Weaponry and Wartime Experience

A Very British Canadian Navy

At 8:16 pm on 22 January 1932 the commander in chief of Britain's North America and West Indies Squadron, in which Canada's rare destroyers had become accustomed to train, sent a telegram to Canadian Admiral Walter Hose, the Chief of Naval Staff Briefly, a popular uprising in El Salvador was endangering the lives of British residents and the f rst British warship would not be able to reach the scene before the 27th. He suggested that the Canadian vessels Skeena and Vancouver, then cruising in the vicinity, be despatched to El Salvador at once. The same telegram was sent to Captain (N) VG. Brodeur, the senior Canadian officer at sea.

On receiving the message, Brodeur headed for Acajutla in El Salvador, where the British subjects were located. He telegraphed his decision to Hose some 15 minutes after changing course, expecting to reach Acajutla by dawn on the 23rd. Hose gave his permission at approximately 1:30 pm on the 23rd.

On arrival, the naval force limited its intervention to an embarrassing presence at dockside in Acajutla, where it took on board the wives of five British dignitaries fearing for their safety. Brodeur also met the new president of El Salvador. Altogether it was an uneventful visit that afforded the navy some wonderful media coverage at a time when its allocations for 1932-33 were being debated- The navy could be useful, even to foreigners.

The Canadian navy as organized in 1910 was intended to replace a Royal Navy less and less present in North American waters. Since that time, the navy's general staff had taken pains to give as Canadian an image as possible to a force that still considered itself an integral part of the North America and West Indies Squadron.

This process of Canadianization took a step backward with the El Salvador affair. Brodeur had taken the initiative without waiting for orders. It also seems that Hose and defence minister Sutherland acceded to the British request without obtaining the government's consent. Prime Minister R.B. Bennett could only bow to a fait accompli. 79