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The history of Canada's Navy & Military on Canada's west coast

Christening Bells Project

An Important Reminder

PLEASE NOTE: CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum is not responsible for inaccuracies in the names or dates recorded on bells listed on this website. All names and dates appear exactly as inscribed on the individual bells in our database.

In some cases, regrettably, the names of individuals christened aboard ship were not engraved onto bells following the ceremony, as they should have been. The museum cannot enter into any discussions with individuals wishing to remedy this oversight. Nor can we provide information about bells that are not part of our project database. Every effort is being made to provide a comprehensive listing of christening bells held Canada-wide, as information on them becomes available.

Christening Bells Project

The bell of HMCS SWANSEA, one of many ship's bells in CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum's collection.For centuries, ship's bells have played both a practical and symbolic role in the life of naval vessels and their crews.

One of the most memorable traditions for sailors and their families involves the use of ship's bells as baptismal fonts for shipboard christenings.

Children of the ship's company baptized according to this custom can also have their names inscribed on the ship's bell. Since the shipboard bell is considered such a significant part of the ship's equipment and history, this is both an honour and a privilege.

On occasion, ship's bells have also been used to record other events in the lives of crew members. HMCS RESTIGOUCHE's bell is inscribed with the 2 September 1941 wedding date of her commander, Desmond William Piers, to Janet Atken. Piers went on to become one of the most distinguished and admired figures in the navy's leadership, and a formidable adversary at sea as he shepherded merchant convoys across the submarine-infested North Atlantic. 

Unfortunately, an individual searching for her or his name on a specific bell from a ship of Canada's Navy may be in for a time-consuming task. The business of tracking down the actual bell itself can prove difficult.

Since a ship's bell is among its most significant artifacts, when a ship decommissions, there is often demand from many quarters for this item. Bells may go to naval and civilian museums for safe-keeping and display.

In the case of Canadian ships named for towns and cities, the 'home' community sometimes receives the bell, and shows it off at city hall. For example, the city of Miramichi is now in possession of HMCS MIRAMICHI's bell. On occasion, bells end up in unlikely places like retail stores or even in private hands.

To simplify things, CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum is in the process of making information on the inscriptions from bells it holds in its collection accessible through this web site. Christening information from the bells held by the Museum is being entered into a searchable data archive that is accessible to any interested web site visitors. The accessible information for each of the bells entered into this archive includes the ship name, current location of the bell, and each child's name and date of his or her christening.

Information from bells held by other institutions and organizations, including municipalities and Legions, is being added to the christening bell data as it becomes available. The Naval Museum of Halifax (NMH), for example, has the following christening bells in its collection, and enquiries about these bells should be directed to their website email address, which is - marcommuseum@forces.gc.ca

 

SHIP/BELL NAME ENGRAVING/INSCRIPTION ON BELL EXTERIOR CHRISTENING DATE RANGE ON BELL
HMCS ANTIGONISH    1959-1961
HMCS COMOX (2nd)   1954-Unknown
HMCS FRASER (2nd)   1957-1963
HMCS IROQUOIS H.M.C.S. IROQUOIS 1942 1951-1977
HMCS IROQUOIS H.M.C.S. IROQUOIS 1992 1996-2014
HMCS IROQUOIS H.M.C.S. IROQUOIS 29 July 1972 1977-1996
HMCS MARGAREE (2nd)   1975-1991
HMCS OJIBWA   1965-1998
HMCS ONONDAGA   1994-2000
HMCS PROVIDER (2nd)   1963-1976
HMCS ST CROIX (2nd)   1959-1972
HMCS TERRA NOVA   1973-1995
HMCS WALLACEBURG   1954-1956

 

As a service to the relatives of crew members, and children christened, we also include inscriptions and dates for the bell of HMCS ANNAPOLIS (II), a bell currently held by the town of Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia; the bell of HMCS SASKATCHEWAN, which is at the Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo, BC; the bell of HMCS CORMORANT, now on loan to a Navy League Cadet Corps in BC; the bell of HMCS UGANDA, which is still used for baptisms, and is located in St. Brendan’s Chapel (part of the Stadacona Faith Centre), CFB Halifax.

 The bell of HMS FROBISHER, now part of the museum collection. This bell was once at Royal Roads Military College, when the college was located in Hatley Park, Colwood, British Columbia (now the home of Royal Roads University).

The following bells held at locations throughout Canada, mainly by Naval Reserve Divisions, are also included:

HMCS SCOTIAN bell - Halifax, NS; HMCS QUEEN CHARLOTTE - Naval Reserve Division, Charlottetown, PEI; HMCS HUNTER Bell - Naval Reserve Division, Windsor, ON; HMCS HOCHELAGA bell - CFB Borden, Simcoe County, ON; HMCS CATARAQUI - Naval Reserve Division, Kingston, ON; HMCS BORDER CITIES (re: HMCS Hunter's wardroom bell)- Windsor, ON; HMCS BURLINGTON Bell - Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps - RCSCC Iron Duke, Burlington, ON; HMCS NOOTKA Bell - Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps - RCSCC Campbeltown, Holden, AB.

View the names on all our Ship's Bells.  Search for your name or that of your parents or ancestors. 

 

By Clare Sharpe, Museum staff member/webmaster