CC1 and CC2 — British Columbia’s Submarine Fleet

In commemoration of the start of WWI, August 4, 1914.

By Starr J. Sinton, Museum volunteer, CFB Esquimalt Museum.

Just days before the outbreak of World War One, in the summer of 1914, British Columbia was offered a unique chance to make a substantial contribution to the defence of Canada’s vulnerable West Coast.

CC1 and CC2 in port at Esquimalt, British Columbia.
CC1 and CC2 in port at Esquimalt, British Columbia.

On the same day war was declared – 4 August, 1914 – Sir Richard McBride, Premier of BC, gambled his political future on a daring plan. The scheme was to spirit away two newly constructed submarines, originally intended for the Chilean Navy, in complete secrecy and under cover of darkness from Seattle, Washington.

Not only was this a violation of US neutrality, but the Premier risked over a million dollars of provincial funds to obtain the much-needed vessels for defence of the West Coast.

When war broke out, Canada’s West Coast found itself nearly defenceless. Great Britain immediately concentrated its great fleet in European waters for the struggle against Germany, leaving the northern Pacific largely to the protection of its ally Japan. Only one Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ship lay in harbour at the RCN’s only West Coast base, Esquimalt, BC: the ageing cruiserHMCS Rainbow.

At least one, and probably two, modern German cruisers were off the West Coast of Mexico. The cruisers were in a position to threaten British sea lanes in the Pacific, attack Nanaimo’s coal mines, shell Vancouver or Victoria with their long-range guns, or even destroy BC’s fishing fleet.

With a declaration of war less than a week away, fate took a hand in the person of Mr. J. V. Paterson, president of the Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, who was in Victoria on business. At Victoria’s Union Club, Mr. Paterson mentioned two submarines his company had just finished and the troubles he was having with the Chilean government over payment. Soon he was offering the two submarines to Canada, at an almost 50 per cent increase in price over the previous deal brokered with Chile.

BC’s premier Sir Richard McBride was soon informed. An avalanche of telegrams ensued, involving Victoria, Ottawa, and London, but little could be accomplished in the few days remaining before the imminent outbreak of war and a resulting American embargo on the provision of war materials to combatants. In this crisis, McBride took a courageous decision to use provincial funds to get possession of the much-needed submarines before it was too late. On his own initiative he decided to advance the purchase price demanded, just over $1.1 million. This was an enormous sum, twice the annual budget for the entire RCN for 1913-1914.

On the day war was declared, Captain W. H. Logan, a surveyor for the London Salvage Association, was in Seattle to negotiate a deal, but the price remained firm, and an additional obstacle arose: payment must be cash on delivery. With no time left, Premier McBride by telephone promised a BC Treasury cheque would be waiting at the border at dawn the next day.

CC1 in her slip at Esquimalt, British Columbia
CC1 in her slip at Esquimalt, British Columbia

Accordingly, at 10 pm that night, the two submarines, with both Captain Logan and Mr. Paterson aboard, put off silently through the fog and mist of Seattle harbour for a secret rendezvous off Trial Island at daybreak the next morning. Complete secrecy was essential; both the Chilean and German governments would do all in their power to stop the sale of the submarines to Canada.

BC’s representatives, in the steamer Salvor, were at the rendezvous point at dawn when the two submarines emerged from the mist. No time was wasted in beginning the agreed hour-long inspection of the boats, but since the Chileans had earlier complained about weight and endurance issues, the investigation lasted four hours. Captain Logan spent these hours combing the horizon for US Navy patrol vessels, while Mr. Paterson paced the deck nervously. If intercepted, the Seattle shipyard executive would have had a great deal of explaining to do, since he had taken the submarines out of port without any clearances and delivered them to a combatant power in violation of American neutrality.

After four suspenseful hours, the cheque was handed over to a greatly relieved Mr. Paterson and the White Ensign was raised over British Columbia’s new naval vessels, which proceeded at speed towards Esquimalt.

Even safely within Canadian territorial waters, however, the drama of the day was not yet over. Amidst all the haste and secrecy, only the Navy’s Dockyard was aware that two warships would be arriving in Victoria Harbour. Seeing two submarines approaching Victoria on the second day of war, a picket boat sounded its siren and raced into harbour, under the protective guns of the Army’s Coastal Artillery. Fortunately, the shore batteries contacted the dockyard before giving the order to open fire, and the two submarines proceeded safely to their new home at Esquimalt.

The two vessels were informally christened the McBride and the Paterson. They were taken over by the Government of Canada two days later and renamed, rather more anonymously, CC-1 and CC-2. Premier McBride soon received reimbursement for the provincial funds advanced for the purchase, and Mr. Paterson received a personal commission of $40,000 on the unorthodox sale of the RCN’s first submarines.

