Skip to content

The cool confidence

May 21, 2011

In March of 1885 JSK de Knevett wrote from his haunts in Paris, Boulevard de la Madeleine,  to the editor of the British Colonist in Victoria, Vancouver Island, expressing his concern over the defences of British Columbia, a continuation of the overriding angst afflicting the psyche of New Westminster since its founding by Colonel RC Moody as a Capital and fortress city, whether the perceived enemy was the Americans, as at the beginning, or the Fenians, always, . . .or this time, the Russians, ominously close, with a naval fleet at Vladivostok, "which has for its holy mission the destruction of England’s maritime prestige."

"The probability of a war between England and Russia is a very vital and important question to British Columbia.  . .What have we to depend upon for out defence?  The British fleet at Esquimalt and our batteries manned by the militia.
But the fleet has to defend the whole coast up to Alaska . . . Our only defence would then consist in the batteries, and notwithstanding the skill and pluck of our artillery, aided by riflemen, recent experiences in Egypt and China prove the superiority of iron-clads against forts. . .
Let us have three torpedo boats . . . let a special corps of volunteers or militia be trained in the use and management of these powerful engines of destruction, and then we can wait in the cool confidence of men prepared at all points the attack of the Russian or any other hostile fleet."

In October 1885  Joseph Sexton Knevett de Knevett was back on these colonial shores, making a return visit to British Columbia coincident with the visit of the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Governor General of Canada. His arrival on the Mainland was noted in the press.

"JSK DeKnevett, Esq., a well-known citizen, who is Agent-General for the Province in Europe, arrived yesterday from the East, and was heartily welcomed by a host of friends."

Since leaving British Columbia,

"Mr De Knevett has visited Asia Minor, Egypt, and other countries of the east. Mrs De Knevett, whose health is poor, is in France."

The Governor General, at a reception in New Westminster, spoke of the benefits of the sparkling new fish hatchery on the Fraser River at Bon Accord, while dashing cool water on the fortress aspirations of the Royal City.  Noting "the defenceless condition of the mainland," he was pleased that "Burrard Inlet has been recommended as the best adapted for the establishment of BC defences,"  leaving only a wish and a hope,

"that means may be found also for the efficient defence of Fraser River and this city."


Seymour Artillery Albert Crescent New Westminster New Westminster had two field pieces provided by Great Britain in 1865. By the time this photo was taken, one was missing a wheel. The guns were manned by the militia, which practiced by taking aim at targets across the river.




Out of action the guns continued to occupy a prominent place on the heights overlooking the Fraser.

Cannon above Fraser River

Cannon at Albert Crescent above Fraser River

The two cannon were later moved to the riverfront at Westminster Quay before being removed and completely refurbished. They now defend the City Hall on Royal Avenue.

Cannon at New Westminster City Hall







Mark on cannon, New Westminster City Hall

Cannon at New Westminster City Hall

No comments yet


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s