Using Google Earth imagery to document warships, the one problem is, you can never go back. Before about the year 2000, there are very few captures. This means the warship types documented in our pages overwhelming represent ship classes in service from the late 1970s (leaving service in the early 2000s) up to today.
Wouldn’t it be nice if older aerial imagery of naval ports could be incorporated into our database? Well, for our home fleet, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), we were able to do just that. In the Fall of 2022, as the World blundered out of Pandemic closures, the Shipsearcher Identification Section (SIS) deployed to the offices of the National Air Photo Library, at Natural Resources Canada. We have been updating our list with these unique views. We look forward to continuing the research.
Wading through photo reconnaissance flight lines and a challenging database, we called up aerials from Esquimalt, BC, and Halifax, NS, from the 1960s and early 1970s. What we found was a target-rich environment of Cold War fleet units on Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The RCN of the early postwar era continued to be oriented to Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). The aerial mapping flights caught views of St. Laurent class and follow-on Destroyer Escorts, including some of the newer upgrades with helicopter flight decks or ASROC anti-submarine mortars replacing a Limbo ASW launcher.
Older Prestonian-class ocean escorts, based on wartime River class frigate hulls, were economical conversions. To complement these surface combatants, we also have a view of both former USN submarines HMCS Grilse, a Balao class diesel-electric attack boat and veteran of World War 2 that had served six war patrols in the Pacific War, and HMCS Rainbow, a similar Tench class. Before the acquisition of new Oberon class boats, these two old boats –Rainbow succeeding Grilse– kept the submarine service afloat. Other long-gone RCN units we added range from Cape Class fleet maintenance ships (having posted about the last of these), HMCS Provider replenishment ship, HMCS Labrador icebreaker, and the list goes on down to the little Bird Class patrol boats.
We encourage you to visit the pages to see these views of a vanished era in Canadian naval history. It all adds up to a more robust documentation of the post-Second World War Canadian Navy: 18 new views that help add 10 new classes of RCN ships. We hope to continue to expand our listings to include new sources of aerial or satellite imagery.