In a resulting enquiry into the purchase, Commissioner the Hon. Sir Charles Davidson, in his 1917 report, completely upheld McBride’s decision, and concluded:

What Sir Richard McBride did in those days of great anxiety, even distress, and what he accomplished deserves the commendation of his fellow countrymen. For his motives were those of patriotism; and his conduct that of an honourable man.

Royal Canadian Navy service

The ship was assigned to the west coast in the home port of Esquimalt, British Columbia, and conducted training operations and patrols for three years. Together with HMCS Rainbow, CC-1 and CC-2 were the only Canadian or British ships defending the west coast of Canada between 1914 and 1917. Britain had tasked the defence of British Columbia to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s North American Task Force. In 1917 the submarine was transferred to the east coast. The

The White Ensign.
The White Ensign.

transfer to the east coast was for both submarines of this class, with their mother ship, the submarine tender HMCS Shearwater. Its transit through the Panama Canal was the first time a Canadian warship transitted the Panama Canal under the White Ensign. It arrived in Halifax for preparation to send the two subs to the Mediterranean and Europe. Deemed unsafe for transatlantic crossing, the submarine was held in Halifax as a Training Assistance Boat.[6] Her veteran crew were highly valued but were not able to conduct any other operations than training. Her continued use was too expensive, and her unseaworthiness resulted in her being paid off, and disposed of in 1920.


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Canada’s colourful characters series: Madame Bendixen

I have long maintained that the most interesting history of any nation is not found in its celebrities, but in the antics of its most colourful characters. Madame Bendixen is not a name that comes readily to mind, but she was certainly colourful.

If you know of any similar characters, don’t hesitate to send me a clue. Leave a comment, or email me, at: I’d love to hear from you.

Cowichan Valley Citizen

Barkerville, British Columbia. Main Street during its heyday.
Barkerville, British Columbia. Main Street during its heyday.

M. Bendixen and his stout wife erected the modest two-storey brick hotel, on the present site of the Eaton’s Centre, upon their arrival in the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island in 1862. For a while the St. George was Victoria’s finest, its “accommodating” host and hostess enjoying a profitable business.

That is, when the madame wasn’t “in one of her queer moods”.

For Mrs. Bendixen, it would appear, was as fiery and loud as she was stout, and not many ventured within range when she was on the warpath. When the town experienced hard times, the landlady’s notorious disposition became even worse, driving what few clients remained to seek other accommodations.

They’d have scarcely believed that, just eight years before, she’d been “one of the handsomest and daintiest of the smart set of San Francisco”. Many times, hundreds of admiring eyes had followed the beautiful woman in the shining carriage drawn by a magnificent team of horses along Montgomery Street. The mistress of a leading Bay City underworld figure, she enjoyed a life of royalty, with the finest of jewels, furs and silks.

Then, unaccountably, she changed almost overnight. Instead of the haughty paramour she became a tower of virtue, even announcing her forthcoming marriage. Retiring to a cottage, she attended church and shunned all association with her former cronies.

Her rejected lover reacted with gifts and kind words then threats. The police, riddled by corruption, turned a deaf ear to her pleas for protection. She refused to yield even when nitric acid was splashed across her gown. After two thugs beat her fiancé unmercifully and she miraculously survived the bombing of her cottage, she had endure “the most scandalous stories” that were spread about her.

Rather than break her spirit, wrote pioneer Victoria journalist D.W. Higgins, who’d known her slightly while in living in California, the terror campaign “only increased her religious fervour and tended to confirm her in a desire to reform”. When next he’d seen her, in Victoria, instead of the “shrinking, timid, handsome girl of several years before, she had developed into a fat, bold and quarrelsome, middle-aged woman”. So dramatic was the change in Madame Bendixen’s appearance that Higgins hadn’t recognized her at first.

For four years, Louis and Fanny Bendixen, who’d invested their savings in the St. George, struggled to keep it afloat. But Victoria was in a recession; businesses foundered and thistles grew in the dusty intersections of Yates and Government streets, the city’s busiest thoroughfares.

Finally, they sold, no doubt, at a loss. By this time, not even Louis could stand his wife’s shrewish tongue and he left for California, she moving to the Cariboo to open a modest saloon in Barkerville. Years later, word reached Victoria of her death at the age of 70.

She’d admitted to being 44.

