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Captain CJ Stuart OBE, RD, RCNR - Founding Father of the Royal Canadian Navy

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flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure Captain Charles Joseph Stuart could rightfully be considered the "Founding Father" of the Royal Canadian Navy.

He was born in Plymouth, Uk, on May 10, 1879, and apprenticed aboard sailing ships.

He served seven years aboard steamers of the P&O Steam Navigation Line.

In 1907 Charles came to Canada, and happened to walk in on the ground floor as the Royal Canadian Navy was taking its first fledgling steps.

When he arrived, Canada had no navy of its own. The British Royal Navy had been looking after Canada's water borne defence since 1759. (Like the British army mostly handled land defence.)

This arrangement with Britain continued even after Canada became a Dominion, in 1867. It was nice to have Britain pay for the huge expense of defending such a large territory from the rapacious Americans who attacked Canada, for starters in: 1690, 1775, 1812-14, 1837-8, 1866, 1870.

But Britain was increasingly looking for an exit strategy, and passing on the bills to Canada.

By 1906 the British Army had gone home, leaving matters to the Canadian Militia. The Royal Navy, too, was weighing anchor, for home ports.

Taking up the slack for Canada, on the water, was the Fisheries Protection Service, to patrol and safeguard Canada's rich fish stocks from the marauding clutches of European fishermen fishing illegally.

In 1907 Charles Stuart was just what Canada was looking for: British Jack Tars with thousands of years of naval heritage in their DNA, and years of service at sea, willing to lend a hand to found the Canadian Navy.

He signed up with the Fisheries Protection Service.

In fact a British Admiral Sir Charles Kingsmill - he had been born in Canada - arrived, in 1908, to oversee militarizing the Fisheries Protection Service to take on responsibilities for defence.

To make this easier, in 1904 a ship, to be called CGS (for Canadian Government Service) Canada, was commissioned from Scottish shipbuilders. In 1905 she was included in British Royal Navy manoeuvres, signaling that Canadian defence, as well as fisheries patrol, was now an additional duty. Canada became the flagship of the Fisheries Protection Service.

CGS Canada is often considered as the first ship in the Canadian Navy. It trained the very first cadets, ever, for Canada's naval service, including future Admiral Percy Nelles who would command the Canadian Navy in World War II.

And the commanding officer of the Canada, and in charge of training the first cadets, was none other than new immigrant to Canada, that young British salt, CJ Stuart.

Below Capt. Charles Stuart seated centre, sporting his Jay Leno jaw, and looking every bit the proud pop amid the first class of Canadian navy cadets - including future Admiral Nelles at his feet - pose on the foredeck of CGS Canada about 1909.

Capt. Charles Joseph Stuart RCN (1879-1945) - Captain HMCS Canada 1908-1919
Orig. photo - Size - 13 x 18 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Charles Stuart was a member of the British Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) during his early career, and during World War II, became a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve (RCNR), both organizations that allowed talented civilian sailors, merchant seaman, and captains of fishing boats, to enrol to assist the navy especially during times of war. To find other Canadians who served:


Go to Royal Canadian Naval Reserve

"Upon their shoulders was founded the Royal Canadian Navy, which celebrated its Centenary in 2010..."

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure To join forces with CGS Canada above, in 1910 Canada acquired two older British cruisers as its first two fighting ships, HMCS Rainbow, and Niobe. Both were officered by British Royal Navy personnel.

Captain Stuart's cadets went aboard Niobe to begin their careers on Canada's first war ships.

He continued training more cadets aboard Canada.

Charles' fabulous dress epaulettes are preserved in their own box. They are surprisingly heavy, nearly 2 kilos, as they are major constructions. Oddly they are named Royal Naval Reserve - not Royal Canadian Naval Reserve.

The button features a Georgian crown and the letters R, V - and over the anchor shank - N, for Royal Naval Volunteer.

The backs have a hook and a hinged folding clasp that affixes them to the shoulder tabs on the dress uniform.

They were made by the same outfitters that made Royal Navy uniforms in the UK.

Epaulettes - Capt. CJ Stuart RCNR
Orig. epaulettes - Size - 14 x 18 cm - weight in box 1.95 kg
Found - Toronto, ON

The Canadian Navy's first actual war ship (one of two), as opposed to training vessel, was HMCS Niobe, who had started life a Royal Navy Diadem class cruiser.

