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Chapter 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Esquimalt Naval Base

by
Frederick V. Longstaff

The Victoria Book & Stationery Company, Ltd.
Victoria, B. C. 1941

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 3

 p13  Chapter II

The Earliest Days and the Colonial Government

For the most reliable description of the earliest recorded account of visits by European ships to Esquimalt harbour one must go to the book entitled "Spanish Explorations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca" by Mr. H. R. Wagner, published in 1933 in Santa Ana, California. According to the translations of Spanish journals in this book, Esquimalt harbour was first visited in 1790, secondly in 1791 and thirdly in 1792. In each case the vessels flew the Royal Naval flag of Spain, and they were from the naval base on Nootka Island, being employed in the work of exploring the inside channels and surveying the south and east coasts of the Island of Quadra and Vancouver, as it was named in 1792 by Captain Vancouver. The first of these expeditions was under the command of Lieutenant Don Manuel Quimper in the sloop Princessaº Real1 (the captured British trading sloop Princess Royal) which cast anchor in Esquimalt harbour on 19th of July, 1790. Quimper named the harbour Puerto de Cordova, after the forty-sixth Viceroy of New Spain. This name of Cordova was used by all the subsequent Spanish hydrographic surveyors.

There were two visits to the Puerto de Cordova in 1791, the first by Francisco de Eliza who arrived (from Clayoquot Sound) on the ship San Carlos2 which anchored on the 29th of May. The second was by Jose Maria Narvaez, in the schooner Santa Saturnina which had Juan Pantoja Arriaga as pilot and surveyor. This little vessel had been brought out in pieces to Nootka, where she was assembled and launched as a tender. The Santa Saturnina came into Puerto de Cordova under Narvaez on 11th June and sailed on 14th July to follow the route of Quimper and amplify the survey. The last Spanish visit was made in 1792, when the famous small surveying vessels Mexicana and Sutil, under the command of Dionisio Alcala Galiano came to anchor in Puerto de Cordova for one night only on 9th June, sailing eastbound the next day. The harbour of Neah Bay was officially taken possession of by Quimper on behalf of the King of Spain and a large wooden cross was erected, on Sunday, 1st August, 1790. This harbour was then named Nunez  p14 Gaona, but it did not at any time even equal the Nootka Base in importance.

According to Quimper (Wagner p107) the large wooden cross nearest to Puerto de Cordova was planted on what is now called Albert Head, and here is the extract from the journal:

"June 30th, 1790. At 8 A.M.[Quimper] arranged for the other canoe to go ashore with the cross to be planted in the Rada de Solano. At three in the afternoon I had the longboat and one of the canoes armed and embarked with the pilot, taking along the cross, for the purpose of taking possession of the farthest roadstead which I named Valdez y Bazan [Royal Roads]. At four in the afternoon I took possession, planted the cross, buried the bottle with all the other ceremonies which the instructions prescribe and fired repeated salutes. The Holy Cross was placed on a Mesa which consisted of a piece of land without any trees and bears W. 08° North from the point at the end to the roadstead. The bottle is buried at the back of the Holy Cross at the foot of a pine tree on which a cross was formed by cutting off the bark. This will distinguish it from five others close to it and the only ones in the neighbourhood. At 8.30 I returned on board."

The above notes will give the proper credit due to the Spanish Naval surveyors for their real pioneer work in what became B. C. waters, which in the past has been completely dwarfed in the mind of the public by that of Captains Cook and Vancouver, from 1778 until 1794.

Concerning the early British naval vessels in Esquimalt harbour, the writer has searched the "Ship Logs" in the Public Record Office, London, of the following ships of Her Majesty's Navy:

Modeste, America, Pandora, Fisguard, Herald, Constance, Inconstant, and found therein entries to show the Constance was the first British naval ship to anchor in Esquimalt harbour. The fine sailing frigate Constance of 50 guns, Capt. George W. C. Courtenay, entered and anchored in the then forest girt basin on July 25th, 1848. The waters of Vancouver Island first saw a British flagship three years later, in 1851, when Rear Admiral of the Blue, Fairfax Moresby, C. B., arrived in his flagship H. M. frigate Portland of 50 guns, flag Captain H. Chads,  p15 and anchored in Esquimalt harbour on the 27th of June. Admiral Moresby's chief object in coming so far from South America was to investigate the settlers' affairs and to straighten out the traffic rules between the infant Colony and the Territory of the United States, as well as to ensure the preservation of law and order under the British flag. The Rear Admiral exchanged several letters with Governor Blanshard as well as calls at Fort Victoria

The war with Russia (27th March, 1854 – 30th March, 1856) was the cause of the beginning of the Shore Establishment at Esquimalt on Duntze Head, the location of which had been chosen as the only available harbour under the British flag on the North Pacific ocean. It was the base for the ships on the Pacific Station, which formed the squadron employed in the operations in Avacha Bay. This Squadron, together with a few French ships, made in September, 1854, an attack on the defended fur trading depot of Petropavlovski on the shores of Avacha Bay on the S. E. coast of Kamchatka.3a The combined squadrons landed small arms units on the 4th of September and these captured some advanced works, but they were eventually repulsed by the Russians who had the advantage of superior numbers and good cover. Owing to the death, by his own hand, of Rear-Admiral David Price on 30th August, the command fell to Captain Sir Frederick Nicolson, Bart., of the 40 gun frigate Pique, who co‑operated with Rear-Admiral Febvrier des Points in the attack of 4th September. The two squadrons withdrew, and on 25th November, 1854, a new Commander-in‑chief of the Pacific Station was appointed in Rear-Admiral H. W. Bruce, who hoisted his flag on the 84 gun ship Monarch, then in the North Sea under Captain J. E. Erskine. When hoisting his flag in this private ship, Admiral Bruce took with him his flag Captain George E. Patey who took over from Captain Erskine.3b

