HMCS ALGONQUIN (1st)
HMCS ALGONQUIN (1st)
The ship that was to become HMCS ALGONQUIN was built in the shipyard of John Brown and Company, Limited, at Clydebank near Glasgow. Intended for the Royal Navy, the ship, HMS Valentine, was launched on 2 September, 1943. However, before she could be completed, an agreement was reached between the British and Canadian Governments whereby HMS Valentine was to be transferred to the RCN.
Preliminary arrangements for the acquiring of two RN destroyers had been worked out at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. For some time, Naval Service Headquarters had been looking for the opportunity to remodel the RCN from an anti-submarine escort force into a diversified, well-balanced fleet that would prove capable of meeting Canada’s needs in the post-war period. The opportunity to accomplish this came about as the Royal Navy found itself faced with a severe man-power shortage. By the summer of 1943, it appeared that the RN would be unable to man all the vessels that were due to commission in the Fall. When this situation was communicated to the RCN before the Quebec Conference, Naval Service Headquarters saw a chance to acquire some of the larger ships that they needed for a better-balanced fleet. At the Conference, arrangements were made whereby Canada would man one or two cruisers and two fleet destroyers, which would be transferred to the Canadian Government and commissioned as RCN ships. HMS Valentine was one of these ships.
The Admiralty had first suggested the Tartar and the Eskimo, two “Tribal” Class destroyers completed prior to the Second World War, for transfer to the RCN. However, Naval Service Headquarters preferred to ask for the more modern fleet “V” Class destroyers. 1 These were smaller and lighter than the “Tribal” and had much the same speed. Their superiority lay in their greater endurance and in the fact that they carried the latest Admiralty weapons and equipment. A firm request was made for two of these new vessels, HMS Valentine and HMS Vixen, and arrangements for the transfer were completed during December and January. The Admiralty originally planned to present these two destroyers to the RCN as a free gift. However, the Canadian Government preferred to accept them as “reverse mutual aid”, thus taking the opportunity to write off some of the British indebtedness for war supplies received during the previous three years. And so, as a result of these negotiations, the two fleet “V” destroyers were acquired early in 1944.
HMS Valentine was turned over to the RCN in February. With a displacement of 1710 tons and a full speed of 30.75 knots, she could steam 5300 nautical miles at a 15-knot cruising speed without refuelling. Her armament consisted of four 4.7” guns, eight torpedo tubes, and twin 40mm bofors, as well as four twin 20mm Oerlikons. Although she was built to operate with capital ships, Valentine’s long operational range also made her particularly valuable for duty with cruisers and carriers on independent missions.
During the previous winter, it had been decided that Valentine would be renamed HMCS ALGONQUIN when she was transferred to Canada. It was hoped that the use of a “Tribal” name would help to confuse the enemy concerning the characteristics of the new ship, since Canada already possessed four “Tribal” Class destroyers. 2
The Algonquin tribe, for whom the destroyer was to be named, had lived in the woodlands north of the St. Lawrence River. There traditional land was from Georgian Bay in the west to the St. Maurice River in the east. The name Algonquin, which is thought to mean “at the place of spearing fish and eels”, was first recorded by Champlain and his contemporaries. They met up with these Native Americans along the banks of the Ottawa River which flowed through the heart of Algonquin territory. In time, the Ottawa River became a highway to the west for the French, and those who lived along its banks joined the French as allies. Since the Algonquin had been at odds with the Iroquois, it was hardly a surprise that they joined with their neighbours, the French, in alliance against the Five Nation Confederacy. During the series of wars that followed, the Iroquois were able to obtain from their European allies a far larger supply of firearms than the Algonquin, and as a result, drove the latter north and east away from the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. Later, when the power of the Iroquois declined, the Algonquin people gradually drifted back to their traditional lands. Fewer in numbers, however, they exercised very little influence and received scant attention thereafter. Today, many of their descendants live upon a few reserves in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. These were those for whom HMCS ALGONQUIN was to be named. Their associations with the early Europeans go back to Canada’s earliest history when they were the loyal allies of the French, the first to settle along the banks of their great river. The Algonquin people provided an honourable name for a ship that was to have a worthy career with the Royal Canadian Navy.
The ceremony of renaming the ship and commissioning her in the RCN took place on 17 February 1944. Vice-Admiral P. W. Nelles, CB, RCN, the Senior Canadian Flag Officer Overseas, arrived to inspect the ship during the morning. The ship’s company joined at 1400. Having been given time to stow away their kit, they mustered on deck for the commissioning ceremony. The ship was renamed HMCS ALGONQUIN, and then the White Ensign, the Canadian Jack, and the commissioning pennant were hoisted. The ship’s company were addressed by their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Commander D. W. Piers, DCS, RCN, as well as by Admiral Nelles who concluded his speech with these words, “Action is not far away and I shall do what I can to ensure that this ship will take her part in the major operations that are to come. I know that when you do go into action, you will play a worthy part. Good Luck to you all.”3 Four months later, when the major operation of which the Admiral spoke, took place. HMCS ALGONQUIN was there and played her part with the rest of the invasion fleet. In the meantime, however, the commissioning ceremony continued. First the Commanding Officer and his guests inspected the ship; then tea and refreshments were served them in the wardroom to complete the afternoon’s activities.
Two days later, HMCS ALGONQUIN proceeded down the Clyde to Greenock for her sea trials. These were carried out satisfactory, with the ship attaining a speed of 31.9 knots at full power. On 28 February, ALGONQUIN was formally accepted from her builders, and early in March, she steamed northward to Scapa Flow to carry out a five-week working-up programme. In addition to the exercises and shoots arranged by Vice-Admiral (Destroyers), extensive internal “work-ups” were carried out. Although exercises commitments and bad weather left very little opportunity for leave during these weeks, an entertainment programme was carried out aboard ship each day during non-working hours.
This training routine was broken for one week at the beginning of April when HMCS ALGONQUIN sailed on her first operation against the enemy. In Alten Fjord, in northern Norway, lay he German battleship Tirpitz. Her sorties out into the Arctic had been few, but this one ship had already greatly influenced the outcome of the war. David Woodward in his book The Tirpitz had this to say concerning the importance of this German ship:
To stop her breaking out into the Atlantic or raiding the
convoys to North Russia, the British Home Fleet was
needed at all times. To keep that force up to strength,
sacrifices had to be made all over the world. Because
the ships required to protect them were watching the
Tirpitz, battleships were lost in the Far East, freighters
were sunk in the Atlantic, and Arctic convoys to Russia
destroyed, decimated, or delayed, so that the Russian
armies in their great campaigns were almost fatally
It was to strike against the Tirpitz that the ships of the Home Fleet sailed on 30 March 1944, ALGONQUIN along with them.
Put out of action temporarily by a midget submarine attack the previous September, the great German battleship had commenced to stir again. In mid-March, she had been seen exercising in Alten Fjord and Operation “Tungsten” had been decided upon. This operation called for an attack upon the Tirpitz by carrier-based aircraft. To carry out the attack, a strong force of aircraft carriers and support craft would be required. Two fleet carriers, four escort carriers, one battleship, four cruisers, and fourteen destroyers were scheduled to take part in the strike. Not since the sinking of the Bismarck three years before had the Royal Navy concentrated such a force against a single ship.
