A boat from HMS Montrose comes alongside HMCS Chicoutimi. The Montrose can be seen in the background. (CPO John Lambert Royal Navy)
Canada's military submarines
Last Updated Nov. 1, 2005
The premier of British Columbia, Richard McBride, purchases two submarines from a shipyard in Seattle that had been built for the Chilean navy. Because the purchase violated American neutrality rules, the two subs had to be sneaked out of U.S. territorial waters. The subs were later turned over to the Royal Canadian Navy. The senior naval officer in Esquimalt, B.C., wanted to name them Paterson (after their builder) and McBride (after the premier), but his request was denied. Because two Australian E-class submarines had previously been named AE 1 and AE 2, the Canadian subs, which resembled the U.K. C-class, were dubbed CC 1 and CC 2.
1917: CC 1 and CC 2 leave Esquimalt for Halifax, intended to be deployed to the Mediterranean. The subs are among the first Commonwealth ships to use the Panama Canal. But upon their arrival in Halifax, they are declared unfit for service.
1919: Two British H-class submarines, built in Quincy, Mass., are presented to the Royal Canadian Navy. They are named CH 14 and CH 15.
1920: CC 1 and CC 2 are sold for scrap.
1922: CH 14 and CH 15 are decommissioned.
1945: Two German U-boats surrender to the Royal Canadian Navy. The subs would later be commissioned in the navy for evaluation purposes. One would be sunk by the U.S. navy off the New England coast, the other sunk by Canadian aircraft.
1961: The Canadian navy leases a submarine from the U.S. for training purposes, renaming it HMCS Grilse. The sub would patrol the Pacific from Esquimalt, B.C., until 1969.
1965-68: Canada purchases three state-of-the-art Oberon-class subs from the U.K., HMC Ships Ojibwa, Onondaga and Okanagan. The Canadian military would later purchase two decommissioned subs of this class from the British navy, one for training and one for spare parts.
HMCS Ojibwa heads through "Arctic sea smoke" in Halifax harbour. (CP/1997)
1968: The Canadian navy leases another American sub, renaming it HMCS Rainbow, after the Canadian cruiser from the First World War. The Rainbow was based in Esquimalt, B.C., and was decommissioned in 1974.
1998: Canadian Forces announces it has purchased four Upholder-class Royal Navy submarines, which were decommissioned in 1993 when the U.K. decided to focus solely on nuclear subs. The Ojibwa is retired. The retirement ceremony for the Okanagan is delayed by the crash of Swissair Flight 111. The sub is used to search for the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder before it is retired.
2000: The Onondaga is retired. HMCS Victoria, formerly HMS Unseen, arrives in Halifax.
2001: HMC Ships Windsor (formerly HMS Unicorn), Corner Brook (formerly HMS Ursula) and Chicoutimi (formerly HMS Upholder) are commissioned. A plan to cut the Onondaga into pieces and reconstruct it in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is put on hold because of the cost involved. Canadian Forces announces that women will be allowed to serve aboard the new subs.
2002: Windsor leaves Halifax for a planned two-week mission, but is forced to turn back after salt water seeps into a hydraulic motor. Canadian Forces reveals that Victoria has a dent in its hull the size of a pizza, as a result of a collision that occurred before the navy took over the sub. The Royal Navy agrees to co-operate in an investigation of the dent. The Canadian navy says cracked diesel exhaust valves on all the subs may have to be replaced.
HMCS Chicoutimi drifts without power off the Irish coast, Oct. 6, 2004 (AP)
2003: HMCS Victoria sails to Esquimalt, B.C., from Halifax via the Panama Canal, re-establishing Canada's submarine presence in the Pacific Ocean, lost when the Rainbow was decommissioned in 1974.
An official with the Defence Department says the lease-to-purchase plan for the four new subs would cost an estimated $897 million, up from their original estimate of $750 million, because of the subs' structural problems.
Lieut. Chris Saunders (CP/DND)
2004: On its maiden voyage as a Canadian vessel, a fire breaks out in the electrical equipment room of HMCS Chicoutimi causing "extensive damage to cabling," says Commodore Tyrone Pile, commander of the Canadian Fleet Atlantic. Nine members of the crew suffer smoke inhalation. Three crewmen are transferred by Royal Navy helicopter to a hospital in Ireland. Lieut. Chris Saunders, 32, dies on the helicopter.
The navy orders the three other Victoria-class submarines to dock while an inquiry takes place to determine the cause of the Chicoutimi fire. Other than the few months in 2000 before the Victoria was commissioned, it is the first time since 1961 the Canadian navy has been without an active submarine.
2005: The Department of Defence announces that Canada's four Oberon-class submarines are to be sold for scrap for about $50,000 apiece. The navy says the subs have deteriorated too much even to be used as museum pieces.
A transformer melts down on HMCS Windsor off the Nova Scotia coast, starting a small fire aboard the sub. No sailors are injured and the Windsor, Canada's only operational submarine, remains at sea.
2006 A Quebec naval museum, the Musée de la Mer de Pointe-au-Pere in Rimouski, Que., buys the former HMCS Onondaga, one of the Oberon-class submarines decommissioned in 2000, for $4, plus tax.
The Department of National Defence announces that repair work on HMCS Chicoutimi won't start until 2010. The announcement pushes back the Chicoutimi's scheduled launch date from 2007 to 2012.
- Dan Bjarnason's documentary about life aboard a Canadian submarine. (Runs 22:02)
- CBC Radio's Andy Barrie talks to Dan Bjarnason about his two weeks aboard HMCS Windsor. (Runs 6:14)
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