Armed Yacht




HMCS GRILSE, seen here steaming at high speed

From the collection of Richard Pearson / Courtesy of Jeffrey Read

Click on the above photo to view a larger image



Commissioned: 15 Jul 1915

Paid off: 10 Dec 1918

Fate: Foundered in a hurricane 21 Sep 1938


Built by Yarrow & Co., Glasgow, Scotland, HMCS GRILSE was the Royal Canadian Navy's closest ship to a destroyer during the First World War. In Jun 1915, millionaire Jack Ross purchased the Winchester, one of the fastest civilian yachts in existence, from the United States and brought it to Canada. Commissioned as HMCS GRILSE in Jul 1915, and with Ross in command, the ship was refitted and armed at the Canadian Vickers shipyard in Montreal before sailing to Halifax to start carrying out patrols. Easily the fastest ship in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), GRILSE could reach speeds of more than 30 knots (55 km/h).  Since she was unsuited for winter service in Canadian waters, GRILSE left Halifax on 11 Dec 1916, for the Caribbean and was reported lost in a storm. She turned up at Shelburne, N.S. three days later, however, having lost 6 men who were washed overboard during the storm. After several months' refit GRILSE resumed her patrol duties until she was paid off on 10 Dec 1918. An effort was made to sell her in 1920, but no adequate bid was received, and during 1921-22 she was attached to a youth training establishment in Halifax dockyard. In 1922 she was sold to Solomon Guggenheim, who renamed her Trillora, and was still in his possession when, on 21 Sep 1938, she foundered at her jetty, in a hurricane at Roslyn, Long Island Sound.



Photos and Documents          Ship's company photos



Commanding Officers


Lt John Kenneth Leveson Ross, RCNVR - 15 Jul 1915 - 15 Jul 1916

Lt W. Wingate, RCNVR - 16 Jul 1916 - 10 Jan 1917

Cdr J.T. Shenton, RCN - 10 May 1917 - 25 May 1917

LCdr Wilfred Tyrrel Walker, RCN - 26 May 1917 - 16 Dec 1917

Lt Herbert Henry De Lally Wood, RCNVR - 17 Dec 1917 - 16 Jan 1918

Mate Thomas Charles M. Cotton, RCNVR - 17 Jan 1918 - 11 Feb 1918

LCdr Wilfred Tyrrel Walker, RCN - 12 Feb 1918 - 05 May 1918

Lt Arthur Francis Thomas - 06 May 1918 - 10 Dec 1918



     In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice    

     Lest We Forget     


ASHWIN, Gilbert


MPK - 12 Dec 1916



MPK - 12 Dec 1916

HARRIS, Albert J.


MPK - 12 Dec 1916


Signalman, RCN

MPK - 12 Dec 1916

TRIMBEE, Walter E.


MPK - 12 Dec 1916




Artificer Engineer, RCN

MPK - 12 Dec 1916





     In memory of those who have crossed the bar    

They shall not be forgotten


Agnew, Ronald Ian


Colquhoun, James

Cotton, Thomas Charles Moore


6th Commanding Officer

Ford, Alan B.

Fry, Cyril M.

Hunt, Herbert Walter


Drafted to GRILSE 03 Jul 1918 as Slt, RNCVR

Keohane, James W.

Kerr, John Matthews


Drafted to GRILSE 01 May 1918 as Mate, RNCVR

McLean, Simon Alexander


Drafted to GRILSE 16 May 1917 and 01 May 1918 as W. Op 3rd Cl, RNCVR

Pearson, Richard D.

Penny, Joseph

Roberts, Thomas

Smith, Herbert Edgar


Drafted to GRILSE 11 May 1917 as W. Op 4th Cl, RNCVR, and 01 May 1918 as W. Op 3rd Cl, RNCVR

Swarbrick, Frederick A.

Walker, Wilfred Tyrrel


4th Commanding Officer

7th Commanding Officer

Wingate, Walter

Wood, Herbert Henry De Lally


5th Commanding Officer






Photos and Documents


HMCS GRILSE - undated

HMCS GRILSE in Bedford Basin 1916


In this 1916 photograph, HMCS GRILSE is tied up at a dock in Halifax harbour. Halifax remained Canada's busiest harbour during the First World War, filled with civilian vessels (left) and warships (right) like those seen in the background. Shipments of war supplies, food, and soldiers arrived and left nearly daily. GRILSE was among the Canadian naval vessels involved in protecting ships along Canada's coast against U-Boat attacks. In the fall of 1916, however, GRILSE's high fuel consumption restricted its activities to special patrols to protect important ships.


Source: George Metcalf Archival Collection

CWM 19940001-943

Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum

Article on HMCS GRILSE, believed to have foundered in a storm


Dec 1916


Source: Facebook post of Barry Archer

HMCS GRILSE - date unknown

HMCS GRILSE firing a torpedo


This rare colourized photograph captures the launch of a torpedo from HMCS GRILSE, a civilian yacht converted to a quick torpedo boat for patrol and escort duties. The torpedo tube seen here (centre) and two 12-pounder guns were the ship's main armament. Like the guns, the torpedo tube could be rotated to aim the weapon at enemy ships. A spare torpedo for reloading the tube can be seen in the foreground. By the time of this photograph, newer, larger and more powerful torpedoes were in widespread service, but GRILSE's 14-inch models could still inflict significant damage.


Source: George Metcalf Archival Collection

CWM 19940001-948_1

Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum

Torpedo Practice, HMCS GRILSE


These photographs show HMCS GRILSE taking part in a torpedo firing exercise, a type of practice important for maintaining the ship's fighting efficiency. The photographs at top right and bottom left show one of GRILSE's torpedoes being fired. Torpedoes were expensive and complicated weapons, and every effort was made to recover them after test firing. "Practice heads" made the torpedoes float at the end of their runs so that they could be recovered easily by small boats like the one seen at bottom right.


Source: George Metcalf Archival Collection

CWM 19940001-947

Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum

Two crew members of HMCS GRILSE


Sailor Isaac Ernest Brown (right) and an unidentified comrade pose on the open bridge of HMCS GRILSE. Brown, on the right, rests his hand on the ship's wheel. The other sailor rests his right hand on the bridge telegraph, which sent a signal to the engine room to reduce or increase speed, or to reverse the engines. GRILSE, built as a civilian yacht, retained its open bridge after conversion to a torpedo boat. Without protection, the bridge could be a wet and miserable place when GRILSE ventured out to sea.


Source: George Metcalf Archival Collection

CWM 19820331-005

Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum

Sailors of HMCS GRILSE


Jack Ross (left), seen here with armed members of HMCS GRILSE's crew including one carrying a cutlass (right), purchased the GRILSE for Canadian naval service. Deemed medically unfit for overseas army service, Ross, one of the wealthiest men in Canada, sought a place in the navy by obtaining fast American yachts for the Canadian government. After purchasing the first vessel, which became HMCS Tuna, he was appointed a naval lieutenant. In 1915, Ross acquired another yacht, which became GRILSE, a ship he would command from October 1915 to July 1916.


Source: George Metcalf Archival Collection

CWM 19940001-945

Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum