Royal Canadian Navy Photos 1881-1910, HMS Charybdis

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), 1881-1910

(DND Photo, CN-1997)

HMS Charybdis, Canada’s first Naval training ship

Although Royal Canadian Navy did not come into official existence until 1910 and its first ship was the HMCS Rainbow, there was a warship in Canadian service before then.

HMS Charybdis was acquired from the Royal Navy by the Dominion of Canada on 26 July 1881, making its home port in Saint John, New Brunswick.  She was a 21-gun Pearl-class corvette, launched on 1 July 1859 at the Chatham Dockyard in the UK.  She was armed with 20 8-inch (43-cwt) smoothbore muzzle-loading (SBML) guns mounted on broadside trucks, and one 10-inch 68-pounder (95-cwt) SBML pivot-mounted at the bow.  She was a full-rigged ship, 200 feet long at her gun deck and was powered by a 2-cylinder single screw propeller and could make 11.2 knots (20.7 km/h) under steam.

She served at several Royal Navy stations and ports, including Vancouver, British Columbia early in 1862.  In October 1880, HMS Charybdis was loaned to the Canadian government for service as a training ship.  The Governor General stated in a dispatch to the Colonial Secretary that his government "would not be averse to instituting a ship for training purposes if the Imperial Government would provide the ship".  Capt. Peter Astle Scott RN, retired, who had made a second career in the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries, was sent to England to bring the ship to Canada, which was only possible after repairs had been carried out (at the expense of the Canadian government).  As a Dominion government ship under the commander of the fishery fleet, she wore the blue ensign of Canada and the long blue commission pendant.  Found unsuitable for training because of costs and crew size, she was returned to the RN in Aug 1882 and towed to Halifax, where she was sold in 1884, and broken up.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3247076)

HMS Charybdis under refit at Esquimalt, BC, 1870.

(City of Vancouver Archives Photo)

HMS Charybdis, Esquimalt, BC, 1870.

Founding of the Naval Service of Canada (1910), and the formation of the Royal Canadian Navy (1911)

The Naval Service of Canada (NSC) was established following the introduction of the Naval Service Act by Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.  It was intended that it should be a distinct naval force for Canada, and that, should the need arise, it could be placed under British control.  The bill received royal assent on 4 May 1910.  The NSC was initially equipped with two former Royal Navy (RN) vessels, HMCS Niobe and HMCS Rainbow.  King George V granted permission for the service to be known as the Royal Canadian Navy on 29 August 1911.

During the first years of the First World War, the RCN was equipped with six ships which patrolled both the North American East and West coasts to deter the German naval threat.  A seventh ship, HMCS Shearwater, joined the force in 1915.  Just before the end of the war in 1918, the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service (RCNAS) was established with the purpose of carrying out anti-submarine operations.  The RCNAS was disbanded after the armistice of 11 November 1918.

After the war, the Royal Canadian Navy took over certain responsibilities of the Department of Transport's Marine Service, and slowly started to build its fleet, with the first warships specifically designed for the RCN being commissioned in 1932.

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