The Monarch proceeded via Valparaiso to the Kamchatkan coast in the summer, where the flag was joined by the other vessels of the Station in June, 1855, and on the 23rd of that month the British and French vessels entered the large landlocked bay of Avacha through its narrow entrance. Midshipman Cyprian Bridge4 on H. M. Screw sloop Brisk describes it:

 p16  "We found that the place had been evacuated and the little town deserted. New and formidable batteries had been built, and, though their guns had been removed, were otherwise left intact. They were well built and judiciously placed, and an attack on them would have been a serious affair."

Rear Admiral Bruce found that owing to a shortage of sailors and troops the Russian defences had been abandoned and the composite garrison of 470 men had been withdrawn to the interior. Captain Martinoff the A. D. C. to the Governor General of Siberia, came on Board the flagship Monarch under a flag of truce to arrange for the return of two seamen prisoners, one English and one French. The A. D. C. had also brought from St. Petersburg the Russian despatch ordering the evacuation of the defences of Petropavlovski in case of the non‑arrival from the Island of Jeddo of the Imperial Russian Naval 50 gun ship Diana, whose crew would have increased the garrison sufficiently to have put up a good defence.5 The French landed some men to burn the houses of the settlement. The British and French ships then withdrew and set their course for Sitka Sound, which by the way was called Norfolk Sound by Captain Vancouver. On sighting Baranof Island the Allied squadron kept well off the mouth of Sitka Sound, thus showing up on the horizon, while the screw sloop Brisk with the two Admirals proceeded up the Sound as far as the fringe of small islands which screen and protect the harbour of Sitka, the headquarters of the Russian American Fur Company and residence of its Director. As the dates of the arrival of the Allied squadron off Baranof Island are not clear in the translation of the Russian Despatch to the Czar dated 28th August, 1855, and signed by Captain Voevodsky, an extract is given together with notes:6

"On the morning of 29th June, two ships were seen on the horizon of Sitka Bay.7a Although without flags, they were known to be warships. About noon they were both out of sight. On the morning of 2nd June [July?] an English steam frigate Brisk8 was seen in the gulf7b on its way towards the bay,7c displaying at the foremast a Russian Vice-Admiral's flag of the 2nd division. A secretary and a translator attached to the Chief Director were sent from Nova-Archangel to meet the  p17 ship and ascertain the cause of its arrival. They were received on the frigate by the English Admiral Bruce [Bruce] and the French Admiral Fourichon. The former states that he respected the neutrality of the Colonies and that he had come with the friendly intention of delivering to the Director some newspapers containing interesting European news. He said that the squadron was returning from the port of Petropavlovski, when the only persons it had found were two Americans, all the Russian soldiers and inhabitants having left the place. He mentioned at the same time that ships seen near Sitka on June 29th, belonged to the Allied squadron under his command, among them being the flagship President9º and that not far from the entrance to the gulf were some ships of the squadron, among them the French frigate La Forte, L'Alceste and L'Euridice. Admiral Fourichon, on his part, asked what ships were staying in the harbour of Sitka, the masts of which were visible from beyond the islands and upon being told that they belonged to the company, asked if there were amongst them any warships, and was pleased to receive an answer in the negative. After this the Secretary of the Chief Director having received from Admiral Bruss some English papers left the frigate which instantly put out to sea. She was soon out of sight, as well as all the other ships which had been visible on the horizon."

The Monarch and Brisk proceeded to Esquimalt down the west coast of Vancouver Island and arrived there on the 28th August, 1855, but without any wounded to be housed in the newly built huts on Duntze Head. Most of the Allied squadron called in at San Francisco on its way south.10

Admiral Bruce had expected to visit Esquimalt harbour after the proposed attack on Petropavlovski, for in a letter from Valparaiso written in February, 1855, to the Governor at Fort Victoria he said:

"In all probability an opportunity will be afforded me of visiting the Island [Vancouver] in month of July next, in my flagship the Monarch and bringing with me other ships-of‑war. Your Excellency will probably be able to provide a building upon the arrival of the Squadron that may serve as a temporary hospital for the sick and wounded, the want of which was so seriously felt last year".11º

 p18  On the receipt of Admiral Bruce's letter in 1855, Governor Douglas had three wooden huts built at a cost of £932. The land set apart for this purpose consisted of 7 acres. These huts are shown on the first chart of Esquimalt harbour, which was made by Lieutenant James Wood, R. N., during the year 1846, while commanding the brig Pandora. The same chart also shows the huts used by the Royal Engineers, under the command of Lieut. Colonel John Summerfield Hawkins, R. E., which were located at the head of Skinner's Cove. The above little known detachment of the Royal Engineers was employed in the surveying of the mainland boundary line between Canada and the United States, and it continued from 1858 until 1863.12

The expansion of the shore establishment of Esquimalt from the small beginning of the three wooden huts into the well equipped Dockyard with brick and stone buildings, was slow but it holds an important place in the history of the ships, vessels and their crews which have provided the security for trade, first of the Colony and secondly of the Province of Canada on the Pacific coast.

