Winnipeg’s Navy Gets a New Name and a New Building
In 1942, the barracks on Ellice avenue became crowded, as hundreds of fresh recruits were being sought in Winnipeg. A deal was made to purchase the Winnipeg Winter Club on 51 Smith Street for $256,000. The money was to be invested in Victory Bonds, to help the war effort, and would later be reinvested into building a new Winter Club. This deal was sealed in October of 1942, and coincident to the move to 51 Smith Street the naval establishment in Winnipeg became known as His Majesty’s Canadian Ship CHlPPAWA.
This gave Winnipeg’s Naval Division identity. The name HMCS CHIPPAWA quickly became a proud name within Winnipeg’s military community, and remains so today.
HMCS CHIPPAWA is named after the vessel which led the line of Commander Robert Heriot Barclay into action again the Americans at the Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813.
The ship had been built by the Americans at Maumee in 1810, was captured by the British shortly after the war began, and renamed HM Schooner CHIPPAWA. The schooner was 35-tonne and had a crew of fifteen. By best estimate, she was commanded by John Campbell, a Provincial Marine Lieutenant. (Other references list her Commander as Frederic Rolette or Brenner) Her armament varied from two 8-inch howitzers to her final configuration on the day of battle of one 9 pounder mounted on a swivel. CHIPPAWA was captured by the Americans during the battle, and was later destroyed at the capture of Buffalo, Dec 30th 1813.
The ship itself derived its name from the Indian tribe which inhabited the area near the Saulte at the west end of Lake Superior. The name “Chippawa” is a popular adaptation of Ojibway, which means “to roast til puckered up” and refers to the puckered seam on the moccasins of the tribe. Chippawa warriors equalled in appearance the best formed of the northwest Indians. They were mainly a timber people, through long friendly with the whites.
The actual spelling of the name lies somewhere between “Chippeawa” and “Ojibwas” and is not easy for white men to pronounce. Variations found in record are Chepawas, Chepeways, Cheppewes, Cheapawawas, Chipaweighs, Chippawees, Chippeways, Chippewas and Cypoways.
It was under the name of HMCS CHIPPAWA that Winnipeg’s Naval Reserve made its greatest contribution. During the Second World War, CHIPPAWA recruited a total of 297 officers and 7,567 men, as well as the second-largest contingent of WRENS (Women’s Royal Naval Service) in the country, HMCS CHIPPAWA became the third greatest source of naval personnel in Canada, despite being the farthest inland.