Three Vessels Loaned to the Royal Canadian Navy During the First World War.

by John MacFarlane 2018

Ivy Leaf

A torpedo being hoisted aboard the Holly Leaf by naval personnel. (Photo from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery collection 1997.058.001)

Heidi Rampfl, the Collections Manager of the Gulf of Georgia Cannery discovered three marvelous photographs taken during the early days of the First World War on the British Columbia Coast. She has shared them so that they can be appreciated by a wider audience. They depict a little known episode in Canadian naval history when there were insufficient resources to protect the Pacific coast from threats posed by German naval raiders. The primary naval defence in our area rested in H.M.C.S. Rainbow, a worn out Royal Naval vessel, which was spread too thin geographically in tasking to be effective. When she was at sea there were inadequate naval forces to patrol and defend the rest of the coast.

Residents of the BC coast felt great fear of attack. While there were coastal artillery defences at Fort Rodd Hill there was no protection against an entry of a German raider through Johnstone Strait. The navy moved naval guns to the heights overlooking Seymour Narrows. Once the threat of attack by raiders dissipated these guns were removed.

The Holly Leaf, Ivy Leaf, and Laurel Leaf were three cannery tenders owned by the H. Bell–Irving & Co. Ltd., Vancouver BC. In September of 1914 they were sent to H.M.C. Dockyard in Esquimalt to be modified with two cradles that each held a 12" x 12’ torpedo landed from H.M.C.S. Rainbow. The vessels were sent to be based at Alert Bay and they patrolled the Johnstone Strait. After about nine months, when the threat of the raiders was reduced the vessels returned to Esquimalt.

Ivy Leaf

A torpedo in the newly constructed cradle on the deck of the Ivy Leaf. There appear to be small projections fitted on the outside of the hull that may have facilitated rolling the torpedo into the water for launching. (Photo from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery collection 1997.058.003)

H.M.C.S. Rainbow was fitted with torpedo tubes for launching. Without these tubes it is unclear how the torpedo would have been launched from these little cannery tenders and even less clear how they could have been aimed, but it was a public show of force and good for combating war fears among the civilian population. One shudders to contemplate that perhaps the only way the torpedoes could have been used was at very close range in an "all or nothing" attack. The torpedoes were driven by compressed air and a torpedoman in the crew would have been tasked with hand pumping the air cylinder each day to 1,800 pounds pressure.

Ivy Leaf

The crew of the Ivy Leaf with Sub–Lieutenant Henry Beattie Bell–Irving RNVR in command. On the extreme right was R.G. Macauley (ON 1310) who acted as the engineer. The other naval crew members in this picture are unidentified and included a cook, a torpedoman and a signalman.(Photo from the Gulf of Georgia Cannery collection 1997.058.002)

Henry Beattie Bell–Irving was the son of H.O. Bell–Irving, the owner of the vessels. Henry went on to command a Royal Navy drifter in the English Channel before being demobilized as a Lieutenant RNVR at the end of the War. He was mobilized again for the Second World War and gave distinguished service as a Salvage Officer during the D–Day landings. He was demobilized as a Commander RCNVR and was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross and Bar for his work.

It is most unlikely that these little vessels were ever commissioned, in spite of being armed and operated by naval personnel but paperwork may exist in the archives that proves otherwise. The original images were originally owned by Richard George Macauley (ON 1310) and were taken in Alert Bay in October 1914. Without Ms. Rampfl drawing our attention to these images we might never have known about this fascinating little episode.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John (2018) Three Vessels Loaned to the Royal Canadian Navy During the First World War.. 2018.

New Nauticapedia Book Just Published!

Volume Four in series

The Nauticapedia List of British Columbia's Floating Heritage Volume Four

Book — British Columbia's Floating Heritage
For more information …

Site News: March2nd, 2019

Databases have been updated and are now holding 56,584 vessel histories (with 5,550 images) and 58,184 mariner biographies (with 3,673 images).

© 2002-2019