Fourteen years before the building of the above three huts, namely in 1843, H. M. frigate Nereus, built in 1821, was commissioned at Devonport by Master-Commander Francis William Bateman, R. N., as a Store Depot for the Pacific Station, and in the following year, we find her moored in the open Chilian harbour of Valparaiso. Her staff consisted of a Master, a Second Master and an Assistant Surgeon. Besides stores, provisions, fuel, etc., she used to berth both officers and ratings who for any reason had to change their ships or were to be sent home. The old frigate of 42 guns was recommissioned in April, 1868, and in 1874 we find her moored in the sheltered Chilian harbour of Coquimbo where she served until 1879, when she was sold out of the Service.

Three years after the commissioning of the Nereus,13 we find the 42 gun frigate Naiad14 was commissioned at Portsmouth on 23rd October, 1846, by Master-Commander William Lindsay Browne as a store ship. She was still at Plymouth in January, 1874, according to the Navy list of that date, and in that for July, 1848, she is shown as at Callao, while in that for October, 1849,  p19 she is at Valparaiso. In December, 1851, Master-Commander Samuel Strong was appointed to take over from Mr. W. L. Browne, and in January, 1852, she is shown at Callao, where she flew the White Ensign as a store ship until 1865 when she was sold to the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. She was broken up in 1898, thus being the longest lived British built Trafalgar ship after the 104 gun ship Victory.

The East Coast of South America Station15 had its base in the beautiful harbour of Rio de Janeiro, and the successive Receiving and Store ships being: frigate Crescent 42 guns, from 1837‑54; 44 gun frigate Madagascar from 1853‑62; 72 gun ship Egmont from 1862‑75, when she was sold at Rio. Each of these ships had about twice the number of officers as that one at the Pacific harbours of Valparaiso or Callao.

In April 1878 the 51 gun screw frigate Liffey16 was commissioned at Devonport by Captain W. R. Kennedy, to proceed to Coquimbo as a Store ship, in which secure harbour she was recommissioned in the following November by Staff-Commander John Franklin Robins Aylen, R. N. There was a total of five officers in the Store ship, a Staff-Commander, a Staff Surgeon, a Paymaster, a Gunner and a Boatswain New books were opened on the 1st April, 1892, and the old frigate was finally paid off, stripped of all stores and sold out of the service early in 1903. She is still afloat as a residential hulk at Bahia Mejillones, Chili.17

These three old wooden walls serving as Store and Depot Ships on the South Pacific Coast had cramped quarters at best, and were only makeshifts as they had not the advantage of a regular shore establishment, with large paved parade ground and recreation fields. When the Officers and Ratings went ashore at Valparaiso, Coquimbo or Callao, they were at once in a foreign country and also the language was foreign and the money. The climate was mostly hot and the country very dry, while the water was mostly hard. Therefore when in 1857 the news reached the men-of‑war in the above harbours that a land naval establishment was being formed in the fir tree covered Island of Vancouver on the Northwest Coast, there were great rejoicings amongst the officers and ratings of those ships and vessels.

 p20  Let us return to the huts on the shore of Esquimalt harbour, namely on Duntze Head. At first after being taken over by Captain James C. Prevost commanding H. M. steam corvette Satellite from Governor Douglas on August 21st, 1857, one of the huts was told off for a hospital and the second one for a store for provisions. At the end of 1858 the third hut had a partition put in its centre, one room for the office of the Hydrographic Survey under Captain G. H. Richards of H. M. screw survey vessel Plumper, while the other room became the residence of Assistant Surgeon Samuel Campbell of the same vessel, who was also in charge of the hospital. In July, 1860, a supply of medical stores arrived from England for the special purpose of being kept on shore in reserve.

Although the Admiralty sent three Sick Berth attendants to the hospital in 1860, it was described as "temporary", thereby suggesting a doubt as to its permanency. Rear Admiral John Kingcome in 1863 again wrote to the Admiralty urging the necessity for a hospital being permanently in commission at Esquimalt. In the year 1862, the Royal Engineer Detachment under Lieut.‑Colonel J. S. Hawkins had completed the location and survey of the western section of the forty-ninth parallel under the Boundary Commission. The Sappers then vacated the huts at the head of Skinner's Cove, which were then transferred to the Navy for use as a hospital, with a ten acre lot. The hospital was used continuously until August, 1869, when at the request of Rear-Admiral the Hon. J. F. Hastings, it was ordered to be closed and a Sick Berth Steward was detailed as caretaker of the buildings and furniture.

Although officially closed, use was continued of the hospital by sick members of the crews of men-of‑war, thus emphasizing the want of such a service on shore, so that at the end of 1871 Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar made urgent representation to the Admiralty to have it officially reopened and this was acceded to, and an Assistant Surgeon in charge was appointed in February 1872 in the person of Doctor Edward Lawton Moss, M. D., while the company of Marine Light Infantry at San Juan Island had Dr. James Alexander Allan, M. B., who was appointed there in June 1870. From this time the hospital was seemingly considered as a permanent establishment, because the word "temporary" then disappeared  p21 from the records. The history of the hospital after 1872 was uneventful and brick buildings with modern conveniences and equipment superseded the original wooden huts of the Sappers.

