v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

A post from Dreadnought:

CC1 and CC2 were built by the Seattle Dry Dock & Construction Company under contract to the Electric Boat Company of Jersey, originally for the Chilean Navy. CC1 was built as Iquique and was launched on June 3rd 1913. CC2 was built as Antofagasta, and was launched on December 31st of the same year.

The submarines were designed to have a surface displacement of 313 tons surfaced and 412 tons submerged. They both had a beam of 15 feet; CC1 was 144 feet long and had 5 torpedo tubes, with an armament of 5 torpedoes. CC2 was 152 feet long and had 3 torpedo tubes with an armament of 6 torpedoes. Both had one of their torpedo tubes mounted in the stern, and neither carried any gun armament. Their design speed was 13 knots surfaced and just over 10 knots submerged. However, on 2nd of November 1914, CC1 achieved a speed of 15.1 knots over the measured mile.

A price of $818,000 had been agreed for the boats, and Chile had paid $714,000. However, the Chilean Navy, rejected the submarines because they failed to meet their construction specifications, and payment of the balance fell into arrears.

During the first months of 1914, the clouds of war were gathering over Europe. They were also threatening the Pacific, and the Premier of British Columbia, Richard McBride, was worried that when war came, his province would come under attack from the powerful warships of German's East Asiatic Squadron. Reports of German warships harassing traffic and commerce near Mexico led to fears of assaults against British Columbia's fishing fleets, as well as the cities of Vancouver and Victoria becoming potential targets. Canada only had the tiny navy as mentioned in post #2. In addition, the Royal Navy had committed all of her available resources to defending the Atlantic shipping lanes, trusting their ally, Japan, to keep on eye on Canada's west coast.

With a declaration of war less than a week away, fate took a hand. Mr. J. V. Paterson, president of the Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, was in Victoria on business. At Victoria's Union Club, Mr. Paterson mentioned two submarines his company had just finished and the troubles he was having with the Chilean government over payment.

The premier of British Columbia, Sir Richard McBride was soon informed. An avalanche of telegrams ensued, involving Victoria, Ottawa, and London, but little could be accomplished in the few days remaining before the imminent outbreak of war and a resulting American embargo on the provision of war materials to combatants. In this crisis, McBride took a courageous decision to use provincial funds to get possession of the much-needed submarines before it was too late. On his own initiative he decided to advance the purchase price demanded, of $1,150,000. This was an enormous sum, twice the annual budget for the entire RCN for 1913-1914. Not only was this a violation of US neutrality, but the Premier risked over a million dollars of provincial funds to obtain the much-needed vessels for defence of the West Coast.

On August 4th, the day war was declared, Captain W. H. Logan, a surveyor for the London Salvage Association, was in Seattle to negotiate a deal, but the price remained firm, and an additional obstacle arose: payment must be cash on delivery. With no time left, Premier McBride by telephone promised a BC Treasury cheque would be waiting at the border at dawn the next day.

At 10 p.m. on Aug. 4 (by which time Britain and Germany had already been at war for some eight hours), the two submarines slipped their moorings, and running on electric motors, they sneaked out of the harbour under the cover of darkness and fog. Both Logan and Patterson were onboard. Precautions had been taken to prevent news of the event leaking out. Complete secrecy was essential; both the Chilean and German governments would do all in their power to stop the sale of the submarines to Canada.

Once clear of the harbour, they started the diesel engines and worked the boats up to full speed, heading off to a rendezvous point, five miles south of TrialIsland, just outside Canadian territorial waters. Here, theywere met by the steamer Salvor, which carried Lieutenant-Commander Bertram Jones, RN, a qualified submariner, and Lieut. R.H. Wood, RN, Chief Engineer at Esquimalt.

Even safely within Canadian territorial waters, however, the drama of the day was not yet over. Amidst all the haste and secrecy, only the Navy's Dockyard was aware that two warships would be arriving in Victoria Harbour. Seeing two submarines approaching Victoria on the second day of war, a picket boat sounded its siren and raced for harbour to raise the alarm. The army shore batteries trained their guns on the submarines, but fortunately held fire while they checked with the Dockyard by telephone to see whether any known submarines were in the vicinity. The Dockyard gave an affirmative and the submarines, were able to proceeded safely to their new home at Esquimalt.

Jones and Wood wasted no time in beginning the agreed hour-long inspection of the boats, but since the Chileans had earlier complained about weight and endurance issues, the investigation lasted four hours. Captain Logan spent these hours combing the horizon for US Navy patrol vessels, while Mr. Paterson paced the deck nervously. If intercepted, the Seattle shipyard executive would have had a great deal of explaining to do, since he had taken the submarines out of port without any clearances and delivered them to a combatant power in violation of American neutrality.

At the end of the tense four hours, the cheque was handed over to a greatly relieved Mr. Paterson and the submarines proceeded at speed towards Esquimalt. As provinces are not constitutionally allowed to maintain militaries, they were quickly transferred by order to the federal government. Within 48 hours, the province had been re-reimbursed by Ottawa, and the on August 7th 1914, the white ensign was raised over the two submarines as they were commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy. (one source states that the boats weren't commissioned until October?)

The Senior Naval Officer at Esquimalt had originally intended to call the submarines Paterson and McBride after the builder and BC Premier respectively. However, approval for this was not received, and an Australian precedent was followed. Two E-class submarines commissioned into the RAN from the RN were known as AE1 and AE2. As the two submarines resembled the RN C-Class, they were named CC1 (ex-Iquique and ex-Paterson) and CC2 (ex-Antofagasta and ex-McBride).

