Remember the Rainbow: An Alternate Royal Canadian Navy TL

More like a commando force like the RM. We just don't have the population to sustain a USMC type force.

I would imagine that potentially starting an interservice rivalry with the Army for equipment, funding and personnel when the Navy itself is nowhere on solid footing would also be a sizable issue.
 

Lusitania

Donor
The question about population and such are always on top of your list when we consider Canada. Even today the state of California has larger population than Canada. Then we have our limited Coast and compromising geographic position so close to Britain and next door to US.

Therefore to truly build a national force with modern navy and marines plus decent army and airforce you will need to force the issue. Increase Canada’s responsibility (carribean) and/or make relations with both GB and US antagonist.

Also as perspective while Canada was founded 1867 (happy 152 bday) we like Australia were part of British empire and as such did not have a separate foreign policy. Hence when British parliament and king declared war in WW1 we were automatically at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary Hungarian empire. It was only in 1932 that Canada, Australia and other dominions gained the true independence. So during WW2 Canada parliament actually passed its own declaration of war against Nazi germany and later japan.

So till 1932 Canadian navy and armed forces were considered in some wAys extension of British forces. We were expected to be obedient good children. Only in 1932 did we become adults in the eyes of the British law. Able to manage our own affairs and interests but still expected to heed to words of the elder and wise statement British government.
 
The question about population and such are always on top of your list when we consider Canada. Even today the state of California has larger population than Canada. Then we have our limited Coast and compromising geographic position so close to Britain and next door to US.

Therefore to truly build a national force with modern navy and marines plus decent army and airforce you will need to force the issue. Increase Canada’s responsibility (carribean) and/or make relations with both GB and US antagonist.

Also as perspective while Canada was founded 1867 (happy 152 bday) we like Australia were part of British empire and as such did not have a separate foreign policy. Hence when British parliament and king declared war in WW1 we were automatically at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary Hungarian empire. It was only in 1932 that Canada, Australia and other dominions gained the true independence. So during WW2 Canada parliament actually passed its own declaration of war against Nazi germany and later japan.

So till 1932 Canadian navy and armed forces were considered in some wAys extension of British forces. We were expected to be obedient good children. Only in 1932 did we become adults in the eyes of the British law. Able to manage our own affairs and interests but still expected to heed to words of the elder and wise statement British government.

Quite right. Canadian needed a cause to rally behind, especially with the constantly negative sentiments coming out of Quebec. Historically that never really happened for the Navy, the Army got their time in the spotlight but the Navy was essentially kept on a starvation diet and almost axed completely.

That’s what this timeline is all abou though, we’re going to change that quite soon.

As you’ll likely see later in my planned post tonight, the British Canadian relations considering their naval elements came at odds quite frequently.
 
Red Tape
Red Tape

With the first hurdle somewhat successfully cleared, the tiny Canadian Navy soon found itself wrapped in a seemingly endless sea of standard government issue red tape. HMS Niobe was the first of many thorny topics. The Conservative opposition, displeased with the sound defeat their own counter proposal received, pulled out every trick imaginable to delay the two training ships arrival. While Niobe and Rainbow made it under the political wire, the Conservatives had succeeded in tying up the money required for payment of the ships for over three weeks. The citizens of Halifax in particular had plenty of time to silently curse the slumbering vessel they had paid for out of their own taxes.

The classic issues of Canadian culture crept their way into the Canadian Navy almost immediately. When the Royal Naval College of Canada was founded that year, Minister Brodeur had asked for a comprehensive report containing all of the details of the College itself and its curriculum. In August 1910, a report labeled ‘Regulations for Entry of Naval Cadets’ crossed the Ministers desk. Attached was a memorandum in which Rear Admiral Kingsmill’s Chief of Staff and Naval Secretary (both RN personnel on loan) both deeply protested the request to have candidates be able to take the entrance exam in both French and English. Brodeur was understandably in a very precarious position. He was not pushing for a bilingual naval service, the logistics of such would likely be insurmountable to a Navy of their size however, at least hosting the entrance exam in both English and French would give equal opportunity to cadets and smooth over some of the tensions within Quebec regarding the Navy.

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The Naval College race team practicing in Halifax harbor.

Brodeur quickly wrote a letter in response;

“It should not be forgotten that Canada is a bilingual country and that French and English are on the same footing. It follows that the instruction in national establishments should be conducted in both languages. The instructors who are appointed should be fairly conversant with French and English. If the rule suggested in the above memo were adopted it would mean that French speaking young men would be unable to enter the service. I am sure this is not the end aimed at by the officers who prepared it. I fully realize that the use of two languages is creating inconvenience but that is not sufficient to prevent the true spirit of the constitution being carried out. I would request the Chief of Staff and Secretary to reconsider the matter with hope they will realize themselves the impossibility of carrying out their suggestion.”