After the removal of the hospital gear from the hut on Duntze Head at the end of 1862, the hut became available for the much talked of depot for provisions and stores. During the years 1859 till 1862 there was a succession of hired transport sailing ships from England with stores and freight of all kinds for Valparaiso and Esquimalt, the ships being, Athelstan, Armisteri, Druid and Somass. There are papers from Somerset House to be found in the B. C. Archives dealing with the charges of these store ships.

The authorization of the Store Establishment for the new Naval Base was only made in 1865, by the Imperial Order-in‑Council dated June 29th of that year. Up to that date the Assistant Paymaster "In charge of Stores and Esquimalt" was borne on the books of the flagship, and the officer was Mr. John Bremner, whose appointment was dated June 2nd, 1863. On May 11th, 1865, under the heading "List of Principal and Other Officers in the Victualling Yards", is found the new entry, "Esquimalt, Vancouver's Island. Paymaster-in‑Charge of Victualling Stores, Sidney John Spark, Esq." Thus is shown the change of moving the official domicile of the Stores Officer from the flagship to the shore, even though the office might be only a small portion of a wooden hut on Duntze Head. The official title then became "Naval and Victualling Store and Accountant", to which position James Henry Innes, Esquire, was appointed on 20th January, 1873. The second civil store officer was W. H. Lobb, Esquire, appointed on 16th July, 1894; the third store officer was H. S. Simmins, Esquire, appointed on 10th July, 1900; and the fourth store officer was C. H. S. Harris, Esquire, appointed on 25th July, 1901. (See footnote 7 in Chapter IV.)

The first appointment of a naval engineer officer to the Esquimalt Establishment came through the development of naval gunnery. Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar writing from the Zealous at Esquimalt on the 9th of October 1871, to the Admiralty, says:

"The system of keeping H. M. ships on foreign stations for two consecutive commissions without going  p22 to England, entails an increasing wear and tear of guns and it having been found that the vents have become so much enlarged and damaged as to render them unfit for the continuance of shot practice, and there being no appliances for reventing the guns on this station, I would beg leave to point out, for the consideration of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty the desirability of implements for reventing guns being sent to the Dockyard at this port, and also the appointment of an Engineer Officer, some person acquainted with the process of reventing guns, and of judging the necessity thereof. Should their Lordships be pleased to adopt my suggestion of sending out a small engine for driving the machinery now fixed in this yard, as pointed out in my despatch of 3rd August, and of appointing a resident engineer to this establishment, he might be instructed in the process of reventing guns and then no additional expense would be incurred by making a special appointment".18

It is evident that the Admiralty took prompt action in the above recommendation from Admiral Farquhar, for we find Engineer John W. McKenzie appointed to the Zealous on January 10th, 1872, specially "for reventing heavy guns", and this office and title continued up to the year 1896 when the title became, "And for the examination and repair of Ordnance". It was also about the end of the year 1872 that a Boatswain and a Carpenter were appointed to the Naval Dockyard and borne on the flagship, and the first so appointed were Boatswain William Guard and Acting Carpenter Richard Eddy, being on the books of H. M. armour-plated wooden ship Repulse.

Having given some historical notes on the Naval Store Depots of the Pacific Station, some space will be given to the mail routes to and from Great Britain. The length of the lines of communications have always been long on this Station and before the days of the electric telegraph orders from the Admiralty required months to reach the Admiral and then often more months to reach a private ship. From 1837 until 1845 despatches to the Admiralty had to proceed by ship round Cape Horn, but in 1845 the mail route was shortened by the new Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's service via the West Indies to the old port of Chagres, thence by canoe up the rapid and winding Chagres river forty-four miles to Cruces, where mule transport conveyed passengers and  p23 baggage over the eight hours of old paved road to Panama, which had been founded in 1673. Francis Drake was fighting at Nombre de Dios 1595‑96, so this route was already centuries old. At Panama the mails were picked up by coasting vessels and carried south to Callao, where the flagship Collingwood of 80 guns was often to be found. The old Panama railroad opened in 1864 started at the new port Colon on the bay of the same name, which was situated a few miles east of Chagres, thence to Gatun and followed the Chagres river to Cruces, thence via the Caillard Divide over the mountains to Panama. In 1852 a bi‑monthly service of steamers between Valparaiso and Panama was instituted by the new Pacific Steam Navigation Company under the British flag. Before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 all vessels for Vancouver Island had to pass either round the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn.

As regards the mail routes across North America, from 1860 until 1862 the Pony Express was ridden from San Francisco eastward to St. Joseph on the Missouri River in 240 hours by 60 mile stages on schedule. It was started on April 3rd, 1860 and continued once a week until the telegraph line was finished in 1862. The Central Pacific Railroad was completed into San Francisco on May 10th, 1869, being the first railroad to cross the North American continent, and this included a telegraph line. The North Pacific Railroad was open to traffic to Tacoma in 1883, while the Great Northern Railroad came to Seattle in preference of Tacoma in 1893. Up to the time of the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886 to Port Moody (being the nearest tidewater), many of the senior Naval Officers on taking up the command of the Station or a ship, came out from England across the United States by the most northerly railroad then working and then north up the Pacific coast.

