When Canada declared war on Germany, the Royal Canadian Navy was deficient in all types of ships (anti-submarine, minesweepers and destroyers) and the crews to man them. The main need was for defence of the coast from submarines. However the ability to build such a fleet did not exist at the start of the war.  

There were two temporary solutions for the problem.  First was to ‘borrow’ fishing boats and personal large boats that could be converted quickly and easily.  Second, the Canadian government would buy personal yachts from U.S. citizens.  The problem was, at that time, the United States was neutral and this would be illegal.  Solution, Canadian citizens would personally go to the northeastern states and purchase specific vessels, return to Canada with them and sell them to the Canadian government.  They were given animal names when they entered service.  This is an interesting aside that surfaces after the war.   

While this was a stopgap measure, these ships did not really meet the needs.  Fishing trawlers were to big and slow while the yachts were to expensive.

The building of the Fairmiles did not begin until almost the end of 1940.  This delay was caused by not having the final information available until September 1940.  Although the performance was less than expected, with further delays and urgent need, the Naval Staff decided to go ahead with the construction of the Type B’s. 

Nova Scotia was considered as one of the best locations because of its experience in the construction of wooden ships.  The village of  Weymouth had been building schooners and barques since the early 1800’s.  The price for each ship would be around $85,000.00 Cdn..  Keep this price in mind as it becomes very interesting later on.

Thanks to the document re: procurement of ships- defence of Canada 1939 -41  Naval Service of Canada

After the War

These Fairmiles had many uses.  They were great “Guinea Pigs” in the experimentation of new equipment and clothing. The experiments were conducted in these small craft for what are now our common Gravol tablets for motion sickness.  One of the Weymouth Fairmiles built in 1943 was named the INSHORE FISHERMAN and then DENIS D.  This vessel was registered at Hamilton, Ontario, on November 17th, 1950, and was transferred to Saint John, New Brunswick, on January 30th, 1953.  On October 19th, 1955, this vessel was transferred again to Grindstone, Magdalen Islands, and her registration was closed on April 11th, 1972.  She became DENIS D on February 29th, 1956, but her records do not identify her Fairmile name/number.  We believe HMC ML120 is MARYLAND INDEPENDENCE, the HMC ML111 was HMCS MOOSE, when the DENIS D was in service, and the only other Fairmile built at Weymouth in 1943 was HMC ML121, therefore this is likely HMC ML121.  When she was first registered on November 17th, 1950, she was fitted with two new Cummins Diesel Engines built in 1950.  Each engine had six 5-1/8 inch cylinders with a stroke of 6 inches.  These engines were rated at 350 brake horsepower.  The records claim this vessel was capable of making 12 miles per hour with these engines.  I have no idea why they read miles per hour instead of knots but it is probably because she was registered in Ontario (they operate in miles per hour rather than knots on the Great Lakes).  The records of this vessel as INSHORE FISHERMAN and DENIS D (I have three different sets of records) do not list any signal letters where it states Signal Letters if any.  Therefore one has to assume she was not fitted with a radio, or if she was fitted it was a small radiotelephone with a two-letter prefix and four digit suffix call sign and would not appear on these records.  She was not listed with the International Telecommunication Union. This vessel was broken up in March 1972.

[2]  The four Fairmiles sold  to Francis Farwell of Hamilton saw the following roles:

  1. a)  One became a private yacht for Mr. Farwell.  He was the owner of the Hamilton Street Railway at the time.
    b)  One was fitted with freezers and taken to Newfoundland on the promise of funding from Newfoundland to carry commercial fish to the market in Toronto.  The vessel made it to St. John’s but the funding did not materialize.  The fate of the vessels is not known after that.
    c) For several years, two of them sat at the foot of James Street in Hamilton. They were then towed to the North-East corner of Hamilton Bay to provide a  makeshift seawall for a private property. Eventually both vessels rotted away.

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