When Deputy Minister Desbrants delivered the memorandum to both staff members, Rear Admiral Kingsmill had been made aware of the situation and dug in his heels, supporting the opinions of his staff. Any entrance exams after November 1911 would be English only, this would allow French speakers to have their boys educated enough to take the test in the meantime. Brodeur expressed his regret at the stubborn nature of the RN officers and fought with them throughout 1910 and 1911 however, the College would remain English only, further tarnishing the image of the Canadian Navy within Quebec.

Another issue was that of the flag. As with Australia, Canada had been moving to adopt the standard British White Ensign, the ensign of the Royal Navy for hundreds of years up to such a point. Both Prime Minister Laurier and Governor General Grey had both privately agreed that Canada should have a unique naval ensign that while inspired by the White Ensign, must have some degree of significance to the people of Canada. Any steps to shake off the notion of the Navy simply being another branch of the Royal Navy under a new name were vital from both a recruitment and political viewpoint.

It is largely unknown how much thought or preparation went into the creation of the first ‘Canadian Naval Ensign’ but eventually, a design was chosen. The eventual flag was the White Ensign with a green maple leaf placed directly in the middle, overlapping the cross of St George. The flag never left the eyes of the upper echelons of Canada’s government and when Lord Grey proposed the idea alongside an example to the Admiralty in Britain, the result was rather expected. Grey was politely sent back a very to the point response. Canada would fly the White Ensign, this was not up for debate. Internally, Grey and Laurier were the subject of a deal of mockery and vitriol from the long standing career officers of the Royal Navy. The idea of a Dominion wishing to deface the very face of the Royal Navy with a childish attempt at modifying their Ensign was rather swiftly pushed under the nearest rug.

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Artists impression of the proposed Canadian Naval Ensign.

While the design of the flag was indeed of questionable quality, the choice to include a maple leaf was backed by a surprisingly rich history on both the civilian and military aspects. Early settlers in what would become Canada adopted the symbol as their own throughout the 1700’s with it growing in popularity, eventually making its way onto Canadian coinage, provincial coats of arms and prominently featured in the de facto national anthem of the nation, ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’. Personnel of the Militia and eventually the Canadian Army sported the maple leaf as both regimental symbols and national identifiers throughout conflicts such as the recent Second Boer War.

Yet another sore spot between the Canadian government and the Admiralty was the jurisdiction of the Canadian Navy. Lord Grey had expressed his wish for Niobe to embark on a cruise through the West Indies in the spring of 1911, both for crew training and as a show of strength for the Navy. These plans were quickly dashed when the Admiralty informed the Canadian government that Niobe or Rainbow shall not steam beyond the three mile Canadian territorial limit until the ‘status of Dominion navies’ was resolved later in the 1911 Imperial Defense Conference.

Brodeur was growing tired of the seemingly continued attacks on any sense of independence or free will of the naval service and in a number of correspondence to Lord Grey, quite clearly laid out his feelings on the subject.

“When it was decided at the Conference of 1909 that a Canadian Navy would be established, I thought that this navy would be permitted to go outside of territorial waters. Otherwise it would have been obvious as you yourself state, that no navy can exist under such restrictions. If they had told me at the time that the existence of the Navy would depend on some restrictions of that kind, I would certainly not favoured it’s establishment in this country. Then was the time to raise the question instead of letting the Canadian government go on with the establishment of a navy, acquire vessels and then be told that they must remain within the confines of the coast. Nothing of this kind was then said when it was mentioned. Now they state we cannot go outside territorial boundaries without passing automatically under their own rules and regulations.

I do not see why they would not trust Canada in the management and control of her navy. Do they fear some illegal action on our part? We have had for years upon years a Fishery Protection Service which has come constantly into contact with a myriad of foreign vessels. We have indeed seized vessels at various intervals but we never did anything which brought the Imperial Authorities under any kind of measurable scrutiny. I am not even aware as the Minister of any difficulties that have even happened to make such a connection. Having personally taken part in the 1909 Conference and having strongly urged on my compatriots on the principal of a Canadian naval force, I am personally placed in a very awkward situation. If there was no fear on my part that the idea of the Canadian Navy would be jeopardized, I would have to take steps that would otherwise not conform with the obligations that a Minister has to fulfill in the discharge of his duties.”


Grey had responded cautiously in turn, well aware of the spiders web of issues wound around the neck of Brodeur:

“It is fair to remember that while volunteers, a fair number of personnel currently manning both ships are still indeed Royal Navy personnel that have effectively been lent to the Canadian government by the Admiralty. The Admiralty has done everything in its power to meet our convenience in these matters, so in these circumstances, I feel you will agree with me that we ought not to push them on a course which will cause great inconvenience to both parties. The English regard this seemingly simple issue as one of great moment and difficulty, I implore you to reconsider any publicly brash statements.”

