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First World War (1914-1918)
War in the Pacific

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, only three obsolete ships and two recently-acquired submarines protected Canada's west coast. Canadians feared that German cruisers might attack merchant ships or bombard cities and towns. After these attacks failed to materialize, many vessels and personnel were transferred to the Atlantic to deal with the growing German submarine threat.

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HMCS Rainbow in Drydock, Esquimalt
HMCS Rainbow in Drydock, Esquimalt

At the start of the First World War, HMCS Rainbow was Canada's first line of naval defence on the west coast.

Rainbow steamed out of Esquimalt harbour on 3 August 1914, a day before Canada went to war. Heading south, its mission was to help protect the British sloops HMS Algerine and HMS Shearwater, which had been operating off the Mexican coast, against modern German cruisers known or suspected to be in the area. Obsolete, under-equipped, and with only half its crew, Rainbow would have stood little chance had it encountered any of these German ships.

George Metcalf Archival Collection
CWM 19801226-342_19





HMCS Rainbow in Drydock, Esquimalt
Commander Walter Hose, HMCS Rainbow
Sailor Standing by HMCS Rainbow's Wheel
Sailor with Sennet Hat and Camera, HMCS Rainbow
HMS Algerine in Esquimalt, 1914
Canadian Submarine at Esquimalt
British 18-inch Torpedo
Japanese Cruiser Aso off British Columbia
HMCS Galiano Ship's Company, 1918
Chief Petty Officer James Vinicombe
Sailor's Summer Uniform, Lionel Channing, HMCS Shearwater
HMCS Shearwater in the Panama Canal
HMCS Shearwater's Crew
Cargo Ship Seen from Canadian Submarine
Sailor and 3-Pounder Hotchkiss Gun, HMCS Shearwater
Stoker Abner Beckwith Willford and Ship's Crew, HMCS Shearwater
Canadian Sailor with Banana Plant
Canadian Submarine in Harbour