From: Georgetown, Texas, USA
A general discussion about Canadian ships in Da Babes – what’s in, what’s not in, and why.
The Canadian West Coast ships can be broken down into four general categories:
1. RCN Early. The Canadian Navy was fully occupied in the Atlantic for most of the war. Very large numbers of RCN ships performed excellent duties as convoy escorts and around the UK. Only a few corvettes, minesweepers, and assorted other ships were available for the West Coast.
2. RCN Late. Once the Battle for the Atlantic was won, Canada made a major commitment for the final push in the Pacific. Canada agreed to take over enough larger British warships to form a small carrier task force – 2 modern light carriers, 2 modern cruisers, and a full flotilla of modern destroyers. And all the modern Canadian destroyers in the Atlantic were to be transferred to the Pacific for duty with the British Pacific Fleet (Tribals and British V-class). In addition, almost all of the Canadian frigates were to be tropicalized, refitted and transferred to the Pacific as escorts. No less than forty, with additional units for replacements.
3. Park/Fort merchant ships. Large numbers of these Liberty ship like vessels were built on the west coast and served world wide. Most moved back and forth between Atlantic and Pacific/Indian Oceans as cargos required. Some became Royal Navy Auxiliaries and also served world wide. Due to the frequent movement and lack of detailed data, we decided to consider ships to be operational in the general locations of their operating companies. The Parks/Forts were assigned to merchant shipping companies for operations, some headquartered in the Atlantic and some in the Pacific. As much as possible, we included only those assigned to Pacific shipping companies.
4. Local Service Merchant ships. One tanker spent the war shuttling oil from the US and Peru to Canada (Albertolite). Other than that, the primary local shipping service appears to have been the British Columbia Coastal Service. This operated about a dozen medium sized passenger ships and freighters within the Skagway/Seattle area. Currently only one of these ships is in (Nootka) and we are reviewing the others. Problem is that many of these were local service ships, one-day/overnight voyage passenger ships and even car ferries.
One Colossus and one Majestic light carrier were slated for transfer late war. Neither actually joined the RCN during the war but one came close. We have skipped the Magnificent, which was not completed until 1948, but added the Warrior. However, since her air group was officially FAA, we have added her as an British CVL. There were plans to convert the squadrons of her airgroup to Canadian prior to transfer but this was not done until well after the war. I believe a large number of the pilots in these squadrons were Canadian.
Two modern cruisers were transferred from the Royal Navy and both were in the Pacific prior to the end of the war. Ontario and Uganda are both in as Canadian.
All of the wartime Canadian destroyers fought in the Battle of the Atlantic. The survivors of the smaller pre-war classes were then retired. Only three Tribal (refitted) and two V Class destroyers were modern enough to serve in the Pacific. In addition, Canada was to take over all eight ships of the “Cr” flotilla for Pacific duty. None of these were completed before the war ended and their completion was delayed and strung out from late 1945 until early 1947. Eventually only two were transferred to the RCN but we have included all eight and sped up their completion so all were in service by April, 1946. Possible, as actual completion was so significantly delayed by post-war slowdowns.
As far as we can tell, 45 Canadian River class frigates were to be sent to the Pacific – 40 for duty with the British Pacific Fleet and the remainder as replacements as required. All of these were in various stages of refit, tropicalization, workup, and transit when the war ended. Several had arrived at the west coast but were not yet assigned to the BPF. We have included 18 of the earliest arrivals.
Prior to the outbreak of the war with Japan, Canada was building large numbers of Flower Class Corvettes (and minesweepers) on the West Coast, working them up and then sending them to the Atlantic to fight U-Boats. A few still on the West Coast in December, 1941 were retained there, along with a number of others commissioned in early 1942. Once the initial panic had subsided on the West Coast, most of the corvettes were send East. A small group were permanently retained on the West Coast. Later (1944-5) a few were sent back from the East Coast and then a few larger Castle Class in mid-1945. Da Babes includes about a dozen Flowers and five Castles. Some of the early Flower class have withdrawal dates, so the Canadian West Coast is always short of escorts.
Like Flower Class Corvettes, Bangor Class minesweepers were being built on the West Coast primarily for duty on the East. But a few of the Bangors were in full service on the West Coast and more were added as the war went on. We have about 15 of these. In addition we included a flotilla of Admiralty Motor Mine Sweepers that was built at Vancouver in 1944 and retained for West Coast coastal service. Bangors can supplement Flowers for escort duty, and they are needed.
Armed Merchant Cruisers
Three of the fast Canadian Pacific Railroad liners were converted to Armed Merchant Cruisers and served (at various times) on the West Coast. One had escorted the troop ship carrying Canadian troops to Hong Kong and was still enroute back to Vancouver when war began. Two of these were later converted to Attack Transports and subsequently served in the Atlantic. One subsequently returned. We have “normalized” the movement of these ships as it is too complex for the withdrawal system – two in the Pacific for the entire war and one arriving in 1945.
There were quite a number of requisitioned small craft on the Pacific, but almost none made it into Da Babes. The most interesting ship is the large yacht San Peur, but it was quickly converted to training and was later transferred to the East Coast. She has not been included (eat your heart out, Ron Saueracker). Two other smaller yachts (Cougar of 140 ft and Wolf of 172 ft) were also excluded as they had little use and were not judged worth a class entry. We also left out the 14 Canadian Motor Launches (of two sub-types) due to limited usefulness on the Canadian Coast. And we excluded the six small craft of the Leelo class – sometimes described as HDML but which seem to be a group of similar fishing vessels temporarily assigned to the Fisherman’s Reserve patrol. We did include one old Castle class trawler that was taken over and used as a minesweeper – primarily because we already had a class for it.
Merchant Ships and Auxiliaries
Parks and Forts make up the majority of Canadian merchant ships in Da Babes. About forty of them with 1943-44 availability dates. There is also one large tanker and one small freighter. The initial release includes a coastal tanker but this ship was actually a US Army Transport that served in Canadian/Alaskan waters (which will be corrected). Another small coastal tanker (probably YO) was requisitioned by the RCN in later 1942 but is was not deemed worth including. A review of the British Columbia Coastal Service is underway but few additional ships will probably be added.
All in all I feel that we have excellent data on the Canadian Navy. I am happy with our choices for inclusion and exclusion of various vessels. The motor launches might be interesting and a case might be made for inclusion or exclusion of individual Flower or Bangor class vessels (or perhaps working with withdrawal dates). The movements of the three Armed Merchant Cruisers were complex and some fine tuning of these might be possible (primarily withdrawal and return dates). Merchants is a bit less precise. We have full data on building location and completion date for the Parks/Forts, but have generalized availability. Again, inclusion or exclusion of a specific ship is possible.
As always, we invite additional data – with the proviso that ships may not be included if they were only briefly in the Pacific.