A further issue was tossed into the mix as well, Canadian ships visiting foreign ports and operating in concert with Royal Navy ships. As per Admiralty operating procedure, no ship was sent to visit a foreign port (even if invited) without consulting the Foreign Office. This was to not potentially strain relations with such a nation or for some other specific political or geographic reason. There was confusion as to if Canadian ships would have to report to the UK Foreign Office or the Canadian Foreign Office, the former being seen as politically infeasible for the Canadians who saw the action as encroaching on their liberty to control their ships.

Before leaving for the Conference in May, Laurier put his plans for a domestic built fleet of Canadian ships in motion. A tender was sent out to viable shipyards throughout Canada, this tender called for the construction of four modern cruisers and six destroyers. An additional subsidy was also provided to help cover the expenses to set up slipways, dry docks and the other associated large industrial sites for military shipbuilding. Various British and Canadian firms jumped at the chance, the bids were due by May 1st, 1911 and generally ranged around the $12 million mark. Deposits were received by the Government and the initial examination of the various proposals began.

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HMS Glasgow, member of the Bristol subclass of the Town class cruisers and also one of the projected types of ships to be built for the Canadian Navy.

Once the 1911 Imperial Conference started in late May, there was a long grocery list of issues to cover just between Canada and Britain regarding its navy. Admiralty Secretary Graham Greene and Minister Brodeur managed the negotiations. While the issues regarding the Ensign and French language were not raised by either party, agreements were successfully reached to resolve the other issues.

The Admiralty was willing to remove the restrictive block on operations outside of the three mile territorial area if Canada would constitute two naval ‘stations’ which would encompass both the Atlantic and Pacific on both shores of Canada. These two stations would range from 40 degrees West on the Atlantic side to 160 degrees West in the Pacific side while North of 30 degrees. These stations would take over patrols and jurisdiction over Bermuda and most of the US coastline while adjoining to the West Indies Station. The Admiralty would not send their ships within these stations without prior notice, as Canada would do in kind to any of the Royal Navy stations around the globe. Canadian naval warships would also be expected on also act on behalf of the Crown when on foreign station. The Canadian Navy emerged from the Conference with the power to act however in the eyes of most of it's people, it was simply just another branch of the Royal Navy, regardless of the title placed upon it.

Into the early morning gleam of July 31st, 1911, Rear Admiral Kingsmill was enjoying a glass tea when a knock erupted from the door of his office, an urgent telegram. Sipping the hot liquid in one hand and placing the piece of paper onto his desk, his eyes widening as he read the text.

ATTENTION NIOBE AGROUND STOP POSITION CAPE SABLE STOP HEAVY DAMAGE SUSTAINED STOP SHIP IN DANGER OF FOUNDERING STOP ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE REQUESTED STOP
 
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Lusitania

Donor
While the time period is not of congruent to allow for bilingual Naval college I do wonder if the government could amend the agreement and create additional funding to provide French speaking students with French to English transition program. A 1 year program would be provided to French language candidates would write an proficiency French exam and those that achieved say 70% grade would then be offered a English language proficiency program would prepare them to enter the Naval College. It could be model for other branches of the armed forces and open up the naval academy to a greater number of French speaking candidates. As a way of appeasing the Quebec wing of the Liberal party.
 
While the time period is not of congruent to allow for bilingual Naval college I do wonder if the government could amend the agreement and create additional funding to provide French speaking students with French to English transition program. A 1 year program would be provided to French language candidates would write an proficiency French exam and those that achieved say 70% grade would then be offered a English language proficiency program would prepare them to enter the Naval College. It could be model for other branches of the armed forces and open up the naval academy to a greater number of French speaking candidates. As a way of appeasing the Quebec wing of the Liberal party.

The main issue historically was that Kingsmill and his staff were not willing to budge a single inch regarding the issue. It definitely is largely a help having a pool of former or current Royal Navy personnel to draw out of when creating your own navy however, the traditions and stubbornness conflicted with the ideas of a Canadian Navy from the start.

The ‘Old Salts’ saw that it was their way or nothing, the Royal Navy had ruled the waves for centuries, why change what worked for them?
 

Lusitania

Donor
The main issue historically was that Kingsmill and his staff were not willing to budge a single inch regarding the issue. It definitely is largely a help having a pool of former or current Royal Navy personnel to draw out of when creating your own navy however, the traditions and stubbornness conflicted with the ideas of a Canadian Navy from the start.