As in the case of the Naval Hospital, so with the Dockyard. After it became established with a permanent staff its history was not so exciting. Wooden buildings were added until about 1890, when the large repairs for the ships began to be carried out, and brick buildings were gradually built for different purposes, as well as other works, such as roads, residences and gardens. The magazine was established on Cole Island,19 near the head of Esquimalt harbour in 1860, the site having been  p24 chosen by Rear Admiral R. L. Baynes and Colonel R. C. Moody. This magazine was handed over to the Canadian Naval Service in 1910, and was used through the Great War 1914‑18, and has only just been superseded (1938) by a large new establishment on the west shore of the harbour.

Early in the history of Esquimalt Base, the necessity for a floating dock or drydock for the repair of ships came to the front. The "Victoria British Colonist" of December 7th, 1861, says:

"Within the last year or so no less than three accidents have occurred to Her Majesty's Ships in our waters, which have made it necessary for them to go to San Francisco for repairs. The names of these ships are the Plumper, Termagant and Hecate. In the case of the Termagant,20 the expenses of overhauling her in the sectional dock at Mare Island were immense. Her great weight caused an accident to the dock, which it was reported would cost $200,000.00 to make good. Whether any portion of this loss was borne by the English Admiralty or not we are not aware. We are nevertheless informed by good nautical authority that the expense of repairing two of the ships-of‑war sent to Mare Island would of itself have gone a long way towards constructing a sectional dock at Esquimalt."

"Till lately the headquarters of the British Pacific Squadron has been Valparaiso. Now Esquimalt is the actual naval headquarters in the Pacific, though perhaps not formally declared so by the Admiralty. When we consider that along the whole Pacific Coast Great Britain possesses no territory whatever, except Esquimalt, which is adapted for a dockyard, and when we reflect that the annually increasing importance of British commerce in the North and South Pacific will require a large Squadron to protect it, and that accidents may occur annually to some of Her Majesty's vessels, making it necessary to enter a dock for repairs, it would appear to be very desirable that a dock should be constructed here at as early a period as possible. The only place on the North Pacific where a man-of‑war can be properly overhauled is at San Francisco; and in view of a collision between Great Britain and the United States, or any other naval power it is certainly not desirable that our fleet should be dependent on San Francisco, or have to refit in a  p25 foreign port, more particularly when we have such a splendid harbour as Esquimalt in British Territory.

"Hitherto the Imperial Government has done but little for us colonially. The whole of our public burdens have been borne by our own Treasury. Consequently it is not too much to expect that something more substantial will be done for us from a national point of view. The promise of a Regiment of the Line21 to be billeted in the Sanatorium,22 is evidence that we are not wholly forgotten. But with a garrison, we also want a dockyard with a sectional dock or patent slip, where Her Majesty's ships can be repaired in cases of accident, instead of spending vast sums of money in a foreign country, which would afford employment to a large number of persons here."

Let us leave the Editor of "The British Colonist" at Victoria in 1861, and jump six years forward to find Rear Admiral the Honourable J. F. Hastings working for the construction of a dock in Esquimalt harbour. In a letter to the Colonial Secretary, William Alexander George Young, Esq., at Victoria, dated H. M. Ship Zealous on August 6th, 1867, the Admiral's Secretary states:

"I am directed by the C.‑in‑C. to acquaint you for the information of His Excellency the Governor, that considering the importance of securing dock accommodation in this vicinity, he ordered a Board of Officers to report upon the most eligible site for a dock in this harbour. The Board has recommended Lang Cove as offering the greatest natural advantages for such a structure, but before offering a decided opinion has stated it to be necessary that the Cove at the upper end should be bored to ascertain the nature of the bottom. The C.‑in‑C. would therefore be much obliged if the Governor would direct a competent person whose services may be at the disposition of the Colonial Government, to carry out the wishes of the Board. I have the honour to be, Perry, [Henry and Paymaster, R. N.] Secretary."

This despatch of 1867 is minuted

"2/Referred to Mr. Pearse with request that he will inform me whether he has the means at his disposal to comply with the wishes of the C.‑in‑C., W. Y., August 7th, 1867. 3/The Honourable the Colonial Secretary, This work will require boring  p26 rods, and perhaps six men to work them. I have no assistant, and could not shut up the Land Registry Office. If the Admiral would furnish men and an officer to do the work, I would direct them and do all in my power to get the information wanted. The boring tools are all at the H. B. Co.'s wharf. As a preliminary step, it would be advisable to get them all to, say the Navy Yard, so that they may be sorted, unpacked and examined. They might be worked from a strong platform laid across two large boats or scows, on which the derrick and winch could be erected. I should think about 20 bores would be sufficient, I propose seeing the Admiral on the subject today. The cost would be about $250.00, if not deep. Signed Pearse, August 8th, 1867."

On the following October 16th, the Admiral wrote to the Colonial Secretary at Victoria stating that he had investigated the suitability of the harbour of Nanaimo and of Burrard Inlet for the site of a drydock, but that he had come to the conclusion that Esquimalt Harbour provided the best site.

