In a little known piece of military history, a number of Marlin lever action 1936 rifles played an unsung role in the defense of Canada’s west coast during World War Two– possibly even staving off a Japanese invasion.
War comes to Vancouver
On the night of June 20, 1942, just off the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, Japanese submarine I-26 surfaced. Just six months before, Canada had been drawn into World War 2 in the Pacific as a British and American ally. Already the country had paid dearly against the Japanese, with nearly 2,000 Canadian regulars of ‘C Force‘ killed or captured in the defense of Hong Kong as part of the Commonwealth garrison in that British colony.
Now, the war had crossed the world’s largest ocean and come to Canada’s doorstep. In just under six minutes, I-26 had fired some 30 84-pound, 5.5-inch artillery shells at the Estevan Point lighthouse. The lighthouse was undamaged and the shells landed harmlessly around the Hesquiat Peninsula of Vancouver Island, but the point had been made.
Canadian Naval staff inspect a Japanese shell from Estevan Point, B.C. Photo: Gerald Thomas Richardson.
The very next day another Japanese sub would surface and bombard Fort Stevens on the Oregon coast. Just a few months earlier, the same thing could be said for Ellwood, California. Already the Japanese were seizing islands in the Aleutians off the coast of Alaska from the Americans. Up and down the West Coast of North America in 1942, there was a real scare of a Japanese invasion.
The country was seen as vulnerable.
What was the PCMR?
On August 12, 1942, just over three weeks after the Vancouver Island attack, the Canadian Army established the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers. The PCMR, as it became known, was formed of local part-time soldiers recruited from along the country’s western frontier. Scattered from Washington State to what was then the Alaska Territory, these men were in large part either too old or too young to be in the regular military. This led to those under 18 and over 45 making up the ranks. However, then as now, the Canadian Pacific coast was made up of rugged outdoorsmen, logger, miners, hunters, and anglers who were skilled with a rifle and well-heeled in taking care of themselves in the wild.
The PCMR were a hardy bunch. Photo: CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum
Over the next three years the PCMR would form some 134 companies and grow to more than 15,000 volunteer soldiers, watching out for Japanese landing parties, saboteurs, and submarines. If things got real, they were expected to pursue small bands of invaders and if confronted with large enemy forces, to head for the hills Wolverines-style and mount a guerrilla campaign until the cavalry could come to the rescue. However, to do any of the above, they needed guns.
Thats where Marlin came in at.
Read the rest in my column at Marlin Forum