The ‘Old Salts’ saw that it was their way or nothing, the Royal Navy had ruled the waves for centuries, why change what worked for them?
Oh I agree, it would have to be a government initiative to "prepare" French speakers to take the Navy college admission exam. It would not of been run by the Navy and while having a success rate of less than 25% in the first decade did introduce some French speaking (bilingual) officers to the navy that otherwise might not of joined.
 
why change what worked for them?
Sell them that somebody will need to coordinate with the Entente?

After all do we want to be with the Battleships or coordinate tramp escorts moving Pool to Cherbourg when war comes? Better to leave that to a few colonials than force RN officers to do it?
 

Lusitania

Donor
I remember this picture in my Canadian History regarding the Canadian Naval Service Act so though it would be fiiting to compare.

 
Whiskey on the Rocks
Whiskey on the Rocks

While the Navy had its breakthroughs on paper, the service was off to literally a rocky start. Niobe has been making her way to Shelburne from Yarmouth on July 31st, after she had taken port in order to visit the citizens of Yarmouth and spread the good word of the Navy. The men were landed and participated in a large parade while over her time docked, 4,000 visitors inspected the ship and a grand ball took place alongside other entertainments. Niobe was the center of social activity for the duration her stay. This has came under much debate as Minister Brodeur had promised a Canadian Naval ship would visit Yarmouth before he left for the recent Imperial Conference, secretly to supposedly assist the Liberal party in the oncoming election and to spread the good word of the navy.

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Commander MacDonald of Niobe

The crew and officers had put ashore and participated in a town celebration thrown in their honor. Commander MacDonald had retired to his cabin and left the navigational officer, Lieutenant Charles White with control of the bridge. With a heavy fog and wind across her side, Niobe’s crew crept the ship slowly along the shoreline in order to keep situated on their route. As the ship came around an area known as ‘Pinnacle Rock’, the terrible screeching of steel rocked the ship. Crew members were thrown off their feet with multiple sustaining minor injuries. Commander MacDonald was soon back on the bridge and had a status report in hand.

The starboard engine room had been pierced by a rock, tearing a gash estimated to be 25 feet long and 10 feet wide in the bottom of the ship. The ship was beached hard on the underwater rock structure with one engine room flooding quickly. The engineering staff informed MacDonald that while the flooding was under control for the moment, the force of the impact had caused damage in other compartments as well. Niobe sent out a call for assistance and was almost immediately responded to by the US revenue cutter Androscoggin. The cutter came alongside Niobe and prepared to take on survivors if the damage worsened. Niobe had embarked 190 boy trainees who at this point alongside most of the under training enlisted personnel, were sent up on the deck to clear the compartments below and more easily evacuate in case of the situation developing for the worse. All boats were also dropped and kept in the water near the ship. The 16 men who embarked to keep the boats in an orderly fashion were separated from Niobe in the gale and were eventually recovered later that day. The ships CGS Stanley, CGS Lady Laurier and the tug McNaughton all arrived in under a few hours from Yarmouth to deliver additional damage control equipment and personnel.

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CGS Stanley escorting two tall ships through ice.

As the ship was slowly hauled from her stony berth, the flooding severely worsened. Niobe began to settle by the stern, no more than 10 feet of freeboard remaining between the crew and the Atlantic below. Furious work from the damage control teams using the additional equipment managed to keep the flooding at bay however, the Commander was informed that if the weather worsened, Niobe would likely founder. Evacuating 300 non-essential personnel to the accompanying ships, Niobe limped under her own power to Shag Harbor which was located 10 miles down the coast. MacDonald produced the charts for the area and chose a patch of sandy bottom which was shallow enough that if the situation worsened, Niobe would simply settle on and even keel and be likely recoverable. Once Niobe had safely made refuge in the harbor, her divers were sent over to survey the damage. Large sets of matting were placed over the damaged hull sections in order to hopefully keep the ship watertight enough to make the journey back to Halifax for repair. With the forecast giving fine weather, Niobe limped into Halifax Harbor a few days later without further incident. Rear Admiral Kingsmill personally praised the junior officers, enlisted personnel and trainees for their superb organization and cool demeanor throughout the incident. With rumors swirling publicly and within the Canadian government, Commander MacDonald requested to be tried by court martial.


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US revenue cutter Androscoggin

He sent the following telegram to the Admiralty in Britain:

"Respectively submit convenience of service admits Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty may be pleased to try me at court-martial grounding Niobe."

