to forty foreign countries in 1952.
In the event of war Canadian Naval ships will immediately become a part of the NATO fleet. The R.C.N. will engage in hunter- killer anti-submarine operations, as well as in the guiding and guarding of convoys. Canada will be responsible for the protection of its coastal waters, for mine-sweeping and harbor defense generally, in addition to assisting in the deep-sea operations controlled ultimately by the Supreme Allied Commander (Atlantic). The Canadian Navy will not operate as a separate fleet, but will be welded into the great NATO seagoing team, working more closely with her allies than at any time in the past.
To streamline current combined operations and to facilitate interchange of forces in any future conflict, an important measure of standardization has been achieved between the two navies. This includes: operational procedures, mapping and charting, navigational tables, radar equipment, electrical systems and some unified technical procedure, as well as other techniques and weapons still on the secret list.
A Joint Staff is provided at Washington for direct liaison between the R.C.N. and U.S.N., with senior officers attached to various development establishments in both countries, under an integrated exchange scheme. Cooperation on all aspects of defense planning is effected by a series of Permanent Joint Committees.
Today’s intertwined nautical picture actually grew its roots in the dark days of World War II. While First World War cooperation included the establishment of a coastal air patrol service off Nova Scotia— the forerunner of Canada’s naval air arm— combined operations on a large scale really date back to the appointment of Capt. 0. M. Reid, U.S.N. as the first American Naval Attaché to Canada, in 1940.
In December of that year, Canada got seven of the fifty American destroyers given to Britain in exchange for bases leased in the Western Hemisphere. The over-age vessels, built in 1918 and paid off after the First World War, helped bolster Canada’s fleet in the urgency of that fateful year. H.M.C.S. St. Croix, as one of the ships was renamed, claimed a German U-boat before being herself sunk by a torpedo.
The United States Navy first came into the Atlantic operational picture on a large scale in August, 1941, when at the Atlantic Charter meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, the Atlantic Ocean was divided into two zones, with the U.S.N. taking over strategic control of the western sphere. But in 1943, the American Navy withdrew its authority from the Atlantic north of New York. All responsibility for trade convoys and their escorts within an area bounded by a line running eastward from New York and southward from Greenland along the meridian of 47° West was taken over by the R.C.N.
While units of both navies participated in many of the war’s major naval operations, most of the R.C.N.’s duties were limited to Atlantic escort work—not a prominent operational theatre for the American navy. However, Canadian ships took part in many submarine actions which included units of the U.S.N.—notably the escort carrier Bogue and the destroyer Lea. For a short period, seven Canadian-built corvettes were manned by American sailors in the Caribbean.
In the Pacific, inter-naval activity included the operation of three R.C.N. armed merchant cruisers and two corvettes out of Kodiak, Alaska, under U. S. command. The Canadian heavy cruiser Uganda (now the Quebec) formed part of the United States Fifth Fleet, which prevented the Japanese from supporting their troops on Okinawa. Later the Uganda under the command of Capt. (now Vice Admiral) E. R. Mainguy, OBE., R.C.N., the present Chief of Naval Staff, bombarded Truk and joined the U.S. Third Fleet for the attack on Honshu.
Today’s multi-million dollar naval buildup takes the R.C.N. a long way from a complement of two aged cruisers, purchased from England, at its formation in 1910.
Actually, the foundations of a Canadian naval service were laid in 1755, when a few ships were built under the direction of the Royal Navy to patrol Lake George, Lake Champlain, and Lake Ontario. Known as “His Majesty’s Provincial Marine,” this miniature force fought in the Seven Years’ War and the Indian wars; stood guard during the War of Independence; and won a victory against the Americans in the War of 1812.
In May, 1910, following rejection by Canada’s Prime Minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier, of colonial contribution to support the Royal Navy, the Canadian Naval Service Act was passed by Parliament, which provided for the permanent establishment of a separately organized Royal Canadian Navy. In the same year, two old cruisers, the Niobe and Rainbow, were purchased from Britain. Rear-Admiral (later Admiral) Sir Charles E. Kingsmill was transferred from the Royal Navy to take charge of the new offspring.
World War I saw the two, by then semi- retired cruisers and converted yachts, motor launches, tugs and fishing craft pressed into service to patrol off the Atlantic and Pacific shores. The Premier of the Province of British Columbia, acting on his own initiative, bought two submarines which were being built in Seattle for the Chilean Navy. It was partly their well publicized presence which deterred the Germans from raiding in B.C. waters. Some 2,300 volunteer reservists also served with the Royal Navy overseas.
Following the 1918 Armistice a speedy demobilization and continuing cuts in naval appropriations saw the R.C.N. reduced to 366 officers and men by 1922. At the outbreak of World War II, Canada could muster only six ships and little more than 1,700 men.
But out of this “Tom Thumb” navy emerged a fighting force of over 400 warships and 90,000 men, a Navy which wielded a major influence on the balance of sea power of the Western Hemisphere. As rapidly as the Nazi submarine menace developed, the R.C.N. acquired more ships, increased man power, and expanded training facilities.
During the five-and-a-half years of hostilities the R.C.N., alone or with units of the Royal and United States Navies, sank 27 U-boats, and sank, captured, or destroyed 42 enemy surface ships. It lost 31 ships, and 2,025 men. Nearly half of the vast fighting fleet necessary to get the vital but vulnerable freighters across the submarine-infested Atlantic were Canadian warships. A total of 25,343 merchant ship voyages carried 181,643,180 tons of cargo from North American ports to the U.K. under Canadian escort.
The R.C.N.’s swift growth created the urgent need of finding a domestic source for vessels ranging in tonnage from the wooden “Fairmiles” to the powerful, eight-gun Tribal class destroyers. And Canadian shipyards matched the Navy’s expansion. From 20 shipyards employing 4,000 men in 1939, the industry in the next three years mushroomed to 90 yards, with 75,000 men and women. (The payroll today aggregates about 17,000 men). Of the 402 major Canadian warships in action by 1945, less than 40 had been built outside Canada. Industrially, the Navy’s expansion had been one of Canada’s biggest war jobs.
Because of today’s mounting threats to her watery trade routes—lifeblood of the country’s economic health—expansion of the Navy is getting high priority in Canadian defense planning.
This accelerated growth of its fleet and the proud annals of its past achievements bear the decisive pledge that, in any future conflict, the Royal Canadian Navy will act as a full partner of United States naval forces, in the common defense of our way of life.