In order to give the striking force an opportunity to approach the coast of Norway undetected, it had been decided to synchronize the attack with the sailing of an outward bound North Russian convoy. Part of the “Tungsten” force would be included in the convoy escort and so could be expected to arrive off northern Norway without arousing suspicion. Moreover, it was expected that the convoy, as it proceeded on its way to Murmansk, would draw the German submarines eastward into the Barents Sea and away from the striking force off Norway. The next Russian convoy, JW-58, was due to leave Loch Ewe for Murmansk on 27 March. This was accordingly chosen as “D-Day” and provisional arrangements were made to carry out the attack on D+8 day, 4 April.
The first part of the striking force sailed from Scapa Flow on the forenoon of 30 March, steering to the northward to rendezvous with Convoy JW-58. During the evening, the second section made its departure. By the morning of 1 April, it was clear that the convoy was making satisfactory progress. The weather was unusually favourable for air operations, so, following the principle that a fair wind should never be trifled with; it was decided to advance the date of Operation “Tungsten” by twenty-four hours. Force 1 detached from the convoy on 1 April and the junction between the two sections of the attacking fleet was accomplished without difficulty the following day. HMCS ALGONQUIN and HMCS SIOUX formed part of the supporting force of fourteen destroyers, essential for the protection of the aircraft carriers.
By 0300 on 3 April, it appeared that everything was in the favour of the attacking force. They had apparently not been sighted, and flying conditions were perfect. Zero hour for flying off was 0415, and at 0416, the aircraft took off on what was to be the first attack of this sort in the European war. “It was a grand sight with the sun just risen to see this well-balanced force of twenty Barracudas and forty-five Fighters departing at very low level between the two forces of surface ships, and good to know that a similar force would be leaving in about an hour’s time.”5 Such was the comment of Rear-Admiral A. W. La Touche Bisset, the commander of Force 2 and himself an ex-carrier captain.
The attack was carried out almost exactly as planned, and it was soon clear that the enemy had been caught napping. No hostile aircraft were seen and the smoke screen around the Tirpitz was not started soon enough to be effective. Hits were scored causing heavy explosions and flames, and it was evident that the Tirpitz had been severely damaged. As a result of this first strike, only one Barracuda was missing. The remaining planes returned in flight formation “with a unanimous broad grin.” One of the Hellcat fighter planes could not make a landing on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier because its arrester gear had been shot away. ALGONQUIN, serving as rescue ship, drew clear of the aircraft carriers, and the pilot ditched his plane close to the ship. He was picked up in a matter of minutes by men from ALGONQUIN, and once aboard the ship, he quickly recovered from the chilling effect of the Arctic waters.
The second air strike inflicted further damage upon the huge German battleship. By the time the last aircraft dived, the Tirpitz has ceased firing and was burning fiercely amidships. Since no damaged aircraft returned from this second strike, HMCS ALGONQUIN’s sole rescue operation was the saving of the Hellcat pilot. Actually, only four planes were lost during the entire operation – a very good record indeed, considering that the attack was being made upon one of Germany’s primary assets in a war that was being so bitterly contested.
By 0758, all the remaining aircraft had landed safely on the carriers, and the fleet withdrew to the west-north-westward. Aboard HMS Victorious, reports of the aircrews were being analysed, photographs of the attack developed and examined, and a preliminary estimate of damage prepared. Seventeen direct hits were judged to have been scored, and the Tirpitz was believed to be out of action. A second attack, planned for the following morning, was cancelled, and on 6 April, the ships entered Scapa Flow, where they were given a rousing reception by the Commander-in-Chief and the ships of the Home Fleet.
Upon her return to Scapa, HMCS ALGONQUIN resumed the working-up programme that had been interrupted by Operation “Tungsten”. When these “work-ups” had been completed on 20 April, ALGONQUIN joined the 26th Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet. Her first assignment with the 26th Flotilla was again directed against the Tirpitz. Although the great ship had undoubtedly been severely damaged, she was still afloat. Since Operation “Tungsten” had met with so little opposition, it was decided to strike again as quickly as possible. The ships sailed on 21 April and Operation “Planet” was underway. When they arrived in position off the coast of Norway, however, it proved impossible to carry out an attack upon the Tirpitz with any prospect of success because of the heavy weather. Further south, it was found possible for aircraft to be flown off, and these planes attacked enemy coastal shipping with some success. As far as the fleet itself was concerned, the scheduled time for return to base arrived before the ships had seen any signs of enemy vessels or aircraft. ALGONQUIN’s Commanding Officer, however, could report that his ship had performed well in some very rough seas.
Another successful air strike against enemy shipping off Norway was carried out a few days later under the name of Operation “Croquet”. Two convoys were attacked and two supply ships sunk while a third was badly crippled. Then, on 12 May, His Majesty King George VI paid a visit to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. For this occasion, the seven destroyers present berthed alongside their depot ship, HMS Tyne. Each of the destroyers sent its Commanding Officer, five other officers, and fifty ratings to the Tyne for His Majesty’s inspection. The Commanding Officers were presented to King George VI by the Vice-Admiral, Destroyers. His Majesty showed great interest in the acquisition of the two fleet “V” destroyers by the Royal Canadian Navy.
The royal inspection over, ALGONQUIN, along with the other destroyers of the Home Fleet, began an extensive training programme. Every type of gunnery firing, including the bombardment of shore installations, was carried out. On several nights, the ship’s company was at action stations for periods of up to fifteen hours. This was a training programme of more than the usual severity and seemed to indicate a major operation in the offing. When the 26th Destroyer Flotilla sailed for Portsmouth on 25 May, it appeared that Operation “Neptune”, the long awaited invasion of the Continent was about to begin.
The Flotilla arrived at Portsmouth without incident on 27 May. The perfect summer weather was enjoyed immensely by all hands, and on Sunday, 28 May, a Flotilla regatta was held, in which HMCS SIOUX and ALGONQUIN placed first and second respectively.
While awaiting further instructions, ALGONQUIN lay at anchor off Seaview, Isle of Wright. Twice the ship slipped at dusk and proceeded as part of an outer patrol for the defence of the Portsmouth area. Both nights were comparatively quiet, but provided good experience for future operations. Several conferences were also held to brief Commanding Officers on the exact details of the assault plans. ALGONQUIN’s particular duties were: to escort to the assault area HMS Hilary, the ship carrying the staff of the Canadian Third Division; to carry out direct bombardment on enemy batteries and strong points before H-Hour; and then to carry out indirect bombardment as required after the assault on the beaches. At long last, the attack on Hitler’s Fortress Europe was only a few days away.
On 4 June, after a twenty-four hour postponement, the executive order was received to carry out Operation “Neptune” on the 6th. No further instructions were necessary. At noon on 5 June, the first group of landing craft could be seen passing the gate, outward-bound. From that time on, there was a constant stream of ships of all descriptions proceeding to sea, all steaming on a very precise time-table. ALGONQUIN proceeded to Cowes Roads during the afternoon to rendezvous with HMS Hilary and the landing craft. The group subsequently weighed anchor and proceeded from Roads at 1800.
