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The history of Canada's Navy & Military on Canada's west coast

Beginnings

Beginnings

As Canada's Navy begins its second century, the time is right for a retrospective look at some individuals who played an influential role in shaping its past - and, by extension, its present and future.

Admiral Sir Henry William Bruce.Individuals like Admiral Sir Henry William Bruce, who in the 1850s was instrumental in starting the first on-shore base for Britain's Royal Navy (RN) at Esquimalt, BC - now the home of Canada's navy on the West Coast. Esquimalt was part of a worldwide network of coaling stations vital to the Royal Navy's defence of the British Empire.

Bruce's long career spanned the days of sail as a boy seaman in Nelson's navy to the emergence of Canada's navy on the west coast.

Plaque dedicated to the memory of Walter Hose.Without the tenacity of Rear Admiral Walter Hose, it's debatable whether Canada's Navy would even exist today. Hose fought many battles to ensure the survival of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), in his words "the Ugly Duckling" of Canadian National Defence.

Hose's pivotal part in developing a strong navy, and a strong force of naval reservists, remains an important legacy. It's also an important reminder that the Navy has survived undefunding and even outright neglect by government and still remained buoyant.

Percy Walker Nelles, Chief of Naval Staff from 1934-1944.Percy Walker Nelles is described as a "terrier" by one naval historian for his uncompromising defence of the naval service. Nelles (later Admiral Nelles) was hand-picked by Walter Hose to be his successor as Chief of Naval Staff. Nelles had enjoyed a brilliant career in the RCN; he was the youngest Commodore First Class on the British Empire Navy List.

Like Walter Hose, Nelles continued the battle to strengthen and expand the navy. In spite of apathy from outside the service and frustration within, he never lost sight, in the pre-war years, of what he believed to be the Canadian Navy's destiny. When the Second World War came, the plans he carefully laid and nurtured were transformed into reality.

CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum acknowledges the contribution of these important figures, and their significance in establishing and sustaining Canada's Navy.