The Flower Class corvette, HMCS AGASSIZ, was laid down in the yards of Burrard Dry Dock Company, Vancouver, on 23 April 1940. She was launched on 15 August of the same year and commissioned on 23 January 1941. The ship was named in honour of Agassiz, British Columbia. This community is seventy miles east of Vancouver and is situated on the north bank of the Fraser River. Its name commemorates an early settler in the area.
On 13 March 1941, AGASSIZ slipped with two sister ships, HMCS WETASKIWIN and HMCS ALBERNI, and sailed for Halifax via the Panama Canal. Soon after her arrival on 13 April, AGASSIZ left for Newfoundland to join her first convoy. Almost at once, she made contact with what appeared to be an enemy submarine, and attacked with depth charges.
After a few weeks of local escorting and patrolling, the corvette was transferred to the more arduous work on the transatlantic route. She sailed at first to Reykjavik, Iceland, then, after February 1942, to Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
Characterized by seemingly endless Atlantic passages in company with convoys, her career for persistence and effort was the equal of any of the corvettes. It was inevitable that in the course of these passages she should frequently confront the enemy. In the earlier years particularly, the match was unequal. For the most part, when the convoy was attacked, the corvettes could only make quick counter attacks and return to their stations, stopping when they dared to pick up survivors from torpedoed merchant ships.
Sometimes the survivors came from the escorts. A victim of the enemy on 19 September 1941 was HMCS LEVIS. After she was torpedoed, she remained afloat for nearly fifteen hours before she suddenly heeled and sank. AGASSIZ and the corvette, HMCS MAYFLOWER, took off forty survivors, but seventeen men had died in the torpedo blast.
A merchant ship, which similarly resisted sinking, was the freighter SS Seattle Spirit. She remained afloat after being torpedoed in June 1942. She was, however, beyond salvage and, after AGASSIZ had removed her survivors, the corvette had to hasten her to her grave with shells and depth-charges.
One of the more memorable convoys was ON-115, which made passage from the United Kingdom to North America in July-August 1942. A U-boat scout discovered the convoy, but, before his fellows could organize an attack, HMCS SKEENA and HMCS WETASKIWIN chalked up the first score by sinking one of them. Soon U-boats were sighted everywhere. AGASSIZ opened fire on one and it dived. Eight minutes later, she went after another, but it dived also to escape her attack.
Two of the enemy’s victims were the Royal Mail Lines ship, Lochkatrine, and a tanker, G. S. Walden. AGASSIZ and HMCS HAMILTON picked up Lochkatrine’s survivors when she sank, but the tanker, although down by the stern, remained afloat and AGASSIZ took her in tow until relieved the next day by HMCS LOUISBURG.
As the war progressed and larger and more efficient ships came into commission, corvettes like AGASSIZ were gradually retired into the still useful but less glamorous career of local escorts. This meant chiefly the accompanying of convoys between Canadian, Newfoundland and United States ports. AGASSIZ was transferred into this role in March 1944.
From February to May 1945, AGASSIZ underwent a refit. When it was finished, she sailed to Bermuda for a series of “working-up” exercises. Back in Canada, she sailed to Sydney, Nova Scotia, to land her stores. In June she proceeded to Sorel, Quebec, where, on the 14th she was paid off. Turned over to the War Assets Corporation, she was sold to K. C. Irving, Limited, of Moncton, New Brunswick, for scrap.