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Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950

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Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 1

CANADA AND SUBMARINE WARFARE, 1909-1950

Roger Sarty
Director
Historical Research and Exhibit Development
Canadian War Museum

Originally published in Roger Sarty, The Maritime Defence of Canada, Toronto: Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, 1996, pp.183-216. Reproduced with permission.


At critical junctures submarines have provided answers to two recurring questions in Canada: do we need maritime forces? if so what kind? 1 We have had the luxury of pondering these issues at length because of good fortune in geography and alliance with the world’s leading sea powers, Britain and then the United States. Yet alliance with these predominant powers has also served to obscure and complicate courses of possible action. The submarine, a revolutionary weapon, cut through the dogmas of maritime warfare during the first half of the twentieth century. One result was to define a Canadian role.

There is a striking parallel. Just as submarine warfare enabled Germany, a ‘new’ naval power, to bring the preeminent seapower to its knees during both World Wars, so too did the U-boat menace ensure the survival of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) during its troubled early years and provided the impetus for its growth into a major fleet in 1939-1945 and after. Until recently, published literature has largely focused on RCN participation in the Battle of the Atlantic during the period 1939-1943, and all but ignored the major contribution of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to maritime defence. The present paper explores the influence of submarine warfare on the development of the Canadian forces prior to 1939, the impact of earlier experience on Canadian participation in the Second World War, and in turn how the course of that conflict shaped Canada’s maritime forces in the post-war era.2

Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 2

Torpedo Weapons and the Origins of the Canadian Navy, 1886-1914



The rapid progress of torpedo weapons systems during the two decades before the First World War — of which the emergence of the submarine was only the most dramatic development — played some part in the founding of the RCN. The British Admiralty maintained from the late 1880s that the only useful role the self-governing colonies could play in naval defence was to contribute money to help sustain the Royal Navy’s new squadrons of large, steam-powered, steel-built and enormously expensive battleships and cruisers. Such Imperial ‘tribute’ was anathema in Canada. Aside from the constitutional principle of no taxation without representation, military spending was unpopular, and isolationist opinion was especially strong in Quebec, which held the balance of power in federal politics. Progress with torpedo craft offered an alternative that was appealing on all three counts. They were cheap, and they were capable of only local action, which meant they would operate under Canadian control with no potentially open-ended entanglements in British policy. Yet they promised to be effective against fast enemy cruisers that seemed more likely than ever to hunt in Canadian waters in the event of war now that Britain’s increasingly powerful adversaries in Europe were tying the bulk of the Royal Navy to home waters. The idea was first put forward in a developed form in the late 1880s by Andrew R. Gordon, a former Royal Navy officer who served in the Canadian Fisheries Protection Service,3 and periodically re-emerged among the admittedly few advocates of Canadian naval undertakings during the next 20 years. The Admiralty, focussed on the development of centrally controlled Imperial forces, never encouraged these proposals until 1907-1908 and then as a last ditch defence against the centrifugal force of dominions’ ambitions.

Australia, unhappy with the withdrawal of British warships from the Pacific to European waters after 1900, wanted to end the subsidy it had been paying for the Royal Navy’s Australia squadron and embark on the creation of an Australian navy. The Admiralty recommended that such a service should be limited to torpedo-boat destroyers (in effect, large torpedo boats) and submarines, types suited at this stage in their technical development largely for the protection of harbour approaches.4 Such a force would not complicate central British control in the way a seagoing dominion squadron might. Indeed a local torpedo flotilla would actually help sustain the mobility of the principal British squadrons by ensuring secure bases would be available in the dominion should a crisis require the dispatch of a substantial fleet to the region.

The advice given to the Australians strongly reflected the views of Admiral Sir John Fisher, First Sea Lord in 1904-1910. As one of the pioneers of underwater weapons in the Royal Navy, he understood that torpedo craft, and particularly submarines, were transforming naval warfare in coastal waters. With these small and elusive but potent vessels lurking about, an enemy would not dare risk his major warships in a determined attack on the shores of Britain or the empire.Torpedo craft gave Fisher the answer he needed to politicians and army officers who wanted to tie the British fleet to anti-invasion duties rather than freeing it for its proper role in finding and destroying the enemy’s seagoing squadrons. 5

Australia’s initiative, and the Admiralty’s evident support for dominions torpedo flotillas, energized advocates of naval development in Canada. The scheme seemed especially suitable for Canada because it provided a path for action that was entirely consistent with the limited initiatives the Liberal government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier had undertaken since 1903 to ‘navalize’ the Fisheries Protection Service. Laurier was not much interested until March 1909, when the panic in Britain over reports that the German fleet was rapidly gaining on the Royal Navy in numbers of dreadnought battleships transformed the politics of naval defence. With strong support in English Canada for direct assistance to Britain, local action to procure torpedo flotillas now looked like a moderate course, and Laurier opted for the Australian scheme. 6 He was, however, soon drawn into a more ambitious undertaking that included substantial, seagoing cruisers in addition to torpedo-boat destroyers by the Admiralty’s reversal of its earlier opposition to high seas dominions fleets at the Imperial Defence Conference of August 1909.Worries about escalating German and Japanese competition in the naval race, at a time when a strong faction in the British Liberal government was opposed to increased defence spending, had brought the unheralded change.7

The Laurier government’s quick action in founding the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910 with the intention of procuring the cruisers and destroyers was a compromise that satisfied few. The fact that Laurier had rejected the Admiralty’s advice that Canada should also procure a capital ship, and took pains to ensure that the new navy was under national control alienated pro-empire opinion, while anti-imperialists were horrified that so much was being done.

Robert Borden, whose Conservative government came to power in 1911, tried to find consensus by returning to the torpedo flotilla idea. He responded positively to the Admiralty’s appeal in 1912 for a direct subsidy for battleship construction, but at the same time asked their lordships for a local Canadian defence scheme built around torpedo craft. The Admiralty, although warning that larger seagoing vessels would be much more useful from an imperial point of view, obliged by recommending a small flotilla for the west coast, and a substantial force of a dozen submarines and 18 torpedo boats for the east coast. Interestingly, their lordships advised that most of the east coast craft should be concentrated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the defence of which would in fact cause great difficulties for the Canadian services in both World Wars.8 Borden’s intention was to replace Laurier’s unpopular design for a cruiser squadron with much more modest vessels whose purpose was palpably nothing more than home defence. He hoped in this way to quiet the ire of anti-imperialists, while persuading the Liberals that the embryo national navy they had created would not be entirely abandoned. This political balancing act failed when in May 1913 the Liberals used their majority in the Senate to kill the battleship subsidy for Britain. The small Canadian naval staff , with the support of the army, tried to persuade the government to continue with the torpedo flotilla in view of the evidently increasing danger of German raids on the coast. German warships, the Admiralty responded when asked for its view, would not need to risk coming within reach of torpedo craft: the rich transatlantic shipping that sailed well offshore would be a better and much safer target. The only answer to that threat was to acquire seagoing cruisers.

Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 3

The First World War and the Threat to Canada, 1914-1918

On the outbreak of war in 1914, the Canadian navy comprised only two obsolescent cruisers that the Laurier government had purchased from the Royal Navy for training purposes in 1910 and a cadre of 350 personnel. The cruisers got to sea, with substantial British assistance, to join Royal Navy and allied cruisers in patrols of the focal areas of trade off the eastern and western coasts of North America.9 The Admiralty advised that these forces provided adequate protection, and that Canada should concentrate its war effort on providing troops for the battlefront in Belgium and France. 10 Canada ultimately raised over half a million troops for overseas service, but the underwater dimension of warfare continued to draw the country into naval action — now out of necessity rather than as a politically useful alternative to an expensive and controversial squadron of major warships.

British Columbians had been profoundly alarmed on the eve of the war over the reported presence of German cruisers in the north-east Pacific. The province’s remoteness from the Atlantic concentration of British seapower gave a persepective quite different from the complacency in the eastern part of the country. During the last hours of peace the premier, Sir Richard McBride, had boldly slid under the descending curtain of US neutrality laws and purchased two submarines from a Seattle shipbuilder and turned them over to the RCN. Manned by raw volunteers led by retired British officers (one with submarine experience) who demonstrated unusual skill in giving on-the-job training, these boats soon carried out coast defence patrols from Esquimalt. 11

Unknown to any Canadian authority, much larger submarine enterprises were in the making. The Admiralty, to circumvent American neutrality, was arranging for a US firm to assemble ten submarines for the Royal Navy at Canadian Vickers in Montreal. When Borden found out about the subterfuge in January 1915 he was livid: the incident made a mockery of his public declarations that Canada was a full partner with Britain in prosecution of the war. He tried to retrieve something by suggesting that the programme be extended into a co-operative undertaking that would supply submarines for the Canadian east coast, along the lines that Admiralty itself had suggested in 1912. Both the Canadian naval staff and, significantly, Rear-Admiral R.S. Phipps-Hornby, RN, who commanded the weak and thinly-stretched cruiser squadron based at Halifax and Bermuda, had strongly urged the measure. The Admiralty refused. These events kindled an awareness in Ottawa that during war, even moreso than in peacetime, British and Canadian maritime defence interests were by no means identical.12

Although doubting that a German warship would attempt a direct attack on the Canadian coast, the Admiralty warned in November 1914 that a disguised German merchant ship could well slip overseas to sew mines in harbour approaches. Just such a mission by the liner Berlin had recently resulted in the destruction of the British super-dreadnought Audacious off northern Ireland.13 In accordance with pre-war plans by the naval staff, the RCN was already operating a small force of civil government ships and chartered tugs on lookout and minesweeping patrols off Halifax and in the Bay of Fundy. Vice-Admiral Charles E. Kingsmill, director of the Canadian naval service, doubted the seriousness of the mine threat and did not want to pour additional resources into extemporized measures of dubious efficiency, but reluctantly undertook improvements in the little flotilla through the winter of 1914.14

The form of underwater warfare that did worry Kingsmill was a raid by U-boats. Germany’s successful campaign against merchant shipping in the western approaches to the British Isles in the spring of 1915 proved that the submarine was not only a coast defender but a powerful offensive weapon. Intelligence reports from the German community in the United States that as many as four U-boats would soon cross the Atlantic were all the more menacing in light of the Admiralty’s confirmation that U-boats did indeed have the range for a one-way trip, and could conceivably refuel from a disguised supply ship or secret depot ashore.15

The reaction of the Canadian government, Canadian naval authorities and senior British officers in the western Atlantic was something close to panic. In European waters, U-boats had had outstanding successes against older, slower cruisers of the type based at Halifax and Bermuda. That meant that the Gulf of St. Lawrence through which most shipping from Canada — including all troopships — sailed in summer was entirely exposed. If a submarine got loose in those confined waters, it could stalk and kill ships at will: there were hundreds of inlets along the isolated northern coastline where the boat could hide and refuel.16

By deploying the best ships from the Halifax flotilla, surreptitiously purchasing two large yachts in the United States, and chartering additional civilian ships, Kingsmill created the St. Lawrence Patrol, based on Sydney, Nova Scotia, in August 1915. The seven vessels of the patrol were armed only with single light guns, capable of no more than 10 to 15 knots, and several had limited sea-keeping qualities. They proved to be adequate, but just, for their modest assignment to stop and examine suspicious merchant ships and keep a watch on isolated shorelines. What was really needed, Kingsmill pleaded, were torpedo boat destroyers — these fast, manoeuvrable ships had proved to be the best anti-submarine vessels in European waters — to escort troopships through the whole of the St. Lawrence passage. The Admiralty, quite properly in view of the shortage of destroyers in the main combat theatre, refused requests for assistance in 1915 and again in 1916, but also criticized the RCN’s St Lawrence patrol as an excessive response to a threat that was ‘potential not actual. ‘17

Kingsmill did not place much stock in the carefully worded suggestion from London that destroyers would be sent to the St. Lawrence in the event U-boats actually began to sink vessels in the western Atlantic. He was dumbstruck by the Admiralty’s assumption that Canada had sufficient civilian marine resources quickly to extemporize anti-submarine patrols at the moment of crisis: in mounting the tiny St. Lawrence patrol he was already scraping the bottom of the barrel.

