Charles Kingsmill

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Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill

Born(1855-07-07)7 July 1855
Guelph, Canada West (now Ontario)
Died15 July 1935(1935-07-15) (aged 80)
Portland, Ontario, Canada
AllegianceUnited Kingdom (1870–1908)
Canada (1909–1921)
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Royal Canadian Navy
Years of service1870–1921
Commands heldHMS Cormorant
HMS Goldfinch
HMS Blenheim
HMS Archer
HMS Mildura
HMS Scylla
HMS Majestic
HMS Dominion
HMS Repulse
Battles/warsAnglo-Sudanese War
Somaliland Campaign
First World War
AwardsKnight Bachelor
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy

Admiral Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill, CMG (7 July 1855 – 15 July 1935) was a Canadian-born naval officer and the first director of the Department of the Naval Service of Canada. After retiring from a career in the Royal Navy, he played a prominent role in the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in 1910. Along with Rear-Admiral Walter Hose, he is considered the father of the Royal Canadian Navy.[1]

Early life an education[edit]

Kingsmill was born at Guelph, Canada West (now Ontario) in 1855.[2] He was the son of John Juchereau Kingsmill, Crown Attorney for Wellington County, and Ellen Diana Grange. He was educated at Upper Canada College in Toronto.[3]

Royal Navy career[edit]

In 1870, at age 14, Kingsmill joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman.[3] He was promoted sub-lieutenant in 1875, lieutenant in 1877, commander in 1891, and captain in 1898.[4] During his career in the Royal Navy, he commanded HM Ships Goldfinch (1890–1891), Blenheim (1895), Archer (1895–1898), Gibraltar (1900), Mildura (1900–1903), Resolution, Majestic (1905–1906), and Dominion.[citation needed]

Mildura served on the Australia Station in these years. During Kingsmill's command of the ship, she was part of the naval escort for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) to New Zealand aboard the chartered Royal liner HMS Ophir during 1901.[5] The following year, he was with HMS Royal Arthur (flagship) and HMS Pylades, visiting Norfolk Island in July,[6] Suva, Fiji in August,[7] and Tonga in September.[8]

Kingsmill was given command of the battleship Dominion after her launching in 1905.[9] Dominion ran aground in Chaleur Bay on 16[10] or 19[9] August 1906, while on a good-will tour of the Canadian Atlantic coast. In his March 1907 court-martial, Kingsmill was severely reprimanded for "grave neglect of duty" (not being on the bridge at the time) and given command of the older battleship HMS Repulse.[10]

Royal Canadian Navy[edit]

In 1908, Kingsmill retired from the Royal Navy and returned to Canada.[11] He was appointed honorary aide-de-camp to His Excellency the Governor-General in 1909. At the behest of then prime minister Wilfrid Laurier, he accepted the post of director of the Marine Service in the Department of Marine and Fisheries under then Minister of Marine and Fisheries Louis-Philippe Brodeur.[12] The appointment predetermined his eventual appointment as rear-admiral RCN and director of the Naval Service of Canada upon the formation of the RCN on 4 May 1910.[13][14] By 1914, at the beginning of World War I, the new navy's fleet consisted of two old cruisers and a collection of converted civilian and commercial vessels.[4]

Kingsmill was promoted to admiral on the Royal Navy's retired list in 1917.[14] He was made a knight bachelor in 1918. He was awarded for outstanding services as the Director of Naval Services of Canada 1910–1921.

Kingsmill retired on 31 December 1921. He maintained a summer home on Grindstone Island, in Big Rideau Lake, near Portland, Ontario, where he loved to sail. His guests included the Duke of Devonshire, Governor General of Canada from 1916 to 1921; Sir William MacKenzie, railway entrepreneur; and Neville Chamberlain, later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1937–1940. When he died at Grindstone Island on 15 July 1935, a "huge flotilla of boats brought him in from the island"[15]

Kingsmill is buried in the Anglican cemetery in Portland, where an Ontario Heritage Trust plaque commemorates his contribution to Canadian naval history.[16]


Kingsmill and his wife, Constance, were prominent figures in Ottawa's social life. She was active in various causes, including as a supporter of birth control. They lived in a large stone house which they named "Ballybeg" on Crescent Road in Rockcliffe, which was designed for them during World War I by Montreal architect H. C. Stone. When the house was built, Rockcliffe was outside city limits, and raising chickens and cattle was permitted. Since 1970, the house has been occupied by Tunisia's ambassadors to Canada.[17]

Kingsmill's cousin, Colonel Walter Bernard Kingsmill, the son of Admiral Kingsmill's uncle, Nicol Kingsmill, was head of the 10th Royal Grenadiers and led the 123rd Battalion on the front lines in France during the First World War.

Kingsmill's daughter Diana was an Olympic athlete and journalist, who married historian J. F. C. Wright.


Kingsmill House is named for him. The junior officer quarters building at Venture NOTC, the Canadian Naval Officer Training Centre, is named after him.


  1. ^ Kingsmill House display, Maritime Command Museum, CFB Halifax
  2. ^ Whitby, Michael; Gimblett, Richard H. & Haydon, Peter (21 January 2006). "one". The Admirals: Canada's Senior Naval Leadership in the Twentieth Century. Dundurn. ISBN 978-1-4597-1249-2.
  3. ^ a b Butts, Ed (3 May 2018). "Guelph's Charles Kingsmill a father of the Royal Canadian Navy". Guelph Mercury.
  4. ^ a b Gimblett, Richard H. (2009). The Naval Service of Canada, 1910–2010: The Centennial Story. Dundurn. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4597-1322-2.
  5. ^ Bastock, p. 101
  6. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36835. London. 1 August 1902. p. 8.
  7. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36852. London. 21 August 1902. p. 8.
  8. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36859. London. 29 August 1902. p. 8.
  9. ^ a b Johnston, William; Rawling, William G. P.; Gimblett, Richard H. & MacFarlane, John (2011). The Seabound Coast: The Official History of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1867–1939. Dundurn. p. 105. ISBN 9781554889082.
  10. ^ a b Davison, Robert L. (October 2009). "A Most Fortunate Court Martial: The Trial of Captain Charles Kingsmill, 1907" (PDF). Northern Mariner. Canadian Nautical Research Society. 19.
  11. ^ Milner, Marc (2010). Canada's Navy The First Century (2nd ed.). University of Toronto Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8020-9604-3.
  12. ^ Graves, Donald E.; Jenson, L. B. & Johnson, Christopher (2003). In peril on the sea: the Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle of the Atlantic. R. Brass Studio. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-896941-32-5.
  13. ^ German, Tony (1990). The Sea is at our Gates—The History of the Canadian Navy. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Press. pp. 26. ISBN 9780771032691.
  14. ^ a b Parkinson, Jonathan (2018). The Royal Navy, China Station: 1864–1941: As seen through the lives of the Commanders in Chief. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-78803-521-7.
  15. ^ Hrebecka, Paulina (26 August 2019). "Portland historical society honours founding father of Royal Canadian Navy". Smiths Falls Record News.
  16. ^ "Admiral Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill 1855–1935". Ontario's Historical Plaques. Ontario Heritage Trust. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  17. ^ Roston, Margo (23 June 2015). "A home called Ballybeg". Diplomat & International Canada. Retrieved 27 September 2019.

Reference literature[edit]

  • Bastock, John (1988). Ships on the Australia Station. Frenchs Forest, Australia: Child & Associates. ISBN 0-86777-348-0.

External links[edit]

Military offices
New title Director of the Naval Service
Succeeded by