The passage across the coast of France was uneventful, except for the presence of a few floating mines that had drifted into the assigned approach channel. The weather which had already caused one postponement was still far from favourable. However, immediately after midnight on 5/6 June, all hands went to action stations and the ship was prepared for battle in all respects. The invasion armada slowly moved into position seven miles off the Normandy shore. The cruisers opened fire at 0530 and the bombardment of the enemy coastal installations was under way. Having escorted HMS Hilary to her station, ALGONQUIN proceeded to her own bombardment position. There was slight opposition from shore batteries, but so little that it seemed that the enemy was holding their fire until the landing craft touched down on the beaches. The assault proceeded exactly according to plan. ALGONQUIN opened fire at 0708 on a pre-arranged target of two 75mm guns on the beach at St. Aubin-sur-Mer. Forty rounds were fired upon this target before it was necessary to check fire when the first wave of landing craft moved in to discharge their men upon the beaches.
Further action was dependent upon orders from the Forward Officer Bombardment who was to direct the ship’s fire inland against any heavy gun emplacements that were holding up the advancement of allied troops. Contact was made with this Officer at 1009. As opposition from shore batteries was now negligible, ALGONQUIN moved in to anchor close to the beach off St. Aubin in order to obtain greater accuracy in the indirect bombardment. At 1051, the Forward Officer Bombardment called for fire support, the target being an inland battery of 88mm guns. A hit was registered with the ship’s third salvo. Thereafter, three groups of four salvoes were fired, all of which were reported back as hits. The enemy battery had been destroyed. Apparently, the army observer ashore was thoroughly impressed with the performance of “his” ship, for months later he was seen cruising the roads of France with “Algonquin” painted across the front of his jeep.
After this first success, contact was maintained with the Forward Officer Bombardment. However, there were no further calls for action, and for the remainder of “D-Day”, ALGONQUIN remained an interested spectator. At 2210, the ship shifted her berth, anchoring for the night near HMS Hilary. At dusk, enemy aircraft appeared for the first time in the assault area and sporadic bombing of the anchorages continued throughout the night. However, the armies had been landed and were fighting their way inland, and the first stage of Operation “Neptune” had been successfully completed. The German shore defences had proven weaker than had been expected, and casualties had been light, naval casualties amazingly so. There still remained, however, the task of consolidating the beach-head into a powerful “Second Front”. The Germans could be expected to throw every soldier that they could muster into the Normandy battle in a major effort to drive the allied forces back into the sea. To contain the expected German counter-attack and to break through for the liberation of France would require a vast quantity of men and materials. These had yet to be landed on the Normandy beaches. Ensuring the delivery of these supplies constituted the second phase of Operation “Neptune”.
The following day, the weather was still unfavourable due to high winds. However, the unloading on the beaches proceeded at full speed in spite of this difficulty. The forenoon was uneventful for HMCS ALGONQUIN and there was time, after the preparations and activity of “D-Day”, to organize a more normal routine aboard ship. Full meals were prepared and served, and the wardroom was converted into a second sickbay for three casualties taken aboard the previous day.
For the next couple of days, ALGONQUIN remained in the invasion area awaiting further calls for fire support and carrying out the occasional anti-submarine patrol. On 10 June, she was despatched to Portsmouth to ammunition, fuel, and provision. There was no leave granted due to the short notice, but mail was received aboard and the following day, a Sunday, provided a day of relaxation for the men. Then, just before midnight, ALGONQUIN weighed anchor and proceeded independently for the Normandy beaches.
For the next few days, the ship was engaged upon anti-submarine patrols in the Channel. Two attacks were made upon submerged targets, but both of these were later classified as non-submarine. Then, on 18 June, ALGONQUIN embarked General H. D. G. Crerar, the Canadian Army Commander, and his staff for passage to France. The day was beautiful and sunny, and the ship’s distinguished guests seemed to enjoy the passage a great deal. General Crerar read the lesson at Prayers and addressed the ship’s company briefly. There was just time to entertain the army guest at luncheon before arriving off the Normandy beaches, where two landing craft came alongside to disembark the military party. Before departing, General Crerar expressed his appreciation at being transferred to the combat zone in a ship of the Royal Canadian Navy.
HMCS ALGONQUIN remained in the invasion area for the next nine days. For most of this time, she was close in shore ready to use her 4.7” guns in support of the invasion forces at any time that they might be required. Such bombardments of the enemy were undertaken upon four separate occasions – on 19 and 24 June, and twice on the 25th. In addition, patrols were carried out off the invasion beaches on three successive nights. On the night of 22/23 June, ALGONQUIN was engaged upon such a patrol when at 0029 the ship was suddenly illuminated by four brilliant aircraft flares. A moment later, a huge bomb exploded less than fifty yards from the ship on her port side. ALGONQUIN was severely shaken, but there were neither casualties nor damage. More flares were dropped over the ship a few minutes later, but evasive action at high speed was ordered and there was no further bombing. This was the closest enemy attack that HMCS ALGONQUIN sustained during Operation “Neptune”.
Orders were received on 26 June for the ship to return to the United Kingdom, and ALGONQUIN weighed anchor for Portsmouth at 1400 the following day. As she was required for other commitments upon her return to the UK, this was the last occasion upon which the officers and men of HMCS ALGONQUIN would see the invasion beaches of Normandy. With regard to the conduct of the ship’s company during the long days just passed, the Commanding Officer of the ship wrote: “The performance of duties by officers and ratings was of the highest standard….Morale at all times was excellent in spite of the fact that since ‘D-Day’ it was not possible to grant any leave whatsoever until the last day of the month.”6 The men of HMCS ALGONQUIN had acquitted themselves well.
On 1 July, the ship weighed anchor and sailed through the Irish Sea for Rosyth, arriving there two days later. While ALGONQUIN was having her boilers cleaned, each watch was granted a very welcome three days’ leave. Then, on the 11th, ALGONQUIN sailed from Rosyth to rejoin the 26th Destroyer Flotilla.
At Scapa Flow, the attention of the Home Fleet was still directed toward Norwegian waters. An air attack upon the Tirpitz which was carried out as part of Operation “Mascot” (14-19 July, 1944) was handicapped by the fact that the aircraft were forced to bomb blind. The enemy had received sufficient warning to enable them to lay down an effective smoke screen. During a second operation, named Operation “Offspring” (8-11 August 1944), ALGONQUIN formed part of a force that successfully mined Norwegian coastal waters and attacked enemy shipping. Later in that same month, another strike against the Tirpitz was planned. Like Operation “Tungsten” four months before, Operation “Goodwood” was arranged to coincide with the passage of a North Russian convoy, JW-59. In addition to the extra protection afforded the convoy while it was in the vicinity of the Tirpitz, it was hoped that the U-boat flotillas would again be drawn away to the eastward in pursuit of the convoy.
The ships having made the passage to northern Norway without incident, the first air strike against the Tirpitz was carried out with moderate success on 22 August. Then the force was reorganized to cover the passage of JW-59 while awaiting the opportunity to strike again. At 1725, ALGONQUIN was ordered to close HMS Nabob, reported to have been torpedoed fifteen miles to the westward. This was done at full speed. However, just as the ship came within two mile of Nabob, further orders received instructing ALGONQUIN to join HMS Kent and HMS Trumpeter, who were vacating the dangerous area at high speed. This was done with great reluctance, for the torpedoed ship was largely manned by Canadians. However, Nabob seemed to be well afloat, although considerably down by the stern. In fact, later that evening the flooding aboard Nabob was brought under control and the engine room began raising steam. Before midnight she had way on, and Trumpeter and ALGONQUIN were ordered to rendezvous with the stricken ship the following day in order to escort her into port. The rendezvous was accomplished at 2000 on 23 August. Since the weather was bad and it still seemed touch and go whether Nabob would reach port, the damaged ship stopped and transferred 205 men of her personnel to HMCS ALGONQUIN. The following afternoon, the wind increased to gale force from a southerly direction. Fortunately there was little swell with the storm, and Nabob rode fairly comfortably on her southward course. She managed to maintain the creditable speed of ten knots for the next three days, and reached Scapa Flow on the 27th without further incident.
Early on the 26th, ALGONQUIN had detached from the escorting force in order to fuel at the Faeroes and rejoin the main fleet. At the Faeroes, the 205 men from Nabob were transferred to HMS Zest for passage to Scapa. The transfer was effected in Thorshavn Roads, after which the ship proceeded to Skaalefjord to top up with fuel. Once the fuelling operation was completed, ALGONQUIN sailed and made her rendezvous with the main fleet off Norway the following day. Another strike against the Tirpitz, attempted on the afternoon of 29 August, was once more seriously hampered by the German smoke screen, and the force returned to port very shortly thereafter.
September saw HMCS ALGONQUIN once again at Rosyth for a boiler cleaning, and leave was granted to the ship’s company. The ship also took part in another air strike in Norwegian coastal waters during the month as part of Operation “Begonia” (11-13 September, 1944). However, ALGONQUIN’s major operation for September 1944 was the escorting of the North Russian convoy, JW-60. The escort ships sailed on 16 September to rendezvous with the convoy at a positon near the Faeroes. Convoy JW-60 then proceeded without incident or interference from the enemy, and arrived at Murmansk on 23 September. On completion of fuelling the following day, ALGONQUIN moved to Polyarnoye, berthing alongside the jetty with eight other destroyers. The three-day visit to this base of the Russian Northern Fleet proved to be much more enjoyable than had been anticipated. For one thing, the weather was extremely mild and fine, enabling much work to be done aboard. An athletic meet was also arranged for the destroyers by Captain D, Third Destroyer Flotilla. ALGONQUIN won this competition by the narrow margin of one point, and a small trophy was presented to the Commanding Officer by Rear-Admiral Egerton, Senior British Naval Officer, North Russia.
On 28 September, the merchant ships having discharged their cargoes at Murmansk, the return convoy sailed from Kola Inlet. As German reconnaissance aircraft had been over the Murmansk area during the previous two days, opposition from U-boats was expected on the return voyage. High Frequency radio direction finding bearings were obtained during the night of 28/29 September, indicating that the convoy had been sighted and reported. The following afternoon, the German U-boats struck and two merchant ships were torpedoed. Offensive sweeps against the U-boats were carried out by aircraft and by the escort ships, and proved successful in warding off any further attacks. ALGONQUIN twice set out against U-boats that had been spotted on the surface by aircraft but no contacts were gained. After 30 September, there was no further U-boat activity, and the convoy was escorted safely as far as the Minches, off the west coast of Scotland. From there, the escorting ships returned to base at Scapa Flow.
Two more successful air strikes against enemy shipping off Norway were carried out during Operation “Lycidas” (13-17 October) and Operation “Athletic” (24-30 October). Then, in November, ALGONQUIN took part in her first surface action against the enemy. The object of Operation “Counterblast” was the destruction of enemy shipping off the south-west coast of Norway, where the absence of fjords and off shore islands forced shipping out into the open. Owing to enemy minefields, shore batteries, and other hazards, no operation had been undertaken in this area for nearly four years. The ships taking part in the attack (HM Ships Kent, Bellona, Myngs, Verulam, Zambesi, and HMCS ALGONQUIN) sailed from Scapa Flow on 11 November, late in the evening, and arrived off the prescribed coastal area twenty-four hours later on a calm, clear night. Forming in loose line ahead, they began a sweep parallel to the Norwegian coast and about seven mile off shore.
At 2300, an enemy convoy which was moving up the coast was contacted by radar. As the range closed rapidly, the plot indicated five merchant ships and three escorts approaching, with another three ships to the southward. The attacking force opened fire at 2313 at a range of 5000 yards. Because of excellent star-shell illumination by HMS Bellona, several targets were plainly visible and quickly engaged. ALGONQUIN opened fire on an escort vessel at 2314 and obtained a hit with the first salvo. This target, which was also being engaged by other ships ahead, burst into flames within a minute. The enemy ships, although taken by surprise, fought back with determination. During the first few minutes of action, the escort vessels closed their attackers in the face of hopeless odds, while the merchant ships tried to move in toward the coast and the protection of the shore batteries. However, at least six of the enemy were ablaze and sinking within the first five minutes, and by 2341, every enemy ship in sight was either sunk or in flames. The cruisers and destroyers withdrew to the northwest.
The four destroyers returned to the scene of action a few minutes later with orders to finish off any enemy ships that were still afloat. Only three such ships could be found, and one of these was grounded and burning. They were promptly engaged and demolished, making a total of nine enemy ships destroyed out of the eleven which had been sighted. Within fifteen minutes, the destroyers were once again withdrawing to join the cruisers, and the operation was over.
This highly successful attack was fought entirely within range of enemy shore batteries which had opened fire on allied ships during both phases of the action. However, by great good fortune, none of the ships were seriously hit. Fire from all the ships of the striking force was accurate and intensive, although no one of them could claim to have sunk a specific enemy ship unaided. HMCS ALGONQUIN, fighting her first surface action, hit each target in succession with her first salvo, and the efficiency of both her personnel and her equipment was judged to be of a high standard. Operation “Counterblast” completed, the ships returned to Scapa Flow. As they entered the base, the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, signalled hearty congratulations upon their successful operation.
Shortly after her return, ALGONQUIN, along with SIOUX, was transferred from the 26th to the 23rd Destroyer Flotilla. This move was made necessary because the other destroyers of the 26th Flotilla had been refitted and were ready to proceed to Eastern Asia. It had been decided, however, to give the two Canadian destroyers a longer period of operations in United Kingdom waters, and so justify leave in Canada for the majority of their personnel before the ships sailed to join in the war against Japan.
Three operations in Norwegian coastal waters were carried out during the next month (Operation “Provident”, 22-29 November; Operation “Urbane”, 6-9 December; Operation “Lacerate”, 12-16 December). Mines were laid and enemy shipping attacked, although bad weather hampered these operations considerably. During the last of the strikes, ALGONQUIN’s boiler feed water became contaminated. Upon inspection, it was found that several of the tubes in the port condenser had shifted enough to allow the penetration of seawater. Repairs to the feed water system and a boiler cleaning were carried out at Scapa from 17 to 24 December. Then the ship was docked for two days for repairs to her asdic dome, her first docking since she had been commissioned. Special leave was granted to half of the ship’s company from 19 to 28 December, while those remaining aboard celebrated Christmas Day according to traditional naval custom.