In October 1916 U-53 disproved the Admiralty’s assessment that German submarines could only make a one-way trip across the Altantic. The U-boat put into the neutral US port of Providence, Rhode Island, where the crew cheerfully showed off the superb engineering of their warship to inspecting American officers, and put out to sea again, making no request for additional fuel. After destroying five Allied merchant ships off Nantucket Island, the boat turned for home. U-53 faced no opposition in its successful hunting on the New England coast. The British admiral in the north-west Atlantic — for whom the old title commander-in-chief, North America and West Indies had now been revived — had withdrawn his cruisers behind the anti-submarine net in Halifax harbour and called for protection from the RCN’s flotilla. The Admiralty, forgetting its earlier criticism of the RCN’s alarmism, urged the service rapidly to multiply the strength of its anti-submarine patrol. After taking up the few additional civilian ships that were suitable, the RCN had to order the construction of twelve steel trawlers to meet the most basic requirements. Meanwhile, in the face of enormous shipping losses to the renewed ‘unrestricted’ German submarine offensive in European waters, British authorities placed their own orders in Canada in early 1917 for merchant ships and for 160 anti-submarine trawlers and drifters. Although most of the anti-submarine craft were ultimately turned over to the RCN, the inundation of Canada’s undeveloped shipbuilding industry meant that a large proportion of the ships from both the Canadian and British orders could not be completed until the spring and summer of 1918.18

By then the RCN had become exclusively a small ship anti-submarine navy. In 1915 officers at the Admiralty had shaken their heads in wonder when the Canadians had refused the offer of a cruiser to replace the worn out Niobe so that her crew could be employed on the St. Lawrence patrol. By contrast, in 1917 the Admiralty quickly agreed to the Canadian proposal that Rainbow should also be decommissioned so her people could stiffen the raw recruits for the expanded east coast flotilla.

Meanwhile, in European waters, hunting patrols by thousands of anti-submarine craft were singularly failing to reduce merchant ship losses. The supremely elusive maritime weapon, U-boats had no difficulty in avoiding patrols (whose sole means of underwater detection was primitive hydrophones) and finding targets on the heavily travelled sea lanes. Desperation persuaded the Admiralty in the spring and summer of 1917 to attempt the ancient method of sailing ships in defended convoys. This proved to be decisive. U-boats had much greater difficulty in locating shipping — now in periodic groups rather than a steady stream of independent sailings — and once they did make contact could not strike without risking counter attack by the escorting warships.

Expansion of the RCN flotilla, ultimately to some 130 vessels with the delivery of the new construction in 1918, centred on the defence of convoys that sailed from Halifax and Sydney. The small Canadian vessels formed a screen around the merchantmen as they emerged single file from port and lumbered into formation during the first hours of passage:it was at this time that the merchant vessels were especially vulnerable to submarine attack. However, as the convoy gathered speed, most of the Canadian warships fell behind. What was needed were destroyers to extend the escort through the whole 300 mile coastal approach area. Mercifully, no U-boats struck in the western Atlantic in 1917.

Early in 1918, the Admiralty had promised to provide destroyers for the coming season, but had to renege, suggesting that the Canadians should seek help from the US.When the commander-in-chief, North America and West Indies, made this appeal in Washington, the Admiralty endorsed the Americans’ complaint that the request contradicted the priority for European waters! The commander-in-chief and the Canadians were incensed, but salvaged an agreement under which the US Navy patrolled around the southern tip of Nova Scotia, and provided six small but useful ‘submarine chasers’ for escort duty under RCN control.

Through decryption of German wireless traffic, the Admiralty was usually able to supply warning as to when U-boats would arrive in North America waters and the general area where they would operate. However, U-156, the first boat to operate in the Canadian area, acted on its own initiative — the boat had been assigned to the United States coast — and achieved complete surprise when it destroyed a tanker close off Halifax on 5 August.So weak was the Halifax flotilla, that the Admiralty transferred the Halifax convoys to Quebec City and the St. Lawrence route; radio intelligence confirmed that the two boats following U-156 U-117 and U-155 — would operate off Nova Scotia and not in the Gulf. The RCN immediately redeployed its ships to strengthen the St. Lawrence defences, and organized a comprehensive system of coastal convoys to protect ships that had to sail through the danger area off Nova Scotia and south of Newfoundland.

These measures succeeded. Although the U-boats sank 26 fishing schooners off Nova Scotia and south of Newfoundland, they were unable to locate their intended targets, the large steamers that carried troops and supplies to Europe.All of these strategically vital vessels were being routed clear of danger, most of them in local or ocean convoys. The Germans might have achieved their object by other means if the rerouting of strategic shipping had caused significant delays in the shipment of supplies to the combat theatres, but thanks to the efficiency of the naval control of shipping organization, in which Canadian staffs and the Canadian coastal radio system played a prominent part, this was not the case.

Still, shepherding of merchantmen was small consolation for a fighting service steeped in the traditions of Nelson. On the two occasions when Canadian patrol vessels had been in a position to close with U-boats they had fumbled badly. The slightly trained, short-handed crews had no confidence in their slow, ill-armed, hurriedly-built and defect-ridden vessels.

What the RCN had been compelled to do, in fact, was nothing less than mobilize an almost entirely new navy within the space of a few months under impossible circumstances. Senior officers regarded the measures taken in 1918 as an emergency stopgap. They prayed the patchwork effort would hold off disaster until the service could be fundamentally reorganized for 1919 when, they had no doubt, the U-boats would return, but this time with the knowledge needed to strike more aggressively.

Nineteen-eighteen marked a new beginning in another respect: for the first time the navy had the full support of the prime minister. After virtually abandoning the service for political reasons in 1911-1914, Sir Robert Borden had since the outbreak of war been ruled by caution. He took the advice of the Admiralty when it suggested that meaures proposed by Canada seemed excessive, and accepted the views of his cabinet colleagues when they found naval projects too costly. Borden’s actions changed during the last months of the war, most markedly when the U-boats began destroying the fishing fleet of his home province. He stepped up efforts he had already begun earlier in the year to reform the ponderous administration of the navy department, and put his weight behind demands for more assistance from the Admiralty (one result was quick arrangements by British authorities for the USN to mount patrols in Canadian waters in the wake of the first sinkings there by U-boats).19

The most striking evidence of the prime minister’s new attitude was the manner in which he forced through the organization of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service. In European waters exprience had shown that the appearance of aircraft paralyzed U-boats by making it impossible for them to run on the surface to locate and chase ships. Early in 1917 both the naval and militia staffs had strongly supported the organization of an air service in Nova Scotia as a means of compensating for the weakness of the naval forces, but Borden’s colleagues had rejected the idea because it was too expensive. A year later, the Admiralty recommended air patrols, and the US Navy agreed to operate air units from Halifax and Sydney until the Canadians could organize their own service. When, in the summer of 1918, it became clear that the extensive preparations required were bogged down, Borden intervened decisively. The American air units arrived at the end of August, construction of air base facilities was rushed ahead with costly ‘forced’ contracts, cabinet quickly authorized the creation of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, and the recruiting and training of its personnel was soon well in hand. 20

Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 4

Coastal Defence and Wider Ambitions, 1919-1939



Short-lived as the expansion of the RCN begun in 1918 proved to be, the experience of anti-submarine warfare had secured and influenced the future of the service to a much greater degree than was appreciated at that time or subsequently. Any lingering doubts in the prime minister’s office and among senior RCN officers that the service was a national force, necessarily distinct from the Royal Navy, were extinguished. The nationalism among members of the naval staff was notable because all had transferred from the Royal Navy after careers in that service, and none except Admiral Kingsmill, a Canadian by birth, had had previous significant ties with Canada. The practical result of the changed attitude was agreements with the British reached in the early 1920s that strengthened the authority of NSHQ in Ottawa over activities in Canadian waters and gave the Canadian headquarters a substantial role in arrangements throughout the RN’s North American command, now enlarged to include the eastern part of the Pacific and renamed the America and West Indies station. 21

That being said, there were few outside the department of the Naval Service and the prime minister’s office who believed the navy was an essential national institution, or at least one meritting much effort. Even among cabinet ministers the view continued to prevail that the wartime service was nothing more than the product of British and American pressure to do what their fleets should have done with the meagre scraps they chose to provide; Canada had already taken on more than its share in the land war in Europe. Certainly there was little outside of raw recruits that was Canadian about the wartime navy. Halifax, the principal base, had in 1914 immediately and naturally slipped back into its historic role as the northern headquarters of the Royal Navy’s North America and West Indies station, while the Canadian service struggled mightily to makes its presence felt in its own dockyard. The situation was no different at Esquimalt on the west coast. Most of the officers in the RCN were RN officers on loan, many of them older gentlemen who had previously retired and come back for special war service. Most of the patrol vessels, although built in Canada, had been constructed under Admiralty contracts and were allocated to the RCN only when it suited British authorities. Complaints of unfair, severe treatment of inexperienced Canadian boys at the hands of British martinets circulated. So did charges of incompetence in the senior leadership. Perhaps allied seamen sailing from Canadian ports in big steamships had been adequately protected, but Canadian fishermen had most assuredly not been; little did it matter that the same had been true in US waters and for the same reason that European waters had absolute priority. The minister for the naval service, C.C. Ballantyne, endured a tirade of these and other accusations during the first post-war session of Parliament in 1919. Within cabinet, his efforts to rebuild the navy on a more substantial and enduring basis were came under similar fire from his colleagues. 22

