HMCS Niobe

There have been three units named Niobe in the Royal Canadian Navy.

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HMCS Niobe (1st of name) / Diadem-class Protected Cruiser

HMCS Niobe

HMS Niobe, a Diadem-class protected cruiser, was transferred from the Royal Navy as one of the first ships of the newly-created Royal Canadian Navy. As HMS Niobe, she had had a distinguished record during the Boer War, earning her crew the Queen’s South Africa medal. During RN service she visited Halifax, most notably as escort to the Prince of Wales embarked in the Royal Yacht Ophir in October 1901.

Commissioned for service in the RCN on 16 September 1910, HMCS Niobe did not legally become an HMC Ship until arrival in Halifax on 21 October 1910. Niobe was almost lost during the night of 30-31 July 1911 when she went aground off Cape Sable, necessitating repairs that were not completed until the end of 1912 and that permanently reduced her maximum speed. In the fall of 1914, after the ravages of two years’ disuse had been made good, she joined the RN’s 4th Cruiser Squadron on contraband patrol off New York.

Worn out, she returned to Halifax on 17 July 1915, never to put to sea again. After being paid off, she became a depot ship. Her upperworks were wrecked in the Halifax explosion of 6 December 1917, but she continued to serve as a depot ship until 1920, when she was sold for scrap. Niobe was broken up at Philadelphia two years later.

HMCS Niobe (2nd of name) / Shore establishment

HMCS Niobe Greenock Base

By late 1940 nearly all RCN destroyers were based in Britain on loan to the Royal Navy, and the RCN corvettes were expected in Britain a few months later. But there was no RCN manning depot in Britain, so relief personnel for RCN ships had to come from the RN. This situation could not continue for long and so HMCS Dominion was commissioned. It was originally in Devonport, UK, but its location changed several times, and it was located in Plymouth by the time it was paid off. This establishment combined the new manning pool and the RCN pay offices already in Britain. By March 1941, the name Dominion was proving to be something of a problem as it was being confused with the cable address of the High Commissioner, “Dominion London.” Dominion was paid off and recommissioned as HMCS Niobe.

By June of 1941, however, the effective range of German U-boats extended across the North Atlantic. Most of the RCN’s destroyers and corvettes were needed back in Canada to protect vital shipping. It was felt that the manning depot was no longer needed in Britain and Niobe was paid off. This decision was ultimately reversed, as the remaining Canadian corvettes faced a number of serious difficulties without the manning depot. Niobe would be recommissioned in Greenock, UK, on 15 December 1941 and would be paid off after the war.

HMCS Niobe (3rd of name) / Shore establishment

Badge of the HMCS Niobe

After the Second World War the relationship between the RCN and the Royal Navy in Britain remained important, even if they were not coordinating their operations as closely as they had been in wartime. It was decided to station a Senior Canadian Naval Officer in London. This officer served as the senior naval attaché and advisor in the UK, the primary link between the RN and the RCN, and as the commander of all Canadian naval personnel in the UK. This officer was accordingly commissioned as the “ship” HMCS Niobe. As part of the process of the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, this role became part of the Canadian Defence Liaison Staff. HMCS Niobe was paid off on 1 April 1966, but the date was made retroactive to 1965.

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