The Pacific Station was created in 1837 as one of the geographical military formations into which the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities. The South America Station was split into the Pacific Station and the South East Coast of America Station.
|Active||South America Station (1826–1837)|
Pacific Station (1837–1905)
|Disbanded||Sunset 1 March 1905|
|Country||United Kingdom and Canada|
|Garrison/HQ||Valparaíso, Chile &|
Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard
|Engagements||Siege of Petropavlovsk|
The British Pacific Squadron was established in 1813 to support British interests along the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean at Valparaíso, Chile. In 1837, when the South America Station was split, this responsibility was passed to the Pacific Station. In 1843, George Paulet, captain of Carysfort, took her out from Valparaíso to Honolulu to demand the islands of the Kingdom of Hawaii for Britain. King Kamehameha III capitulated and signed the islands over to Paulet. In the summer of that year, Rear-Admiral Richard Darton Thomas set out from Valparaíso in Dublin to rein Paulet in. On 31 July 1843, Thomas assured the King that the occupation was over and that there was no British claim over the islands.
In 1842, Pandora was sent north to survey the coast of Vancouver Island and what would become the Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard. During the survey trip, the crew of Pandora found that Esquimalt Harbour had a size and depth suited for use as a Royal Navy harbour. As tensions between Britain and America rose during the Oregon boundary dispute a base at the southern end of Vancouver Island would help strengthen the British claim to all of the island. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ceded control over all of the island to Britain. In 1848, Constance was sent to Esquimalt and was the first vessel to be stationed there. In the summer of 1854, several ships, including President, Pique, Trincomalee, Amphitrite, and Virago set out from Valparaíso and sailed across the Pacific Ocean stopping at the Marquesas Islands then they went on to Honolulu where they met a French fleet of warships. In late August, the combined fleets sailed to Russia to engage in the Siege of Petropavlovsk at which Commander-in-Chief David Price died. Captain Frederick William Erskine Nicolson of Pique was brevetted and took command of the British naval forces from 31 August 1854 until the arrival of the next Commander-in-Chief. In 1855, three "Crimean huts" were built at Esquimalt to serve as a hospital intended to receive wounded from the Crimean War. The huts were the first shore establishment at Esquimalt.
The presence of forests full of straight grained conifers such as the Coast Douglas fir meant that Vancouver Island could provide shipbuilding material suitable for spar making in the age of sail. The later discovery of coal on the island and at Vancouver's Coal Harbour, meant that the area could also serve as a useful resource in the age of steam as well. Rear-Admiral Robert Lambert Baynes, aware of the political importance of maintaining British sovereignty amidst the San Juan Boundary Dispute and the British Columbia gold rushes recommended to the Admiralty a move of the station headquarters from Valparaíso to Esquimalt in November 1859.
By 1865, Esquimalt was recognized as the base headquarters of the Pacific Station. The move from Valparaíso to Esquimalt helped the Pacific Station avoid involvement in the Chincha Islands War (1864–1866) between Spain, Chile, and Peru. Rear-Admiral de Horsey ordered Shah commanded by Frederick Bedford, against the Nicolás de Piérola-led Huáscar in the Battle of Pacocha on 29 May 1877. In that battle, Shah fired two Whitehead torpedoes at Huáscar, but they missed their mark and Huáscar got away.
A graving dock large enough to accommodate the largest ships in the Pacific fleet was commissioned at Esquimalt in 1887. After a period of relaxing tensions meant that British interests in British Columbia were secured, the Station was maintained to counter Russian ambitions in the Pacific. The Station was also crucial in defending British Columbia from United States aggression during the Spanish–American War of 1898 and the contemporaneous Alaska Boundary Dispute, when the US threatened to forcibly invade and annex British Columbia if its demands over Alaska were not met.
By the end of the 19th century, improved communications, the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the need to concentrate warships in British waters to counter the developing German High Seas Fleet, meant that the station was closed down at sunset on 1 March 1905. Esquimalt Royal Navy Dockyard was transferred to the Canadian Department of Marine and Fisheries. The Pacific Station's responsibilities were divided between the China, Australia and the North America and West Indies Stations.