Let us now consider the limitations imposed by the Admiralty on the employment of landing parties for police work about this time. My Lords of the Admiralty forbade the sending of armed landing parties any distance inland as it weakened the effectiveness of ships supplying the same. In 1867 Governor Frederick Seymour applied for an armed landing party to proceed to Cariboo to enforce law and order, but this was turned down by the Admiral, and there was much correspondence on this subject and here is one of the letters — dated the Admiralty, October 28th, 1867, to Frederick Elliott, Esq., Colonial Office:

"Sir, I have laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty your letter of 22nd instant, with its enclosure from the Governor of [British] Columbia, respecting the disturbances between rival claimants of a mining property in the district of Cariboo on the upper Fraser River, nearly 500 miles distant from the seat of Government at New Westminster. With reference to the complaint made by the Governor that Rear-Admiral Hastings had declined to detach any force from the ships under his orders at Esquimalt for a point so remote as Cariboo, and their Lordships desire me to state for the information of His Grace the Duke of Buckingham that they approve  p27 of the conduct of the Admiral in this matter, and I enclose a copy of the Instructions given in 1864 to his predecessor in the Naval Command in the Pacific, not to detach officers and men to a distance from their ships, but to limit his co‑operation to such measures as could be executed by the vessels, or by their boats acting in their immediate vicinity, I am, [signed], H. G. Lennox."

Strictly speaking, the headquarters of the "Ships and Vessels employed and to be employed on the Pacific Station" was the flagship, where the Rear Admiral Commander-in‑Chief had his quarters. Owing to the great length of the Station, namely more than 7,000 miles from Cape Horn to Point Barrow, patrol duty had to be carried out mostly by single ships, and it was rare for ocean passages to be made by ships in company and besides neither the executive nor the engineer officers were trained at "Keeping Station" in a squadron.

Sometimes the harbour of Valparaiso was designated as the Station headquarters, at other times it was Esquimalt. Wars and revolutions in South America between Chili and Peru, or Civil war in Chili, were cause enough to the flagship to spend most of that year in the Southern division of the Station. On the other hand the San Juan Island Dispute, the Fenian scare from 1868 until 1870, the Russian war scare from 1877 to 1878 and the Bering Sea patrol and Treaty of from 1893 to 1913, were enough to bring the flagship to Esquimalt, which place was always in great favour with the Officers and Ratings. As a rule the flagship endeavoured to arrive at Esquimalt just before the Queen's Birthday on the 24th May, so as to land companies of both sailors and marines to take part in a review on Macaulay Plain before the Lieutenant Governor and the Senior Naval and Military Officers. Probably the earliest combined parade was a sham battle held on the 5th May 1889 under the command of Rear Admiral Heneage, according to the "Colonist" of 29th September, 1893.

Though the Esquimalt Shore Establishment had been officially brought into being in June 1865, yet in March 1869 we find the Admiralty making Valparaiso the headquarters of the Station for Rear Admiral Hastings in H. M. ironclad Zealous. These orders are so curious that the letter explaining them and dated Esquimalt, March  p28 31st, 1869, from Rear Admiral Hastings to Governor Seymour at New Westminster is given:

"I have the honour to acquaint your Excellency that I have received instructions from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to proceed in my flagship to Valparaiso and to consider that place as the headquarters for the Commander-in‑Chief of the ships on the Pacific Station until further orders. I intend sailing in execution of those instructions about the 13th proximo, and shall leave at this port the following force: H. M. S. Satellite with Captain W. H. Edye as Senior Officer, the Sparrowhawk and Forward, and the gun‑vessel Boxer for service in these waters is now on passage from England to this port. I shall endeavour to keep one of the ships under my orders commanded by a Post Captain on this part of my station as Senior Officer."

After some years of wars with her South American Colonies, the Royal Spanish Naval Squadron quitted Peruvian and Chilian waters in May, 1866. However, military insurrections were the order for some years in Chili and Peru, hence there was a call for the forceful diplomacy of a British Admiral to protect all the British interests. This form of diplomacy could only be made effective by the presence of the flagship and some other vessels at his orders, so as to show force and power at the different ports and so impress the forces of disorder, and naturally his base would be at Valparaiso as his stay in the south would probably be for the greater part of each year.


The Author's Notes:

1 Princessa Real. This sloop of 50 tons, the property of Messrs. Etches, sailed from London in September, 1786, with a crew of 15 under Captain Charles Duncan, but under her English name of Princess Royal. She sailed in company with the Prince of Wales, Captain James Colnett, and after calling at Staten Island, the vessels rounded Cape Horn and reached Friendly Cove on Nootka Island, in July, 1787. Here they found the fur trading ship Imperial Eagle, Captain John Meares, had anticipated them in trade. They met off Nootka on 8th August, 1787, the Queen Charlotte, fur trader, Captain George Dixon, owned by Messrs. Etches, who advised Duncan to proceed to Queen Charlotte Islands, where the fur market was good. The winter of 1787‑88 was spent at the Sandwich Islands, and in the spring the two vessels set sail for the sea otter grounds. The Princess Royal proceeded to Nootka and the Queen Charlotte Islands, later  p29 Captain Duncan spent from 14th May, until 5th August, 1788, trading with the Indians for Sea Otter skins amongst the islands fringing the mainland, which later were named Princess Royal Islands after the vessel. The Indians attacked Duncan in these inside channels and he nearly lost his crew. He anchored in Safety Cove on 22nd July, sailed on 3rd August, fell in with Captain John Meares off Ahousat on Flores Island, Clayoquot Sound and anchored there, then sailed to China via the Sandwich Islands, where he met the Prince of Wales on 17th August. While in China, probably at Macao, Duncan took over the Prince of Wales and sailed for England after having made a prosperous trading voyage. Captain William Hudson took over the Princess Royal and returned to friendly Cove with the Argonaut, Captain Colnett, where the Spanish naval forces were found to be in possession. The Spanish officers confiscated both the British vessels, and taking out the crew, stores and cargo, from the Princess Royal, Sub‑Lieutenant Manuel Quimper commissioned her as the Princessa Real. She then proceeded up the east coast of the Island of Vancouver and Quadra via Puerto de Cordova. She was released in March, 1791, by Quimper at the Sandwich Islands and returned to her British owners.

