Commandant Series – John Moreau Grant

I Commandant RRMC: 1942 – 1946

(Researched by E3161 Victoria Edwards)

RNCC5 Captain (N) John Moreau Grant C.B.E. was born in 1895 in Halifax, N.S. He spent two years at school in Heidelberg, Germany. He returned to Halifax in 1909. In Jan. 1911 he joined the Royal Naval College of Canada in Halifax Nova Scotia as one of a class of twenty-one cadets. He entered a strenuous regime conducted by Royal Navy instructors with a heavy emphasis on engineering subjects. He graduated as a midshipman in 1913. He joined H.M.S. Berwick (cruiser), and sailed for the West Indies for training. In Mexico and Venezuela, he was part of a force sent to protect British interests against revolutionaries. After courses at Halifax, he joined another cruiser, H.M.S. Suffolk, which patrolled off the eastern seaboard of the United States where she stoppped shipping to search for German nationals of military age, who were removed. Since he spoke German, he was always a member of the boarding party. He escorted troopships to England. He was appointed to H.M.S. Beaver a I-class destroyer. He was constantly at sea, patrolling to the Hook of Holland. He escorted hospital ships to and from France. He employed anti-submarine and minesweeping methods. Asdic, depth charges, and the hydrophones used in the Great War could not be used when a ship was underway however, they were used in action against enemy submarine. He was ordered to the Mediterranean in Apr. 1918. He performed convoy, anti-submarine, and rescue work. He found that social and sports activities ashore were much improved. At Brindisi, Italy, efforts made to seal the Adriatic against movement of enemy submarines were only partially effective, since the sea was too deep to blockade. He served as the Executive officer of Beaver. He ferried troops to the Dardanelles when Turkey surrendered. He entered the Sea of Marmara and proceeded to Constantinople. In Oct. 1918, he participated in the bombardment of Durazzo, Albania. From Constantinople they sailed to Odessa, Russia where the German army a n d the White Russians were attempting to keep some sort of civil order. To a welcome by the Rumanians they sailed up the Danube where they attempted to keep the Rumanians and Bulgarians apart. In Dec. 1918, he called at Sevastopol, where he saw and visited the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which was largely abandoned and in a poor state of repair. He removed a number of political refugees from Odessa.

After the Royal Naval College of Canada closed in 1931, the practice of sending Canadian naval officers to England for training was found to be expensive and unreliable. In 1940, Rear Admiral Percy Nelles, then chief of naval staff, led a group of RNCC alumni who met with Angus L Macdonald, then naval minister to discuss opening a college to train naval officers for the postwar navy and/or for civilian employment in the merchant marine. The college was to be similar to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth and to the former RNCC. In 1940, Angus L Macdonald explained to the House of Commons “it will be a proud day for this country, when our Canadian naval effort will be directed by Canadian men, trained in Canada and operating in ships built in this country.”

In November 1940, the Hatley Park and grounds was purchased by the Royal Canadian Navy for $75,000 to house a Naval Training Establishment. Captain (N) John Moreau Grant was appointed the first commandant of the Royal Canadian Naval College H.M.C.S. Royal Roads from 1942-1946. From 13 December 1940-October 1942, HMCS Royal Roads operated as an Officer Training Establishment for short-term probationary RCNVR sub-lieutenants. Royal Roads trained cadets for the executive branch, the engineer branch and the accountant branch of the Royal Canadian Navy. The Grant Building, which was built in 1943 as the main academic building housing laboratories, cafeteria, and offices, was named in honour of Captain (N) Grant. He later served as the executive officer of the HMCS Stone Frigate in Kingston, Ontario.

Captain (N) John Moreau Grant died in 1986.

This profile draws heavily on an oral history interview at University of Victoria. Although a portrait of Capt(N) Grant exists in the National Portrait Gallery, it is not available online.

Sources:

A Nation’s Navy By Michael L. Hadley, Robert Neil Huebert, Rob Huebert, Fred W. Crickard

Preston: Canada’s RMC: A history of the Royal Military College .

John Moreau Grant National Portrait Gallery

Captain (N) John Moreau Grant oral history