Juno Beach Centre | Canada in WWII
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Admiral P.W. Nelles

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).

Rear-Admiral 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.
Department 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.

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