She was commissioned into the Canadian Navy in 1910, and had a streak of bad luck.

In 1911 she grounded on Sable Island. Repairs laid her up for almost two years. She was never the same afterwards, not able to reach maximum speed anymore.

When World War I broke out, in 1914, she became part of the British West Indies squadron, patrolling the American seaways to intercept German ships carrying contraband.

Niobe soon wore out even more. She now, like the Canada, became a training vessel. In 1917 she was heavily damaged when she was in port during the Halifax explosion, and some eight of her crew were killed below.

Just at the time Niobe became a training ship, CGS Canada, with Captain Stuart commanding, was commissioned as a war ship, in 1915, as HMCS Canada, and fitted with heavy guns. She patrolled the Canadian shores assisting convoys.

 

The Liberal Way - Canada's Liberal governments, mindful of their fiduciary duty to the taxpayers, who worked hard for their money and don't like to see it squandered, have made a habit of buying old British vessels cheaply, to save money: like Niobe, Rainbow, the second-hand Bonaventure aircraft carrier in the 1950s, and several used submarines in the 1990s.

Sadly, they tend to break down at the most inopportune moments, so undermining Canada's crucial defence needs and endangering national security: like when a politician's wife wants to go for a ride to her cottage, a cabinet minister's mistress needs a trip to Europe, or someone wants to impress an Arab prince, with a sail past... all to no avail...

Kickback Kings - Canada's Conservative Government, never one to worry about taxpayers, unless they are wealthy, take the opposite stupendously spendthrift tack with the public purse, because, for one thing, they rarely get their hands on it. So they go for broke, when they do...

Acting as if they were Americans, with the world to police, they go first class, with stunningly amazing overkill in both numbers of war toys and dollar amounts, buying literally billions of dollars of brand new high tech transport planes, fighter aircraft, and helicopters, ostensibly to protect Canada's far flung villages of remote " Indians and Eskimos," but really, merely to enrich the corporate elites that put them into power, and spinning off hundreds of millions in legendary "success fees" - bribes to you - for their corporate and industrial lobbyist friends.

 

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure
Mount Olivet Cemetery - Halifax, NS
Orig. photo -
Found - Halifax, NS

Mount Olivet contains hundreds of victims of the Titanic sinking (1912) and the Halifax Explosion (1917).

In the foreground, four sailors killed in the explosion.

 

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure The world's biggest man-made explosion, before Hiroshima, was the war-related Halifax Explosion of 1917, when, after a collision in the harbour, the ammunition ship Imo caught fire.

Above in a Halifax cemetery rest some of the sailors from HMS Highflyer and HMCS Niobe who died in the huge blast.

Parts of ships, including anchors, and this belaying pin, were blown miles by the blast.

Inscribed: "FROM THE SHIP, SS IMO BELGIAN RELIEF, SOUVENIR, OF HALIFAX DISASTER, DEC. 6, 1917.

Go to Halifax Explosion

Seven sailors from Niobe died heroically, when they boarded the Imo to scuttle her, to try to put out the fires.

Their bodies were never found.

 

Below early in the war, and guarded by the menacing power of Niobe's stern guns, a liner she has stopped awaits a Canadian search party rowing across to look over the ship's cargo manifests.

Belaying Pin, SS Imo, Great Halifax Explosion, 1917

Orig. iron belaying pin - Size - 9" l, wt. 1.5 kg
Found - Milton, ON

flashing newGreat Canadian Heritage Treasure Captain Charles Stuart's fabulous dress bicorn hat, in its original custom-fitted metal case, is a splendid example of the type.

It is made of beaver pelt, and is adorned with a dress ribbon and gilt gold hat epaulettes.

The hat itself is not soft overall, but more like a hard shell type like a derby. So it does not take kindly to compressing and needs the hard shell case for protection.

 

Go to Colonel Otter's Busby
Bicorn - Capt. CJ Stuart RNR
Orig. bicorn hat - Size - 43 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Unlike the epaulette buttons, this one is stamped RNR, but this time with the Victorian crown, which dates it before 1901, when Victoria was still queen.

It was probably the hat Charles wore when he was still in the RNR service in England in the 1890s.

