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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: a tightly packed informal group of about eighty men in 19c summer sailor uniforms, most of them wearing broad-rimmed Panama-type hats. Three ranks of them stand in slightly curving lines behind each other, with nearly twenty standing on top of some tall structure hidden behind them, and another dozen seated in front. They are British sailors. Further details are given in the caption on the webpage.]

H. M. third class cruiser "Hyacinth," group of Ratings in whites on Christmas Day, 1888, at Honolulu. Typical British sailors.

Esquimalt Naval Base
A History of Its Work and Its Defences

Major F. V. Longstaff

The Author and the Work

Frederick Victor Longstaff was born at Ilkley, Yorkshire on June 15, 1879. Trained as an architect, he joined the British Royal Army, however, while studying at Cambridge, and eventually came to Victoria, B. C. as an officer in 1911, where he assisted in the design of St. John's Anglican Church and the James Bay Anglican Hall. He is primarily remembered though as a recognized authority on the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy and as a writer on naval and military subjects: in addition to the work presented here, his best-known book is The Book of the Machine Gun (London, H. Rees, Ltd., 1917; online at HathiTrust) but among other things he also wrote a history of Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria. In the 1930s he was one of the founders and moving spirits of the Vancouver Island Lifeboat Association and the Victoria Lifeboat Association. Although he had been asked to resign from the Army in 1915 on medical grounds because of a weak heart, he was a lifelong mountaineer — even when in his seventies. He died in Victoria in 1961 and is buried in the cathedral.

A good photoillustrated biographical page by John M. MacFarlane, "Major Frederick Victor Longstaff: Early British Columbia Nautical Heritage Researcher", can be found at Nauticapedia.

[p3] Table of Contents



Chapter I



Chapter II

The Earliest Days and the Colonial Government


Chapter III

Great Britain and Canada Share Responsibility


Chapter IV

The Transfer of the Ships and Base to the Dominion


Chapter V

Esquimalt and the Panama Canal


Chapter VI

Commanders-in‑Chief of Ships on the Pacific Station


Chapter VII

Important Dates in the Maritime History of the West Coast of America


Appendix "A"


Appendix "B"


Appendix "C"


Appendix "D"


Appendix "E"


Appendix "F"


Chapter VIII

Descriptions and Illustrations

Plate I

H. M. frigate "Tribune."

Plate II

H. M. corvette "Satellite."

Plate III

H. M. sloop "Reindeer."

Plate IV

H. M. gun‑boat "Sparrowhawk."

Plate V

H. M. gun‑boat "Rocket."

Plate VI

Detached Squadron at Esquimalt, 5th of May, 1870.

Plate VII

H. M. armour-clad "Zealous."

Plate VIII

H. M. battle­ship "Triumph."

Plate IX

H. M. sloop "Cormorant."

Plate X

H. M. cruiser "Amphion."

Plate XI

"Egeria," "Bonaventure," "Grafton," "Shearwater," and "Flora."

Plate XII

H. M. sloop "Algerine."

Technical Details

Edition Used, Copyright

The edition followed in this transcription was that of my own copy of the first edition of 1942, published in Canada. Canadian law extends copyright protection thru the fiftieth year after the death of the author; since Frederick Longstaff died in 1961, the work has been in the public domain since Jan. 1, 2012.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; a red background would mean that the page had not been proofread. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The proofreaders of the printed book were not so careful and left a number of typographical errors. I corrected those I could spot — when important, I marked them with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

Thruout the book, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked. The book is very inconsistent in such details as punctuation, the formatting of dates, and the names and titles of people: I've made only a very few changes, usually where ambiguity arises. Maj. Longstreet regularly spells Chile as Chili: I let that stay. But for Jellicoe and Balboa, Maj. Longstreet regularly spells Jellico (surprisingly) and Balbao: I corrected these mistakes, flagging on each webpage only the first instance.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: An angular and tentacular shape against a plain background. It is a schematic outline map of the current Canadian armed forces base at Esquimalt; on this site it serves as the icon for Frederick V. Longstaff's book 'Esquimalt Naval Base'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a schematic outline map of the current base at Esquimalt; I suspect it covers more area than when this book was written.

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Page updated: 17 Jan 22