1906 – 1936

When the British artillery and engineer companies departed, they were replaced by much smaller Canadian permanent force units. Three officers and about 47 other ranks of the Royal Garrison Artillery transferred into the Canadian service to form the nucleus of 5 Company, Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery. Similarly, 31 members of the Royal Engineers volunteered for transfer and from them 3 (Fortress) Company, Royal Canadian Engineers was formed.

The Imperial garrison had also contributed greatly to the efficiency of the local non‑permanent militia. It had established a series of schools of instruction, which created a substantial core of well trained militiamen. The militia gunners carried out annual
practice firings and had acquired an enviable degree of accuracy with the guns of the defences. By 1906, this local militia unit, now designated the 5th B.C. Regiment Canadian Artillery, was among the largest and best trained regiments in Canada, and it remained so for years.

With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the garrison quickly assumed the role for which it had been trained. 5 Company R.C.G.A. moved from Work Point barracks to Signal Hill Battery. At the same time, the militia gunners were mobilized to man the guns at Fort Rodd Hill, Belmont, Duntze Head, Black Rock and Macaulay Point.

On the first day of the war, it appeared an attack was about to take place when two submarines were seen approaching Esquimalt on the surface. The guns were ready to fire on them, and would have probably sunk them, but at the last moment they were recognized as friendly. The submarines had just been purchased by the British Columbia government for the Royal Canadian Navy, but nobody had thought to inform the coast gunners that they were arriving on that date. The danger of attack at Esquimalt was greatest during the first few months of the war. The Germany Pacific Squadron, under Admiral Von Spee, was at large in the South Pacific at this time and one German cruiser, the Leipzig, operated as far north as San Francisco. However, after destroying a British cruiser squadron at the Battle of Coronel, Von Spee’s squadron was itself destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914. Although the coast defences of Victoria and Esquimalt remained fully manned through out the war, the danger of attack became much more remote after this date, and the focus for the troops in the defences shifted to training men for overseas service.

When the First World War ended, the return to peace­ time routine was swift. The militiamen were demobi­lized and 5 Company returned to its barracks at Work Point. Small out‑fort detachments were detailed to maintain the guns and equipment in the batteries. The non‑commissioned officer in charge of the detachment at Fort Rodd Hill lived with his family in the Warrant Officer’s Quarters. It was only when the permanent force and the militia ran their summer training camps and firing practices that the forts were fully manned.

Through the 1920s and early 1930s, few changes were made to the coast defences, despite their increasing obsolescence. The anti‑military sentiment following the First World War and the Great Depression both led to continuing cuts in Canada’s defence budget. In 1923, two 6‑inch quick‑firing guns, removed from scrapped Royal Canadian Navy cruisers, were installed at Macaulay Point, replacing the two 6-inch disappearing guns there. A third such gun was installed at Fort Rodd Hill, but it was used only for training and was never fired. A fire command post was also installed in the Upper Battery at Fort Rodd Hill in 1924.

More extensive improvements had to wait until the late 1930s, when the deteriorating international situation at last spawned a belated rearmament program.