Which brings us to a 1996 column in the Times-Colonist in which the late writer/historian Charles Lillard pondered Madame Bendixen’s real story. He’d read Higgins, of course, but what intrigued him most were fleeting references to Mrs. B in W.B. Cheadle’s classic Journal of a Trip Across Canada. Written 20 years after he and Viscount Milton made most history as being among B.C.’s first tourist explorers, Cheadle described their stay in Victoria in 1864, the leading citizens they met socially while staying at the St. George where, in stark contrast to her previously described notoriety and foul temper, they were “rapturously welcomed” by their hostess. At a dinner at the Thomas Harris home, Mrs. Bendixen “inveighed against the degradation of dining with le gros boucher,” their host and the city’s first mayor having made his fortune as a butcher.

In his book, Cheadle describes other dinners, others of the city’s and colony’s leading citizens, among them Gov. and Mrs. James Douglas and (so-called) Hanging Judge Matthew Begbie. Lillard found the references to the mysterious Mrs. B to be the most intriguing and glumly conceded, “I still don’t know the [real] identity of Mrs. Bendixen.”

In Barkerville, Richard Thomas Wright devotes two pages to “the enigmatic” Fanny ‘Bendixon’ who arrived in Barkerville aged about 25, to become owner, over the years, of several saloons (among them, shades of Victoria, the St. George) and, quite likely, a brothel keeper. By then she was thought to weigh in excess of 300 pounds, so large that she straddled two chairs while dispensing drinks to patrons, and prompting Judge Begbie to refer to her in a letter as being of “undiscoverable girth although she was always of goodly diameter”.

By then she was known, particularly to children, for her genial disposition although her fiery temper lurked, as always, just beneath the surface and required little to spark an eruption of profanity. Her death, in January 1899, prompted a civil suit over disposition of her valuable earrings.

We’ll leave the last word on this mystery woman to Richard Wright: “Even in death Fanny Bendixon was a woman who captured the imagination of many and likely the hearts of many a miner and businessman along the creeks.”

– Source:

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(Sir) Mathew Baillie Begbie (Judge)

The so-called “Hanging Judge”

[Actually, Begbie sentenced fewer persons to be hung than the average jurist of the day. Of the 52 murder cases he heard, only 27 of them resulted in a hanging sentence. Some historians believe the “Hanging Judge” epithet was a mis-reading of the Barkerville Gazette, that referred to him as the “haranguing judge” due to his scolding of accused and even juries he disagreed with.]

begbieSir Matthew Baillie Begbie spent the first thirty-nine years of his life in Great Britain, far removed from the land he was to have such an influence on later in life. During these years Begbie’s life was filled with social and intellectual activities. He received his first degree from Cambridge University where he studied Math and the Classics. He was involved in a great number of extracurricular activities, devoting his free time to singing and acting in amateur productions, playing chess, rowing, and tennis. After Cambridge Begbie went on to study law. Some accounts claim he was a poor law student and barely managed to graduate. Despite this, he managed to establish a successful law practice in London before heading to British Columbia.

It was not Begbie’s skill as a lawyer that won him the appointment of British Columbia’s first judge. The judge for this new colony had to be in excellent physical shape to thrive in the wilderness of British Columbia, a qualification Begbie met with his exceptional 6’5” height and athleticism. The position also called for someone with courage and enough integrity to resist bribes; all qualities of Begbie’s character.

The new colony was in desperate need of a magistrate to maintain law and order over the American mining population, so when Begbie finally arrived in Victoria on November 15th, 1858, he was greeted with great joy. He was immediately thrown into his duties when Ned McGowan’s War erupted six weeks after his arrival. This was to be the first of many events proving him to be levelheaded and fair in dispensing justice. He traveled all over British Columbia, on horseback and on foot, using his sleeping tent as his judicial chamber during the day. Despite his informal surroundings, Begbie always wore his robes and wig while holding court. During his travels Begbie also made note of the topography, weather, agricultural potential and possible road, town, and bridge sites in the areas he visited, providing valuable information to the colonial government

Contrary to his famous nickname “The Hanging Judge”, Begbie only imposed a few death sentences during his reign, yet he was not without fault in the courtroom and certainly had his detractors.

He did not particularly like or respect juries and their verdicts.

Also, he did not always strictly follow the law, but adapted it to suit his own beliefs and the land he was practicing in. Begbie was a snob when it came to other lawyers, distrusting any who were not trained within the British Empire. He even attempted to ban them from practicing in his court.

When Begbie was not traveling on his court circuit he lived in Victoria. He was an active participant in the community, becoming the first President of Victoria Philharmonic Society soon after his arrival. Throughout his lifetime he continued to provide impromptu solo singing performances to the society’s delight. For his outstanding service to the British Crown, Queen Victoria knighted him in 1875. Begbie spent his retirement in Victoria where he died in 1894.