Everyone, not least the small cadre of permanent force naval personnel, was pleased to see the half-trained reservists and small vessels of the wartime fleet quickly dispersed. For the future, the naval staff proposed to start again with something much like the light cruiser and destroyer fleet planned by Laurier, together with the air service. These forces, the staff argued, were needed to protect the Pacific coast in light of Japan’s continuing naval expansion. Admiral-of-the-Fleet Earl Jellicoe, formerly commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet and First Sea Lord, lent his support when he visited Canada at the end of 1919 as part of his empire-wide tour to advise the dominions on naval policy. Although nothing of the scale proposed was possible in the bitterly negative political climate, Borden and Ballantyne’s support and Jellicoe’s helpful representations to the Admiralty were worth something. Already, in 1919, the RCN had received two RN submarines as a gift from the Admiralty as it disposed of vessels surplus to post-war requirements. The Canadian service was allowed to retain these and in 1920 also received, free of charge, the light cruiser Aurora and two destroyers, all of which had been built late in the war. The RCNAS had been lost because of the lack of political and public support; the government chose to follow the British model by creating a third service, the Canadian Air Force, in 1920 (from 1924, the Royal Canadian Air Force). The new service operated the seaplanes the US Navy air squadrons had left in Nova Scotia at the end of the war, but largely on civil duties. No RCAF fighting units were organized until the 1930s. 23

Acquisition of the Aurora held out hopes for the RCN’s dream of becoming a major warship force, but anti-submarine warfare continued to be a priority. In an ambitious series of exercises off Halifax in the fall of 1921, the destroyers worked closely with the CAF seaplanes in protecting the cruiser against the ‘enemy’ submarines. This was in fact much like the training program the navy had intended to develop in 1918 with the newly arrived US air units when the war ended. 24

The bottom fell out of the promising renewal almost immediately. One of the first initiatives by William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberal government that came to power in December 1921 was to slash defence spending. The strength of the RCN regular force was cut in half to 400 all ranks; the cruiser and the submarines were paid off leaving a single destroyer and a couple of war-construction trawlers on each coast. For the second time in a single decade the RCN’s ambitions had been devastated.

Fortunately, Commodore Walter Hose, Kingsmill’s highly experienced successor as director of the Naval Service, was able to craft a blueprint for survival. Hose had two related priorities: to firm up the government’s commitment to destroyers, and to put the reserves on a solid footing. Destroyers, he knew from his frustration at trying to make do with lesser vessels on the Altantic coast in 1917-1918, were the smallest major warship that had the seakeeping qualities and armament needed to operate in all weathers in Canadian waters against surface or submarine raiders. They were also the smallest warship that could give permament force personnel the opportunity to develop and hone a broad range of skills. Without this qualified cadre, there would be little chance of improving standards among the reserves who, as the events of the war had shown, would be needed in large numbers to man converted civil and other auxiliary vessels to maintain the most most basic level of surveillance along the vast coasts. At the same time, as events in 1914-1918 had shown, the auxiliary vessels could not adequately carry out their day to day tasks of coastal protection without a fast striking group, such as a destroyer force, being readily available to provide cover and support. Perhaps most importantly from the perspective of senior officers, destroyers would keep the regular navy in the major-warship league so that the service would be as prepared as possible should changes in the political or strategic situation open the opportunity to make the step up to cruisers. 25

The organization of reserve units in cities across the country in 1923, an inexpensive policy that the politicans liked, was the easier part of Hose’s challenge. His unexpected success was in selling the destroyer type to the government. Mackenzie King was convinced by the commodore’s case that declining British naval strength relative to the United States was making Canada dangerously dependent upon the Americans for the security of the coasts. In 1929 the government ordered the construction of two large fleet destroyers of the latest type, HMCSs Saguenay and Skeena, and in 1937 and 1938 purchased a total of four similar destroyers from the Royal Navy. 26 These last purchases were priority items in the limited rearmament program the King government undertook on the eve of the Second World War. The prime minister, endeavouring to appease strong isolationist opinion and avoid a repetition of the bitter divisions between English and French Canada that had been caused by large-scale participation in the land war in Europe during the First World War, emphasized that rearmament was intended primarily to defend Canada’s own coasts. He was able to cite the panics caused on both seaboards by their vulnerability to attack by long-range German raiders in 1914-1918, and the need to uphold sovereignty in the face of American might. 27 The political success of King’s strategy was evidence of the manner in which the navy had been transformed since the early 1920s from a source of acrimony and a target for contempt into a national institution whose necessity was widely accepted.

Greatly as U-boat warfare during the First World War had influenced the development of the RCN, there had been virtually no anti-submarine training or equipment procurement since 1921. The immediate reason was the loss of the submarines in the big cut of 1922: it was no longer possible to do realistic training. Hose periodically urged the procurement of submarines for both this purpose and coast defence, but in vain.28 When in the late 1920s the government evinced its willingness to make substantial expenditures for modern destroyers, Hose focussed his efforts on realizing this, the navy’s fundamental goal. Pressed by the government to economize in the construction of Saguenay and Skeena, he elected not to have asdic, as sonar was known in the Commonwealth navies, installed in the ships.29 Only two RCN officers became anti-submarine specialists prior to the Second World War, and neither of them was a leading light of the service.

The low priority for underwater warfare reflected both the advice of the Admiralty and the general attitude within the Royal Navy. Given the servere financial contraints the British government imposed on the armed services through most of the 1920s-1930s, the navy focussed on preserving strength among the main surface warship types. There seemed every reason to do so because Japan, the most likely enemy through most of this period, emphasized capital ships (as did the renascent German navy). There were, moreover, contraints in international law against the ‘unrestricted’ submarine warfare that Germany had waged against allied merchant shipping, and these had proved powerful enough to swing the United States to the Allied side in 1917, sealing Germany’s defeat. In any case anti-submarine weaponry had been improved since 1918, particularly in the development of asdic, and that gave exaggerated confidence that an all-out submarine campaign could be deterred or contained. 30 As it was, Canadian destroyers exercised primarily in torpedo and gun actions against a surface raider, which seemed to be the most likely threat. The climax of each training season was fleet manoeuvres in the West Indies with British cruiser and, on two occasions, battleship squadrons. 31

Only in 1938 did the picture change. Hitler was on the march in Europe and in December he announced that the navy was building to parity with the Royal Navy in submarine strength. The danger of war on the Atlantic was now at least as great as on the Pacific, and it seemed althogether possible that there might be a new U-boat offensive. Commodore Percy W. Nelles, who had succeded Hose in 1934, repeatedly urged an immediate start in an all-out construction program to build both anti-submarine escort vessels and the new British Tribal-class ‘super-destroyers.’ The latter ships were needed, Nelles argued, to reinforce the existing destroyers for the defence of home waters against both submarines and surface raiders. It is also clear that the naval staff also saw these large, heavily gunned vessels as a stepping stone to the balanced, high-seas fleet that the politicians and an unsympathetic public had always denied them.32

The government rejected Nelles’s costly proposals, unwilling so greatly to expand the limited rearmament program in the face of divided public opinion. Nevertheless, and despite his pledges to isolationists that Canada was bound by no military commitments to Great Britain, the prime minister allowed the naval staff to co-operate closely with the British in perfecting arrangements for mobilization of shipping control and intelligence services. Included were provisions for the organization of transatlantic convoys at Canadian ports should Germany defy the lessons of history and again launch an unrestricted U-boat offensive against trade.33

Canadian military authorities and the government recognized that much more than in 1918 maritime patrol must be a joint air force and navy undertaking. The Royal Canadian Air Force received a larger share of funds for rearmament than the navy, and the development of maritime capabilities was the leading priority. That undertaking, however, had to begin virtually from scratch in the late 1930s:the air force had been almost entirely relegated to civil operations in the 1920s and the great depression had then severely curtailed all activities. At Halifax, Eastern Air Command, the regional headquarters for Atlantic coast defence, was still in the earliest stages of organization when war broke out in 1939.34

Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 5

The German Submarine Offensive Makes Canada a Major Maritime Power, 1939-1945



Germany had already positioned its sea-going submarines in the western approaches to the British Isles, and one of these sank without warning the unarmed liner Athenia on 3 September, the day the United Kingdom declared war. 35 With this apparent evidence that the Germans were launching unrestricted submarine warfare, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, immediately ordered the implementation of ocean convoy. In accordance with the Anglo-Canadian plans, RCN control of shipping staffs had begun to take up position at major ports since late August — two weeks before Canada’s declaration of war on 10 September. The Canadian staff at Halifax despatched the first east-bound convoy, HX-1, on 16 September. Until after the United States entered the war in December 1941, Halifax was the principal convoy port in the Western Hemisphere. 36

The principal task of the RCN destroyers, together with Eastern Air Command’s single squadron of flying boats, was to provide anti-submarine escort for the convoys through the 300-400 mile approach zone off Halifax. As in the First World war, major British warships continued the escort to guard against German surface raiders at mid-ocean, and then British anti-submarine vessels and aircraft joined as the convoy neared the U-boat operating area in the western approaches to the United Kingdom.

Nelles believed that the events of 1915-1918 would repeat themselves but more quickly this time. As defences tightened in the eastern Atlantic, the U-boats would come west in search of easier targets. He therefore pressed for a large-scale emergency construction program to produce the anti-submarine and minesweeping vessels needed to screen ocean convoys as they formed up and to escort coastal shipping. Yet he also argued, with nothing less than passion, for Tribal destroyers. These sophisticated ships, he admitted, could not be completed for some years and it would take an equally long time to train efficient crews for them.Revealingly, his arguments centred not on the present conflict, but on the past and the future. Canada had run a risk by not having such powerful warships in the 1930s, and must now procure them as the foundation of a permanent fleet that would serve Canada in the uncertain post-war future. For the short term, he wanted three passenger ships, Prince Robert, Prince Henry and Prince David immediately converted into armed merchant cruisers. Like the Tribal program, the Prince ships scheme was insurance that the RCN did not, as in the First World War, become an exclusively small ship force, ingloriously employed and therefore subject to debilitating cuts on the return of peace.37

Ambitious naval expansion now nicely coincided with the government’s priorities, the most important of which was to avoid overseas conscription. Borden’s government had alienated Quebec in 1917-1918 by introducing compulsory service to replace the heavy casualties in the overseas army corps; King had secured his power base in French Canada by pledging that he would never follow suit. Not only were naval manpower needs modest as compared to those of the other services, but it also seemed that the RCN would largely operate in North American waters. The naval program’s requirement for a substantial industrial effort, moreover, fulfilled the prime minister’s determination that Canada’s contribution should be economic rather than the supply of cannon-fodder.

With King’s personal intervention, the government approved Nelles’s proposals during the winter of 1939-1940. 38 Most notably, cabinet authorized escort construction to the maximum capacity of Canadian industry 92 corvette anti-submarine vessels and Bangor class minesweepers. These new British designs were larger and more capable than the existing trawler types of the auxiliary fleet, but simple enough that they could be produced by inexperienced yards. Because the Tribal destroyers could not be quickly produced in Canada under wartime conditions, the orders were placed in Britain. 39

Thus, during the early months of 1940, the RCN was able confidently to look forward to an orderly expansion, firmly rooted in pre-war plans. The projected strength of some 15,000 personnel by the end of March 1943 40was not an unreasonable growth from the 3,700 regulars and reservists who had been available in August 1939. There were no doubts that the Anglo-French fleets could hold the ring in European waters; the RCN would carry out, more adequately than in 1915-1918, anti-submarine defence in the north-west Atlantic, and relieve the Allied fleets of a measure of the responsibility for defence against surface raiders in the western hemisphere.

