The history of Canada's navy is its ships. It is as impossible to separate one from the other as it is to separate sailors who love the seagoing life from their beloved ships. Yet Canadians don't think of themselves as a maritime nation, or as a people who "go down to the sea in ships."
In an introduction to one of the most useful books available on Canada's naval vessels, Ships of Canada's Naval Forces 1910-2002, by Ken Macpherson and Ron Barrie, Vice-Admiral (retired) Gary L. Garnett writes —
Canada is a country that often has trouble understanding its maritime heritage and appreciating the importance of the maritime dimensions in its future...
There have been occasions in the history of the Navy when our ships have been only marginally capable of taking up the task [of representing Canada at sea]. This, however, has never been the case with the ships' companies. They have always numbered among the very best. When ships have been among the most capable, the Canadian Navy has excelled and in recent years has often been called upon to take a lead role in operations.
Despite a general lack of recognition by the Canadian public, Canada's Navy —and its individual ships, both past and present — are recognized in certain circles as being among the most sophisticated, efficient, or just plain plucky (in the case of the corvettes that did such stalwart escort duty during the Battle of the Atlantic) in the world.
There are many informative publications that document the distinguished history of Canada's naval forces, and many web sites that provide detailed information about these ships, as well photographs and other documentation. A small selection of these sites are included below, but there are many more worthwhile sources out there.
Here at CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum, we strive to represent the stories of ships that have a strong connection to Canada's navy on the West Coast.
Included here are articles on six ships with strong West Coast ties. They are HMCS BEACON HILL HMCS ESQUIMALT, HMCS GALIANO, HMCS OTTAWA, HMCS WASKESIU, and the vessel that started it all for the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910, HMCS RAINBOW. More profiles of ships integral to west coast's defence, to the history of CFB Esquimalt, and to the history of Canada, will be added to this section in the months ahead.
By Clare Sharpe, Museum staff member/webmaster