Salmon Canning in WWI: Defending the Coast (part 2 of 2)

This Monday marks the centenary of Canada’s entry into World War I. In remembrance of this anniversary, we are sharing some of the history of the involvement of B.C.’s salmon canneries during the war. Part one of this blog post can be found here: Salmon Canning in WWI: Feeding the Troops (part 1 of 2).

Having entered the war, Canadian strategists quickly stumbled upon a key vulnerability: a largely undefended Pacific coastline. Patrolled by the aging coal-fired “Rainbow” and two submarines that had proved a technical (and political!) disaster, little stood in the way of a foreign maritime attack. After rumours that German cruisers had been spotted patrolling Pacific waters, the search for reinforcements intensified.

In addition to canning salmon for the war effort, one company—Anglo British Columbia Packers—moved to fill this void, offering the services of three of its tender boats to supplement Canada’s small and aging Pacific fleet.

The "Holly Leaf." GOG Collection 1997.058.001
The “Holly Leaf.” GOG Collection 1997.058.001

Normally used to tow gillnetters to and from the fishing grounds, in late August or early September 1914, the “Holly Leaf,” “Ivy Leaf,” and “Laurel Leaf” were sent to Esquimalt where they were outfitted with two 1,800 lb torpedoes each. The boats were then stationed at Alert Bay, where they remained for nine months before being returned to the company.

GOG Collection 1997.058.003
GOG Collection 1997.058.003

To learn more about the canneries’ role in the War, or about any other aspect of cannery history, feel free to drop in to the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site any day of the week between 10:00-5:00.

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