These assumptions were blown apart by the German offensive in the west in the spring of 1940. At the end of May, as France collapsed and it seemed Britain herself would soon face invasion, four RCN destroyers — all of the ones not in need of refit — crossed the ocean. 41 After assisting in the evacuation of Allied forces from France, the ships were committed to anti-submarine convoy escort in the Western Approaches. There were only about 30 U-boats available for operations, but access to French Atlantic ports multiplied the effectiveness of the force: boats had no longer to make the long passage from the Baltic through the North Sea where they had previously been harassed and delayed by British air and sea patrols. During the fall of 1940, the ‘Happy Time’ for the U-boats, British shipping losses soared to 50 and more vessels per month. Most of these were ships that sailed independently, but, worryingly, the Germans were beginning to concentrate ‘wolfpacks’ of boats to overwhelm convoy defences.42

Britain’s need and the increased danger of attacks in Canadian waters forced acceleration and expansion of the RCN’s program when the program had scarcely got started. In the fall of 1940, the RCN responded to the Admiralty’s pleas by manning six — and later a seventh — of the 50 obsolescent (‘Town’ class) destroyers the United States transferred the Royal Navy. The first ten corvettes under construction in Canada and been allocated to Britain, but when these completed at the end of 1940, the Admiralty asked that Canada should man these as well. All told, the RCN had quickly to find 2000 additional seagoing personnel, and this was just the beginning of burgeoning new commitments. By the end of 1941, the RCN had reached a strength of 30,000 personnel and was manning the three ‘Prince’ armed merchant cruisers, thirteen destroyers and 91 Canadian built corvettes and Bangors in addition to many smaller warships and auxiliaries.43

The largest new undertaking resulted from the extension of U-boat attacks westward towards Newfoundland as defence measures in British waters became more effective. Beginning in May 1941 Canada supplied the bulk of the vessels for the new Newfoundland Escort Force (later, Mid-Ocean Escort Force) which protected convoys between St. John’s and Iceland (later, Londonderry, Northern Ireland). All of the RCN destroyers (both the pre-war fleet type and the ex US ‘Towns’) and corvettes that had been serving in British waters were allocated to the force, as were most of the corvettes that completed during 1941. 44 One result of the mid-ocean commitment was to isolate the RCN from British refit and training bases — facilities at St. John’s and Iceland were minimal, and those at Halifax over-crowded and over-extended — at the very time the Royal Navy was installing new equipment such as short-wave radar on its escorts and developing co-ordinated group tactics to counter wolfpack attacks on convoys. 45 RCN isolation from the Royal Navy became more profound in September 1941, when the United States Navy — which had no recent experience of anti-submarine warfare — began to escort shipping to Iceland and assumed control over trade defence in the western Atlantic.46

The RCN’s ill-equipped, ill-trained mid-ocean force did not have an easy initiation into war on the high seas. British decryption of German naval radio signals (to produce what was known as ‘ultra’ intelligence), enabled shore authorities to route most convoys clear of danger. 47With their diminishing success in finding shipping, however, the U-boats adopted more dispersed search formations. These had their greatest success in locating the slow series of convoys, which made speeds of not much better than seven knots at best, for which the RCN mid-ocean groups were primarily responsible. To make matters worse, in the fall of 1941 the British had ended a recent practice of combining two convoys to have the advantage of a double-size escort out of a false fear that the combined convoys were becoming too large and vulnerable. As a result the four RCN-escorted convoys that suffered substantial losses faced the initial attacks with small groups largely comprising the slow, inexperienced corvettes, and at most only one destroyer, the type whose speed and heavier armament made it the key to a successful defence.48

Although the U-boats were temporarily redeployed to the Mediterranean in November 1941, there was little respite for the Canadian forces. The RCN, in organizing the Newfoundland force, had retained minimal strength in home waters. The RCAF’s Eastern Air Command meanwhile was scrambling to develop bases and to provide enough minimally qualified personnel to meet pressing commitments. Modern aircraft, the best from US manufacturers, were just beginning to arrive in anything like adequate numbers in the latter part of 1941. Neither service was prepared when in January 1942 Germany responded to the United States’ entry into the war by despatching the first of several waves of U-boats which slaughtered independently routed shipping in North American waters. 49 The United States meanwhile had to remove warships from the north Atlantic to protect its own coastal waters and to reinforce the Pacific. 50 With the help of some British escorts, and by rushing newly completed ships into service, the RCN was able to organize a comprehensive system of coastal convoys, much as it had done in 1918. However, demands on the ‘Western Local Escort Force’ (later, the Western Escort Force) continued to grow more rapidly than resources. Because the United States was crticially short of escorts, the RCN took responsibility for the escort of coastal convoys from Boston to Halifax, and ran its own tanker convoys to the Caribbean. 51In May, as ice cleared from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the first of seven U-boats that would hunt there during the shipping season sank two independents, necessitating a further extension of the convoy system through that 600-mile-long inland sea. In September 1942, just as Churchill’s personal plea brought the dispatch of 16 corvettes from the RCN’s coastal commands to support the ‘Torch’ landings in North Africa, 52 the two series of transatlantic convoys that had sailed from Halifax and Sydney were transferred to New York.The WLEF now had to escort these convoys over 1000 miles to the vicinity of St. John’s where the mid-ocean force took over.

Coastal convoys greatly reduced shipping losses in Canadian waters, but it was still possible for U-boats to take up positions ahead of a convoy through fast surface runs, and then make repeated submerged attacks with little danger of retribution from the poorly trained and equipped escort groups. On 15 and 16 September, for example, U-165 and U-517 were able to sink four ships and damage a fifth in a Gulf of St.Lawrence convoy, despite the presence of no fewer than seven escorts.53

In British waters aircraft of Coastal Command had pushed the U-boats out of vulnerable inshore waters more than a year before by concentrating air patrols in areas where naval intelligence suggested U-boats were located. These aircraft made wide-ranging sweeps over the entire vicinity at high altitudes that tests revealed gave the greatest efficiency for radar and visual surveillance. Soon it proved impossible for submarines to locate and pursue shipping with fast surface runs. In early 1942, moreover, as Coastal Command belatedly overcame failures in weapons and attack procedures, aircraft began to inflict heavy losses on U-boats. By contrast, Eastern Air Command (and the US air services) were still trying to fly close, low-altitude, cover over all convoys. One highly motivated squadron commander, Squadron Leader N.E. Small, began to use the new British methods in July 1942 with dramatic results, including the destruction of a U-boat off Yarmouth, but it was not until October that the whole of the command adopted the improved tactics.

By that time, the strengthened defences on the North American coast had brought Admiral Karl Doenitz, commander-in-chief U-boats, to concentrate his fleet at mid-ocean, for an all-out wolfpack assault on the main transatlantic convoys. Here, beyond the reach of Allied air power, the boats could move freely on the surface to track and concentrate against convoys; the increasing numbers of U-boats available and the Allies’ loss of ‘Ultra’ intelligence after the German navy had adopted an improved cipher machine earlier in the year gave further advantages. 54 Eastern Air Command’s new tactics delivered a nasty surprise at the end of October, when within the space of a few hours aircraft sank two of 15 submarines on the ocean route east of Newfoundland. Because the RCAF possessed no machines that could reach much beyond 400 miles, however, the boats were able during the following days to mass against the eastbound convoy SC-107. The Canadian escort, typically for the period, lacked cohesion because of recent changes in the ships allocated to the group. Excessive commitments and inadequate repair facilities meant that the only way to keep escort groups up to minimum strength was constantly to shift ships between them, making it impossible for the groups to become well-coorindated teams of the kind needed to screen the long perimeter of a convoy at night against an increasingly numerous enemy. Most of the ships also lacked the shortwave radar that was necessary to detect fast-moving, surfaced U-boats, and high-frequency direction finding equipment with which U-boats could be located by their signals as they pursued the convoy. On 1-4 November, the submarines sank 13 merchant ships without loss to themselves. This disaster confirmed a pattern of heavy losses by Canadian escorted convoys. The Battle of the Atlantic had shifted to a new phase in which advanced technology and rigorous training of cohesive, permanently organized escort groups gave the essential edge: during the winter of 1942-1943 NSHQ agreed to the Admiralty’s advice that the RCN’s four mid-ocean groups should be withdrawn to European waters to re-equip and train at British establishments.Thus it was the British escort groups, and especially the recently formed support groups of the most capable escort types that ranged the sea lanes ready to assist threatened convoys, that urned the tide against the U-boats in the pitched battles of early 1943. 55

The Canadian groups, however, were never entirely absent from the north Atlantic during the critical early months of 1943. Because of the need for additional warships to replace casualities to enemy action and to the particularly ghastly weather that winter, one of the groups never left for the eastern Atlantic, and the other three spent only half of the four months there that had originally been intended. Operational pressures, moreover, allowed less training time than had been planned for the three groups that did serve in the eastern Atlantic. Nevertheless, with benefit of the improved equipment, especially micro-wave radar, that was fitted at British bases, the three groups acquitted themselves well escorting convoys from the United Kingdom to Gibraltar in support of the Allied offensive in North Africa. They destroyed or shared in the destruction of two enemy submarines and two aircraft. Meanwhile, the 16 RCN corvettes that had been earlier committed to the North African operations and also received updated equipment and some refresher training destroyed three submarines. This impressive record suggested there was nothing fundamentally wrong with Canadian ships and crews if they were given proper support.56

RCN officers most closely in touch with the fleet realized that essential support had been all but non-existent during 1942. The country’s limited resources had been entirely committed to getting as many escorts to sea as quickly as possible to the virtual neglect of the development of the facilities needed for proper training and the periodic refit of the vessels with the most advanced equipment. As it was, crushing operational schedules denied the layovers essential to rest the crews and allow even such repair work and refresher training as was possible with the limited facilities available. Senior officers also knew that much of the difficulty arose from the Canada’s can-do spirit. British and American anti-submarine forces had been able to perfect tactics, refit with new equipment, and train in large measure because the RCN had pulled itself in all directions during 1941 and 1942 to cover off the shortage of escorts in the main Allied fleets.

