Where the History of Canada's Navy Comes Alive!   

The Naval History of Manitoba
1923 - An Official Naval Presence in Manitoba
With the Spring of 1923, a Naval Reserve Division comes to Winnipeg.

Eustace Brock. The founder of the Naval Reserve in Winnipeg.
In February of 1923 Lieutenant James Hibbard, of Naval Headquarters in Ottawa, entered the office of Mr Eustace Brock, the Assistant Secretary of the Great West Life Assurance Company. After the exchange of obligatory pleasantries, Lt Hibbard got to the point. "We would like you to form a Naval Reserve company in Winnipeg," was the challenge thrown down to Eustace Brock on that cold, wintry, prairie day.

The challenge was accepted and three weeks later Lieutenant Eustace Brock began a legacy of Naval Reserve tradition and service that is still living in the Winnipeg community today.

Early in March 1923 Lt. Brock had managed to procure, in the McGregor Armouries, a small office and a somewhat larger room for Winnipeg's Navy. On the opening night over 100 applicants arrived, but most of them were retired navy veterans who were not eligible to serve due to age, infirmity, or both. By the 1st of May the Captain-elect, Lieutenant Brock, with five other officers and two petty officers, had over 50 Reservists enrolled.

Training for these new seamen was arranged for near the end of May and was to take place on the West Coast, at the naval base at Esquimalt, near Victoria, BC. Special cars were arranged to be attached to a westbound passenger train and all preparations were in order to send our prairie sailors to sea. The sailors were fallen in at McGregor Armouries in preparation for their departure for Victoria when a cancellation telegram was received. This very nearly completely disorganized the Winnipeg Company and it was not until the following September that arrangements could be made and sufficient men were again available to undergo naval training.

In the spring of 1924 Naval Headquarters in Ottawa made arrangements to lease the Rat-Portage Lumber Company building in Norwood. On 22 April 1924, in the presence of the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Mr G. J. Desbarats, the White Ensign was hoisted to the masthead and broke out and flew free for the first time on Manitoba soil.

The Commanding Officer, now Commander Brock, had the Winnipeg Half Company RCNVR recruited and manned up to her full strength of 100. During the summer of 1924, the arrival of two authentic 27-foot whalers had the Winnipeg navy well established.

(Winnipeg, 1927) The Winnipeg Half Company marches past the Governor General of Canada.

In the years following, the Winnipeg Half Company RCNVR moved, from the Rat-Portage Lumber Company Building (still standing at Marion and St. Mary's as the Poulin's Building) to the old St Matthews Church on the corner of Sherbrook Street and Ellice Avenue, to a condemned fire hall on Gertrude Avenue just off Osborne Street (now demolished), to space at the Security Storage building on Ellice Avenue, to its present berth at the old Winnipeg Winter Club. The Winnipeg Company had also been upgraded to the Winnipeg Division RCNVR in 1936.

The Next Page: 1938 - Winnipeg's Navy is Going Strong.

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