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Warship Wednesday3rd April 2024

HMC Submarine OKANAGAN – Chatham’s Last Warship

HMC Submarine OKANAGAN was the last warship and the 57th submarine to be built at Chatham Dockyard. However, it was not for the Royal Navy.


The Royal Canadian Navy obtained their first two submarines through a clandestine meeting in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (the seaway that separates Canada from the United States), just before the outbreak of the First World War.

The provincial government of British Columbia paid $1,200,000 for two new CC class submarines of the Holland type, built by Seattle Con. & DD, Co, each displacing 421 tons submerged; the submarines had been ordered and constructed for Chile.

The Canadian government later ratified the purchase and the Canadian Submarine Service was born.


On 11 April 1962, the Canadian Minister of National Defence announced the procurement of three submarines for the Royal Canadian Navy. All three were to be of the Oberon Class and to be built in Great Britain.

The first patrol submarine obtained from the Royal Navy construction programme was HMCS OJIBWA. Laid down at Chatham originally as HMS Onyx, but launched on 29th February 1964 as HMCS OJIBWA. (HMS ONYX was later built by Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead and launched on 18th August 1966).

Between 25 March and 25 September 1965, OKANAGAN and ONONDAGA were under construction side-by-side on No 7 Slip.


OKANAGAN was the last of three Oberon-class submarines built at Chatham for the Royal Canadian Navy. The previous two were HMCS OJIBWA (commissioned September 1965) and HMCS ONONDAGA (commissioned June 1967).

HMCS OKANAGAN was 294ft in length overall x 26.5ft wide with a displacement of 2,200 tons (normal surface) and 2,420 tons submerged. The submarine complement was 65 men, (7 officers and 58 ratings).


OKANAGAN was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy at Chatham Dockyard on 22nd June 1968. At the ceremony, Rear Admiral J C O’Brien, Commander of Canadian Maritime Command told the audience:

“It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to me that the entire programme for the Royal Canadian Navy was completed within the target dates and, even more in these days of severe financial constraints, within the ship construction costs estimated at the time of negotiating the acquisition agreement. …

The staffs of the Royal Dockyard and the Canadian Navy Representative can be justifiably proud of this achievement.”

On May 31 1968, Chatham Dockyard held a special dance in honour of the officers and crew of HMCS OKANAGAN and the staff of the Canadian Naval Submarine Technical Representative Cdr. D E Galbraith.

HMCS OKANAGAN paid off in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 14 September 1998.

Further Reading

Periscope references:

Editions of Periscope can be viewed within The Dockyard’s Reading Room.

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