The events of the winter of 1942-1943 confirmed the need to consolidate the Canadian naval effort. The most notable result of the naval staff’s hard bargaining with its Allied counterparts was the creation on 30 April 1943 of a distinct Canadian command in the north-west Atlantic. The Canadians successfully argued that US control in the theatre was now an anomaly — the Americans supplied two percent of the north Atlantic escorts, as compared to the RCN’s forty-eight per cent — and needlessly confused command arrangements. 57 The Canadian anti-submarine force gained strength with the transfer from the Royal Navy in 1943 to early 1944 of six 1930s-vintage destroyers well suited to escort work, and the delivery from Canadian yards starting in late 1943 of frigates. These were purpose built ocean escorts, larger and faster than the little corvettes that had never been intended for high seas work. 58 Meanwhile, in the spring of 1943, Eastern Air Command finally won its campaign for allocation from American production of four-engine ‘very-long-range’ bombers that could intersect with RAF patrols from Iceland and close the lethal ‘air gap’ over the convoy routes. 59 In fact, in September 1943 the Canadian Liberator squadron, No 10 (Bomber-Reconnaissance), based in Gander, Newfoundland, made transatlantic flights from both sides of the ocean to support the embattled convoy ONS 18/ON 202, destroying one U-boat and damaging several others. Admiral Doenitz had hoped to revive pack tactics at mid-Atlantic with the attack on this convoy, but the appearance of the strong very-long-range air coverage did much to convince him that the effort had failed. 60

Prior to September 1943, the RCN had destroyed or shared in the sinking of 14 submarines: during the following twelve months Canadian ships equalled that score. This performance compared favourably with that of the much larger Royal Navy escort forces which sank or shared in the destruction of 70 boats during the same period. Also outstanding were the results obtained by Eastern Air Command and three RCAF squadrons that had formed in RAF Coastal Command (very sensibly, the home and overseas maritime squadrons began to exchange experienced personnel during this period). Together they destroyed or shared in the destruction of six prior to September 1943 and 11 more during the following year. 61

During 1944 the expanding Canadian anti-submarine forces played an extremely important part in the Normandy landings and follow up operations. In the months before the landings, the RCN accepted full responsibility for the escort of north Atlantic convoys to release British warships for the invasion force. At the same time, the Canadian service diluted its escort forces to provide ten escort destroyers, 12 frigates and 19 corvettes to provide anti-submarine defence to the invasion flotillas. Further British appeals for assistance brought the reconversion of 18 Bangors on escort service on the Canadian coasts into minesweepers. 62 These vessels helped clear the mine-infested waters ahead of invasion ships before dawn on D-Day. In the English Channel during the weeks following the landings, one of the destroyer groups sank three U-boats that were attempting to interdict supply of the armies. Meanwhile off Norway, Eastern Air Command’s 162 Squadron, which had been loaned to Coastal Command, sank four U-boats and shared in the destruction of a fifth during the single month of June 1944.

These successes were at least partly due to the fact that in the eastern Atlantic U-boats were still manoeuvering on the surface in an effort to strike into the main shipping lanes. On the western side of the ocean, Canada’s own command — the Canadian Northwest Atlantic theatre under Rear Admiral L.W. Murray, RCN, at Halifax — was fighting a very different kind of war. It was here, during the fall and winter of 1943, that U-boats began to employ ‘guerilla’ tactics, penetrating inshore waters with long submerged runs and then lying beneath the surface awaiting targets of opportunity. Improved radar detectors allowed the boats ample time to dive before registering firm contacts on Allied shipborne and airborne equipment. Strict radio silence neutralized the efficient Allied radio direction finding network. These measures effectively countered the Allies principal methods of U-boat location. Asdic’s range was limited in the best of conditions, but was often virtually nil in the extremely difficult hydrographic conditions close in to the Canadian and Newfoundland coasts. 63

Favouring the Allies was ‘ultra’ intelligence. After a blackout during most of 1942 as a result of the German navy adopting a more sophisticated cypher, Allied intelligence again made a ‘break in’ and by the fall of 1943 was reading much of the traffic with only a few hours’ delay. Naval Service Headquarters immediately received the latest decryptions from Washington and London. 64 With this information, Eastern Air Command — now a formidable organization of over 20,000 personnel and over a hundred major anti-submarine aircraft — was able to surprise, and paralyze, two of the early intruders with four near miss attacks. 65 Those boats, however, had dared to make long runs on the surface: the ones that followed seldom surfaced except at night. From the spring of 1944, all boats that came into Canadian waters were schnorkel equipped and remained submerged for the whole of their six-week missions in the coastal areas showing only the tip of the breathing tube which could not be located by radar in the rough seas. Ultra gave only the general course and destination of a boat — not enough to make an actual location — but Eastern Air Command was able to harass the boats by constantly overflying areas where they were most likely lurking. 66 Harassment, however, was not effective with bold submariners and three of them, Klaus Hornbostel of U-806, Hans Reith of U-190, and, especially, Kurt Dobratz of U-1232, were able to penetrate close in to the mouth of Halifax harbour where they destroyed five merchant vessels, severely damaged a sixth and sank two Bangor minesweepers between 24 December 1944 and 16 April 1945. All escaped massive air and sea searches, as had the other boats that operated in Canadian waters during the last year of the war.67

Losses inflicted by U-boats in the Canadian zone after September 1943 were minor. More than two dozen boats sank or damaged only 16 ships, as compared to the 1942 campaign in which the seven boats that had operated in the St. Lawrence alone sank or damaged two dozen vessels. The failure of the Canadian forces to destroy any of the intruders in 1943-1945, however, was the result of something more than the miserable operating conditions. Hunting for ‘guerilla’ boats required intimate air-sea co-operation that had never been achieved in the Canadian zone. Before the war the British government had placed the RAF’s Coastal Command under the direction of the navy. Naval and air commanders responsible for a particular maritime area, moreover, shared a common operations room where they worked from the same intelligence plots. The RCN and RCAF steadfastly refused to follow this lead. Both were small, new services whose foundations were as yet insecure and they jealously guarded their independence. Not until early 1943 did the RCAF accept naval direction, and even then it took sharp criticism from visiting British and American experts finally to persuade the services to establish a combined operations room at Halifax. 68

Moreover, the navy’s home waters forces, although not as thinly stretched as in 1942, suffered from similar shortcomings. Quite properly NSHQ gave priority in the allocation of frigates and the destroyers to the offensive against the U-boats in the eastern Atlantic, the build-up for the Normandy invasion, and finally, to the defence of British home waters when in the fall of 1944 the Germans began a guerilla campaign there with schnorkel boats. Of the 54 RCN frigates operational in January 1945, for example, 43 were allocated to the mid-ocean force and to British waters; the 11 available to Admiral Murray were all recently commissioned, inexperienced ships. Murray had to rely heavily on the older corvettes and Bangors, which by this stage of the war were unsuited to active hunting. 69

The somewhat paradoxical result was that Canada’s ‘national’ maritime command depended for striking power on the US Navy, which now had surplus of destroyer escort and escort aircraft carrier groups. From the summer of 1944, strong American forces were usually assigned to track incoming submarines when Ultra revealed that they were heading from mid-ocean into Canadian waters. These superbly equipped and trained task groups destroyed three submarines in the Canadian zone — although all them were in deep water well out from the from the coast where asdic conditions were impossible. 70

In British waters, RCN frigate hunting groups destroyed four U-boats after September 1944, but this marked a sharp falling off in performance from the previous twelve months. By contrast, British groups killed or shared in the destruction of 36 boats in the period October 1944-April 1945. Significantly, most of the British kills were made by ships equipped with the latest ‘Squid’ anti-submarine mortars and associated new types of asdic equipment that represented a quantum leap ahead of the weapons and detectors in most Canadian ships. As Marc Milner and David Zimmerman 71 have suggested, the technical shortcomings of the frigates showed the persistence of problems that had contributed to the crisis of 1942-early 1943: the difficulty of creating a Canadian industrial base, where virtually none had existed prior to 1940, and the failure of the naval staff owing to a dearth of qualified technical officers to identify rapidly changing requirements and communicate them effectively to research agencies and industry.

Less susceptible of systematic analysis and documentation is the effect of a continued tendency among senior officers to regard anti-submarine as a distraction from the central objective of creating a balanced fleet. Opportunity knocked in 1943 when manpower shortages forced the Royal Navy to offer major warships to the RCN, and Allied planning began for increased Commonwealth naval participation in the war against Japan. Determined not to be restricted to the anti-submarine role in the Pacific, the RCN’s intention was to take over four cruisers, two light fleet carriers and additional fleet destroyers from the RN to form a surface warfare task group. This group would then become the basis for the permanent post-war fleet. Before the sudden end of the Pacific war, the RCN had taken over two fleet class destroyers, which, together with the four Tribals, saw extensive action in European waters, and two cruisers, one of which arrived on the Pacific in time for operations. In addition, the Canadian service manned two Royal Navy escort carriers in the European theatre as preparation for the transfer of light fleet carriers. 72

Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 6

Soviet Submarines and the Establishment of Large Peacetime Maritime Forces, 1945-1950



Mackenzie King was distinctly unenthusiastic about the RCN’s ambitions. Small ships to assist Britain when her very survival was at stake were one thing, big ships to operate in Pacific regions remote from Canada’s historical ties to help Britain reconquer her dependent empire quite another. This evoked unpleasant memories of the pre-1914 naval controversy. Major warships would serve only to soak up large quantities of money, embroil Canada in distant conflicts and stir up bitter discord at home. 73 Within weeks of the end of the war, cabinet cut the establishment of 20,000 regular personnel recommended by the naval staff in half. After a good deal of hand wringing by the prime minister, the RCN was able to take delivery of one light fleet carrier, HMCS Warrior, from the RN in 1946, but cuts in the naval estimates ended any possibility of taking over a second carrier, and limited the planned transfer of eight additional modern fleet destroyers to two. 74 While government policy restricted the scope of the balanced fleet, strategic developments threw the need for such a force into question. Allied navies had achieved a crushing victory over the Axis surface fleets, but there had not been a similar sense of triumph among the anti-submarine commands. Schnorkel-equipped conventional boats had stretched anti-submarine defences to their technological limits, and had been contained only because the boats’ slow submerged speed of eight knots made it impossible for them to pursue shipping. During the last months of the war, the Germans had been endeavouring to mass produce the new Type XXI, a long-range boat that could achieve underwater speeds of up to 15 knots, enough to outrun most existing escorts. Allied assessments were that a fleet of Type XXIs could revive mass attacks on convoys with even more devastating results than the mid-ocean campaign of 1942-1943. In the end, the Type XXI’s teething problems and Allied bombing of production facilities prevented this disaster, 75 but the anti-submarine commands were on tenterhooks till the very end.76 In September 1945 the Admiralty confirmed Naval Service Headquarters’ appreciation that all of the RCN’s anti-submarine craft were now obsolete. 77

A future threat, it became clear as tensions grew with the Soviet Union, would come from beneath the surface of the ocean. The Soviets had no modern capital ships, and only about forty modern cruisers and destroyers. ‘On the other hand, ‘ as a secret RCN publication summarized the latest intelligence, ‘Russia’s submarine arm now consists of over 200 units. Approximately half of these are considered to be excellent modern ocean-going submarines fitted with all the latest equipment.’ Nor was that all. The Soviets had captured eight completed Type XXI boats, and were recruiting key German technical personnel. 78 In May 1946, the inaugural meeting of the Canada-US Military Co-operation Committee identified long-range aircraft and the submarine as the principal threats to North America. 79 In subsequent meetings, the committee emphasized the need for modernized anti-submarine forces that could counter fast underwater craft.80