The proposed namesakes of the two boats were not entirely unrewarded, however. Premier McBride soon received reimbursement for the provincial funds so courageously advanced, and Mr. Paterson received a personal commission of $40,000 on the unorthodox sale of the RCN's first submarines.

CC1 and CC2 were immediately put under the operational control of the Admiralty, and HMCS Shearwater, the retired ship left by the British when they abandoned the base at Esquimalt, was converted into a tender for the two submarines. Together with HMCS Rainbow, CC1 and CC2 were the only Canadian or British ships defending the west coast of Canada between 1914 and 1917. Britain had tasked the defence of British Columbia to the Imperial Japanese Navy's North American Task Force.

These small submarines were of a type well adapted to operating in coastal waters. The approaches to Victoria and Vancouver through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the islands were well suited to defence by means of submarines, simply because a ship in these waters would have a lot less room to manoeuver and would more than likely be following a more predictable course.

When CC1 and CC2 were fully operational they followed what was, by then, a normal British pattern of service: two weeks on patrol and two weeks alongside. The submarines provided a powerful deterrent force for the British Colombian coast even though, as Esquimalt confided to Ottawa, they lacked "all gear in connection with submerged tubes firing torpedoes; including gyroscopes, spare tools and manuals, artificers and ratings. We have nothing". The boats made short patrols in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Without torpedoes, it was fortunate German cruisers failed to appear.

Adrian remained in command of the newly formed Canadian Submarine Squadron and CC1 for several months until he tired of sitting out the fight on the sidelines of the war. It was, he said, turning into a "fat job." Keyes resigned his commission in the Royal Canadian Navy and prepared to return to England to reenlist in the Royal Navy. Before he left, the crew of CC1 presented him with an engraved gold watch as a token of their esteem (see post#2).

For the next three years, CC1 and CC2 patrolled the coastal waters of British Columbia, although the threat of attack had disappeared in March 1915 with the sinking of Dresden.

Throughout their service, CC1 and CC2 were plagued by maintenance, trim and other problems. Submarines were, and remain, highly complex pieces of machinery: quite different from any other kind of naval vessel. Surface vessels can and do go to sea with only a portion of their machinery and weapons functional. The margin for a submarine, as the recent fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi revealed, is much narrower.

Submarines must not only be able to submerge, they must be able to manoeuvre at depth, track targets, release torpedoes and handle all the trim problems that arise from that. And, they must be able to surface again. Canada's submarine service pioneers handled these things very well and that says a great deal about their high levels of skill and dedication.

One of their biggest problems was their two-stroke diesel engines. These engines, which were a German design built under licence in the U.S., gave no end of trouble, and had been superseded in modern designs with more powerful four-stroke diesels. However, Perkins writes that "once the boats had been dry docked, refitted and properly ballasted, they proved to be handy little submarines, but they would always be plagued by mechanical problems ... substandard materials and the poor workmanship of the original contractors."

Another problem was that the submarines were rated for a depth of 200 feet, which in fact was deep for boats of the day. But the sea on the West Coast was usually much deeper than that. CC2 was nearly lost when the horizontal dive-plane was pushed in the wrong direction. Heading for the bottom, the submarine was saved by "putting the engines full speed astern and reversing the horizontal rudder." As Able Seaman Frederick William Crickard observed, "There was lots of tension about it (diving) because our lives depended on clear thinking and efficiency."

After three years of cruising and training on the West Coast, the Admiralty decided to deploy CC1 and CC2 to the Mediterranean, where more submarines were required. On the 21st June 1917, they set out for Halifax with their mother ship HMCS Shearwater on an epic 8000 mile voyage. They became the first ships under the White Ensign to sail through the newly completed Panama Canal. They then transited the Caribbean and headed north, limping into Halifax, with wrecked diesel engines, on the 14th October 1917.

Here they were to be prepared for the trip to the Mediterranean. However, the trip to Halifax had taken its toll, with many problems encountered. As one crew member reminisced in 1921, while caught in a heavy storm off Oregon's Cape Blanco, "the storage batteries, through weak construction, were short-circuited time and again and caught fire, giving out chlorine gas that laid low the greater portion of CC2's personnel. For one night the craft was navigated by the coxswain, while only one or two others were fit for duty, the others lying around in an unconscious state." This was one of many problems encountered on the voyage. Then, just as now, the saga of Canada's submarines is highlighted by the exceptional caliber of their crews and their dedication and commitment. Fortunately, no one died, but when CC1 and CC2 reached Halifax, they were not fit for the transatlantic crossing, and never saw active service. The sumarines were "badly strained and their engines were down and out. A pile of cracked piston heads, and other parts discarded, bore testimony to the difficulties of the long trip," according to one of CC2's Chief Petty Officers.

Their planned departure for England, and then to the Mediterranean, was cancelled and, after numerous refit periods and surviving Halifax's 'great explosion' (December 6th 1917 SS Mont Blanc – another story ..!), CC1 and CC2 ended their life acting as a Training Assistance Boat on the Bras d'Or lakes of Cape Breton. Interestingly, the two submarines took part in the earliest passive sonar testing and training the RCN ever did. Alexander Graham Bell observed the whole procedure and may have been involved in an official capacity but the original records have been destroyed so we can never be sure

In 1920, CC1 and CC2 were paid off and sold for scrap.

Thank you Dreadnought for a very well-told tale. There are many other internet sources on this topic, including in particular: