|HMCS Captor, Saint John, New Brunswick
HMCS Captor / Shore Establishment
Data current to 28 Dec 2020.
RCN Facilities in Saint John Harbour
HMCS Captor was the depot ship for the RCN dock facilities at Saint John, NB, in the Second World War. Saint John was too far from the main operations areas to be one of the RCN’s major Atlantic bases, and its position and facilities meant that it was not suitable for convoy assembly. The facilities, including two dry docks, were much better suited for loading and ship-repair, and, as it was a year-round port, these capacities saw extensive use during the winter months of the first two years of the war, when Montreal was closed by ice.
By late 1942, with the increased threat of German U-Boats in the Atlantic, it was decided to close the St. Lawrence to all but essential coastal shipping. This meant that the loading of ships with supplies for Britain and Europe that had been done in Montreal was moved to Saint John, which began to operate year-round again. The base facilities were expanded as well, and Saint John became a significant centre for the repair and refit of vessels, particularly merchant vessels which were more capable of navigating the high tides and narrow approach to the port.
HMCS Captor II had been a dredge belonging to the Department of Public Works before being taken over by the RCN for use as a floating barracks. Captor II also served as the depot ship for Saint John, NB. RCN and RCNVR personnel were ‘stationed’ to Captor II for accounting purposes. This included the Naval Officer in Command (NOIC) of Saint John. Despite what some other sources have stated, the NOIC Saint John was not associated with HMCS Captor I, which was a small examination vessel that served as a tender to both HMCS Venture and HMCS Captor II.
In the summer of 1942, the dredge was condemned by the medical authorities. By 8 September 1942 everyone was moved to accommodations on shore. The dredge was turned over to the Department of Munitions and Supply as PWD Dredge No.1. While she could no longer serve as a barracks, the name was kept for the Saint John depot ‘ship.’ She became known simply as Captor, as did the examination vessel. Plans were drawn up for a new barracks and office space at Reed’s Point, NB, in June 1942. Construction did not begin until the spring of 1943, however, and the staff of HMCS Captor did not move in until January of 1944.
At the end of the European war, HMCS Captor was merged with the reserve division HMCS Brunswicker. The position of NOIC Saint John was eliminated on 1 January 1946 as the Navy reduced its shore establishments.
Date commissioned: 3 December 1939
Date paid off: 30 September 1945.
On the outbreak of war, office space was rented in the city, and, on 26 Sep 1941, Dredge No. 1, a disused barge of the Department of Public Works was taken over as a naval barracks. Renamed "Captor II", it remained in service until the summer of 1942 when it was condemned by the medical authorities. Its name, however, lived on as that of the depot ship at Saint John. Wharfage was leased at Reed's Point, and a number of small sheds nearby were rented to provide storage space, workshops, and offices. In June 1942, the Naval Service approved plans to set up a small "naval centre" at Saint John which would occupy two buildings, one to contain administrative offices and officers' quarters, and the other to serve as a barracks and sick bay. Construction was not undertaken until the spring of 1943, however; and even then progress was very slow owing to the acute shortage of manpower, aggravated by an urgent need for longshoremen during that busy year. It was not until the end of January 1944 that the staff of HMCS Captor II moved into the new barracks at Reed's Point. In September 1945, Captor II was merged with the naval reserve division HMCS Brunswicker.