1878 - 1893


 6-inch disappearing gun in the Menzies Street drill hall, 1897.

It was not until 1878, however, when a crisis in Anglo­Russian affairs in the Balkans made war appear immi­nent, that the first coast artillery batteries were emplaced. The guns installed in these four batteries were all rifled muzzle loaders, mounted behind earthen ram­parts, to protect both Victoria and Esquimalt harbours.

To man these guns, the Victoria Battery of Garrison Artillery was formed and was officially gazetted as a unit of the Canadian Militia on July 20, 1878. Six days later, the militia gunners fired their first practice round from a 7-inch gun at Macaulay Point. The batteries could only be considered as temporary. Better guns, more carefully sited in strong emplacements and manned by a regular garrison supplemented by well trained local militia artillerymen, were required for per­manent defence.

In 1883, The Victoria Battery of Garrison Artillery was reorganized to form two of the four batteries in a new unit, the British Columbia Provisional Regiment of Garrison Artillery. The decision was also made by the Dominion Government in 1883 to form a third perma­nent force battery as part of the Regiment of Canadian Artillery and to station it at Victoria. C Battery was not formed until 1887, owing to difficulties in recruiting. After arriving, the battery spent much of its time clear­ing the site of its barracks at Work Point and helping with its construction.

C Battery's primary task was to train the local militia. This was a spasmodic affair, as on two occa­sions the battery was away for a number of weeks assisting the civil power to maintain law and order on the Skeena River and at Nanaimo and the battery was short of personnel. Low pay, lack of pensions and better pay­ing local job opportunities all had their effect and few of the men re-enlisted following com­pletion of their first three years of service. Identical factors made it difficult to recruit replace­ments in Victoria. C Battery failed to provide the regular gar­rison needed at Esquimalt.

Throughout the later part of the 1880s, planning for the provision of more extensive and permanent defences continued. Additions to the naval base at Esquimalt, most notably the completion of the graving dock in 1887, further increased its importance to the Royal Navy. Esquimalt's significance in the world-wide system of Imperial defence was also enhanced by the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway line to the west coast. By mid-1888, the British government had formulated a plan for the installation of new, modern coast defence batteries and the provision of a detachment of the Royal Marine Artillery to man them. Although a dead­lock in negotiations with the Canadian government ensued over the cost-sharing formula, an agreement was finally signed in 1893.

The advance party of the Royal Marine Artillery detachment, consisting of 19 men of all ranks, arrived at Victoria on August 18, 1893 and C Battery departed for Quebec the following evening. The remaining 55 members of the detachment arrived March 29, 1894 just in time for the commencement, on April 1, of the five- year agreement between Canada and Britain.