Principal source:


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Nellie Cashman

“The Angel of The Cassiar.”

nellie cashman - portraitEllen Cashman (1845 – January 4, 1925), better known as “Nellie,” was Born at Belvelly, near Cobh, County Cork in 1845, Cashman came to the United States around 1850 with her mother and her sister, settling in Boston. As an adolescent, Cashman worked as a bellhop in a Boston hotel. She and her family emigrated to San Francisco, California in 1865.

Following the onset of the Klondike Gold Rush, Cashman left her family home in 1874 for the Cassiar Mountains in British Columbia, Canada. A lifelong Catholic, she set up a boarding house for miners, asking for donations to the Sisters of St. Anne in return for the services available at her boarding house.

Cashman was traveling to Victoria to deliver 500 dollars to the Sisters of St. Anne when she heard that a snowstorm had descended on the Cassiar Mountains, stranding and injuring 26 miners, who were also suffering from scurvy. She immediately took charge of a six-man search party and collected food and medicine to bring to the stranded miners.

Conditions in the Cassiar Mountains were so dangerous that even the Canadian Army advised against the rescue. Upon learning of Cashman’s expedition, a commander sent his troops to locate Cashman’s party and bring them to safety.

An army trooper eventually found Cashman camped on the frozen surface of the Stikine River. Over tea, she convinced the trooper and his men that it was her will to continue, and that she would not head back without rescuing the miners.

After 77 days of unfriendly weather, Cashman and her party located the sick men, who numbered far more than 26; some estimates credit Cashman with saving the lives of as many as 75 men. She administered a Vitamin C diet to re-establish the group’s health. Thereafter, she was fondly known in the region as the “Angel of the Cassiar.”

nellie cashman's house copyLater in life, Cashman moved to Tombstone, Arizona. She raised money to build the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and committed herself to charity work with the Sisters of St. Joseph. She continued to work as a caretaker, taking a position as a nurse in a Cochise County hospital.

In 1898, Cashman left Arizona for the Yukon in search of gold, staying until 1905. Her prospecting ventures took her to Klondike, Fairbanks, and Nolan Creek. She later owned a store in Dawson City.

In 1921, Cashman visited California, where she declared her desire to be appointed U.S. deputy Marshal for the area of Koyukuk. In 1922, the Associated Press documented her trip from Nolan Creek to Anchorage.

In January 1925, Cashman developed pneumonia and rheumatism. Friends admitted her to the Sisters of St. Anne, the same hospital that she had helped build 51 years before. She soon died of her illness and was interred at Ross Bay Cemetery in Victoria, British Columbia.

On March 15, 2006, Nellie Cashman was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame.


My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date). You can add your favourites, too. Just send me a note with your choice, title and author, to

Shootout at Fortier’s Café

Canada’s wild, wild west…

gunfight2Thanks to the dime store novels and Hollywood larger-than-life approach to frontier history, most of the gunfights we know about are American. However, Canada has had its share of shootouts, too. Take the shootout outside Fortier’s Cafe in the gold mining community of Fisherville, British Columbia, in 1864.

Ironically, the dispute began between two factions who each wanted to be the law in Fisherville, and after much threatening talk the two agree to meet to talk things over. The players were a group of Americans under the leadership of William “Yeast Powder Bill” Denniston (a.k.a. Bill Burmeister); Robert “Overland Bob” Evans; and Neil Dougherty. The opposing side, mostly Canadians, was lead by a hot-tempered, mouthy Irishman named Thomas Walker. His lieutenants were William “Dancing Bill” Latham, John “Black Jack” Smyth and “Paddy” Skie.

The talk started peacefully enough but within a few minutes the two [walker and Dinniston] began shouting. Tom Walker, his temper boiling over, pulled his revolver from its holster, levelled it at Yeast Powder Bill and squeezed the trigger.

The range was point blank when the heavy pistol roared but, unfortunately for Walker, his hand was unsteady. The .45 slug missed Bill’s expansive chest by ripped away the thumb from his right hand. Walker tried to fire a second shot but his gun jammed. Yeast Powder Bill, howling in shock and pain, drew the pistol from his left holster and shot Walker through the heart. Walker died where he stood. It was his great bad luck that Bill was ambidextrous.