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2 San Carlos. A Spanish vessel, 16 guns, snow rigged (two masts and both square rigged), belonging in 1791 to an exploring expedition, under Lieut. Francisco Eliza. The tender was the little vessel Santa Saturnina, which had been put together at Friendly Cove.

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3a 3b Petropaulovsk (St. Peter and St. Paul), Russian headquarters in Kamchatka, seat of a Governor, fur trade headquarters, naval and military station; a small town. On the outer protecting ridge there is a memorial to La Perouse who was in these waters about 1786. Population under 1,000. Located in a small harbour on the east side of Avacha Bay, which is about 11 miles long from the narrow mouth and 7 miles in width and there is good anchorage for large ships as the water is shallow. The hills are forest clad. (U. S. N. Chart Avacha Bay, No. 54, pub. 1936 ; "The Illustrated London News," 1855, p501. "O'Byrne's Naval Annual for 1855", p89‑95 for letters. "Alaska and Bering Sea Pilot".) In 1924, H. M. minesweeper Thiepval, Lieut. W. J. R. Beech, (now Commodore), called at the above harbour on 12th July, in connection with the attempted round the world flight by Major MacLaren. ("Canadian Defence Quarterly" January, 1925, p108‑118.)

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4 Bridge, Admiral Sir Cyprian, G. C. B. "Some Recollections," London, 1918, p117‑19. Midshipman Bridge was in Brisk when she proceeded from Valparaiso to Kamchatka via the Sandwich Islands. He describes the assembling of the ships, and the return to the Pacific Coast, and thence to Esquimalt.

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5 Diana, Russian 50 gun frigate, flagship Pacific Squadron. Was lost at the Island of Jeddo. She was driven ashore during a severe earthquake, salved and then suddenly sank at anchor. The Russian Admiral built a small schooner with his own resources and coasted along under cover of the fog into Petropaulovsk itself, past the Allied Squadron. See "The Illustrated London News," October 27th, 1855, p502.

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6 Alaska Boundary Tribunal, Counter Case of the United States, Appendix II, Washington, 1903, p20. Report of the  p30 Board of Directors of the Russian American Company, 16th November, 1855. Translation.

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7a 7b 7c British Admiralty Chart 2337, gives the name as Sitka Sound, which is also the Norfolk Sound of Captain Vancouver. The Bay refers to the Eastern Channel of the harbour approaches.

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8 Brisk, steam screw wood sloop, launched at Woolwich in 1851. 1,087 tons, 250 horsepower, 14 guns, heaviest gun 68 pounder. Complement 170, length 190′ 7″ and beam 35′ 5″. See also "Illustrated London News," 1859, "Brisk in Mozambique channel chastising slaver."

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9 There is a discrepancy in the use of the name President, as the flagship of Rear Admiral Bruce was the Monarch, as shown in Royal Navy List.

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10 According to the "San Francisco Herald" 22nd August, 1855, arrival of frigate Amphitrite from Sitka.

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11 Letter Bruce to Douglas, in B. C. Archives.

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12 Hawkins, John Summerfield. The Royal Engineers. Commissioned 2nd Lieut., 12 Dec., 1834; Lieut., 10 Jan., 1837; Captain, 1 April, 1840; Major, 14 June, 1858; Lieut.‑Colonel, 12 August, 1858; Colonel, 1 March, 1868, and appointed Commanding Royal Engineers at Barbadoes, 1869; Colonel Commandant, 28 July, 1884; Major-General, 6 March, 1868; Lieut.‑General, 10 October, 1877; General, 1 July, 1881; K. C. M. G. in 1893. No war service given in Hart's Army List, 1893. "Canadian Defence Quarterly," April, 1927, p308. The first was a Survey Detachment of 65 N. C. O.'s and Sappers under Lieut.‑Col. J. S. Hawkins who had been appointed to determine the 49th parallel. The detachment left England on 3rd April, 1858, and arrived at Vancouver Island on 12th July, having proceeded in the mail packet to Panama, whence it came north in H. M. sailing corvette Havannah, Captain Thomas Harvey, R. N. Colonel Hawkins returned to England in fall of 1859, while the Detachment went in April, 1862.

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13 Nereus, 42 guns, sailing frigate, 1,094 tons, was built at Pembroke in 1821. Was commissioned from The Ordinary at Plymouth in 1843, for Store Depot Ship at Valparaiso. Last entry in Navy List is 1st April, 1868.

