The Annapolis Riddle: Advocacy, Ship Design and the Canadian Navy's Force Structure Crisis, 1957-1965.

Thumbnail Image
Mayne, Richard Oliver
Military History , Naval Leadership
The General Purpose Frigate was the centrepiece of the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet planning for over three years, and its cancellation by the newly elected Liberal government in October 1963 set off a divisive and chaotic yearlong debate over what should be built in its place. After exploring numerous options, such as aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, the navy came to the conclusion that its best option was to pursue a guided missile destroyer program that was similar to the General Purpose Frigate. What happened next has confounded a number of modern naval historians. Just as the navy was about to acquire its long sought after guided missile destroyers, a decision was made to build four smaller specialized anti-submarine vessels that would repeat the less sophisticated Annapolis class instead. Although a number of theories have been put forward to explain this decision, the one common factor among these hypotheses is the notion that an egocentric and dominant defence minister named Paul Hellyer forced the Repeat Annapolis upon a reluctant navy that unanimously despised the concept. According to these interpretations, both the Repeat Annapolis and General Purpose Frigate were reflective of a larger debate over whether the navy should have the capability to participate in more versatile operations, such as containing limited wars in the Third World, or maintaining a specialised antisubmarine fleet. Conventional wisdom, therefore, suggest that Hellyer’s selection of the repeat Annapolis was indicative of a minister who gave the navy little choice but to specialize in anti-submarine warfare. This dissertation, however, challenges this premise by arguing that the navy was far from united over its force structure - a term used to describe the process through which the navy selects the types of ships it requires to fulfil its current and future roles. Instead, it will show how the birth of the Repeat Annapolis was actually the product of conflicting opinions and struggles from within the navy itself. Understanding the self-inflicted damage resulting from these conflicts is crucial, particularly since the force structure that emerged from this chaotic period (1957 - 1965) would influence the composition of the Canadian navy for the next forty years.
External DOI