At noon on the last day of December, ALGONQUIN sailed on her next assignment, the escorting of Convoy JW-63 bound for North Russia. A successful passage was made in good weather, and the ships arrived at Kola Inlet on 7 January 1945. As ALGONQUIN entered the inlet with the last of the merchant ships, an Arctic fog of extreme density shut down the visibility to nil. It was necessary to navigate the ship up the inlet entirely by radar, a risk which could not have been undertaken but for the excellent performance of the radar set.
It was not possible for the ships to enter the harbour at Polyarnoye until the 9th, when visibility improved. Then ALGONQUIN secured for a two-day stop-over. The climate in Northern Russia at that time of the year seemed much the same as that of eastern Canada. There was snow to a depth of about two feet and the average temperature was about 25° F., very mild considering the extreme northern latitude. The local skating rink proved a great attraction to all the Canadian officers and ratings, and a hockey match was arranged between ALGONQUIN and SIOUX. Skates were available, but field hockey sticks had to be used and a tennis ball instead of a puck. Apparently, such was the equipment used by the Russians to play their version of ice hockey. The game was played (to the amusement of all concerned) with ALGONQUIN the winner, 3 to 0. ALGONQUIN then took on the local Russian team. In this “international” match, the Russian players showed great skill both in skating and stick handling, and a very sporting game ended in their favour by a score of 3 to 2.
The returning convoy, RA-63, sailed on the morning of 11 January. The ships proceeded without incident until the 16th when an 85 knot northerly gale blew up and many vessels were forced to heave to. However, the Commodore of the convoy and more than half of the merchant ships ran before the gale, accompanied by eight of the escorts including HMCS ALGONQUIN. The next day, all merchant ships and escorts were ordered to proceed to the Faeroes to reform. This was done with considerable difficulty due to the severe weather and almost continuous snow squalls. The reformed convoy departed the Faeroes on 20 January. ALGONQUIN remained with RA-63 until the convoy reached the Minches, and from there, she returned to Scapa Flow.
There followed an air strike by night against shipping off Norway (Operation “Winded”, 27-29 January) and later a mine-laying expedition (Operation “Kitchen”, 3-5 February) which unfortunately had to turn back because of bad weather. Returning from the latter on 5 February, HMCS ALGONQUIN sailed the same day for Greenock en route to Halifax, where she was to carry out a long refit. Her place in the Home Fleet was taken by HMCS HURON, just recently returned from her refit in Canada.
ALGONQUIN arrived in Halifax on 14 February 1945 and her refit got underway five days later with the completion date set as 14 May. This date was postponed several times until finally the ship was manned and ready for sea on 1 August. Sailing on the 5th, she exercised for the next few days with HMCS GRANDMERE in St. Margaret’s Bay and then with a submarine off Digby.
Having returned to Halifax on 9 August, ALGONQUIN spent the next few days preparing to sail to join the British Pacific Fleet. She was to proceed to Asian waters by way of the Mediterranean, where she would spend some three weeks at Malta working up the ship. ALGONQUIN departed from Halifax just before midnight on 12 August amid the noise and jubilation of a false VJ Day; not a very auspicious departure for those keyed to war. Moreover, a thick fog had closed in, which did not serve to better the spirits of the men who were on watch that night. The official announcement of the Japanese surrender actually was made three days later on 15 August. The ship spliced the main brace with deep satisfaction at the collapse of the Japanese war machine. Nevertheless, there were considerable disappointment at being too late to add their small part to the “obliteration and confounding of the Sons of Heaven”.7
Despite the Japanese surrender every effort was made during the Atlantic crossing to exercise the ship’s company so that they might become familiar with their ship and her weapons. Ponta Delgada in the Azores was reached on 18 August. The ship, having fuelled, embarked “a very Portuguese pilot” and prepared to sail for Gibraltar. The departure of the ship was not without interest. The pilot’s English was extremely poor, and to the Commanding Officer of the ALGONQUIN his manoeuvring appeared as a determined effort to crash the ship’s inner screw on a concrete jetty. The screw survived the operation, but relations on the bridge became rather strained. The subsequent parting between Commanding Officer and pilot was extremely polite, but rather distant, each having had his faith considerably shaken in the other’s ability as a seaman.
ALGONQUIN stopped at Gibraltar to fuel and proceed on to Malta that same day. It was still necessary to adhere rigidly to the approved route in the Mediterranean, as mines were claiming an average of a ship a week in these waters. Arriving at Malta on 23 August, the ship spent the next two weeks in Dockyard Creek, making good defects that had appeared during the passage from Halifax. Sea “work-ups” had begun on 7 September and continued for the next ten days. Then, on the 16th, HMCS ALGONQUIN had the honour of being selected to escort His Excellency, the Governor of Malta, to the victory celebrations on the nearby island of Gozo. The Governor travelled in HMS Hogue; and ALGONQUIN and HMS Zenith, along with five MTBs, made the escort. High speed manoeuvres at 28 knots were carried out on the return passage and proved an unqualified success. Both His Excellency and the Flag Officer, Malta, congratulated the ships upon their fine appearance and handling.
The same day, ALGONQUIN sailed for Alexandria. The 19 September was spent in a highly successful bombardment practice at Ras el Kanaysis. Prior to the shoot, an armed platoon was landed for practice in small armed drill and desert fighting. These men, laden with much good German loot, returned to the ship in the afternoon – hot, thirsty, sandy, and happy.
As the ship approached Alexandria, a signal was received from the Flag Officer, Malta, ordering ALGONQUIN to return there on authority of a message from Naval Service Headquarters. However, the ship had been experiencing serious evaporator trouble for the previous three days, and there was water in one boiler only, with but three tons in reserve. Accordingly, it was decided to proceed to Alexandria to make good defects. Repairs took from 20 to 25 September, and during this time most of the ship’s company were able to see something of Egypt. Two-thirds of the ratings took advantage of a trip to Cairo organized by the local YMCA. They left Alexandria early in the morning and returned late that same night. The Commanding Officer reported that he feared that the thieves and pickpockets, and the general chicanery of the East had profited mightily from the young seaman of Canada. Behaviour during the course of their stay in Egypt was nevertheless reported to be good.
In the meantime, it had been decided at Naval Service Headquarters to recall ALGONQUIN to Canada. This, indeed, had been the reason for the signal received from Malta ten days before requiring the ship to return to that base. And so, on 28 September, her repairs completed, HMCS ALGONQUIN sailed from Alexandria on the first lap of her homeward journey. She put in at Malta, Gibraltar, and the Azores, and by mid-October had crossed the Atlantic to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and was preparing for her passage through the Panama Canal. Esquimalt was reached on 3 November 1945, after a 20,000 mile cruise which had begun almost four months before in a Canada that was still at war.