The silk lined interior is signed by Miller & Sons, Outfitters Southampton.

The outside of the box carries the customary copper plaque which has not been engraved with his name.

 

A very fine example of a British Royal Navy bicorn hat in a fitted case.

The case is a hinged-at-the-top clam-shell type. It folds over and the fastener clips over a retainer clip that is secured with a wooden peg.

Below Captain Charles Stuart, with the rank of Lieutenant (RNR) when he commanded HMCS Canada in World War I. He became a Lt. Commander in 1917, and a Commander in 1922.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Stuart is shown as an RNR (Royal Naval Reserve) officer. The RNR was founded in 1863, to incorporate under the Royal Navy (the professional military arm) superior professional civilian seaman from the British merchant and fishing fleets. Many RNR officers won Victoria Crosses in Britain's various wars, and commanded the biggest ocean liners in the interwar years.

After World War I Charles Stuart left the service - as a Commander (RNR) and became a marine underwriter, surveyor, and insurance adjuster, first in St. John's, Newfoundland, and after 1929, in Montreal, Quebec.

With the outbreak of World War II Charles was called back into service.

In April 1940 he was appointed naval officer in charge of the port of Montreal with the rank of Commander RCNR.

Right sometime in 1940 with his commander stripes on his naval whites in Montreal.

Charles was promoted to Captain in July 1942, and appointed naval officer in charge of the port of St. John, New Brunswick, its shore batteries, and the naval auxiliary vessels based there.

He was a very popular officer in the city and his wife a stalwart organizer of the Women's Naval Auxiliary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World War II ended in Europe, in April 1945. Canada held a victory parade.

Standing behind Canadian Admiral LW Murray, another original Canadian naval recruit, who is taking the Victory Parade salute, is Captain Charles Joseph Stuart.

He had done his part to make the victory possible, both as a teacher in his early years, and late in life as a Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer. As he looked back, he could justifiably glow with the satisfaction of a father.

Young Percy Nelles who, so long ago, had sat at his feet on the foredeck of the Canada above, had become Canada's Chief of the Naval Staff from 1934-1944 right. Percy had built the Canadian Navy into a formidable fighting force that by the end of the war was handling some 45% of all convoy duty on the North Atlantic. He had gone to Europe to supervise the Canadian naval participation in General Eisenhower's invasion of Normandy. He retired after the victory as a full Admiral.

Captain CJ Stuart remains the finest example of the Great Canadian Civilians who have provided the backbone for the Canadian Forces, at sea, on the ground, and in the air, whenever the need was greatest, in the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870, the Riel Rebellions, the Boer War, and World Wars I and II.

They took time out of lives on civvy street to lend their talents to help defend values held universally by all Canadians, by force of arms if need be.

(This centuries old Canadian tradition is starkly at variance with the corporate and political elites sending the Canadian Forces (today all full-time professionals) to make war on Muslims in Afghanistan against the clearly expressed wishes of the vast majority of Canadians.)

Just a couple of months before the photo was taken, as the war was all but over, Captain Stuart had retired from the navy, and gone to live in Vancouver.

Sadly, Charles' wife died in April. Distraught, he returned to Montreal, a town where he had relatives, friends, and good memories.

When he stood behind Admiral Murray his grief is edged on his face.

... HMCS Canada - After World War I, as her captain left the navy and went to work on civvy street, Canada was decommissioned. She was sold to a rich American who used her to shunt passengers from Florida to the Bahamas. Renamed Queen of Nassau, in 1926 she took on water her pumps could not manage, and sank in the Florida Keys. Procedures are under way to have her remains designated as a protected Great Canadian Historic Site.

Below her ramming bow that Charles once guided, and was designed to deal with Portuguese fishing vessels who would not stop for inspection, and her windlass, around which young Percy, and Canada's other first naval cadets, once ran about and shouted with glee, as Charles looked on with pride from the bridge above...

 

War... life... for what...?

He would not be wearing his bicorn and epaulettes again.

They would be stored away for almost 70 years... now only painful reminders of celebrations, good times, close family, good companions, good causes, great achievements, now lost in the drifting mists of time...

Charles Stuart saw little reason to continue the fight, and only a few months later, on Nov. 3, 1945, the man who has every right to be considered the Founding Father of the Royal Canadian Navy, went to join his wife...