Percy Walker Nelles

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Percy Walker Nelles (born on January 7 1892 in the Dominion of Canada) is a Canadian officer and the current Chief of the Naval Staff.

Early Life

Percy Nelles was born on January 7 1892 in Brantford, Ontario, the son of Charles Nelles, an officer in the Royal Canadian Dragoons. When he was 16 years old, Percy Nelles decided to embrace a military career but did not intend to follow his father into the army and chose the navy instead. Therefore, his father Charles applied to the minister of Marine and Fisheries for a cadet placement for his son in the proposed Canadian naval service. Sir Charles Kingsmill had just arrived to militarize the Fisheries Protection Service, and announced that the FPS would accept two cadets. Kingsmill had already accepted a youth named F.A. Campbell, so Nelles was actually the second cadet entered for service in the soon-to-be Canadian Navy. But Campbell withdrew, making Nelles the entire class of 1908.

Military Career

The Royal Canadian Navy was formally established on May 4 1910 and on June 26 Percy Nelles and the cadets of the classes of 1909-10 were appointed to HMCS Niobe as midshipmen, although they had to wait until October for the ship to arrive in Halifax. When both the cruiser and the navy itself (metaphorically) ran aground in 1911, Nelles and his classmates were sent overseas to complete their training. Percy Nelles continued training, and served aboard several ships, until serving as a staff officer at Naval Service Headquarters (NSHQ) from 1917-23 and he attained the rank of lieutenant-commander in 1922.

Following the Royal Navy's staff officer technical course in late 1929, Percy Nelles landed the best sea-going job of his career when he was appointed executive officer of the Bermuda-based cruiser HMS Dragon in 1930. During the summer of 1931, Dragon was set off to reunite with the main Canadian fleet that was engaging inconclusive skirmishes with the Syndicalist Navy in the Atlantic. However, one night they were ambushed by an enemy submarine that managed to hit them with a torpedo before disappearing. The damaged was not serious, but the captain, L.H.B. Bevan, died in the attack. As the executive officer, Nelles immediately assumed temporary command. However, the Admiralty did not consider abandoning the cruise: Nelles was appointed acting captain and continued Dragon's program. At the end of 1931 he assumed the position of senior officer, Canadian Destroyer Flotilla, and spent a half a year at sea before being assigned commander-in-charge of HMCS Stadacona, at the navy's East Coast base, in June 1932.

In 1934 Nelles was made a commodore and subsequently appointed as Chief of the Naval Staff. From that position, he was responsible for ensuring that the Royal Canadian Navy could withstand the expansion program pushed by the Prime Minister, that despite the opposition of Nelles believed that the use of modern submarines could be the key to reconquer the Home Isles. Nelles had to comply, but he also succesfully managed in forcing the inclusion of large and modern fleet carriers.

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