While ALGONQUIN had been working up the ship off Malta in September, Naval Service Headquarters had received a package from General H. D. G. Crerar. This package contained the flag of Lieutenant-General H. D. G Crerar, CB, DSO, GOC-in-C., First Canadian Army, which the General had flown aboard HMCS ALGONQUIN when the ship had carried him across to the Normandy beaches in 1944. General Crerar thought that either Lieutenant-Commander Piers, who had been the ship’s Commanding Officer at the time of the crossing to Normandy, or the ship itself might like to possess the flag as a reminder of that occasion. It was decided at Headquarters that the flag should be presented to HMCS ALGONQUIN and it was accordingly sent to the Commanding Officer, Pacific Coast, for retention until the ship returned home. On 29 November, the Commanding Officer of the ship was presented with the General’s flag which was to be kept in the ship as long as she remained on active service.
There was not much active service left to the ship on this first commissioning, for on 6 February 1946, after three months of preparation, ALGONQUIN was paid off into the Reserve Fleet. Here she was destined to remain for the next six years, for it was not until January 1951 that she was taken in tow to undergo a very extensive modernization at Yarrows Limited, Esquimalt.
The ship was to be redesigned from the hull up, and the RCN took the opportunity to try out many of the ideas that they planned to use in the building of the new “St. Laurent” Class destroyer escorts. The ship’s entire superstructure was rebuilt to test several new features, the most important of these being the enclosed bridge and the operations room below decks from which the ship can be navigated and fought without exposing those directing operations. Enclosed air look-out positions were also constructed so that the ship could be operated without a single man on the upper deck. Most of the new construction work was carried out in aluminum. By cutting down the weight in this way, it was found possible to install a considerable amount of extra equipment and to provide roomier working and living accommodation. The ship’s new silhouette, except for funnel and mast, is very similar to that of the new “St. Laurent” Class destroyer escorts and bears little resemblance to her original design.
Accommodation for the ship’s officers and men is on a par with the ship’s advanced design and equipment. The crew’s quarters featured separate living and eating areas. The men have fold-away bunks, fitted with foam-rubber mattresses and reading lamps, as well as adequate lockers for the stowage of clothing and other gear. Meals are served cafeteria style and are eaten in dining spaces that can also double as recreation areas. There is a well-equipped laundry, a “mechanical cow” which prepares powdered milk, an ice-cream machine, and a soda fountain. Altogether, the men aboard HMCS ALGONQUIN are able to enjoy many of the luxuries that ten years before were associated only with life ashore.
During the years when ALGONQUIN was laid up in reserve or undergoing refit, a badge was chosen for the ship and battle honours awarded for her part in the Second World War. The design for the ship’s official badge was taken from the one which had been devised and used in wartime. The Heraldic Adviser to the RCN, who had to deal with these wartime badges, felt that this was one of the few that possessed any merit heraldically or artistically. The badge depicted the arm of a Native American holding up an eel that had been caught on the end of a fish spear. This interprets very aptly the meaning of the word “Algonquin”: “at the place of spearing fish and eels”.8 In a wartime letter requesting approval of this ship’s badge, the Commanding Officer commented on the design as follows:
The strong arm rising from the sea represents offensive power upon the great waters, the impaled eel the vanquished foe. The design is also symbolic of success against the underwater evil, the U-boat. The colours adopted for the ship are blue and gold and her motto “A Coup Sûr” (With Sure Stroke). The Battle Honours awarded to HMCS ALGONQUIN by the Naval Secretary’s memorandum dated 6 March 1951, are:
ALGONQUIN was recommissioned on the morning of 25 February 1953, in the presence of the Honourable Clarence Wallace, CBE, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. A guard of fifty men from the ship and the band of HMCS NADEN were inspected by the Lieutenant-Governor at the beginning of the commissioning ceremony. The remainder of the ship’s company was fallen in on the quarter-deck while the official guests assembled on top of the squid magazines. The forty minute ceremony went off without any untoward incident, being greatly helped by the warm weather and bright sunshine. A reception was held afterward in the wardroom for the official guests and their wives.
ALGONQUIN proceeded to sea for the first time on 2 March in order to carry out contractor’s sea trials. During these trials, the ship made good an average speed of 31.6 knots. The sea trials proceeded extremely well, with no major defects occurring. This was particularly noteworthy since ALGONQUIN had not only undergone an extensive conversion, but had been laid up for more than seven years. Her trials completed, ALGONQUIN’s formal acceptance took place at sea in the Straits of Juan de Fuca on 20 March, with the Principal Naval Overseer (West Coast), Captain C. I. Hinchcliffe, accepting the ship from Mr. H. A. Wallace, the Vice-President of Yarrows.
The ship’s sea trials and working-up programme got underway at the end of March. It was planned that ALGONQUIN would be based in Halifax at the completion of her “work-ups”. However, before she departed from Esquimalt, the ship visited both Vancouver and Victoria in order that the people in these west coast cities might see the newly remodeled RCN ship. During the visit to Vancouver, excellent publicity was afforded the ship by the local press and radio stations. The advances incorporated in the design of the ship, the training problems aboard, and Canada’s need for ships of this kind, were all explained to the public. As could be expected after such publicity, many people took advantage of the opportunity to come aboard when the ship was opened to the public on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The visit to Vancouver was considered a success, and that to Victoria during the month of May was planned to follow the same pattern.
On 22 May, HMCS ALGONQUIN left Esquimalt for San Diego, California, where she remained for three weeks to carry out anti-submarine warfare exercises. These exercises were of excellent value, with the ship’s company putting in an average of more than twelve hours of operations each working day. From California, ALGONQUIN proceeded via the Panama Canal to Key West, Florida, for a four week period of evaluation exercises. The programme here was not as strenuous as that at San Diego had been, but this was to be expected in view of the different type of operations undertaken. Weekends were left free for recreation, and the ship’s company made very extensive use of the excellent facilities provided at Key West by the United States naval authorities.
When the evaluation programme had been completed, the ship sailed for Halifax on 1 August. She remained at extended notice for steam until 7 September, carrying out a boiler cleaning and minor repairs while each watch was granted two week’s leave. Then the ship sailed for United Kingdom waters to take part in Exercise “Mariner” between 23 September and 4 October. ALGONQUIN was the escort commander first of a Mediterranean “convoy” outward-bound from Milford Haven and later of a homeward “convoy” from Trinidad. She wound up the NATO exercise under French control, on patrol off the nation’s Channel ports. Because of good weather and reasonable sonar conditions, ALGONQUIN and her group successfully attacked four submarines during the exercise. The entire exercise was well planned and proved to be an excellent experience for ALGONQUIN’s officers and men.
Crossing the Atlantic from the United Kingdom, the ship sailed up the St. Lawrence River for Montreal. There delegates to the Naval Shipbuilding Conference which was being held at Canadian Vickers Limited were entertained on an afternoon cruise down river. From Montreal, the ship sailed for Halifax where the First Canadian Escort Squadron was formed on 10 November 1953, (consisting of ALGONQUIN, PRESTONIAN, TORONTO, and LAUZON) with ALGONQUIN as Senior Officer. Anti-submarine exercises were held off Bermuda with USS Sablefish during the latter half of the month. Upon her return to Halifax at the end of November, ALGONQUIN was placed in dockyard hands for her annual refit. She remained in harbour during December and January, and annual leave was granted during the holiday season.