In November at the trial, MacDonald gave the following statement in his defense:

"After getting away from Yarmouth, I rounded Blonderock bouy,and shaped course S. 74 E. The night was very clear. Up to this time no abnormal tide had been encountered, and nothing to lead me to suppose that any corrections other than those allowed for in tide tables would be necessary, I am firmly of the opinion that Lieut. White's computation of tides was the correct one, which the point of our, which the point of our stranding proves, and that had there not been an abnormal tide the ship would have made the southwest ledge bouy even in thick weather. About 10.15 p.m. I gave my night order book to the officer of the watch on the forebridge and pointed out to him that the ship was making the southwest ledge bouy, to see that the ship was not set in to northwards, and on no account to get to port of his course, but to keep generously to starboard. At this time the night was extremely fine and starry, I then went into my cabin on the forebridge. On being called at midnight, I came out of my cabin and found that the ship had run into a fog. I called out Lieut. White's name, and was informed that he was not on the upper bridge. I sent for him. As my reduced speed had not enabled me to hear the southwest ledge bouy's whistle, I determined to haul out, and went into the chart house to determine a course, and had just leaned over the chart when the ship took ground. The time from my first being informed that the southwest ledge bouy was sighted to the time of grounding was about 20 minutes. I beg to state that the cause of our grounding was an abnormal tide, due either to the gale, the previous night in the Bay of Fundy, or to perhaps a hurricane in the West Indies. I would ask the members of the court to place themselves in my position on the night in question, to remember that at 10.25, when I gave the order book and instructions to the officer of the first watch, the night was exceptionally fine, exceptionally clear; that no abnormal tide had been experienced, and that I was kept in ignorance of the fact that Cape Sable light had not been seen when we were closely approaching it; that when I was called about the time I expected to be, I was definitely informed that the buoy had been seen and heard immediately before the fog closed down in the position I expected it to be seen. I am of the opinion that neither the charts, tide tables nor sailing directions give the seaman, not possessed of local knowledge, any idea of the danger of the locality. I am not claiming to have grounded on an uncharted rock, though this may well be the case, and I think that this locality probably abounds in uncharted rocks, which only ships of deep draught discover."

Commander MacDonald was found not to be guilty of any major transgressions however, he was reprimanded for not being present on the bridge regardless of the situation. Lieutenant White was found guilty due to him not being present on the bridge at the time and he was thereby court martialed. Astonishingly, there was not a single fatality during the incident.

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Niobe docked to repair her grounding damage.

The initial blame was placed solely on poorly trained Canadian Navy personnel however rather amusingly, a Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Cornwall was also out aground within a two mile radius of where Niobe nearly met her end. Niobe was under repair for over a year and by the time she emerged, she came out into a nation that was somehow less friendly towards the navy. Laurier's luck would run out in the 1911 election held in September, the Navy not only lost its largest allies, it lost almost every advocate that existed in the reaches of Parliament. Robert Borden and his Conservative government came out of the election as the majority party and the fledgling Canadian Navy was placed upon the chopping block.
 
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Dark Days Ahead
Dark Days Ahead

With Niobe laying useless in a Halifax drydock until December 1911, her dual roles as a flagship and training vessels had came screeching to a halt. Trainees were sent either abroad to Britain or across the country to learn aboard Rainbow.

In July 1911, Parliament was dissolved in preparation for the national election in September. For Laurier’s Liberal party, the election revolved around two issues depending on the region. Quebec hadn’t stopped their almost militant media campaign of slandering the Canadian Navy and the issue remained an extremely serious one within the province. Outside of Quebec however, the issue for Laurier was trade reciprocity with the United States. Laurier had predicted such an improved trade relationship especially considering decreased tariffs, would both invigorate the economy and distract the Anglophone and Francophone communities from the decisive issue of the naval question while he pushed the shipbuilding program through behind the scenes. It would also hopefully split the more radical trade based Conservative sub-parties against the main party as well. This fateful decision would prove to be the downfall of the 15 year reign of the Liberal party in Canada. The largely British supporting Maritime provinces alongside Ontario and British Columbia essentially turned on Laurier with little coaxing from Borden’s Conservatives. Accusations of disloyalty to Britain and her Commonwealth was abundant and the Conservatives successfully lobbied that free trade agreements would slowly erode Canadian sovereignty and place them at the mercy of the United States. Ironically, Bourassa’s anti-Liberal campaigning in Quebec under the guise of halting Imperial support to Britain actually ended up placing Borden’s much more Imperialistic Conservatives in power over the more nationalistic Liberals.

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Political caricature depicting Robert Borden and Henri Bourassa campaigning against Laurier.

As the election drew to a close, one glimmer of good news shined through for the Canadian Navy. On August 29th, 1911, King George V officially gave royal sanction to the Canadian Navy, bestowing them the title of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and therefore changing the prefix of the few Canadian warships from HMS to HMCS.

