BRAS D'OR R-103 (renamed BADDECK)

Hydrofoil development took place in Canada in the 1900's by Alexander Graham Bell and 'Casey' Baldwin. They built a number of experimental "Hydrodomes" and Bell named them (he called aeroplanes 'aerodromes'). It was after Bell's death that Baldwin tried to interest the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy in fast naval craft, but they only initially showed interest in high speed towed targets using the hydrofoil system. It was after WW2 that the RCN and the RN agreed to fund an experimental hydrofoil closely based on the design of the more successful small manned version named KC-B (Casey Baldwin) or Wassawippi as she was known locally. Her designation number being R-100. The final foil design was the one that Saunders-Roe (Isle of Wight) used as a basis for the design of the 59 ft long SARO (Anglesey) built hydrofoil R-103 in the mid 1950's.

R-103 BRAS D'OR was equipped with Monel ladder foils and powered by twin marinised Rolls Royce Griffon engines driving twin contra-rotating propellers at the base of the central 'skeg' via bevel gearboxes. She was launched in May 1957, underwent sea trials on the Menai Strait in May and arrived in Canada in July where she went into the Royal Canadian Navy although never commissioned as a warship. R-103 BRAS D'OR was subsequently re-named BADDECK in 1962 in anticipation of the construction of the proposed larger HMCS Bras d'Or FHE-400 which was to be given the name in the late 1960's.

R-103 BADDECK retired from the Canadian Forces in 1973 and was later acquired by the Canadian Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa where she remains in storage without her three foils and central skeg. No restoration has yet taken place.

Bras D'Or ready to leave workshop 1957 


Finishing work on the front Vee ladder foils made of Monel metal.

Monel is a corrosion resistant alloy of 65-70% Nickel, 20-29% Copper and approx 5% Iron and Manganese. It is very difficult to machine and work as it readily work hardens. The process of riveting with Monel rivets was one of the considerable diffulties that was finally overcome through the ingenuity of Saunders-Roe engineers. 


Seeing the light of day for the first time 


Rear view clearly shows the extremely narrow transom that was heavily reinforced to carry the steelable rear foil. 


Being reversed ready for rolling through the factory to the slipway


SARO Bras D'Or

Around the corner of Shop 1 with the Mould Loft on the right and Menai Strait beyond. 


 It was during the manual rolling down the works road that they found the brakes were incorrectly adjusted and it began to run away. Quick reactions with a large timber plank halted it.


Clearly showing the narrow hull as Bras D'Or rolls past a pair of MTB's 


Past Fryars House (offices) as she approached the old flying boat slipway 


 The 'bottle breaking' ceremony 1957


On the old flying boat slipway awaiting her dip in the sea. The later slipway was unsitable for launching the hydrofoil as the special launching trolley was required each time she came out of the water.


Close up of front foils


Close up of steering rear foil. Fryars House is in the background.


Easing into the sea 


Local people from Beaumaris, Llanfaes and Llangoed watch the curious new water monster take to the water. 

Down - - 

Down - -  

Down - - . A fine view of the steering gear. 


Finally in the water. An inspector was aboard to check for leaks and was kept busy pumping her out for the next few hours before she came out again! 


Preparing to fire up her twin mighty petrol engines 


Twin Rolls Royce Griffon petrol engines were set in line within the very narrow and cramped hull. 


Each engine drove separate propellers via bevel gear boxes mounted between the two engines. The gearbox output shafts then turned vertically downwards though the 'skeg' to another pair of 90 degree gearboxes that took one drive forwards and the other one aft. Both engines were needed to lift her onto the foils, then one could be backed off or shut down and the propeller feathered to reduce drag. The main running propeller was of conventioanal fixed pitch.


 Initial trials showed some difficulties in becoming foilborne. The steerable rear foil had poor control and the fixed angle front foils were too sensitive to waves. Later designs had a single front foil with variable pitch.


Crashing heavily to startboard.


Struggling to get foilborne


Almost up and level


 Bras d'Or finally flying level and roaring westwards along the Menai Strait


 Bras d'Or 'flying' back towards Beaumaris past the old Bishop's Palace where my father lodged around 1945. He told me that he stored his New Imperial TT Replica motor cycle in pieces in the tower. When he rebuilt it he had to wheel it down the spiral stairs and out through the lounge one night to avoid the landlady finding out he had kept it there.


R-103 renamed Baddeck at Halifax prior to being transfered to Ottawa.


 Saunders-Roe R-103 (BADDECK) was retired in 1970 and spent the intervening years sitting in her cradle near the Fleet Diving Unit, Atlantic, on CFB Shearwater waterfront. Her fate then was uncertain, but is now stored in the Museum of Science, Ottawa awaiting conservation. The foils and central propeller skeg have been removed and are safely in storage. Unfortunately both Rolls Royce Griffon engines have long since been removed.


Mark Dalton kindly sent these photos of Baddeck at Ottawa. It shows her on display indoors and the power pod with only one propeller and one of the later foils:

 An excellent website on the Royal Canadian Navy can be seen HERE


"Fastest in the World" - The Saga of Canada's Revolutionary Hydrofoils

by John Boileau. This is an excellent book on the development of the hydrofoil in Canada and Bell and Baldwin's experiments. It also covers R-103 Bras d'Or and her gigantic replacement FHE-400



"Wings Across the Border" Book error:

There is a photograph of hydrofoil R-103 in the book "Wings Across the Border" on page 163. It is incorrectly titled "First trial of Saro Beaumaris-built sea rescue hydroplane 'Bras Dor' (Golden Arm), 7 January 1943". It has been selected to illustrate a diary entry of that date: "7th January - first trials of our amphibious Sea Rescue Hydroplane". This photo is totally incorrect to illustrate the diary entry as Hydrofoil R-103 was only launched in 1957 and is certainly no hydroplane. 1943 was also the time of flying boats.

The term Hydroplane has sometimes confusingly been used to refer to Seaplanes. The following two photos show examples of American amphibious Sea Rescue Catalina "hydroplanes" or flying boats.


Wikipedia Error:

The details in the reference to R-103 in Wikipedia is incorrect. It states: "Built by Saunders-Roe from either a Saunder-Roe motor boat or Vosper PT boat hull, the Bras d'Or was built based on the prototype R-101 in service with the Royal Navy".

Facts: The hull was a one-off design in riveted aluminium alloy and had a very narrow heavily reinforced transom that carried the rear steering ladder foil. It was also not based on any RN prototypes.

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