After taking part in Exercise “New Broom” with the USN in February 1954, the First Canadian Escort Squadron sailed on a Caribbean cruise. The ships called at the Virgin Islands (an American possession off Puerto Rico); at St. Vincent, Barbados, Bequia, and at the Dutch island of Curacao near the mainland of Venezuela. Perhaps the most interesting port-of-call of the cruise was Willemstad in Curacao, where there were excellent entertainment facilities and the Dutch people displayed their usual kind hospitality towards Canadians. Interesting tours of the large oil refinery and the local phosphate plant were organized for the ship’s companies. The return voyage to Canada was completed in 14 May, after a most interesting and profitable cruise.
A leave and maintenance period occupied the better part of the next two months. During August, an instructive series of anti-submarine exercises was carried out in co-operation with the USN. Then the Squadron took part in Exercise “New Broom II” and Exercise “Morning Mist”. In the first of these, ALGONQUIN served as a screening unit for HMCS MAGNIFICENT, and in the second, she was engaged in convoy escort work. The exercise over, the Squadron put in at Plymouth and at Londonderry where lectures at the Joint Anti-Submarine School were attended.
From Londonderry, the Squadron sailed on 17 October 1954, for its autumn cruise to the Mediterranean. Lisbon, their first port-of-call, turned out to be very popular due to the hospitality of the people of the city. From there, the Squadron proceeded to Malta and Venice, and then through the Corinth Canal to Athens. The passage through the canal proved to be an interesting undertaking. Only two pilots were available, so LAUZON and TORONTO anchored while ALGONQUIN and PRESTONIAN embarked the pilots and secured tugs. As neither pilot was able to speak English, directions were given by sign language. Initially, this proved a little alarming as ALGONQUIN approached the eighty foot wide canal with first 30º of starboard wheel, and then 30º of port. Entry was successfully accomplished by judicious interpretation of the rather violent signals of the pilot, and ALGONQUIN cleared the eastern end at 0825. The other two ships navigated the canal successfully later in the morning.
The next two port-of-calls, Athens and Istanbul, marked the extremity of the Mediterranean cruise. From there, the ships turned back, proceeding to the Azores with stops at Palma in the Balearic Islands and at Algiers. Palma, where the people were extremely friendly and prices very low, proved to be the most popular port of the cruise. After leaving the Mediterranean behind, the Squadron stopped at the Azores to fuel. Crossing the Atlantic in six days, the ships arrived back in Halifax on 10 December 1954, after a cruise that had been of the greatest interest to all the ships’ companies.
For the rest of December and the first part of January, ALGONQUIN remained at extended notice for steam while leave and maintenance were carried out. These repairs completed, anti-submarine exercises were undertaken off Bermuda, from 19 to 28 January, 1955. February and March, when bad weather prevails in northern latitudes, were occupied in a training cruise to the Caribbean. Then the ship sailed for Bermuda for work-ups with HMCS BUCKINGHAM and a USN submarine. Unfortunately, on 22 April, BUCKINGHAM and ALGONQUIN collided during manoeuvres. After temporary repairs had been carried out in Bermuda, the ship sailed for Halifax. The damage done to the hull proved to be fairly extensive and repairs, which were carried out at the Davie Shipbuilding and Repairing Company, Lauzon, took up most of the summer.
When the refit was completed on 12 August, ALGONQUIN returned to Halifax to prepare for the fall training programme. As part of the fall programme, the Squadron participated in Exercise “New Broom IV” and Exercise “Sea Enterprise”. During “New Broom IV”, ALGONQUIN, serving as part of the escort screen for HMCS MAGNIFICENT, “attacked” two submarines successfully and “damaged” a third. “Sea Enterprise” did not prove as interesting, for the weather was bad and the ship did not contact the enemy during the exercise. Before returning to Halifax on 21 October 1955, ALGONQUIN spent five days at Trondheim, Norway, and six days at Greenock, Scotland.
Anti-submarine exercises were carried out off Bermuda during both November and December. Then ALGONQUIN remained alongside in Halifax during the latter part of December and January for leave and maintenance. On 19 December 1955, the First Canadian Escort Squadron was reorganized. HMC ships PRESTONIAN, LAUZON and TORONTO were withdrawn from the Squadron and formed into the nucleus of the Third Canadian Escort Squadron. To replace these ships, the “Tribal” destroyers, HURON, MICMAC, HAIDA, and IROQUOIS were transferred to the First Escort Squadron. The newly reorganized Squadron sailed on the customary spring training cruise to the Caribbean in February, returning to northern waters in time for Exercise “New Broom V” at the beginning of May. This was considered to be the most successful exercise of the series, owing to the extensive pre-exercise work-ups carried out during the spring cruise.
After returning to Halifax on 9 May, ALGONQUIN, HAIDA and IROQUOIS set out on a tour of the St. Lawrence Gulf and River ports. The ships stopped at Quebec City, Montreal, and Sorel on the St. Lawrence River, and then ALGONQUIN proceeded down river to Baie Comeau, a pulp and paper town on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. The warm spontaneous welcome which the ship received there was most enjoyable. Over the weekend, 3500 visitors were shown around the ship and this in a town of 7000 people. ALGONQUIN was the first warship to call at Baie Comeau, and as a result of this visit, the Commanding Officer recommended it as a port which should be visited annually by a RCN ship. Putting in at Dalhousie, N.B., and Summerside, P.E.I., en route, the ship returned to Halifax on 20 June.
There followed a period of leave and maintenance at Halifax and a docking at Saint John, N.B., and then ALGONQUIN took part in anti-submarine exercises off Newport, Rhode Island, from 13 to 17 August and again from 20 to 30 August. The 31st found the ship in Halifax for the Navy Day celebrations there. ALGONQUIN, together with submarine HMS Alderney, feigned an attack by an escort ship on a submarine caught bombarding coastal installations. If not strictly authentic, the demonstration was both noisy and colourful. After the celebrations were over, ALGONQUIN spent the next few days “recovering from the ravages of ten days at sea on work-ups and of Navy Day”.10
Participation in Exercise “New Broom VI”, which began on 8 September 1956, did not bring the expected results. A severe storm hit the Fleet on the night of 8 September and continued all the following day. All attempts at station keeping had to be abandoned, and the destroyers were ordered to act independently. Throughout the afternoon of the 9th, the wind and sea diminished, and operations were resumed. However, at 2140 that evening, the top twenty-five feet of ALGONQUIN’s foremast came crashing down, taking with it radio and radar antennae. With her communication system crippled, the ship was forced to return to Halifax for repairs.
These repairs were completed in time for ALGONQUIN to join the Squadron in anti-submarine exercises in United Kingdom waters. On 22 October 1956, while the Squadron was at Belfast, those who wished to do so were given the opportunity to look over Canada’s new aircraft carrier, HMCS BONAVENTURE, which was then nearing completion at that port. ALGONQUIN also called at Londonderry, Southampton, Brest and Lisbon before returning to Canada on 21 November. With the exception of a week of exercises off Bermuda at the beginning of December, the ship spent the next two months on self-maintenance work at Halifax while the crew completed their annual leave.
Sailing for southern waters on 6 February, the Squadron exercised en route. After painting the ship at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a month was spent exercising off San Juan, Puerto Rico, in order to prepare for Operation “New Broom VII” later in the season. These exercises completed, ALGONQUIN and MICMAC shaped course for La Guaira, Venezuela. The passage to La Guaira was uneventful except for a two hour period when both ships stopped for shark fishing. A Petty Officer aboard ALGONQUIN caught the only shark of the day, which measured six feet in length. The five dollar fishing prize having been disposed of, the two ships resumed course and arrived at La Guaira on 23 March.
The engineering achievement in road building and construction work in the Caracas—La Guaira area seemed to impress the Canadian visitors most favourably. Modern hospitals, university buildings, and a magnificent officers’ club have been built in the last ten years, in addition to the large express ways that cross the centre of the capital and lead out into the countryside beyond. High prices, however accompanied these achievements in construction, and this would have made the ships’ stay in Venezuela rather difficult but for the kind hospitality extended to the visitors. The ships’ companies accordingly enjoyed a very pleasant five days at La Guaira and then ALGONQUIN and MICMAC departed for Grand Courland Bay, Tobago. Proceeding northward, they called at Grenada, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Bermuda. Before returning to Halifax on 9 May, ALGONQUIN also took part in Exercise “New Broom VII”. The exercise was of great value to the ship and the men in her, and served as a fitting climax to a very enjoyable and active spring cruise.
Once back in Halifax, the ship was scheduled for a major-refit. However, on 13 May, she put to sea for machinery and equipment trials prior to this refit, and the wives and children of the ship’s company were invited aboard for the day. The interest taken in the ship by the families of the ship’s company was most encouraging and did much to strengthen the bond between the men’s service and home life. While at sea, the ship carried out a full-power trial during which her performance was most satisfactory. The refit which followed took over six months to complete, and it was not until December that ALGONQUIN was at sea again, working-up the ship off Bermuda in preparation for resuming her place with the Fleet.
In January and early February 1958, ALGONQUIN exercised with other destroyer escorts in the vicinity of Puerto Rico. The ships passed ten days at Mayport, Florida, and also paid visits to Miami and Charleston, South Carolina. More exercises followed off Bermuda and ALGONQUIN was not back in Halifax until 25 March. She required repairs, HMCS SWANSEA having holed the aluminum portion of her side above the foc’sle deck while berthing alongside in a stiff breeze.
In May, ALGONQUIN joined her squadron for exercises in the Bermuda area, returning to Halifax in June. In July, she completed a Newfoundland patrol and then, in company with HMCS HAIDA, proceeded on a “flag showing” cruise to ports in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These included Grindstone and Brion Islands in the Magdalen group and Baie Comeau on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. In the autumn, the ship sailed on an inshore patrol up the Labrador coast.
Much of what occupied the ship in later years was a repetition of the activities recorded above. What underlay and lent significance to all of them the emphasis laid on training, the need, as with an individual, to remain fit and aware. To achieve such goals, ALGONQUIN laboured faithfully in various areas. But, various as they were, most years, particularly in the winter and early spring, would find her in the waters off the Bermudas and in the Caribbean.
In 1959, Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip visited Canada. When, in Shediac Bay on the Northumberland Strait, the Royal Party embarked in her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, ALGONQUIN fired the Royal Salute. She went on with others to escort Britannia to Charlottetown and to Halifax.
In the autumn of that year, ALGONQUIN and the squadron participated in the two phases of NATO Exercise “Sharp Squall”, in Hebridean waters.
On 14 April 1960, the ship paid off for a refit in HMC DOCKYARD, Halifax. She was recommissioned on 12 January 1961. Her ship’s company had the opportunity to put the results of the refit to a thorough test when they took part in the NATO Exercise, “New Broom X”, in the springtime off Bermuda. Then she sailed for Freetown, Sierra Leone, to take part in the festivities surrounding that country’s celebrations of their independence from British control.
In 1962, it became apparent that weaknesses in the ship’s bow structure necessitated a refit earlier than had been planned for her. On 9 July, she was withdrawn from operational duties and sailed for Montreal where she was taken in hand. She returned down river in November.
In 1963, NATO exercises were, as often before, the predominant events of the year. While, during the autumn, the ship participated in them, she visited Sweden, Scotland and England. During the early summer of 1964, she crossed the ocean again to join the squadron in training exercises off Londonderry.
That was her last year of cruising. She was an old ship, and cold appraising eyes inspected her with increasing doubt of her further capabilities. After a refit in 1965, she was placed in reserve, joining HMCS CRESCENT of equal age and infirmity. In 1967, both ships were sailed to Esquimalt, but, on their arrival on 28 March, they were again laid up. There they remained until March – April 1971, when they were sold for scrap to the Chi Shun Hua Steel Company of Taiwan.
1 The Royal Navy originally called these ships “Valentine” Class destroyers, after HMS Valentine. They were also frequently referred to as “V” Class destroyers. The term fleet destroyer signifies a destroyer which can take its place with the capital ships of the fleet as distinct from those destroyers that are employed primarily on convoy escort duty.
2 Gilbert Norman Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History, Volume II, (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1952), pp. 93, footnote 28.
3 NHS 8000—HMCS ALGONQUIN: General Information.
4 David Woodward, The Tirpitz and the Battle of the North Atlantic, (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1954), pp. 13.
5 BR 1736(20), Attack on TIRPITZ, 3 April, 1944, pg. 6.
6 Report of Proceedings, HMCS ALGONQUIN, June 1944.
7 Report of Proceedings, HMCS ALGONQUIN, 12 August to 3 November, 1945.
8 Gilbert Norman Tucker, The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History, Volume II, (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1952), pp. 93, footnote 28.
9 NS 1460-DDE 224: Insignia, Badges, Flags and Colours – HMCS ALGONQUIN.
10 Report of Proceedings, HMCS ALGONQUIN, September 1956.
LIST OF COMMANDING OFFICERS - HMCS ALGONQUIN
17 February 1944 to 19 April 1945 Lieutenant-Commander D. W. Piers, DSC, RCN.
20 April 1945 to 6 February 1946 Lieutenant-Commander P. E. Haddon, RCN.
25 February 1953 to 27 August 1954 Commander P. F. X. Russell, CD, RCN.
28 August 1954 to 10 May 1956 Commander R. L. Hennessy, DSC, CD, RCN.
11 May 1956 to 6 July 1956 Captain D. W. Piers, DSC, CD, RCN.
7 July 1956 to 28 July 1957 Lieutenant-Commander R. B. Hayward, CD, RCN.
29 July 1957 to 23 September 1958 Captain D. G. King, DSC, CD, RCN.
24 September 1958 to 25 November 1959 Captain P. F. X. Russell, CD, RCN.
26 November 1959 to 27 March 1960. Captain A. F. Pickard, OBE, CD, RCN.
28 March 1960 to 14 April 1960 Lieutenant-Commander B. A. Mitchell, CD, RCN.
12 January 1961 to 5 July 1961 Captain A. F. Pickard, OBE, CD, RCN.
6 July 1961 to 13 May 1962 Captain A. D. McPhee, CD, RCN.