That however, was where the positive news ended. Aware of Laurier’s gamble to push the liberal shipbuilding program through, the Federal election had froze the project in place. The newly minted Prime Minister Robert Borden’s first speech as the leader of the nation had not a single mention of the Navy and soon after, the up and coming shipbuilders found their deposits returned to them. There would be no shipbuilding program, no industrial base and for all intents and purposes, there would be no Navy. The personnel within the navy had not forgotten Borden's various promises to disband the Canadian Navy and strike the Naval Service Act from the books and they prepared for the worst. Borden would follow through with his promise, the 1912 naval budget was cut from $3 million to $1.6 million in an instant. The RN volunteers and sailors attached to the Canadian ships departed, the promise of a fair time in a new service with plenty of opportunity essentially snuffed away, leaving the Royal Canadian Navy without the money or the personnel to even send their ships to sea. To put the situation into perspective, 125 new enlistments were recorded for the entirety of 1912 and 1913 however, this was countered by 150 deserters over the same two year period. By 1914, the Royal Canadian Navy would sit at 330 men of all ranks and two decrepit second hand cruisers.

Somehow miraculously, the Royal Naval College of Canada in Halifax escaped Borden's cuts. While the admission slowed to only a mere trickle even compared to the previous meager years, this trickle would later prove to be invaluable in the years to come.

When Prime Minister Robert Borden traveled to Britain in 1912 to receive the Knighthood customary to all dominion Prime Ministers of the era, he met a certain individual who would propel the Canadian Parliament into one of the most vicious, underhanded and heated debates since the time of Confederation.​

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Sell them that somebody will need to coordinate with the Entente?

After all do we want to be with the Battleships or coordinate tramp escorts moving Pool to Cherbourg when war comes? Better to leave that to a few colonials than force RN officers to do it?

I'm not sure if we'll see the navy become bilingual within any reasonable stretch of time in this timeline however, certain events will likely result in the way the college and navy works being changed to better accept French personnel atleast on the entry side.
 
I've been reading this, and it looks very good! Reading about the early RCN and its struggles is always interesting. I'd love to see where you take the story.
 
Dreadnoughts? Again?
Dreadnoughts? Again?

When Robert Borden's Parliament had first convened in March of 1912, the topic of the previously perilous naval arms race between Britain and Germany was again raised by the Imperial leaning members of the majority. With the somewhat limited information available to him, Borden reviewed the naval arms race in Europe and came to an independent conclusion that no emergency contribution to the Royal Navy would be required. While this meant that there would be no immediate need to support Britain with financial aid or personnel transfers, Borden had plans for the future of the Royal Canadian Navy. The Laurier Navy would serve as a suitable baseline however the largely nationalistic status of the Laurier styled service did not sit well with Borden who largely thought of a service that would simply support the Royal Navy and uphold Canadian sovereignty. With Laurier's previous attempt at a shipbuilding program destroyed and the naval budget slashed to 53% of the previous year, the Royal Canadian Navy was placed on a starvation diet until the current government could 'cooperate much more closely with the Admiralty in framing a new Canadian naval organization'. Money was extremely tight over the next two years, coal and ammunition was hoarded for the very few times that Rainbow was permitted to train.

Although the Navy itself was put out into the metaphorical dog house, Borden's previous assessment of the European situation was about to be flipped on it's head. As many a Sea Lord before him, Churchill would rise in the House of Commons to speak of another vague expansion of the German capital ship construction program. In reality, the Germans had actually somewhat scaled back their naval ambitions to place resources elsewhere but in a masterstroke, this plan was kept quite secretive and therefore the British were none the wiser. Any reports of German shipbuilding slowly down was largely downplayed by staff within the Admiralty. This issue had not made it's way across the Atlantic, Borden and his Conservatives were still settling into their newly taken seat of power and were not exactly looking to rock the boat especially when it came to any new naval procurement......at least for the moment.

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From left to right, Isidore Belleau, Robert Borden and Wilfrid Laurier having a conversation.

When Prime Minister visited Britain in July 1912, he found himself in a meeting with an extremely eager Churchill. Churchill had previously heard about the debates within Canadian Parliament regarding the Naval Service Bill, especially regarding the Conservatives vehemently campaigning for a fleet unit containing a single capital ship. Once Churchill had finished spinning his tale of the Empire being in dire peril due to the German shipbuilding program starting to catch the British's equivalent, he found Borden was more than eager to cooperate. The information thrown around in this meeting was largely rushed and insubstantial yet when Borden left Britain, he had pledged to Churchill to provide funding for three of the most modern capital ships. Borden took his time with this new bill, he skillfully navigated the ranks of his own party, reaffirming support for such a bill as he went and trying to bridge differences in the meantime. Amusingly, Borden actually expected large swathes of the Liberal opposition to support his bill which as was drafted, flew directly in the face of Laurier's proposed domestically grown Navy.

