The 100th Anniversary of Canadian Submarines

Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine CC-1, with CC-2 in the background, near Vancouver, on its way back to CFB Esquimalt circa 1916


His Majesty’s Canadian Ship CC-1, with CC-2 in the background, near Vancouver, on its way back to CFB Esquimalt circa 1916.

August 5, 2014, marks 100 years since Canada acquired its first submarines and highlights the pinnacle of commemorations by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to honour and celebrate the dedicated service and contributions of thousands of Canadian submariners to our nation’s defence and security.

Quick Facts

On August 5, 1914, the government of British Columbia secured the purchase of Canada’s first submarines – His Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) CC 1 and CC 2 – at the very start of the First World War in a transaction with a Seattle shipyard in order to counter the threat of a squadron of German Navy warships reported on the coast. This event marked the beginning of service in submarines for Canada.

In commemoration of the Canadian Submarine Centenary, the RCN, along with serving and veteran submariners, will rededicate the refurbished Canadian Submarine Memorial Cairn at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt on August 7. Rear-Admiral William Truelove, Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific will preside at the event.

The RCN is collaborating with the Naval Association of Canada in the presentation of a one-day academic conference on October 2, at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, on the subject of “Submarines in Canada: Past, Present and Future.”

On June 13, the Synchrolift Submarine Shelter (Building D-294) in the Halifax Dockyard was named for Captain Bernard Leitch (“Barney”) Johnson, CBE, DSO, RCNVR. Johnson was the first Canadian appointed to command a submarine, HMS H8 (in the Royal Navy during the First World War), and was decorated for his courageous leadership in saving the submarine and sailing it safely home through enemy waters after it struck an enemy mine.

Beginning with HMCS CC 1 and CC 2, the RCN has commissioned a total of 15 submarines throughout its history. In addition to the RCN submarines, Canadian submariners also served with distinction on board Royal Navy submarines during both World Wars and during the intervening years following the Second World War until the First Canadian Submarine Squadron was created in 1965.

In addition to their wartime service, Canadian submariners were active in a wide variety of missions. They assisted in training Canadian allies in anti-submarine warfare and participated extensively in covert Cold War patrols where they tracked Soviet submarines and collected intelligence. Canadian submariners have also conducted counter-terrorism support for special operation forces and performed constabulary roles in support of RCMP anti-narcotic operations, Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ patrols, and illegal immigration interdiction operations.


“For 100 years Canada has benefited from the stealth and lethality that only a submarine capability can contribute to the maritime security of a nation such as ours. As the most decisive capability in any naval fleet, submarines not only dominate the seas but provide unrivalled deterrence. The dedicated members of Canada’s ‘silent service’ operate in the most demanding and unforgiving conditions. They truly represent some of the very best of our fighting service. As we look ahead to the challenges of the coming decades, we do so in confidence, knowing that Canada has submarines. I wish all of our submariners, past, present, and future, my deepest appreciation and a heartfelt BRAVO ZULU!”

Vice Admiral Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy