From One World War to Another (1919-43)

Canada’s Military between the Wars

The Navy 1919-1939

Canada decided to retain a navy and accordingly purchased from Britain a light cruiser, two destroyers and two submarines. Niobe and Rainbow were sent to the scrap heap. With this move, the Union government, which included a number of the Conservatives of 1913, returned to the national naval strategy advocated by Wilfrid Laurier. The leaders of this navy sought a solution, in terms of personnel and equipment, that would enable them to be more active than they had been since 1910. In 1939 the navy would have more than 1,800 professional seamen. It had also created, in 1923, the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve with a maximum strength of 500 and, later, the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, which would not exceed a strength of 1,500 until 1939. Beginning in the 1930s, the navy embarked, little by little, on a rearmament programme. In 1931 it acquired two modern Royal Navy destroyers, HMCS Saguenay and Skeena. These 1,360-ton vessels had a top speed of 31 knots, a main armament of four 4.7-inch guns and a crew of 181. In the late 1930s four similar destroyers, Fraser, Saint-Laurent, Restigouche and Ottawa, were added, along with a slightly larger vessel, Assiniboine.