On December 5th, 1912, the rather blandly named 'Naval Aid Bill' was presented to Parliament as such;

"HIS MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:-

1. This Act may be cited as The Naval Aid Act.

2. From and out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Canada there may be paid and applied a sum not exceeding thirty-five million dollars for the purpose of immediately increasing the effective naval forces of the Empire.

3. That said sum shall be used and applied under the direction of the Governor in Council in the construction and equipment of battleships or armored cruisers of the most modern and powerful type.

4. The said ships when constructed and equipped shall be placed by the Governor in Council at the disposal of His Majesty for the common defense of the Empire.

5. The said sum shall be paid, used and applied and the said ships shall be constructed and placed at the disposal of His Majesty subject to such terms, conditions and arrangements as may be agreed upon between the Governor in Council and His Majesty's Government."

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Robert Borden fully enveloped in one of his passionate speeches

Borden seized the opportunity and went directly into his characteristically boisterous and stirring speeches;

"So far as official estimates are available, the expenditure of Great Britain in naval and military defense for the provinces which now constitute Canada, during the nineteenth century, was not less than $400,000,000. Even since the inception of our confederation, and since Canada has attained the status of a great Dominion, the amount so expended by Great Britain for the naval and military defense of Canada vastly exceeds the sum which we are now asking parliament to appropriate. From 1870 to 1890 the proportionate cost of North Atlantic squadrons which guarded our coasts was from $125,000,000 to $150,000,000. From 1853 to 1903 Great Britain's expenditure on military defense in Canada runs closely up to one hundred million dollars. Has the protection of the flag and the prestige of the Empire meant anything for us during all that period? Hundreds of illustrations are at hand, but let me give just two. During a period of disorder in a distant country, a Canadian citizen was unjustifiably arrested and fifty lashes were laid on his back. Appeal was made to Great Britain, and with what result? A public apology was made to him, and fifty pounds were paid for every lash. In time of dangerous riot and wild terror in a foreign city a Canadian religious community remained unafraid. 'Why did you not fear?' they were asked, and unhesitatingly came the answer, 'The Union Jack floated above us.'

No thoughtful man can fail to realize that very complex and difficult questions confront those who believe that we must find a basis of permanent co-operation in naval defense, and that any such basis must afford to the overseas dominions an adequate voice in the molding and control of foreign policy. It would have been idle to expect, and indeed we did not expect to reach in the few weeks at our disposal during the past summer a final solution of that problem, which is not less interesting than difficult, which touches most closely the future destiny of the Empire, and which is fraught with even graver significance for the British islands than for Canada. But I conceive that its solution is not impossible; and, however difficult the task may be, it is not the part of wisdom or of statesmanship to evade it. And so we invite the statesmen of Great Britain to study with us this, the real problem of Imperial existence. The next ten or twenty years will be pregnant with great results for this Empire, and it is of infinite importance that questions of purely domestic concern, however urgent, shall not prevent any of us from rising "to the height of this great argument." But to-day, while the clouds are heavy and we hear the booming of the distant thunder, and see the lightning flashes above the horizon, we cannot and we will not wait and deliberate until any impending storm shall have burst upon us in fury and with disaster. Almost unaided, the motherland not for herself alone, but for us as well, is sustaining the burden of a vital Imperial duty, and confronting an overmastering necessity of national existence. Bringing the best assistance that we may in the urgency of the moment, we come thus to her aid, in token of our determination to protect and ensure the safety and integrity of this Empire, and of our resolve to defend on sea as well as on land our flag, our honor, and our heritage. And so we invite the statesmen of Great Britain to study with us this, the real problem of Imperial existence. Meanwhile, however, the skies were filled with clouds and distant thunder, and we will not wait and deliberate until any impending storm shall have burst upon us in fury and with disaster."

Borden's Imperialistic appeal to patriotism had struck accords with members of Parliament across both sides of the aisle however as the Liberal opposition delivered their reply, any pretenses of cooperation between the parties for support was quickly dashed away. These three Dreadnoughts or Battlecruisers would be placed under British command for the foreseeable future with the eventual option for Canada to take over the operation of said three ships. Special privileges would be given to Canadian personnel to be stationed and trained aboard these ships and they would be given Canadian names, Ontario, Quebec and Acadia.

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While many historians believe the Naval Aid Bill would have funded three ships of the Queen Elizabeth class, studies on Canadian battleships found in Admiralty design records point towards a much more unconventional series of designs. The above designs are designated as 'U4' and 'U5' respectively and differed to the QE class significantly with slightly thinner belt armor, rearranged secondary battery and a complete lack of superfiring main battery turrets. U4 being a 'flat iron' while U5 features both forward guns in an 'en echelon' arrangement around the conning tower. A design called 'U3' also exists and is laid out in the same manner as Queen Elizabeth however no surviving images or likenesses have so far been found. Credit goes to the above shown authors for the Shipbucket illustrations.

