The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was formed under the authority of the Naval Services Act in May, 1910. The Canadian Parliament was determined to achieve " ...the speedy organization of a Naval Service in co-operation with and in close relation to the Imperial Navy".The RCN adopted the structure and organization of the British Royal Navy.
The purchase from England of the aging cruisers Rainbow and Niobe was supposed to signal the serious intent of the Canadian Government. Unfortunately, that intent did not last long and money for the Navy soon trickled out. Worse, the Canadian Government failed to develop any kind of a plan for the future of the navy. Planning and operational doctrine was left in the hands of the British, a mistake which was to cost the RCN dearly over the next 30 years. Inquiries by Canada for technical assistance in developing a shipbuilding program were largely ignored by the British, who tended to regard Canada solely as a source of manpower.
The two cruisers, two submarines and a few smaller ships represented Canada's fleet at the start of the First World War. The fleet was rapidly built up to include a large number of coastal patrol boats and auxilliaries. The RCN was primarily employed for the protection of Canadian ports and shipping lanes, however a large number of Canadian Officers and Ratings served with the Royal Navy and the Royal Naval Air Service. By 1918, just under 6,000 Officers and Ratings were in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR), mostly serving on British ships.
After the Armistace in 1918, the Canadian Government was quick to cut off funds to the military. The RCN was reduced to about 500 officers and men, with a few old ships and 2 submarines. Although the "Regular" RCN almost disappeared after the war, the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) was formed in 1923. It consisted of former RCN and RNCVR members as well as fishermen and especially in the Prairies, men who had never seen the sea. Pay was almost non existant, uniforms were obsolete and training was undertaken with almost no government assistance. However, these enthusiasts slowly developed what was to become the core of the Canadian Navy during the Second World War. The RCNVR was nicknamed "The Wavy Navy" due to the wavy rank rings worn by officers and the three wavy stripes on the seaman's collars.
At the beginning of the Second World War, the RCN was in a similar shape with that of the rest of the Canadian Military. Sadly neglected by the Government, although not as badly as the Army , the RCN nevertheless had a tiny core of experianced and professional RCNVR Officers and Ratings. There were a few relatively modern ships in the RCN in 1939, but by the end of the Second World War, the RCN was the third largest navy in the world. Canadians were instrumental in developing the convoy system for escorting merchant and troop ships, against initial American opposition to the plan.
After the war, the RCN underwent a rapid reduction in size, then was slowly rebuilt. Beginning in the early 1950's, primary tasking was in support of NATO, and the RCN achieved an enviable reputation as submarine hunters, employing ships of Canadian design and manufacture. Upon Unification in 1967, the Royal Canadian Navy became the Sea Branch of the Canadian Armed Forces.
In the days of sail, ship's discipline was the responsibility of the Boatswain's Mate, and later, the Ship's Corporal or the Master At Arms. He and his assistants, nicknamed "Crushers" brought defaulters to justice and supervised punishments. In the late 1800s the British Royal Navy created a permanent Naval Police establishment manned by Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officers. Between 1910 and 1920, Canadian Naval Police were appointed on board major RCN ships such as Niobe and Rainbow.
Throughout much of the Second World War the Royal Canadian Navy did not have a single police branch as did the Army and Air Force. Policing on shore was carried out under a number of organizations such as the Naval Permanent Patrol, Naval Shore Patrol Service, Naval Provost Marshals Corps and the Shore Patrol. The physical security of dockyards and installations was the responsibility of the RCMP and later, Special Constables of the Canadian Corps Of Commissionaires.
On board ship, discipline and policing duties were generally the responsibility of the Master-At-Arms (MAA), or in the absence of a MAA, a Regulating Petty Officer (RPO). The Master At Arms, known as "Jaunty" was an appointment held by a Chief Petty Officer, who acted under the direction of the First Lieutenant. If men were required for Shore Patrol duty, "volunteers" were selected, Shore Patrol was a duty that was generally despised.
About 1944 a Naval Shore Patrol was established, with a proper rank and promotional system. This was disbanded after the war, to be reintroduced in 1952 with the establishment of a permanent Naval Provost Marshal department.
The Regulating Branch was the basis of disciplinary and preventive policing on board ships in the Royal Canadian Navy. In addition to discipline, Regulators were responsible for issuing stores, general administration, and mail. In each of the two major Royal Canadian Navy Commands, Halifax on the East Coast and Esquimalt on the West Coast, a permanent full time patrol force was organised. These were staffed by members of the Boatswain Trade under the authority of a Naval Provost Marshal on the Flag Officer's staff. If the situation dictated, additional patrolmen might be levied from ships in port. RCN ships in foreign ports contributed volunteers for Shore Patrols, these included men from the Regulating Branch as well as other trades.
Upon Unification, members of the Boatswain Trade, some Regulators and other Officers and Ratings responsible for discipline and policing became part of the Canadian Forces Security Branch.