Canada’s first submarines were born in a foreign land, transferred at sea, purchased by a province, and shamefacedly acknowledged by the federal government.
The year was 1914, and war between Canada and Germany was declared on August 5th, the day after Britain did so. The fledgling Royal Canadian Navy had one warship on the west coast, HMCS Rainbow, a cruiser.
|Sir Richard McBride|
The then-premier of British Columbia was Sir Richard McBride. Fearing the province’s capital was vulnerable to potential German raiders, he arranged to purchase two submarines built in Seattle for the Chilean navy. The Chilean purchase did not close, and the boats were sailed to the international boundary, thence to Esquimalt under the Canadian flag.
Ownership of the two boats was transferred to the federal government on August 7th, 1914, thus doubling the number of warships in the Royal Canadian Navy. (In addition to HMCS Rainbow, the cruiser Niobe was busy protecting the Atlantic coast.)
CC1 and CC2, as they were dubbed, transited the Panama Canal in 1917, together with an escort, thus becoming the first Canadian ships to do so under the white ensign. Used for training purposes for the remainder of the war, the boats were sold for scrap in 1920.