During World War I, a naval reserve corps was stood up in Canada, the RNCVR (Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve). At the end of the War, the Navy numbered some 9 000 sailors, including 8 000 members of the RNCVR. In spite of its value, this naval reserve was immediately demobilized in 1918.

En 1923, amidst the general disarmament following the end of World War I, many saw the Canadian Navy as an extravagant expense that could easily be dispensed with. The Government seriously considered abolishing the Naval Service.

This is when Rear-Admiral Walter Hose proposed a solution that was to save the navy from extinction: the creation of a naval reserve force made up of civilians who would pursue a part time military career. The units would be based in the major cities across Canada, rather than on the coasts only. The idea was approved and on January 31, 1923, by Order in Council of the Privy Council, the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) was stood up. For his part in bringing about this event, Hose is today considered the “Father of Canada’s Naval Reserve.”

Achille Pettigrew

The Québec Half-Company was one of the first Naval Reserve units to be created. Achille Pettigrew was its Commanding Officer between 1925 and 1937. A grandson of the Seigneur de Villeray (Louis-Narcisse Gauvreau), his family has ties to an officer who served under General James Wolfe in 1759. His values and dedication inspired the Québec Half-Company to achieve unprecedented levels of excellence.

Claudette Pettigrew, daughter of Achille Pettigrew

“He is a man who showed me loyalty, respect for others, love his country. That’s why you have to defend it. He taught me to be fair and honest.”


All obstacles notwithstanding, the small Reserve units quickly became places where a strong sense of pride and belonging was developed. The citizen sailors paraded down the streets of their communities, trained in ropework, semaphore, weapons handling (Gun Run, rifle drill) and cutlass drill. They served alongside the Regular Navy aboard destroyers HMC Ships Patriot and Patrician. The units regularly challenged each other in sports competition (basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing, tug-of-war), fostering true esprit de corps and search for excellence amongst Reservists. Across the country, the Reserve units carried on naval traditions inherited from the British Navy, and created their own.

On September 10, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany. The Naval Reserve was immediately mobilized and embarked on a massive cross-country recruiting drive.

The Battle of the Atlantic soon propelled Naval Reservists all around the world…