After passage of the Naval Service Act in 1910, there was a Canadian Naval Service that controlled the base at Esquimalt and that service became the Royal Canadian Navy in 1911. In the 1960s, the amalgamation of defence services in Canada led to its re-constitution as Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt that includes HMC Dockyard.
Most commanders-in-chief of the station held the rank of rear admiral, with the exceptions of Hamond and Hastings who were each promoted to vice admiral before being reassigned to other duties, and Goodrich who was a commodore.
|List of Commanders-in-chief, Pacific Station (1837–1905)|
|Commander in Chief, Pacific||From||Until||Notes|
|Rear Admiral Charles Ross||1837||1841|
|Rear Admiral Richard Thomas||5 May 1841||1844||Promoted to Admiral of the White 19 May 1857|
|Rear Admiral George Seymour||14 May 1844||25 August 1847||Appointed Admiral of the Fleet 30 November 1866|
|Rear Admiral Phipps Hornby||25 August 1847||21 August 1850|
|Rear Admiral Fairfax Moresby||21 August 1850||17 August 1853||Stationed at Valparaíso also visited Vancouver. Appointed Admiral of the Fleet 21 January 1870|
|Rear Admiral David Price||17 August 1853||30 August 1854||Died at the Siege of Petropavlovsk|
|Rear Admiral Henry Bruce||25 November 1854||8 July 1857|
|Rear Admiral Robert Baynes||8 July 1857||5 May 1860|
|Rear Admiral Thomas Maitland||5 May 1860||31 October 1862||Appointed Admiral of the Fleet 27 December 1877|
|Rear Admiral John Kingcome||31 October 1862||10 May 1864||After whom Kingcome Inlet is named, flagship was HMS Sutlej|
|Rear Admiral Henry Denham||10 May 1864||21 November 1866|
|Vice Admiral George Hastings||21 November 1866||1 November 1869||Promoted to Vice Admiral 10 September 1869|
|Rear Admiral Arthur Farquhar||1 November 1869||9 July 1872||An investor in the coal mines of Robert Dunsmuir|
|Rear Admiral Charles Hillyar||9 July 1872||6 June 1873||Son of James Hillyar|
|Rear Admiral Arthur Cochrane||6 June 1873||15 April 1876||Son of Thomas Cochrane|
|Rear Admiral George Hancock||15 April 1876||August 1876|
|Rear Admiral Algernon de Horsey||20 September 1876||21 July 1879||Promoted to Vice Admiral 27 November 1879. Promoted to Admiral 29 April 1885.|
|Rear Admiral Frederick Stirling||21 July 1879||10 December 1881|
|Rear Admiral Algernon Lyons||10 December 1881||13 September 1884|
|Rear Admiral John Baird||13 September 1884||4 July 1885|
|Rear Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour||4 July 1885||20 September 1887|
|Rear Admiral Algernon Heneage||20 September 1887||4 February 1890|
|Rear Admiral Charles Hotham||4 February 1890||4 May 1893|
|Rear Admiral Henry Stephenson||4 May 1893||19 June 1896|
|Rear Admiral Henry Palliser||19 June 1896||22 June 1899|
|Rear Admiral Lewis Beaumont||22 June 1899||15 October 1900|
|Rear Admiral Andrew Bickford||1900||1903||Builder of the Bickford tower. Promoted to Vice Admiral 10 February 1904.|
|Commodore James Goodrich||1903||1 March 1905||Last Royal Navy commander.|
The largest remnant of the Pacific Station is the CFB Esquimalt naval base in western Canada. Many geographical features of Vancouver Island and British Columbia are named after captains, commanders, and ships assigned to the Pacific Station. The Arco Británico triumphal arch in Valparaíso was constructed to commemorate the British presence in the city, including several Naval commanders. Thomas Square in Honolulu is named after Admiral Richard Darton Thomas. Although Union Flags were flown over Hawaii as early as 1816, the current state flag of Hawaii design dates from the close of the Paulet Affair and features a British Union Flag in its canton to commemorate the help that Thomas rendered the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Charles Darwin's visits to Valparaíso, Cerro La Campana, and the Galápagos Islands led to publication of The Voyage of the Beagle which, along with later works such as On the Origin of Species, helped to establish the field of evolutionary biology.
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