Provincial Marine

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Provincial Marine
Active 1796–1910
Country The Canadas; Province of Canada; Dominion of Canada
Branch Militia
Type coastal protection service

American Revolutionary War
War of 1812

Rebellions of 1837

Fenian raids

Provincial Marine was a coastal protection service in charge of the waters in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and parts of Lake Champlain under British control. While ships of the Provincial Marine were designated HMS, they were operated in more of a coast guard manner than as a full fledged navy. Operations were maintained and staffed by the Royal Navy. Most ships of the Provincial Marine were built in the Great Lakes.

The Provincial Marine followed the practices and rank structure of the Royal Navy, but with some flexibility. The Provincial Marine were established and controlled by the army and manned by personnel borrowed from the navy, by soldiers, and by direct recruitment of Great Lakes sailors. The Provincial Marine used lightly armed topsail schooners for transportation purposes.[1]

The Provincial Marine's base was Carleton Island, on Lake Ontario from 1785–89. The base was moved to Point Frederick (Kingston, Ontario) Kingston and was used from this location from 1789 until 1813. Merchants who were originally located on Carleton Island and moved to Kingston used Provincial Marine vessels for transshipment of goods.[1]

The Royal Navy was responsible for all other bodies of waters off Canada. In 1812, the Provincial Marine operated only four vessels armed with 20 short-barreled guns.[2] During the War of 1812, the Royal Navy also assumed direct control of the Provincial Marine's vessels in 1813, after the Provincial Marine performed poorly in 1812 against the Commodore Isaac Chauncey's American Lake Ontario squadron.

The Royal Navy units under Commodore Sir James Yeo began commanding the facility after May 1813; the dockyard on Point Frederick grew rapidly. By the end of 1814, the dockyard produced the largest naval squadron on the Great Lakes with 1,600 personnel serving on the flagship St. Lawrence and on other vessels.[2] Commodore James Lucas Yeo replaced most of the provincial officers with Royal Navy officers. Frederick became the permanent Lake Ontario base of the British naval establishment and the headquarters of the senior naval officer on all the Great Lakes.[1]

Commodores of the Provincial Marine[edit]

After Commodore Andrews was drowned in the Ontario, Commodore Rene Hypolite Pepin de Laforce, a naval officer, was appointed to command the Provincial Marine on Point Frederick, Lake Ontario on November 15, 1780–86. Commodore David Betton commanded the Provincial Marine 1786 –1802. Commodore Jean-Baptiste Bouchette commanded the Provincial Marine 1802–04. Commodore John Steel commanded the Provincial Marine 1804-12; he retired at 75 years of age. Commodore Hugh Earle, a son-in-law of Molly Brant who had been commissioned in the lake service in 1792, commanded the Provincial Marine from 1812–13.[1]

Creation of Great Lakes Navy[edit]

Since a change of command was insufficient to revitalize the whole lake service, and to counter the activity of the United States Navy it was decided to incorporate all the naval forces and establishments on the lake into the Royal Navy. Commanded by Commodore Sir James Lucas Yeo, the Royal Navy took over operations on the Great Lakes from the Provincial Marine in 1813–15. Sir Edward W. C. Owen, K.C.B. commanded the Lakes Service for a short period in 1815. Sir Robert Hall, K.C.B., who was ordered to establish a “respectable naval force”, took command of the Lakes Service in October 1815–18. Commodore Sir Robert Hall took command of the Kingston Skow listed as 56 guns in April 1817. In 1817, the Rush–Bagot Treaty limited future naval forces in commission on each lake to a single 100-ton gunboat armed with one gun.

After Hall laid up the wartime fleet in reserve in Kingston, he left Canada in July 1818. Robert Barrie commanded the Lakes Service from 1819–20. To house the gear of the warships of 1812 laid up in Navy Bay, Captain Barrie built the Stone Frigate in Kingston Dockyard. Captain Barrie expedited the repair of the vessels at the bases in case of any emergency.[1] In August 1827, the Cockburn, was commissioned as the first of the Rush-Bagot treaty gun-boats. In 1831, he was ordered by the Admiralty to sell off the old warships of 1812 and to prepare to close down the dockyard fit. He remained there until June 1834, when the inland naval establishment was abolished. In 1834, he was ordered to strike his broad pennant and pay off the Cockburn. After the St. Lawrence was sold, for $9925, the other old warships remained as hulks in the Navy Bay or "in frame" on the stocks on Point Frederick. The naval stores were sold, or sent down to Quebec for carriage to England. Barrie, a popular figure in Kingston, left for England.[1]

While the treaty banned naval activity in the Great Lakes, the Provincial Marine was re-assigned under the waterborne arm of the Canadian Militia and later under the Militia Department. In 1910, the Provincial Marine was replaced by the Naval Service of Canada (under the Naval Service Act of 1910).


Lake Ontario

Lake Erie

Georgian Bay/Lake Huron


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Broad Pennants On Point Frederick By Professor Richard A. Preston, Department of History. Royal Military College 1958 p 198-211
  2. ^ a b Point Frederick War of 1812 Commemorative Plaque

External links[edit]