The Royal Canadian mint has officially launched their second coin in the on-going series, “Canadian Homefront,” launched earlier this year. The second coin in the series focuses on the country’s submarine fleet whose homeport was on the west coast province of British Columbia. On the eve of the First World War, the Royal Canadian Navy was still in its infancy, with fewer than 350 sailors to its name and a fleet that centered around two aging cruisers. The looming threat of war heightened fears about a possible enemy naval threat, particularly in British Columbia. But a unique opportunity in the summer of 1914 would allow Canada to acquire its first submarines—one of which is depicted on this new coin.
In the summer of 1914 and against the confusion of a new war ensuing in Europe over the assassination of the Austrian Archduke, concerns about Canada’s defensive vulnerabilities increased and a unique opportunity came to the attention of Sir Richard McBride, the Premier of British Columbia. On August 5, 1914, at the start of the First World War, the government of British Columbia, under the administration of McBride, secured the purchase and delivery of Canada’s first submarines – named His Majesty’s Canadian Ships or HMCS CC 1 and CC 2 – in a transaction with the Seattle Construction & Drydock company. This was undertaken in order to counter the threat of a squadron of German Navy warships reported on the coast, marking the beginning of service in submarines for Canada.
The two submarines, originally commissioned by the Chilean government, had been cancelled by Santiago due to political disturbances; when payment was also cancelled, their builders needed to sell these unwanted submarines to the highest bidder. McBride saw these as valuable contributions to the fleet stationed on the West Coast—not to mention a boon to his province’s coastal defenses. A flurry of meetings and negotiations ensued, and timing was of the essence. A declaration of war from the United Kingdom was imminent, and the United States’ own pending declaration of neutrality would prevent the sale of military provisions to countries at war, which would include Canada as a dominion of the United Kingdom. While London and Ottawa struggled to organize the funds in time for the purchase, McBride made the decision to purchase the submarines using provincial funds. He agreed to the builder’s terms & conditions, which was simply cash on delivery for the sum of roughly 1,150,000 Canadian Dollars, twice the Royal Canadian Navy’s entire budget at that time. Just one day before war was officially declared, the submarines quietly slipped out of American waters under the cover of darkness and arrived at Esquimalt, B.C. the next morning. On August 7th, The Government of Canada made the new fleet official by purchasing the submarines from the government of British Columbia.
The reverse of the coin is designed by Yves Bérubé and highlights the importance of the addition of two submarines to the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet in August of 1914. The CC Class submarine is prominently featured in the centre of the scene, its hull pointed toward the viewer as though emerging from the image. The vessel’s keel and diving planes can be seen below the surface of the water; above, a sailor stands on the deck in front of the conning tower as he surveys the horizon. In the background to the right of the submarine, a beautifully detailed map of British Columbia’s coastline looms large. This added element provides geographical context to the story of Canada’s first submarines, which were used to patrol the coastline depicted here. The obverse side includes a crowned effigy of HM King George V as seen on Canadian and colonial coinage throughout the world from 1911 to his death in 1936. The denomination appears below the King’s portrait.
|20 Dollars||.999 silver||31.3 Grams||38 mm.||Proof||7500 pieces|
The first coin in the Canadian Homefront series focused on the trans-continental railways of Canada, which played a vital role during the First World War. For more information on this and other coins offered by the Royal Canadian Mint, please visit their website. Information offered in English & French, international orders dispatched where applicable.