Commander Royal Canadian Navy – A Brief History of the Position

The Canadian Naval Service was established on 4 May 1910 and officially designated the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) by King George V on 16 August 1911, with the service head entitled the Director of the Naval Service (DNS). When a combined Department of National Defence (DND) was formed in 1922, the RCN remained a separate service and the title of DNS remained unchanged until 7 March 1928, when it was renamed the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) to better distinguish the separation of the RCN from the Canadian Army under its Chief of the General Staff (CGS), which at Major-General was one rank-equivalent higher. Although separate service ministries were re-established for the period of the Second World War, this organization of separate service chiefs reporting to a Minister remained in place without significant change until 1964.

On 1 August 1964, the three service chiefs (and their staffs) were disbanded under the policy of Integration (Bill C-90) and a Canadian Forces Headquarters (CFHQ) was stood up with non-service affiliated functional commands under a single Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS). This ushered in a decade of tumultuous change as traditional command and control relationships evolved into a previously untried unified structure. Although the separate services continued to exist, responsibility for naval matters was split between the tri-service CFHQ staff in Ottawa, with a Vice-Admiral Principle Naval Adviser (PNA) as the senior ranking naval officer, and operational headquarters on the two coasts, with that in Halifax NS historically recognized as the senior. In January 1966, Maritime Command was stood up in Halifax as a functional command responsible for all Canadian maritime operations nationwide, commanded by a Rear-Admiral entitled Commander Maritime Command (Comd MARCOM). The PNA remained in Ottawa as the senior ranking naval officer for matters of policy and Comd MARCOM (in practice a subordinate position) was responsible for day-to-day maritime operations.

On 1 February 1968, the Canadian Forces Re-Organization Act (Bill C-243) ushered the policy of unification into effect. The three services (Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force) were disbanded, and one service entitled the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was established under the command of the one service commander – the CDS – as it remains to this day. With a single unified CAF in place, the role of the Principle Naval Adviser fell into abeyance as the Commander Maritime Command became recognized as the de facto head of what would be seen as a navy. In 1975, with the amalgamation of all air assets into Air Command, it was recognized that the commanders of Maritime, Mobile and Air Commands were more than functional commanders, rather they were environmental commanders in their own right (with a requirement for dedicated staffs to develop policy within the framework of a unified Canadian Armed Forces). With this, the position of Comd MARCOM was re-instated at the former service chief level of Vice-Admiral rank, while he and his supporting staff – responsible for both policy and operations – now were consolidated in Halifax.

Maritime Command remained headquartered in Halifax NS until 1997, when it moved to National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) in Ottawa and the appointment was renamed Commander Maritime Command and Chief of the Maritime Staff (CMS). On 16 August 2011 (the 100th anniversary of the Royal designation as the RCN), as part of Government of Canada heritage initiatives, the Maritime Command of the CAF was re-titled the Royal Canadian Navy. Subsequently, the appointment was renamed to Commander Royal Canadian Navy and Chief of the Naval Staff (CRCN); however, it remains a Canadian Armed Forces command under the CDS and not a separate service.

In the list below, where the title of the position changed while the incumbent was in office, he is listed twice with the respective dates of the appointments. Rank given is the highest held while serving as Head of Navy; several would go on to higher ranks either in the CAF or upon retirement (see their individual biographies at the hyperlink for details).

Director of the Naval Service (DNS)

Admiral Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill, 5 May 1910 – 31 December 1920

Commodore First Class Walter Hose, 1 January 1921 – 6 March 1928

Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS)

Commodore First Class Walter Hose, 6 March 1928 – 31 December 1933

Vice-Admiral Percy W. Nelles, 1 January 1934 – 15 January 1944

Vice-Admiral George C. Jones, 15 January 1944 – 8 February 1946

Vice-Admiral Howard E. Reid, 28 February 1946 – 1 September 1947

Vice-Admiral Harold T.W. Grant, 1 September 1947 – 1 December 1951

Vice-Admiral E. Rollo Mainguy, 1 December 1951 – 16 January 1956

Vice-Admiral Harry G. DeWolf, 16 January 1956 – 1 August 1960

Vice-Admiral Herbert S. Rayner, 1 August 1960 – 1 August 1964

Principal Naval Adviser (PNA)

Vice-Admiral Kenneth L. Dyer, 1 August 1964 – 16 July 1966

Vice-Admiral Ralph L. Hennessy, 16 July 1966 – 15 September 1968

Commander of Maritime Command (Comd MARCOM)

Rear-Admiral William M. Landymore, 1 January – 19 July 1966

Vice-Admiral John Charles O'Brien, 19 July 1966 – 6 July 1970

Vice-Admiral Henry A. Porter, 6 July 1970 – 18 October 1971

Rear-Admiral Robert W. Timbrell, 18 October 1971 – 21 August 1973

Vice-Admiral Douglas Seaman Boyle, 21 August 1973 – 14 June 1977

Vice-Admiral Andrew L. Collier, 15 June 1977 – 30 June 1979

Vice-Admiral John Allan, 1 July 1979 – 6 August 1980

Vice-Admiral J. Andrew Fulton, 6 August 1980 – 29 July 1983

Vice-Admiral James C. Wood, 29 July 1983 – 3 July 1987

Vice-Admiral Charles M.W. Thomas, 03 July 1987 – 1 August 1989

Vice-Admiral Robert E. George, 1 August 1989 – 12 July 1991

Vice-Admiral John R. Anderson, 12 July 1991 – 14 July 1992

Vice-Admiral Peter W. Cairns, 14 July 1992 – 28 July 1994

Vice-Admiral Lawrence E. Murray, 28 July 1994 – 27 June 1995

Vice-Admiral Lynn G. Mason, 27 June 1995 – 9 January 1997

Vice-Admiral Gary L. Garnett, 9 January 1997 – 15 May 1997

Commander Maritime Command and Chief of the Maritime Staff (CMS)

Vice-Admiral Gary L. Garnett, 15 May 1997 – 24 September 1997

Vice-Admiral Gregory R. Maddison, 24 September 1997 – 21 June 2001

Vice-Admiral Ronald D. Buck, 21 June 2001 – 25 August 2004

Vice-Admiral M. Bruce MacLean, 25 August 2004 – 17 January 2006

Vice-Admiral Drew W. Robertson, 17 January 2006 – 22 June 2009

Vice-Admiral P. Dean McFadden, 22 June 2009 – 22 July 2011

Vice-Admiral Paul A. Maddison, 22 July 2011 – 16 August 2011

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and Chief of the Naval Staff (CRCN)

Vice-Admiral Paul A. Maddison, 16 August 2011 – 21 June 2013

Vice-Admiral Mark A.G. Norman, 21 June 2013 to 23 June 2016

Vice Admiral M.F. Ron Lloyd as of June 23 2016