An early indication of changed thinking in the Canadian naval staff was a paper written by Commander A.H.G. Storrs, assistant director of naval plans and intelligence, in January 1947. He reacted to further cuts in the estimates and the imposition of a manning ceiling of only 7500 personnel by calling for the service to concentrate on the essential: defence against the fast submarine. Storrs urged the development of a new generation of fast escorts which he believed might be an improved version of the small wartime escort destroyers.81

In fact, the requirement for high speed in all weathers dictated a large hull. Following the lead of the RN and the USN, in 1947-1948 the RCN embarked on a programme to convert most of its fleet destroyers to escort configurations: the heavy guns that had commended destroyers to the Canadian navy were removed to make way for outfits of anti-submarine mortars and increased anti-aircraft armament.82 Because American and British development of new purpose-built escorts were still in the preliminary stage, the RCN initiated its own design. This emerged as the St Laurent class of the 1950s; these vessels were about the same size as the Tribal ‘super destroyers.’ 83

The air squadrons for the carrier were similarly converted to specialized anti-submarine equipment beginning in 1947-1948. 84 Meanwhile, HMCS Quebec and Ontario — the state-of-the-art cruisers whose acquisition in 1944-1945 had fulfilled the navy’s 35-year struggle for the type — were relegated to training cruises for new entry personnel. In short, the balanced, surface warfare task force envisioned in 1943-1946 and earlier had become an updated version of the American escort carrier-destroyer hunting groups that had so effectively despatched U-boats in the Canadian zone and elsewhere.

Despite the RCAF’s increasing focus on the defence of North America against long-range Soviet bombers, the need for maritime air reconnaissance continued to be recognized. One consistent thread in the development plans the air force put before the government in 1946-1950 was the requirement for a regular, full strength squadron of four-engine bombers on each coast. 85 Already in 1948, before the organization of permanent peacetime squadrons, Lancaster bombers of the RCAF’s interim organization responded to the RCN’s request for joint exercises with American submarines off Nova Scotia. When in 1949-1950 RCAF Maritime Group was created (out of the skeleton of Eastern Air Command), the air force and the navy immediately established a joint maritime warfare school at Halifax. 86 In a sense this was atonement for earlier failures of inter-service cooperation in anti-submarine warfare. A similar school had briefly existed at the end of the war, but it had been established too late and without adequate resources.

The push of 1949-1950 to organize the air group and realize plans for a modern anti-submarine fleet were the direct result of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. This sudden aggression had put paid to western intelligence estimates that the economically prostrate eastern bloc lacked the means and will to launch a surprise offensive; that assumption had been particularly rigorously applied in Canada to reduce defence spending. Given western Europe’s utter dependence upon reinforcements from North America, the need to counter the menace of the fast submarine to the Atlantic trade routes and to Canadian and US ports now became urgent. It was these circumstances that finally enabled the Canadian services to create and maintain large-scale maritime forces in peacetime. 87

The Soviet submarine fleet had in fact bridged the long-standing gulf between the Canadian government and its naval advisors. Although the German U-boat offensives of 1915-1918 and 1939-1945 had demonstrated that Canada needed maritime forces, the naval staff had seen that justification as a mixed blessing. The course of those two campaigns had to some extent vindicated governments’ financially and politically motivated preference for small, coastal types of vessels and reservist forces, while lending a modicum of credence to the faith that improvisation after war had actually broken out would be sufficient to stave off disaster.

The navy had always embraced minor vessels out of necessity rather than enthusiasm. Energetically as the RCN responded to the U-boat offensives in both world wars, its senior officers saw small, specialized craft as stepping stones to larger and more capable ships. Only in the late 1940s, when it became apparent that there was slight strategic justification and even less chance of political support for a traditional balanced fleet, did the navy turn whole-heartedly to anti-submarine and particularly to the challenges of 1944-1945 that it had never really met. By that time as well technological development of the submarine had demolished the prejudice that the underwater threat was one that could safely be relegated to auxiliary flotillas. Here at last was a compelling case for the substantial, sea-going fleet to which the RCN had aspired since 1910.

Canada and Submarine Warfare, 1909-1950 – Page 7


Notes




  1. An early draft of this paper was presented at the ‘The Undersea Dimension of Maritime Strategy’ conference, organized by the Dalhousie University Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, in Halifax, June 1989. For summary proceedings see Dan W. Middlemiss, Fred W. Crickard and Susan J. Rolston, eds., The Undersea Dimension of Maritime Strategy: A Conference Report (Halifax 1991).
    For sharing their research and ideas, I am grateful to Michael L. Hadley, Marc Milner, Jurgen Rohwer, Donald M. Schurman, David Zimmerman and my colleagues at the Directorate of History: W.A.B. Douglas, Norman Hillmer, Catherine Allan, Donald E. Graves, Steve Harris, Jane Samson and Michael Whitby. In the present version of the paper, the first to be published, I have updated the references to reflect work that has appeared done since 1989.

  2. Surveys of the literature include W.A.B. Douglas, ‘Canadian Naval Historiography,’ Mariner’s Mirror 70 (Nov. 1984): 349-62; ____,’ The Prospects for Naval History,’ The Northern Mariner 1 (Oct. 1991): 19-26; ___, ‘The Canadian Experience of Sea Power,’ in Naval Power in the Twentieth Century, N.A.M. Rodger, ed. (Houndmills, UK 1996), 188-99; Roger Sarty and Donald M. Schurman, ‘An Historical Perspective on Canadian Naval Policy,’ Argonauta 4 (31 March 1987): 6-13; Marc Milner, ‘Royal Canadian Navy Participation in the Battle of the Atlantic Crisis of 1943’ RCN in Retrospect, 1910-1968, ed. James A. Boutilier (Vancouver 1982), 158-74; ____, ‘The Historiography of the Canadian Navy: The State of the Art,’ A Nation’s Navy: In Quest of Canadian Naval Identity, Michael L. Hadley, Rob Huebert and F.W. Crickard, eds. (Montreal and Kingston 1996), 23-34. See also Tony German, The Sea is at Our Gates: The History of the Canadian Navy (Toronto 1990), a popular account that accurately draws on recent scholarship.

  3. Thomas Richard Melville, ‘Canada and Sea Power: Canadian Naval Thought and Policy, 1860-1910’ (PHD thesis, Duke University, 1981), ch. 8.

  4. Neville Meany, A History of Australian Defence and Foreign Policy 1901-1923. Vol. 1: The Search for Security in the Pacific, 1901-1914 (Sydney 1976), chaps 5-6; John Bach, The Australia Station: A History of the Royal Navy in the South West Pacific 1821-1913 (Kensington 1986), chap. 13.

  5. Ruddock F. Mackay, Fisher of Kilverstone (Oxford 1973); Nicholas A. Lambert, ‘Admiral Sir John Fisher and the Concept of Flotilla Defence, 1904-1909,’ Journal of Military History 59 (Oct. 1995), 639-60.

  6. Hadley and Sarty, Tin Pots and Pirate Ships, 12-29; for a more positive view of Laurier’s naval policy, Nigel D. Brodeur, ‘L.P. Brodeur and the Origins of the Royal Canadian Navy,’ RCN in Retrospect, 13-32 R.H. Gimblett, ‘From Militia to Navy: Reassessing the Origins of the Naval Service in Canada,’Maritime Warfare Bulletin. Special Historical Edition: Maritime Command Historical Conference 1990. Canada’s Navy: Continuity or Change [1991?]: 32-48; ____, ‘Reassessing the Dreadnought Crisis of 1909 and the Origins of the Royal Canadian Navy,’ The Northern Mariner 4 (Jan. 1994): 35-53.

  7. Donald C. Gordon, The Dominion Partnership in Imperial Defense 1870-1914 (Baltimore 1965), 236-7; Rhodri Williams, Defending the Empire: The Conservative Party and British Defence Policy, 1899-1915 (New Haven, Ct. 1991), chap. 11.

  8. Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, 60-2.

  9. Tucker, Naval Service, 1, chaps 10-12.

  10. Borden to Perley, 7 Oct. 1914, Perley to Borden, 10 Oct. 1914, printed in Tucker, Naval Service, 1, 218-9.

  11. Tucker, Naval Service, 1, chap. 13. See also two important recent accounts: Dave Perkins, Canada’s Submariners 1914-23 (Erin, Ont. 1989), chaps. 1-3; Julie H. Ferguson, Through a Canadian Periscope: The Story of the Canadian Submarine Service (Toronto 1995), chaps. 1-3.

  12. Kingsmill to Governor-General’s military secretary, 30 April 1915, NS 1017-11-2, National Archives of Canada [hereafter, NA], RG 24, vol. 3846; Gaddis Smith, Britain’s Clandestine Submarines 1914-1915 (New Haven, Ct. 1964); see also J.D. Perkins, ‘Canadian Vickers-Built H Class Submarines of the Royal Navy, Part I,’ Warship 47 (July 1988), 2-9; ____, Canada’s Submariners, chaps 4-5; Ferguson, Canadian Periscope, chap 4.

  13. Admiralty, memorandum M-03496, 13 Nov. 1914, ‘European War Prints,’ vol. I, no. 5, 560-1, National Defence Headquarters, Directorate of History [hereafter, DHist]; Great Britain, Admiralty, Naval Staff, Naval Staff Monographs (Historical). Vol. IX. Home Waters — Part II. September and October 1914 (OU 5528A) (np 1924), 124-35.

  14. Phipps-Hornby to Kingsmill, 8 Jan. 1915, NS 1001-19-4, NA, RG 24, vol. 6197; Naval Historical Section [hereafter, NHS], ‘Ships and Vessels of the RCN on the Atlantic Coast in the Great War 1914-1918,’ 17 July 1963, DHist.

  15. Consul General at New York, memorandum, forwarded by Colonial Office to Governor-General, 10 June 1915, see also Consul General at New York to Governor-General, telegram, 11 June 1915, HQC 1686 pt 1, NA, RG 24, vol. 2532; Colonial Office to Governor-General, telegram, 9 June 1915, European War Prints, vol. II, no. 12, 133-4, DHist.

  16. Patey to Admiralty, 3 June and 19 July 1915, Great Britain, Public Record Office [hereafter PRO], Admiralty records [hereafter, ADM] 116/1400; G.J. Desbarats diary, 29 June, 1 and 14 July 1915, NA, G.J. Desbarats papers, MG 30 E89, vol. 5.

  17. Kingsmill, memorandum, 10 Aug. 1915, Kingsmill to minister, 11 Aug. 1915, Kingsmill to deputy minister, 28 Sept. 1915, NS 1062-13-4, NA, RG 24, vol. 4022.

