CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum Logo

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



Like any human endeavour, the Canadian Navy has weathered controversies.

In its 100+ year history, the Navy has endured periods of severe underfunding and government indifference. It has also fought free of dependence on its parent organization, the Royal Navy, to establish its own history. And it has participated in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and numerous strategic initiatives and deployments. As Canada's Navy begins its second century, it seems appropriate to analyze stresses and strains that have challenged its existence.

Then Vice Admiral Edmond Rollo Mainguy (right) in discussion with a civilian dockyard worker, circa 1940-1950.<br><br>Photo from CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum archives, Roy Stranix collection. Photo Catalogue No. VR992.207.49CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum is hosting a series of articles dealing with some of the controversies that have beset the Navy, and their outcomes. The first article in the series, Dissension in the Ranks: RCN Mutinies, was guest written by Dr. Richard Gimblett of Dalhousie University, and deals with a rash of protests amongst aggrieved sailors serving aboard Canadian ships during the late 1940s.

In true Canadian fashion, these protests led to the formation of a commission of inquiry, whose findings became the Mainguy Report (named after the commission's chairman, Rear-Admiral Rollo Mainguy, Flag Officer Atlantic Coast). Described as "a watershed in the Navy's history", the Mainguy Report's recommendations and conclusions remain a potent legacy.

Controversies also examines the Canadian government's botched effort during the 1960s to unify the Forces. The article, Integration and Unification of the Canadian Forces, by naval historian Dr. Wilf Lund, reviews the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate initiative, which came close to demoralizing the Navy.

Another well-known controversy, the so-called Uganda Episode, is the subject of Malcolm Butler's article. He examines the circumstances surrounding a decision by the crew of HMCS UGANDA while serving in an active theatre of war during World War II, to vote against fighting on in the Pacific, a decision which continues to be debated, misunderstood and misinterpreted.

To quote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, "out of life's school of war: what does not destroy me, makes me stronger." In the case of Canada's Navy, controversies and upsets have taken their toll, but the Navy sails on ...