If Laurier was furious at the proposal, the man in classic fashion, did not show a crack of rage in his impenetrable mask. At a Liberal caucus held the following day, the party decided with dissent that this bill would not be allowed to pass, no matter the length they must go to.

At the next meeting of Parliament, Laurier tore into the Naval Aid Bill from every angle he could think of. He began by saying that it was the Conservatives who had dragged the Dominion's naval policy into the zone of contentious politics with their ridiculous Imperialistic jingoism. Laurier accused Borden of creating a false urgency as a pretext for keeping the future of Canada’s defense in the hands of the British government alone and as evidence, he produced an unofficial Admiralty memorandum supplied by an anonymous source (it is largely believed that such a document was given to the Liberal opposition by Lord Charles Beresford, a longtime ally of Laurier and his independent Canadian naval service) which outlined the fact that England in fact in imminent danger and had officially revealed that she had been compelled to withdraw her ships from distant seas in order to concentrate them at home. In the mind of Laurier, Borden had given up the policy of a Canadian navy before he went to England, and had then when he arrived, asked the Admiralty of what they would like as a tribute. Laurier reaffirmed that the existing Canadian naval organization of his own creation was not separatist in tendency. Laurier concluded by moving an amendment, the gist of which was that any measure of Canadian aid in imperial naval defense which did not carry out a permanent policy of participation by ships owned, manned, and maintained by Canada, and built in the Dominion, would not properly express the aspirations of the Canadian people. He proposed measures should be taken as quick as possible to realize the potential embodied in the Naval Service Act; and that accordingly, in place of a tribute to the Royal Navy, two fleet units should be provided, one for each coast. The makeup of these fleet units was never agreed upon however it is thought to be two similar units to Australia.

Laurier's speeches reinforced his point of view;

"In our humble judgment the remedy is this, that wherever, in the distant seas, or in the distant countries—in Australia, Canada or elsewhere—a British ship has been removed to allow of concentration in European waters, that ship should be replaced by a ship built, maintained, equipped and manned by the young nation immediately concerned . . . This is the Australian policy; this ought to be the
Canadian policy. You say that these ships will bear Canadian names. That will be the only thing Canadian about them. You hire somebody to do your work; in other words, you are ready to do anything except the fighting."

Over the next twenty three weeks, every kind of argument and obstructive trick in the Parliamentary playbook was utilized by the Liberals. One member of Parliament explained the tedious slug fest which had unfurled.

"We then entered upon a discussion which involved practically continuous sitting for two weeks. The debate went on, night and day, until Saturday, March 8th, at two o'clock in the morning. Members on each side were divided into three relays or shifts and were on duty for eight hours at a time. We had to adopt unusual precautions because we did not know at what hour the Opposition might spring division and have a majority concealed and available. On Monday, March 10th, the debate was resumed and it continued at great length throughout the week. On Friday, March 14th, and again on the following day the debate became so violent as to occasion apprehension of personal conflict As midnight [Friday] approached the Speaker twice had to take the Chair amid scenes of great disorder."

The general strategy for the Liberals at this stage of the debate was to discuss every single point which arose or could be introduced, and to discuss each for as long as humanly possible in the most minute of details possible. Every tiny fact or statistic brought up by the Conservatives was asked for verification, sessions of Parliament turned into marathon one sided arguments and hours upon hours of reading from lists. The Conservatives largely said as little as possible to avoid supplying the Liberals with any more ammunition for their stalling tactics and hoped as they waited that the sheer physical exhaustion caused by such obstructive and long winded tactics would eventually crack the Liberals into some kind of support.

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Wilfred Laurier with future Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.

That support never came.

In the face of such stubborn opposition, the Conservatives utilized the newly founded 'closure' rule. With votes of 105 to 67 and 108 to 73 respectively for Borden, the Naval Aid Bill was essentially rammed through Parliament after a final reading on May 15th, 1913. Although Borden's bill had braved the harsh treatment of Parliament, it still had to survive the Senate. As senators within the Canadian Senate are appointed for life by the Governor General which would mean that any new appointments are always made from among the supporters of the Party in power at the moment. Borden had not been in power long enough to place a large amount of his supports within the Senate. The record 1896 to 1911 length of Laurier's rule over the Canadian government had resulted in a iron grip on the membership of the Senate and on May 29, 1913, by a vote of 51 to 27, the Naval Aid Bill was finally defeated in the Senate and put to rest.

After this defeat, the Conservative government abandoned their naval ambitions for the foreseeable future as the Royal Canadian Navy continued to languish in port under the governments financial constraints. Again all of the odds though, one man was dutifully working away to help the ever floundering ugly duckling of the Canadian military gain it's feathers.
 
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