  18. This and the following paragraphs are based on Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, chaps. 7-11 and ‘Hard Luck Flotilla: The RCN’s Atlantic Coast Patrol, 1914-18,’in RCN in Transition 1910-1985, ed. W.A.B. Douglas (Vancouver 1988), 103-25.

  19. Hadley and Sarty, Tin Pots and Pirate Ships, 258-9, 264, 294-5.

  20. S.F. Wise, Canadian Airmen and the First World War: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Vol. 1 ([Toronto] 1980), 603-8. For another example of an initiative strongly supported by Borden late in the First World War to strengthen Canadian maritime sovereignty see Kenneth S. Mackenzie, ‘C.C. Ballantyne and the Canadian Government Merchant Marine, 1917-1921,’ The Northern Mariner 2 (Jan. 1992): 1-14.

  21. Roger Sarty, ‘The Naval Side of Canadian Sovereignty, 1909-1923,’ printed in the present volume.

  22. Hadley and Sarty, Tin-Pots and Pirate Ships, 301-2; James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada: From the Great War to the Great Depression (Toronto 1965), 162-4.

  23. On the RCN and the transition to peace, 1919-1923, see William H. Tatley, ‘The Jellicoe Misson to Canada and Imperial Naval Defence, 1919-1923’ (MA thesis, University of Guelph, 1974); Barry D. Hunt, ‘The Road to Washington: Canada and Empire Naval Defence, 1918-21,’ RCN in Retrospect, 44-61; Eayrs, Great War to Depression, chap. 4; William J. McAndrew, ‘The Evolution of Canadian Aviaton Policy Following the First World War,’ Journal of Canadian Studies 16 (Fall-Winter 1981): 86-99.

  24. HQC 430-12-228 pt 1, NA, RG 24, vol. 2427; Kingsmill to Captain of Patrols, 8 Aug. 1918, extracts from G. 47-19-8, DHist 81/520/1440-6 ‘Halifax, NS, 1905-1920.’

  25. Roger Sarty, ‘The Naval Side of Canadian Sovereignty, 1909-1923,’ printed in the present volume; R. Mckillop, ‘Staying on the Sleigh: Commodore Walter Hose and a Permanent Naval Policy for Canada,’ Maritime Warfare Bulletin. Special Historical Edition: Maritime Command Historical Conference 1990. Canada’s Navy: Continuity or Change [1991?]: 67-82.

  26. Roger Sarty, ‘”Entirely in the hands of the friendly neighbour:” The Canadian Armed Forces and the Defence of the West Coast, 1919-1939,’ printed in the present volume.

  27. Roger Sarty, ‘Mr King and the Armed Forces: Rearmament and Mobilization, 1937-1939,’ printed in the present volume.

  28. Eg, Hose to minister, 30 Jul 1926, NSC 1015-2-3 pt 1, RG 24, vol.3828; same to same, 25 Oct. 1927, G.J. Desbarats papers, file C, DHist.

  29. Hose to minister, 14 March 1928, NSC 1017-10-11 pt 1, NAC, RG 24, vol. 3824

  30. Stephen W. Roskill, Naval Policy Between the Wars. Vol. 1: The Period of Anglo-American Antagonism 1919-1929 (London 1968), 345-7, 535-7, 557; ___, Naval Policy Between the Wars. Vol. 2: The Period of Reluctant Rearmament 1930-1939 (London 1976), 226-9, 355-6; Arthur J. Marder, ‘Lessons of History,’ in From the Dardanelles to Oran: Studies of the Royal Navy in War and Peace (London 1970), 33-48; David Henry, ‘British Submarine Policy, 1918-1939,’ in Technical Change and British Naval Policy, 80-107; Nelles, ‘Defence of Trade,’ 12 Feb. 1937, file D-26, NA, I.A. Mackenzie papers, MG 27 IIIB5, vol. 37.

  31. Michael Whitby, ‘In Defence of Home Waters: Doctrine and training in the Canadian navy during the 1930s,’ The Mariner’s Mirror 77 (May 1991): 167-77.

  32. Joint Staff Committee, ‘A Review of Canada’s Position with Respect to Defence, July 1938,’ 22 July 1938, HQS 5199B, NA, RG 24, vol. 2693; Nelles, ‘Objective of the Canadian Naval Service,’ 17 Jan. 1939, NHS 1650-1 ‘Policy,’ pt 1, DHist; Naval Intelligence and Plans Division, ‘Canadian Naval Defence on Atlantic Coast,’ 2 May 1939, NHS 1650-1 ‘War Book,’ DHist; Lane to Godfrey, 10 May 1939, DHist 81/520/1440-5 vol. 14, pt 3; Michael Whitby, ‘Instruments of Security: The Royal Canadian Navy’s Procurement of the Tribal-Class Destroyers, 1938-1943,’ 2 The Northern Mariner, (July 1992): 1-15.

  33. PRO, ADM 1/9488; also see PRO, ADM 116/3802, esp. Meyrick to ‘My dear Roger,’ 14 Oct. 1938 and King to Meyrick, 17 Oct. 1938.

  34. W.A.B. Douglas, The Creation of a National Air Force: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force Volume II ([Toronto] 1986), 373-80; William J. McAndrew, ‘Canadian Defence Planning Between the Wars: The Royal Canadian Air Force Comes of Age,’ Aerospace Historian 29 (June 1982): 81-9; ‘The History of Eastern Air Command,’ vol. 1, pts 1-2, DHist 74/2.

  35. The best printed sources for U-boat operations are: Admiralty, Tactical and Staff Duties Division, Ministry of Defence, Naval Historical Branch, The U-Boat War in the Atlantic, 1939-May 1945 (German Naval History Series)(BR 305)(3 vols.: London 1950-77); Jurgen Rohwer, Axis Submarine Successes 1939-1945 (Annapolis, Md. 1983); ____ and G. Hummelchen, Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939-1945 (2 vols. London 1974)

  36. On control of shipping see Naval Service Headquarters, ‘Outline History of Trade Division 1939-1945,’ copy in DHist 81/520/8280B pt 2; Gilbert Norman Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History. Vol. II: Activities on Shore During the Second World War (Ottawa 1952), chaps. 12-13.

  37. Nelles to minister, ‘Review of the Naval Requirements of Canada and the Existing Situation, 29th September, 1939,’ NHS 1650-1 ‘Policy’ pt 1, DHist; Dreyer to Nelles, 27 Jan. 1940, Dreyer to Secretary of the Admiralty, 31 Jan 1940 and 12 Feb. 1940, PRO, ADM 1/10608.

  38. Eg, Cabinet War Committee minutes, 8 Dec. 1939, NA, William Lyon Mackenzie King papers, MG 26 J4, vol. 423, C302580-5; King diary, 8 Dec. 1939, NA, MG 26 J13.

  39. On shipbuilding and ship acquisition see Tucker, Naval Service of Canada, 2, chaps. 2-3; Michael A. Hennessy, ‘The Rise and Fall of a Canadian Maritime Policy, 1939-1965’ (PHD thesis, University of New Brunswick, 1995), esp. Chap. 3; ‘History of the British Admiralty Technical Mission in Canada,’ 30 April 1946, copy at DHist. On the design and service of the Canadian corvettes see Ken Macpherson and Marc Milner, Corvettes of the Royal Canadian Navy 1939-1945 (St Catharines, Ont. 1993); for further technical details, John McKay and John Harland, Anatomy of the Ship: The Flower Class Corvette Agassiz (St Catharines, Ont. 1993).

  40. Nelles to acting deputy minister (naval and air), 30 Oct. 1939, HQS 8215 pt 1, NA, RG 24, vol. 2826.

  41. [L.E. McGuillicuddy], ‘Narrative A, Pt 1: R.C.N. Operations in United Kingdom Waters — May 1940 to June 1941,’ 19 Dec. 1944, DHist 84/123. This was one of the narative accounts prepared by the naval historians during the war upon which was based Joseph Schull, The Far Distant Ships: An Official Account of Canadian Naval Operations in the Second World War (Ottawa 1961).This is a beautifully writtern and generally dependable book but, owing to reductions in the historical staff, is unanalytical and based on little more than the wartime narratives.

  42. U-Boat War, 1, 48-53; Admiralty, Historical Section, Defeat of the Enemy Attack on Shipping 1939-1945: A Study of Plans and Operations. Vol. 1B: (Plans and Tables) (BR 1736 (51))(Naval Staff History Second World War)(London 1957), table 13.

  43. ‘Summary of Naval War Effort 1 October-31 December 1941,’ NSS 1000-5-8 pt 2, DHist.

  44. Bernard Ransom, ‘Canada’s “Newfyjohn” Tenancy: The Royal Canadian Navy in St John’s, 1941-1945,’ Acadiensis 23 (Spring 1994), 45-71. The experience of seamen in the Battle of the Atlantic can best be captured from memoirs. Alan Easton, 50 North: Canada’s Atlantic Battleground (Toronto 1963) is one of the best to be produced in any nation. Important recent publications include Frank Curry, War at Sea: A Canadian Seaman on the North Atlantic (Toronto 1990); Mac Johnston, Corvettes Canada: Convoy veterans of WWII tell their true stories (Toronto 1994); [J.A.M. Lynch, ed], Salty Dips Vol. 2: ‘…and All Our Joints Were Limber‘ (Ottawa 1985).

  45. On the RCN’s training, tactical and equipment problems, particularly as they affected mid-ocean operations in 1941-3, see Marc Milner, North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoys (Toronto 1985); ______, ‘Convoy Escorts: Tactics, Technology and Innovation in the Royal Canadian Navy, 1939-1943,’ Military Affairs 48 (Jan. 1984): 19-25; David Zimmerman, The Great Naval Battle of Ottawa (Toronto 1989); ____, ‘The Royal Canadian Navy and the National Research Council, 1939-45,’ 69 Canadian Historical Review 69 (June 1988): 203-221; William R. Glover, ‘Manning and Training the Allied Navies’ in The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1945: The 50th Anniversary International Naval Conference, ed. Stephen Howarth and Derek Law (London and Annapolis Md. 1994), 188-213.On British radar developments that are critical to the Canadian story there is now available Derek Howse, Radar at Sea: The Royal Navy in World War 2 (Annapolis, Md. 1993), and on sonar, Willem Heckmann, Seek and Strike: Sonar, anti-submarine warfare and the Royal Navy 1914-54 (London 1984).

  46. On the United States Navy and the Battle of the Atlantic see Samuel Eliot Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic September 1939-May 1943 (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Vol. I)(Boston 1947); Patrick Abbazia, Mr. Roosevelt’s Navy: The Private War of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, 1939-1942 (Annapolis, Md. 1975); Waldo Heinrichs, ‘President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Intervention in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1941,’ 10 Diplomatic History (Fall 1986): 311-32.

