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HMCS Sackville: Canada's Sole Surviving WWII Corvette

on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 18:17

In Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia Canada sits one of the more unique Second World War era museum ships: the HMCS Sackville. The Sackville was one of 123 Flower Class Corvettes to serve with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. As of this writing it is the last of its kind.

Corvettes are small multi-role ships that for centuries have served as a key component of the world's naval powers. Dating back to the Age of Sail, corvettes have traditionally been smaller than frigates; but larger than offshore or coastal patrol craft. Nevertheless, this means that corvettes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They also serve in a number of roles including; anti-ship, anti-submarine warfare, patrol, and more. In spite of a considerable variance in shape and composition one cannot automatically equate size with one maritime role over another. For instance, one of today's cutting edge Swedish Visby Class stealth corvettes weighs in at a mere 640 plus tons. On the other hand the Russian Navy's Project 20380 Steregushchy Class Corvette is one of the largest corvettes ever and displaces over 2,000 tons. Yet both pack potent firepower; including powerful anti-ship missiles and torpedoes capable of sinking much larger warships.

During the Age of Sail corvettes typically weighed in at around 60-70 tons, but by the time of World War II corvettes such as the Sackville and its Flower class brethren displaced approximately 950 tons. At less than half the size of a destroyer of their day and carrying a more modest armament (consisting of a 4-inch gun and light anti-aircraft weapons but bristling with anti-submarine weapons such as depth charges and a Mk 3 hedgehog) these corvettes were still more than capable of performing their primary wartime role of escorting Allied merchant convoys through the German U-boats favorite hunting grounds in the North Atlantic.

Commissioned late in December of 1941 the Sackville entered service early in 1942. In the ensuing two years Sackville helped escort nearly three dozen cross-Atlantic convoys. These convoys included nearly 2,000 merchant ships. To their escort's credit only ten of these ships were lost to German U-boats.  The Sackville's most notable action of the war occurred during August of 1942. While escorting a convoy off the coast of Newfoundland two different German U-boat "wolfpacks" attacked. Over the course of several days Sackville engaged and heavily damaged two of these U-boats (U-43 and U-552), and forced a third to break off its attack.

Following World War II the Sackville served in a number of civilian roles that lasted until 1982. In 1983 work began on restoring the Sackville to its 1944 wartime appearance. Since that work was completed the ship has spent its summers as a floating museum ship in Halifax Harbor, and is a Canadian National Historic Site.


Rod Pudduck's picture

As the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaches most people are probably unaware that one of the little warships that supported the invasion fleet still exists. HMS Whimbrel escorted landing craft from Plymouth and Portsmouth across the English Channel to the Utah and Omaha beach landings. A veteran of many Atlantic and Russian convoys she later served in the Pacific and is the only surviving British vessel that was present in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.


However Egyptian Navy Ship Tarek (ex HMS Whimbrel), the last surviving member of the famous WW2 Black Swan class anti-submarine sloop, that was sold to Egypt in 1949, now awaits the breaker’s torch. 


The ship is remarkably unchanged from her WW2 condition: externally she is instantly recognizable as a sister of HMS Starling made famous by Captain F.J.(Johnnie) Walker RN - the most successful British U-boat destroyer during the Battle of the Atlantic.


After an 11 year struggle by a charity set up to rescue the ship and restore her as an international  memorial to the thousands of all services lost in the Battle of the Atlantic, £250,000 is needed save her.


There is no single memorial to the longest conflict of the Second World War, about which Churchill said:

 “ Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome”.  


The HMS Whimbrel (1942-1949) Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Trust (Charity Number 1109312) aims to place the ship in Liverpool, the UK hub of the convoy system and headquarters of the escort forces.


An urgent appeal has been launched by the Trust to raise the purchase price of £250,000. The ship is too fragile to be towed so a further $2 million may be needed to carry the ship home.


This is the last chance to rescue her from the breakers and not much time allowed by the Egyptians to raise the money. Anyone wishing to make a donation please contact the Trust Secretary Captain Chris Pile Royal Navy (contact details below).




Naval Architect for the BOA Memorial Trust

Charity Registration number 110931

+44 (0) 1225 863516



For donations:


Captain Chris Pile Royal Navy

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