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HMCS Chippawa

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Active  1941–present
Branch  Royal Canadian Navy
Garrison/HQ  Winnipeg
Country  Canada
Type  Naval reserve division
HMCS Chippawa
Part of  Canadian Forces Naval Reserve

HMCS Chippawa is a Canadian Naval Reserve division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Formed in 1923 as the Winnipeg Company, the unit was renamed to HMCS Chippawa in 1941.



In November 1941, the unit was commissioned as HMCS Chippawa. Chippawa is named after the vessel which led the line of Commander Robert Heriot Barclay into action against the Americans at the Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813. The former merchant schooner of about 35/50 tons, had been built at Chippawa in 1810, and was named for her home port. After being brought into Provincial Marine service in 1812, she was commanded by Frederic Rolette, a Provincial Marine lieutenant, and had a crew of fifteen. Her armament varied from two 8-inch (203 mm) howitzers to her final configuration on the day of battle of one 9-pounder gun mounted on a swivel. Chippawa was captured by the Americans during the battle, and was later destroyed at the capture of Buffalo on 30 December 1813.


The division was originally formed on 19 March 1923 as the Winnipeg Company of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, later renamed The Winnipeg Division in 1936. In 1941, the division was commissioned HMCS Chippawa. The first commanding officer of the division was Eustace Brock, the Assistant Secretary of the Great-West Life Assurance Company. In March 1923 the unit's first quarters were a small office and a classroom located in McGregor Armouries. Later, in the spring of 1924 the division moved into the Rat-Portage Lumber Company building in Norwood, which is still standing today as the Poulin's Exterminators building.

In the years following, the division moved to the old St Matthews Church on the corner of Sherbrook Street and Ellice Avenue, to a condemned fire hall on Gertrude Avenue just off Osborne Street (now demolished), to space at the Security Storage building on Ellice Avenue, and then in October 1942 to the old Winnipeg Winter Club located at 51 Smith Street.

Second World War and Cold War

During the Second World War, Chippawa recruited a total of 297 officers and 7,567 men, as well as the second-largest contingent of WRENS (Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service) in the country. She became the third greatest source of naval personnel in Canada, despite being the farthest inland..

In the spring of 1950 the Red and Assiniboine Rivers overflowed their banks and threatened Winnipeg. Thousands of citizens had to be evacuated from their homes and sent to neighbouring towns and provinces. Chippawa became the centre of flood-fighting activities and naval personnel, both Regular and Reserve, were sent to Winnipeg from all over the country and lived on board Chippawa for several weeks. The ship's galley was activated and within 48 hours was serving 1,500 meals a day to the flood fighters. Chippawa's Main Drill Deck served as a marshalling area for motor boats and other marine craft used during the flood.

In the early 1950s a polio epidemic hit the city and Chippawa's facilities were once again pressed into service. Chippawa's heated swimming pool was used for therapy for polio victims for close to two years following the epidemic.

During the 1960s Chippawa participated in Canada's Centennial by building an authentic York boat on the drill deck of Chippawa, and later launched and named her Chippawa II. In 1968, Chippawa provided facilities and support for the Pan-American Games hosted by Winnipeg. It was during this decade that HMCS Chippawa grew to be the largest of all the 21 Naval Reserve divisions with more than 300 members of ship's company, comprising all ranks.

A reorganization of military bands left the Chippawa band as one of the few remaining official Naval Reserve bands in Canada. Lately, the manning of the Kingston-class coastal defence vessels has caused many of Chippawa's trained personnel to leave Winnipeg to commission and man the ships. This has caused challenges to the recruiting system, to replace these people as fast as they depart.

Post-Cold War

In the spring of 1997, Manitoba endured another flood. Chippawa became the home for nearly 200 naval reservists from units across Canada. Chippawa's galley put out thousands of meals for the flood fighters, her classrooms became accommodations, and her main deck became a parking lot and repair area for boats of all shapes and sizes. The reserve sailors were tasked to flooded areas all across southern Manitoba. In the flooded areas just south of Winnipeg, the reservists were instrumental in saving many homes in the area of Grande Pointe and South St. Mary's Road. At the end of the emergency the Commander of Maritime Operations Group Four, Captain Forcier, told all reserves in Chippawa that in the areas just south of Winnipeg "he had witnessed the finest example of seamanship he had ever seen, Regular Force or Reserve." In summer of 1998, the old Winnipeg Winter Club building was demolished and a new building was built on the same site. While the building was being built the division paraded in Hangar 11 at 17 Wing Winnipeg. In November 1999, the new naval training building was completed and the division moved back to its downtown Winnipeg headquarters.

Noted members

Notable former members of HMCS Chippawa:

  • Bill Allum
  • Charles Goodeve
  • Edward A. Sellers
  • Fred Shero
  • Waldron Fox-Decent
  • Robert-Falcon Ouellette Member of Parliament Winnipeg Centre
  • References

    HMCS Chippawa Wikipedia

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