  47. The best general accounts of intelligence in the Battle of the Atlantic are F.H. Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations (3 vols. in 4 pts: Cambridge 1979-88); Patrick Beesly, Very Special Intelligence: The Story of the Admiralty’s Operational Intelligence Centre 1939-1945 (London 1977). See also David Kahn, Seizing the Enigma: the Race to Break the German U-boat Codes, 1939-1943 (Boston 1991); Bradley F. Smith, The Ultra-Magic Deals and the Most Secret Special Relationship, 1940-1946 (Novato, Cal.1993). On Canadian aspects see John Bryden, Best Kept Secret: Canadian Secret Intelligence in the Second World War (Toronto 1993) and especially Catherine E. Allan, ‘Building a Canadian Naval Operational Intelligence Centre 1939-1943’ in A Nation’s Navy, 157-72.

  48. Milner, North Atlantic Run, 64-76, 82-3; W.A.B. Douglas and Jurgen Rohwer, ‘”The Most Thankless Task” Revisited: Convoys, Escorts, and Radio Intelligence in the Western Atlantic, 1941-43,’ RCN in Retrospect, 187-207; Admiralty, Historical Section, Home Waters and the Atlantic, Vol. 2: 9th April 1940–6th December 1941 (Naval Staff History Second World War)(BR 1736(48)(2))([London] 1961), 313-5.

  49. Michael L. Hadley, U-Boats against Canada: German Submarines in Canadian Waters (Kingston and Montreal 1985) and _____, ‘Inshore ASW in the Second World War: The U-boat Experience,’ RCN in Transition, 126-42 are the best sources on U-boat operations in the north-west Atlantic, 1942-5.

  50. Robert W. Love, Jr., ‘The US Navy and Operation Roll of Drums, 1942,’ in To Die Gallantly: The Battle of the Atlantic, ed. Timothy J. Runyan and Jan M. Copes (Boulder, Col. 1994), 94-120.

  51. Robert C. Fisher, ‘”We’ll get our own”: Canada and the Oil Shipping Crisis of 1942,’ The Northern Mariner 3 (April 1993): 33-9.

  52. C.P. Stacey, Arms, Men and Government: The War Policies of Canada 1939-1945 (Ottawa 1970), 47-8; Douglas, Creation of a National Air Force, 354-5; King diary, 9 Sept. 1942, NA, MG 26 J13.

  53. On the Gulf of St. Lawrence see Douglas, Creation of a National Air Force, chap. 13; Robert Hall Thomas, ‘The Absolute Necessity: The Naval Defence of Trade in the St. Lawrence 1939-45’ (MA thesis, Royal Military College of Canada, 1983).

  54. Robert C. Fisher, ‘Return of the Wolf Packs: The Battle for ON 113, 23-31 July 1942,’ The American Neptune 56 (winter 1996): 45-62.

  55. Milner, North Atlantic Run, 177-80, 189-92; Douglas and Rohwer, ‘The Most Thankless Task,’ 207-234. More generally see Jurgen Rohwer, The Critical Convoy Battles of March 1943 (London 1977); David Syrett, The Defeat of the German U-Boats: The Battle of the Atlantic (Columbia, SC 1994).

  56. Shawn Cafferky, ‘”A useful lot, these Canadian ships”: The Royal Canadian Navy and Operattion Torch, 1942-1943,’ The Northern Mariner 3 (Oct. 1993): 1-17.

  57. W.G.D. Lund, ‘The Royal Canadian Navy’s Quest for Autonomy in the North West Atlantic,’ RCN in Retrospect, 138-57; Milner, North Atlantic Run, 189, 230-4; Plans Division, ‘History of North Atlantic Convoy Escort Organization and Canadian Participation Therein, September, 1939 to April, 1943,’ 1 May 1943, copy in DHist 81/520/8280A is an incisive summary.

  58. On the RCN’s principal anti-submarine forces in 1943-1945 see Marc Milner, The U-Boat Hunters: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Offensive against German’s Submarines (Toronto 1994).

  59. On the problem of the air gap see W.A.B. Douglas and David Syrett, ‘Die Wende in der Schlacht im Atlantik: DieSchliessung des “Gronland-Luftlochs” 1942-3,’ 83 Marine Rundschau (1986): 2-11, 70-3, 147-9.

  60. Jurgen Rohwer and W.A.B. Douglas, ‘Canada and the Wolf Packs, September 1943,’ RCN in Transition, 159-86.

  61. The figures on U-boats destroyed are drawn from the complete listing of German and Italian U-boats destroyed in Admiralty, Historical Section, The Defeat of the Enemy Attack on Shipping, 1939-1945: A Study of Policy and Operations. Vol. 1A: (Text and Appendices) (Naval Staff History Second World War) (BR 1736(51)) (London 1957), 251-81, and have been adjusted in accordance with recent investigations in German sources by Mr R.M. Coppock of the Naval Historical Branch, Ministry of Defence, London, and Dr Axel Niestlé of Berlin, who have been extraordinarily generous in sharing their work with Canadian researchers. On the RCAF squadrons in RAF Coastal Command see Douglas, Creation of a National Air Force, 581-9; Brereton Greenhous, Stephen Harris, William Johnston and William GP Rawling, Crucible of War: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Vol. 3 ([Toronto] 1994), chaps. 11-13.

  62. For a detailed record of these decisions see Hodgson, ‘The First Year of Canadian Operational Control in the Northwest Atlantic,’ 18 Aug. 1944, file 8280A pt 1, DHist 81/520/8280 box 1.

  63. Douglas M. McLean, ‘Confronting Technological and Tactical Change: Allied Antisubmarine Warfare in the last year of the Battle of the Atlantic,’ Naval War College Review 47 (Winter 1994): 87-104.

  64. Ralph Erskine, ‘Naval Enigma: The Breaking of Heimisch and Triton,’ Intelligence and National Security 3 (Jan. 1988): 162-83.

  65. Roger Sarty, ‘The Royal Canadian Air Force, Naval Intelligence and the Anti-submarine War in the North-west Atlantic, 1943-1945,’printed in the present volume.

  66. Roger Sarty, ‘Ultra, Air Power, and the Second Battle of the St. Lawrence, 1944,’ To Die Gallantly, 186-209.

  67. Michael Hadley, ‘U-Boot-Begegnung vor Halifax: Die Versenkung von HMCS ClayoquotMarine Rundschau (1982); Doug McLean, ‘The Loss of HMCS Clayoquot,’Canadian Military History 3 (Fall 1994): 31-44; ____, ‘The Battle of Convoy BX-141,’ The Northern Mariner 3 (Oct. 1993): 19-35.

  68. Douglas, Creation of a National Air Force, 547-9, 557-8.

  69. ‘RCN Weekly States,’ 9 Jan. 1945, NHS 1650-DS, DHist.

  70. Samuel Eliot Morison, The Atlantic Battle Won May 1943-May 1945 (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II Vol. X) (Boston 1956) and William T. Y’Blood, Hunter-Killer: U.S. Escort Carriers in the Battle of the Atlantic (Annapolis, Md. 1983) deal with the principal operations.

  71. Zimmerman, Great Naval Battle, chaps. 9-12; Milner, U-boat Hunters, 122-6, 263.

  72. W.A.B. Douglas, ‘Conflict and Innovation in the Royal Canadian Navy, 1939-1945,’ in Naval Warfare in the 20th Century: Essays in Honour of Arthur Marder, ed. Gerald Jordan (London 1977), 210-32; Tucker, Naval Service of Canada, 2, chap. 4; J.D.F. Kealy and E.C. Russell, A History of Canadian Naval Aviation 1918-1962 (Ottawa 1965), chaps. 3-4

  73. James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada: Peacemaking and Deterrence (Toronto 1972), 96-7; Stacey, Arms, Men and Governments, 58-60

  74. Extracts from NSS 1650-26 pt 1, NHS 1650-1 ‘Policy,’ DHist.

  75. Operational Intelligence Centre, Special Intelligence Summary, weeks ending 7 Aug. 1944, 6 Nov. 1944, PRO, ADM 223/21; Eberhard Rossler, The U-Boat: The Evolution and Technical History of German Submarines (Annapolis, Md. 1981), 214-34, 240-6, 248-65.

  76. Naval Service Headquarters to Admiralty, signal 1720Z 6 April 1945, NHS 1650-239/16B pt 2, DHist.

  77. Naval Service Headquarters to Canadian Naval Mission Overseas, signal, 14 Sept. 1945, Canadian Naval Mission Overseas to Naval Service Headquarters, signal, 27 Sept. 1945, extracts from NSS 1650-26, pt 1, NHS 1650-1 ‘Policy,’ DHist.

  78. ‘Russia’s Future as a Naval Power,’ Royal Canadian Navy Monthly Review (May 1947): 20-2.

  79. Henry and Curtis, ‘Report of Proceedings at Washington, D.C., 20-23 May 1946,’ 23 May 1946, with enclosures, printed in Donald M. Page, ed., Documents on Canadian External Relations. Vol. 12: 1946, (Ottawa 1977), 1615-27.

  80. Eg., Canada-United States Military Co-operation Committee, ‘Programme for Implementation Measures for Period from 1st April 1948 to 30th June 1949,’ 25 July 1947, ‘Sea Lines of Communication’ appendices, DHist 112.3M2.009 (D106) pt 1.

  81. Storrs to assistant chief of the naval staff, 17 Jan. 1947, extracts from NSS 1650-26 pt 2, NHS 1650-1 ‘Policy,’ DHist.

  82. Naval Board minutes 229-2/ 23 Oct. 1947, 230-6/ 30 Oct. 1947, 247-6/ 4 May 1948, 257-3/23 Aug. 1948, 264-2/ 27 Oct. 1948, 271-7/ 15 Dec. 1948, 294-5/ 31 Aug. 1949, DHist.

  83. S. Mathwin Davis, ‘The St Laurent decision: Genesis of a Canadian Fleet’ in RCN in Transition, 187-208. In addition to this pioneering account there is now Michael A. Hennessy, ‘The State as Innovator: Controlling the command technology for warship construction in Canada, 1949-1965,’ in Canadian Papers in Business History, ed. Peter A. Baskerville (Victoria, BC 1993), 147-77, and, for fuller context, Hennesy, ‘The Rise and Fall of a Canadian Maritime Policy,’ chaps. 6-8.

  84. Naval Board minutes 240-11/ 25 Feb. 1948, 293-4/ 20 July 1949, DHist. On the influence of anti-submarine warfare on the development of Canadian naval aviation see Michael Shawn Cafferky, ‘Uncharted Waters: The Development of the Helicopter Carrying Destroyer in the Post-War Royal Canadian Navy, 1943-1964’ (PHD thesis, Carleton University, 1996).

  85. RCAF Post War Plans, B, E and F, DHist 181.004(D44-46).

  86. Operations record books, 10 Group/Maritime Group, 103 Rescue Unit, 1948-1950, DHist.

  87. Davis, ‘St Laurent Decision’; Joel J. Sokolsky, ‘Canada and the Cold War at Sea, 1945-68’ in RCN in Transition, 209-32; Sean M. Maloney, Securing Command of the Sea: NATO Naval Planning, 1948-1954 (Annapolis, Md. 1995).