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



Like any organization, Canada's Navy has been associated with its fair share of characters, larger-than-life individuals whose strength of personality makes them both interesting and memorable.

Ferdinand "Waldo" Demara, aka ‘The Great Impostor’.One such remarkable individual was Ferdinand Waldo Demara, also known as the Great Impostor. Demara, an American, joined the Royal Canadian Navy fraudulently in 1951, and went on to successfully impersonate a ship's doctor during the Korean conflict, an audacious piece of role-play that earned him notoriety but also the affection of many of his ship-mates.

Horace Carley invented a sturdy, self-righting life-raft that saved the lives of countless Canadian sailors. Carley, a true eccentric, had already had a varied career as a Civil War soldier, inventor, artist and musician when he devised the life-raft, known as the Carley float.

Not only did Hollywood director John Farrow create morale-raising war films, he also participated in the Second World War as a sailor in Canada's Navy

Tim Ryley (left) with a shipmate, 1906.When the crew of HMCS THIEPVAL returned to Esquimalt from Japan in 1924, they brought with them a real character, a higuma (brown bear) transported from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The Naden bear was adopted by local sailors and actually lived in the historic square where CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum is now located.

During close to half century of service, including eight years in the Royal Navy and more than 40 years at HMC Dockyard, Tim Ryley saw the Canadian Navy develop from its inauspicious beginning, through times of fast-paced expansion and war.

Another outstanding individual closely associated with Canada's Navy was Geoffrey Alexander Rotherham, an adventurous naval officer best known as the Fleet Air Arm observer responsible for setting in motion the hunt for the German battleship Bismark in 1941.

A self-deprecating sense of humour and extreme modesty characterized Commander Harry Soulsby. Cdr. Soulsby's gifts as an artist and illustrator, and his abilities as a sailor, surveyor and chartmaker, have left their mark on coastal BC and on Canada's Navy.

CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum salutes the memory of these intriguing characters whose history and achievements are now part of the history of Canada's Navy.