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  • Writer's pictureJohn H Keess

Laurier Colloquium 2021 - Additional Technical Data

If you currently have the misfortune to be listening to my conference talk, I mention

force packages in passing. As I don’t have the time to go into detail on individual proposals, I will use this post to get into some of the technical side of things.

Edited: minor grammar

Naval proposals

The Laurier-Préfontaine Proposal – Militarising the FPS

The militarised FPS would have been based on a series of light cruisers unarmed in peacetime but armed in wartime. The CGS Canada was a great example of what Laurier had in mind. A light cruiser capable of mounting both QF 3 and 12 pounders. Canada was in fact militarised in 1914. Pictured: CGS (later HMCS) Canada:

The Admiralty Proposal, 1909

The 1909 Colonial Conference proposal envisioned self-governing dominions advancing fleet units based on a battlecruiser. Because this RCN would be heavy on the “R” and light on the “C”, the proposal would have seen this fleet stay primarily together in one Canadian port for training and maintenance.

Flagship – an Indomitable-class battlecruiser


The 1909 proposal would have seen 3 Bristols in Canadian service. The Bristol-class was a series of light cruisers used widely by the Royal Navy, and mounted 6 and 4 in QF guns.


According the 1909 proposal, the dominion navies would have maintained six destroyers. It’s not clear exactly which class of destroyer the Admiralty had in mind, but it probably would have been the popular River class. Note that the River-class had six subclasses. Here is an example of the Derwent, from the Derwent subclass:

Lastly, the 1909 proposal would have seen the RCN and RAN man and operate three C-Class submarines. Interestingly, these were not diesel but gasoline powered boats. Pictured: C-34

The Naval Bill, 1910

The Canadian fleet authorised by the Naval Bill in 1909 was similar but smaller than the 1909 Admiralty proposal. It rounded out the number of Bristols to four and removed the submarines. Instead of a battlecruiser, the fleet flagship would have been a heavy cruiser – either e Boedica- class or a Diadem-class. Here is Diadem:

Borden’s Proposal – 1911-1913

Borden proposed fleet would have seen an unknown number of Bristols for the RCN and financed three dreadnoughts for the RN. The Dreadnoughts would have likely been an Indefatigable-class battlecruiser like HMS New Zealand (pictured)

But there is also the chance that Canada might have financed construction of at least one full battleship of the King George V class – the proposals specifically mentioned building “dreadnoughts.” Given the heavier armour and bigger guns (13.5 in vice 12 in), this would have represented a significantly larger financial commitment. Pictured: HMS King George V

Nuclear Systems

Mobile force options

The Sutherland Report was designed like a smorgasbord, so it’s difficult to say what any one package would have looked like. This is a brief introduction to some of the systems involved.

Ground Systems By 1963, 4 CIBG was equipped with Centurion tanks. These tanks, first introduced in 1946, were starting to show their age but were not considered urgent replacements – indeed, the Centurions performed well both in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. Pictured: Canadian Centurion:

Still, there were very obsolete by the time they were replaced beginning in 1978 with the Leopard 1. Pictured: Leopard C1:

4 CIBG’s big deficiency in the early 1960s was a proper APC. Although the Canadian Army had invested heavily in APC development in the 1950s and early 1960s – a Canadian product known as the Bobcat – this home-grown design proved to be economically unworkable. The Canadian Army acquired an American APC, the M113, in 1963. Pictured: A Canadian M113:

Air Options

In 1959, 1 Canadian Air Division moved from a general air support role employing F-86 / CL-13 Sabres to the nuclear strike / reconnaissance role using F-104G Starfighters. The Sutherland Report not only gave options for new platforms, but new roles as well. Pictured: CF-104G

Option 1 – General air support / F-4 Phantom II

This option would have seen the RCAF pick up where the Sabres left off by providing three squadrons of the modern F-4C Phantom II. Pictured: USAF F-4C:

Option 2 – Tactical air support

Another option was for light air support using a platform similar to the OV-1 Bronco. This option obviously had more of an eye towards potentially supporting a fire brigade type operation. Pictured: OV-1 Bronco

Option 3 – Air transport pool

The last option was to specialise in tactical lift – in this case, three squadrons of C-130s. Pictured: C-130H

Sealift options

Because the initial policy guidance for the committee was so vague, the report identified a number of naval platforms which would have encompassed a wide range of potential roles for the triphibious force. ASW carriers. One simple solution for the triphibious force was to pair some kind of lift – either commercial or military-manned roll / on, roll off (RO/RO) ships with ASW carriers for local protection and the initial movement of troops onto a lightly defended shore. The report included options for having these carriers be either tasked to the mobile force or to re-task them from standing ASW commitments in the event of a crisis. Pictured: USS Iwo Jima

Lift. Given that the Report lists the USMC as a model, in terms of landing craft, the committee probably had the LSD-class of ships used by the USMC in mind. Pictured - the USS Fort Snelling, a Thomaston-class dock landing ship commissioned in 1955. The Fort Snelling had a flight deck for ferrying troops by helicopter. The stern could also open up and flood, allowing for troops to mount in landing craft internally.

Recommended Reading

Note that this list is not exhaustive, nor does it cover the policy aspects of the presentation. This is just a quick source listing for those interested in the technical elements of the force packages.


Clearwater, John. Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Arsenal. Toronto: Dundurn, 1998.

Gough, Barry Morton. “The End of Pax Britannica and the Origins of the Royal Canadian Navy: Shifting Strategic Demands of an Empire at Sea.” In Canada’s Defence: Perspectives on Policy in the Twentieth Century, edited by B.D. Hunt and Ronald Haycock, 19–30. Toronto: Copp Clark Pittman, 1993.

Hennessy, Michael. “Fleet Replacement and the Crisis of Identity.” In A Nation’s Navy: In Quest of Canadian Naval Identity, edited by Michael L. Hadley, Rob Huebert, and Fred W. Crickard, 131–56. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996. Keess, John. “Strategic Parasitism, Professional Strategists and Policy Choices: The Influence of George Lindsey and Robert Sutherland on Canadian Denuclearisation, 1962-1972.” Canadian Military History 29, no. 1 (2020).

Maas, Frank. The Price of Alliance: The Politics and Procure of Leopard Tanks for Canada’s NATO Brigade. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017.

Maloney, Sean M. “‘Global Mobile’: Flexible Response, Peacekeeping and the Origins of Forces Mobile Command, 1958-1964.” Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin 1, no. 1 (Srping 2000) (n.d.): 21–34.

Maloney, Sean M. “‘Global Mobile II’: The Development of Forces Mobile Command, 1965-1972.” Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin 4, no. 2 (Summer 2001) (n.d.): 7–23.

Sarty, Roger. “Canadian Maritime Defence, 1892-1914.” The Canadian Historical Review 71, no. 4 (1990): 462–90.

Stouffer, Ray. “Cold War Airpower Choices for the RCAF: Paul Hellyer and the Selection of the CF-5 Freedom Fighter.” Canadian Military Journal 7, no. 3 (Fall 2006) (n.d.).

Stouffer, Ray. Swords, Clunks and Widowmakers: The Tumultuous Life of the RCAF’s Original 1 Canadian Air Division. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 2015.

Thornton, Martin. Churchill, Borden and Anglo-Canadian Naval Relations, 1911-1914. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Williamson, Corbin. “Mediterranean Marines: The Challenges of Forward Deployment, 1948-1958.” The Journal of Military History 85, no. 2 (2021): 426–52.

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