Percy Walker Nelles, born in Brantford,
Ontario, on January 7th, 1892, died in Victoria,
British Columbia, on June 13, 1951. Officer
of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).
P.W. Nelles and Hon. Angus McDonald,
Minister of National Defence for
Naval Services, taking a look
at the model of a corvette at
Naval Exhibition, December 1942.
of National Defence / National
Archives of Canada, PA-134335.
In 1910, the year the Royal Canadian Navy
was created, young cadet Percy Nelles was
appointed midshipman on HMCS Niobe. This
was the beginning of Nelles’ outstanding
career; he was to receive increasingly important
postings with the RCN, as well as with the
Royal Navy. Put in command of the British
cruiser HMS Dragon in 1929, he was the first
Canadian in charge of a major British ship.
Two years later, he took command of HMCS
Saguenay, the first destroyer especially
built for the Canadian Navy. He is made
a commodore in 1934 and appointed as Chief
of the Naval Staff.
In that capacity, he was responsible for
ensuring that the RCN would withstand the
economic difficulties brought by the Depression.
But he faced an even greater challenge in
1939: planning and driving the RCN’s
rapid development, under pressure from the
Canadian government and from Allied nations
as well. In January 1944, following a disagreement
with the Minister of Defence for Naval Services,
the Honourable Angus L. Macdonald, Nelles
was sent to London as Overseas Naval Attaché,
in charge of coordinating RCN operations
for the planned landing on French shores.
Following the success of that last mission,
Nelles retired from the Navy in January
1945, as an admiral.