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14 The Brazils Station was formed as the consequence of the transfer of the Portuguese Royal Family from Lisbon to Bahia. A squadron of four line-of‑battle ships, escorted them and arrived at Bahia on 19th January, 1808. With the exception of a gap from 1815 to 1819, there was a succession of Rear-Admirals or Commodores in command of the Brazils Station. The term "South American Station" was merely an alternative name that appeared at least as early as 1814 and finally superseded the other name. This was the first station in South American waters.

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15 Naiad, 42‑gun frigate, built at Hill's yard, Limehouse, from the design of Sir William Rull, launched in April, 1797, 1,020 tons. Commissioned at once, Captain T. Dundas commanded her 1804‑05. She joined the fleet under Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson on 21st August, and was employed in preventing supplies reaching the enemy's fleet coastwise. With the Euryalus, Phoebe and Sirius,  p31 as the "eyes of the fleet", she did much to bring the hostile fleets together without which there could have been no victory. She was present to windward of the weather column in the great battle of the 21st October, and, though she took no active part in it she rendered valuable help in rescuing officers and men from the disabled ships, and towed the Belleisle out of action when she became unmanageable. In 1813, she was paid off at Portsmouth, where she remained in Ordinary until 1823, when she did a three years' commission in the Mediterranean under Captain Hon. Sir Cavendish Spencer. Again paid off at Portsmouth in 1826, and continued in Ordinary until 23rd October, 1846, when she was commissioned for the Pacific Station by Master Commander W. L. Browne as a Store Ship. It appears from the Navy List she did not arrive at Valparaiso until 1849, so she spent over a year being converted at Portsmouth.

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16 Liffey, second since 1810, launched at Devonport, 1856, wood screw frigate of 51 guns, 2,654 tons and engines 600 horsepower. First commissioned November, 1858, by Captain G. W. Preedy, C. B., for the Mediterranean and in December, 1861, is shown as on the North American Station. Her second commission was in February, 1865, was shown on the North American Station. In ordinary at Devonport from November, 1865, until June, 1867. Captain J. O. Johnson commissioned her at Devonport in July, 1867, for particular service and in 1869 she was placed in the Flying Squadron under Rear Admiral G. T. P. Hornby. The Squadron sailed from Plymouth on 19th June, and was anchored in Esquimalt Harbour from 15th to 28th May, 1870. Captain R. Gibson was appointed to Liffey in October, 1869. In November, 1870, she was in Ordinary at Devonport, where she remained without even an engineer until 1876, when she was stripped to be prepared for a Store Vessel at Coquimbo, which work was only completed in April, 1878, when Captain W. R. Kennedy commissioned her and took her out to replace Belleisle at Coquimbo. She was recommissioned at Coquimbo as a Store Ship on 17th November, 1878, by Staff Commander J. F. R. Aylen. She was sold about 1904 at Coquimbo.

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17 "Sea Breezes" February, 1931, Vol. XIV. Picture of Liffey as hulk at Bahia Mejillones, Chili. Per Mr. M. Armstrong.

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18 Letter Sir A. Farquhar in 1871, to the Admiralty; copy in the possession of the author.

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19 Cole Island, Esquimalt Harbour. Named after Mr. Edmund Picoti Cole, R. N., Master (R. N.) H. M. ship Fisguard, Captain J. A. Duntze. On this station from 1843‑47, being commissioned at Plymouth 13th May, 1843, 42 guns. Appointed Master 17th August, 1838, Commander ret. 1858, died 1877. Concerning the powder magazine, Captain J. F. Parry in his lecture in February, 1906, said:

"On the gradual increase in numbers of the ships of the Navy in northern waters it became necessary to make separate provision for a magazine for their use, and early in 1860 Admiral Sir R. L. Baynes acting in conjunction with Colonel R. C. Moody, R. E., Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, after inspecting various localities chose Cole Island . . . as the most suitable position and in May of that year, the Island was formerlyº transferred  p32 to the Navy by Governor Douglas for this special purpose. In August, 1890, difficulties as to water supply to the Island arose and a new site for the Magazine was proposed at the location of the present (1906) Submarine Mining Wharf at Constance Cove . . ."

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20 Termagant, probably second of the name, launched Deptford in 1848, wooden frigate of 25 guns, 1,547 tons, screw engine 600 horsepower. Commissioned at Portsmouth by Commodore Henry Kellett on 3rd August, 1855, for the West Indies Station. Then in Ordinary at Portsmouth until commissioned on 27th January, 1859, by Captain R. Hall for the Pacific Station, she escorted the two gun‑boats Forward and Grappler to Esquimalt, where they arrived on 12th July, 1860, and she relieved the Satellite, which sailed for Devonport on 30th August. The Termagant crashed on Laura Point in Active Pass on 31st July, 1860, and temporary repairs were made at Esquimalt by divers. She was sold out of the service about 1866‑67, as she was last seen in the Navy List of January, 1866.

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21 No official record can be found of a battalion of Imperial infantry coming out to the Pacific Coast at this time.

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22 This refers to the bungalow type of naval hospital in red brick for many years on the shore of Constance Cove and just south of the new large dry dock. This dock was begun in 1921, and the first ship was docked on Monday, 13th September, 1926, an oil tanker the Reginolite.


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