When Walker’s gun fired, Overland Bob Evans commenced shooting. This brought immediate return fire from Walker’s friends. Within seconds the shooting had become general and Evans lay prone in the dust with at least two bullets in his body. Although Evans was down his companions, thinking him dead, continued shooting.

cemetery, fishervilleWalker was dead, there was no doubt about that, and his friends, intent on avenging him, kept up a steady barrage of fire into the ranks of the Americans. For several minutes the scene was one of sheer chaos. The men who were armed with clubs closed and began to beat on each other. When the shooting finally stopped the air was heavy with the acrid smell of gun smoke. Both sides retreated to count casualties.”

Amazingly, Evens recovered from his wounds so Walker was the only actual casualty from the fracas.

Source: Wild Canadian West, by E.C. (Ted) Meyers

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My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date). You can add your favourites, too. Just send me a note with your choice, title and author, to


If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.


Overlanders of 1862

Guts, grit and determination.

overlanders - cariboo goldGold was discovered in the late 1850s in the Cariboo Region of British Columbia’s southern interior, stretching from Cache Creek in the south to Quesnel in the north. When the first discovery was announced, people flocked to the area to stake their claims.

Before the torrent of excited miners arrived, British Columbia’s total population was 7,000 people. By July of 1859, approximately 33,000 miners had arrived in the area, eager to take home their portion of the profits.

Searching for a better life, a large group of Canadians left their Ontario homes to strike it rich in British Columbia’s gold fields. This group of 150* men, one woman (Mrs. August Schubert**) and her three children travelled for months across Canada until they reached Fort Edmonton (now Edmonton, Alberta) in 1862. Here, they restocked their supplies and prepared for the arduous journey across the Rocky Mountains.

overlanders - red river cartThe Overlanders travelled as far as they could with carts, oxen and horses carrying their supplies, but by Lac St. Anne, they had to abandon the last of their carts and continue onward carrying their supplies in heavy packs. The large group was soon spread thinly across 300 kilometres (186 miles) of the western prairies.

After the lead group of Overlanders crossed Yellowhead Pass, they camped at Cow Dung Lake, now known as Yellowhead Lake. This group was fighting starvation and while a few hunters in the group brought back squirrels and small birds, the group had to sacrifice some oxen and horses for the meat. Forging on with supplies of meat dried from their pack animals, this first group of Overlanders reached the Shuswap salmon-fishing camp at Tête Jaune Cache on August 27th. Here they traded much of their remaining ammunition, clothing, needles and thread, for much needed sustenance: salmon, huckleberries, saskatoons (berries) and pemmican.

On September 7, a second party of Overlanders passed Yellowhead Lake. Pausing there as well to replenish their supplies, they became trapped on an island by rapidly rising floodwaters. When the final group of Overlanders reached them, a few days later, the stranded party was nearing starvation. With the help of the new arrivals, everyone managed to get off the island and continue their trek. The final group of travellers reached Tête Jaune Cache on September 16.

Trials and Tribulations

overlanders - crossing swampFrom Tête Jaune Cache, the group divided again, choosing to take different routes to the lucrative Cariboo gold fields. The larger group decided to take the Fraser River to Fort George and then head south to Quesnel. They made canoes for their trip from hollowed-out cottonwood logs and ox hides and travelled down the first stretch of the Fraser quite easily. When they reached the Grand Canyon of the Fraser, a short gorge about 30 kilometres (18 miles) upstream from the confluence of the Bowron River, disaster struck. Caught in the tumultuous Scow Rapids, canoes were overturned and torn apart. Four men died from drowning or hypothermia and many supplies were lost. Worn down and badly beaten by the day’s events, the group pressed on, reaching Fort George on October 8.

overlanders - rapids on fraserA smaller group of Overlanders left Tête Jaune Cache and travelled overland up the McLennan River, which flows north into the Fraser River. Thinking they could make the trek to the gold fields by land, they purchased over 100 head of cattle and horses. Soon, the travellers discovered they would be forced to take the Thompson downriver to reach their destination. In preparation, they slaughtered their cattle and turned their horses loose. They constructed rafts and began their journey down the Thompson River to Fort Kamloops. This second group ran into trouble in the Murchison rapids and Hells Gate where two men died. The rest of the group arrived in Fort Kamloops in October of 1862.

While both groups suffered great losses, the majority of the travellers survived the epic journey and went on to take part in the Cariboo Gold Rush. The hardships they experienced and the perils they encountered, especially between Jasper and Tête Jaune Cache and in the canyons and rapids of the Fraser and North Thompson rivers, make their journey one of the most impressive events in Canadian travel history.

*This number varies from 150 – 200+.

**Mrs. Schubert gave birth to her fourth child the day after their arrival at Fort Kamloops.


My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date). You can add your favourites, too. Just send me a note with your choice, title and author, to


If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.


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