Canada week continues with a couple of personal favourites. Like the British Royal Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint does history coins very well and coins like these are often overlooked in the clamour for information on the flashy or high-profile licensed designs. These two in particular are superb examples of the genre and while celebrating events from two seperate wars, both look to the sea for inspiration.

First up is a really excellent Merchant Navy design full of action and quite exquisitely done. Perspective, often a problem with ship art, is bang on the mark, the sea and bomb splash look realistic, and the detail is quite sublime. The George IV obverse is a nice change from the usual effigy of Queen Elizabeth II as well. All round a great coin happily devoid of colour or gilding. As a two-ounce fine silver coin it’s the pricier of the two coins here, selling for $169.95 CAD.

The second coin is equally superb and also by Yves Bérubé. Again, the sense of perspective is just perfect and the design very clean, well-struck and of a fascinating subject, early submarines. The outline of Canada’s Pacific coastline is nicely integrated into the scene without spoiling it. The obverse is also a historical one, in this case the effigy of King George V. At just one-ounce in weight, this coin is obviously cheaper, coming in at $89.95 CAD.

Both are available now and listed inexplicably on the RCM website as for sale in the US and Canada only, something that has gone from applying to licensed properties only, to just about everything on the site.



The reverse design by Canadian artist Yves Bérubé features an impeccable combination of expert engraving and beautiful finishes and depicts the dangerous conditions endured by transatlantic ships during the Battle of the Atlantic between 1939 and 1945. It is a calm evening on July 11, 1943; in the foreground, the ocean steamer SS Duchess of York (left) is featured prominently, with a thick plume of steam billowing out from its funnels. Requisitioned as a troopship during the war, the large vessel is part of the convoy dubbed “Faith,” which has been spotted by enemy aircraft off the coast of Spain.

Two Focke-Wulf Fw-200 Kondors have begun their high-level bombardment, with one bomb hitting the water starboard side off the ship’s bow, where detailed engraving adds movement through the motion of the water’s surface. One of the convoy’s escort ships, the Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Iroquois (right), has unleashed anti-aircraft fire but it is all in vain against this airborne attack. While SS Duchess of York and 34 of its crew would be added to the Allied casualties suffered during the Second World War’s Battle of the Atlantic, 628 of its survivors would be rescued and transported to safety by Iroquois.

“The Battle of the Atlantic was not won by any navy or air force, it was won by the courage, fortitude and determination of the British and Allied merchant navy.” – Rear Admiral Leonard Murray, Commander-in-Chief Canadian North Atlantic

From its very onset in September 1939, the Second World War’s longest continuous military campaign was fought in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. During six long years of naval warfare, enemy U-boats and warships targeted Allied transport ships in an attempt to cut off vital Allied supply lines between Europe and North America. A decisive Nazi victory at sea could have starved Great-Britain into submission but Canada’s Merchant Navy would play a central role in maintaining this Atlantic lifeline, which provided much-needed personnel, food, fuel and weapons to the Allied cause in Britain and beyond.

Every available merchant ship would serve as pivotal transports for these supplies, and protecting these ships from the enemy was essential. While the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) could offer protection by air as far as its planes could travel, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) oversaw the placement of these ships into convoys; these column formations were then escorted by armed naval escorts.

This perilous transatlantic journey carried great risk for the merchant mariners who served in Canada’s fleet of transport ships. Knowing that their non-military vessels were key targets, they nonetheless carried out voyage after voyage, transporting vital supplies and dangerous cargo around the world through treacherous ocean passages and harsh conditions, ever vigilant of the constant enemy threat from above or below.

At first, the Allies suffered devastating losses as U-boats were relentless, operating in groups
(or “wolf packs”) to torpedo convoy ships. Many of these ships were lost in the North Atlantic, in an area nicknamed the “black pit” that was beyond the reach of Allied aircraft; others were sunk off the shores of South America and Africa. It also brought the war to Canadian shores as several ships fell prey to attack in Canadian waters, leading to the temporary closure of the St Lawrence River and Gulf of
St. Lawrence to transatlantic shipping.

In the spring of 1943, the tide began to turn; Canada’s shipbuilding industry was turning out new ships (including the famous corvettes), and Allied escort ships were better equipped and manned with experienced crews. Fast ships were positioned to come to the aid of a threatened convoy; small flight decks were added to merchant ships, allowing three or four aircraft to serve as additional defence and British Intelligence had finally cracked the secret code used by U-boat commanders.

The Battle of the Atlantic continued on for two more years, until the very end of the war. Merchant ships made more than 25,000 voyages between 1939 and 1945, delivering 165 million tonnes of cargo overseas. In spite of the perilous task at hand, the heroism of these 12,000 Canadian men and women made an immeasurable contribution to the Allied war effort at home and abroad, and has left a proud legacy for all Canadians to remember.

