Kingsmill builds foundation of newly created RCN

Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill


Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill

Admiral Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill is considered one of the founding fathers of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

Just four years after its creation on May 4, 1910, Kingsmill was named the first director of the Naval Service of Canada (which later became the RCN). He established a naval college in Halifax and began building Canada’s navy after serving nearly 40 years in Britain’s Royal Navy.

Kingsmill saw the RCN safely through a period of limited resources, political controversy and the heavy demands of the First World War. He strengthened the navy’s coastal commands and intelligence gathering organization, essential foundations for the future growth of the navy.

Kingsmill firmly grasped the possibilities for a Canadian navy that, although built on British models, would be shaped by Canada’s particular maritime interests, such as the close protection of the coastline and ports, the gathering of marine intelligence for the government in Ottawa, and the enforcement of fisheries regulations.1

Born in Guelph, Ont., he attended Upper Canada College and joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1870 at the age of 14.

During his career in the Royal Navy, he commanded His Majesty’s Ships Goldfinch (1890-91), Blenheim (1895-95), Archer (1895-98), Gibraltar (1900), Mildura (1900-03), Resolution, Majestic (1905-06) and Dominion (1907).

In 1908, at the request of then Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, Kingsmill retired from the Royal Navy and returned to Canada to accept the post of director of the Marine Service in the Department of Marine and Fisheries. This post predetermined his eventual appointment as rear-admiral and Director of the Naval Service of Canada. He served in that position for 11 years and guided Canada’s nascent navy through its first decade.

Kingsmill gave particular priority to the training of young Canadian officer cadets, as he considered them the hope for the future of the service. The Royal Naval College of Canada, established in Halifax early in 1911, remained open to receive new classes each year.2

These officers would eventually lead Canada’s great naval efforts in the Second World War and the early Cold War.

During the course of his career, Kingsmill was well-recognized for his service and contributions. He was made an Officer of the French Legion of Honour and a Grand Officer of the Crown of Italy. He was also awarded the African General Service Medal (with Somaliland bar), the Egypt Medal and the Khedive’s Star for service in Egypt. In 1913, he was promoted on the British Royal Navy’s retired list to vice-admiral, then to full admiral in 1917. He was knighted by King George V in 1918.

Kingsmill’s significant contribution to the formation of Canada’s navy was recognized during the RCN’s centennial celebrations in 2010. A plaque bearing his name and a short biography was unveiled in Portland, Ont., where he passed away at his summer home in 1935. “It is fitting that as we celebrate the Canadian Naval Centennial, the tremendous contributions of Admiral Kingsmill are honoured by the Ontario Heritage Trust. As the first director of the naval service in Canada, Admiral Kingsmill worked to develop and strengthen training for Canadian officers that paved the way for those who followed,” said Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, Commander of the RCN at the time. “As we commemorate 100 years of naval history in Canada, it is important to recognize Admiral Kingsmill and all those who proudly serve for making the Canadian Navy the outstanding institution it is today.” Kingsmill’s legacy was also celebrated with a sculpted bust created by RCN Sculptor-in-Residence Christian Corbet during the centennial.


1&2 Admiral Kingsmill and the Early Years of the Royal Canadian Navy, by Roger Sarty:

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