“…we think with special gratitude of the many merchant seamen who have fallen in the fight and whose service and sacrifice will always be a proud memory.” – Lord Leathers, Ministry of War Transport

Did you know…
•    Merchant ships made more than 25,000 voyages between 1939 and 1945, delivering 165 million tonnes of cargo overseas in convoy formations that were defended by armed naval escorts.
•    On June 15, 1940, the Erik Boye became the first Canadian-flagged merchant ship sunk during the Battle of the Atlantic.
•    Attacks took place in the waters of the Caribbean and along the eastern seaboard—including the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which led to the closure of the St. Lawrence to all transatlantic shipping from 1942 to 1944.
•    U-boats engaged in a “wolf pack” tactic of congregating as a group in the path of an oncoming convoy, then unleashing a mass attack to overwhelm the escort ships.
•    Losses in the Battle of the Atlantic reached their peak in March 1943. Two months later, in
May 1943, Allied forces turned the table destroying more than two dozen U-boats, forcing their temporary withdrawal from the North Atlantic; May 1943 is thus celebrated as the “turning point” of the Battle of the Atlantic.
•    The range reached by Allied aircraft was limited during the early years, leaving convoys without an air escort for part of the journey; flight decks were later added onto merchant ships to create Merchant Aircraft Carriers (MACs) that would allow them to carry three or four aircraft for added airborne defence.
•    When war was declared, Canada had 38 ocean-going merchant vessels; by 1945, Canada’s shipyards had built 410, at a peak rate of almost two merchant ships per week in 1944. Canada’s dedication to creating a merchant fleet made it the 4th largest during the war.
$30 CANADIAN 0.9999 SILVER 62.27 g 54.00 mm PROOF 5,000 YES / YES





The reverse design by Yves Bérubé highlights the importance of the addition of two submarines to the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet in August of 1914. The CC Class submarine is prominently featured in the centre of the image, its hull pointed forward towards the viewer as though emerging from the image. The vessel’s keel and diving planes can be seen below the surface of the water; above, a sailor stands on the deck in front of the conning tower as he surveys the horizon. In the background to the right of the submarine, a beautifully detailed map of British Columbia’s coastline looms large; this added element provides geographical context to the story of Canada’s first submarines, which were used to patrol the coastline depicted here.

On the eve of the First World War, the Royal Canadian Navy was still in its infancy with fewer than 350 sailors to its name, and a fleet that centered around two ageing cruisers. The looming threat of war heightened fears about a possible enemy naval threat, particularly in British Columbia; but a unique opportunity in the summer of 1914 would allow Canada to acquire its first submarines—one of which is depicted in this stunning coin.

In the summer of 1914, amidst increasing concerns about Canada’s defensive vulnerabilities, a unique opportunity came to the attention of Sir Richard McBride, the Premier of British Columbia. Two submarines had been built in Seattle, Washington, for the Chilean government; but when payment was stopped, J.V. Paterson, president of the Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, was keen to sell these unwanted submarines to the highest bidder.

McBride saw these as valuable contribution fo the fleet stationed on the West Coast—not to mention a boon to his province’s coastal defences. A flurry of meetings and negotiations ensued, but timing was of the essence: a declaration of war was imminent, and the United States’ own pending declaration of neutrality would prevent the sale of military provisions to countries at war, which would include Canada.

While London and Ottawa struggled to organize the funds in time for the purchase, and with time running out, McBride made the decision to purchase the submarines using provincial funds. He agreed to Paterson’s terms: cash on delivery to the sum of roughly $1,150,000—twice the Royal Canadian Navy’s entire budget at that time.

On August 4, 1914, just hours before war was declared, the submarines quietly slipped out to sea under the cover of darkness and fog, and arrived at Esquimalt, B.C. on the morning of August 5. The affair was conducted so quickly that a formal approval had not yet been received from Ottawa, although Prime Minister Robert Borden would later telegraph a congratulatory message to McBride: “we appreciate most warmly your action which will greatly tend to increase security on the Pacific coast…” On August 7, the Government of Canada purchased the submarines from the Government of British Columbia, and the Royal Canadian Navy now had its first submarines.


Did you know…
• The CC-1 and CC-2 were designed to reach speeds of 13 knots at the surface and 10 knots when submerged; their displacement measured 313 tons when surfaced and 421 submerged.
• The CC-1 measured nearly 44 metres long (144 feet in length) with five torpedo tubes; with its tapered bow, the CC-2 was longer in length at just over 46 metres (or 152 feet) long and had three torpedo tubes.
• Neither submarine had a deck gun, which meant torpedoes were their only weapon. Unfortunately, these weren’t included in the sale and had to be sent across the country from Halifax!
• In 1917, the CC-1 and CC-2 were the first warships of the British Empire to pass through the Panama Canal.
• Sadly, the 1917 voyage to Halifax proved too challenging for both submarines, particularly for their engines—they were declared unfit for service upon arrival, and would be sold for scrap in 1920.
$20 CANADIAN 0.9999 SILVER 31.39 g 38.00 mm PROOF 7,500 YES / YES