(Adam Baker submitted these photographs but he did not take the photographs. He picked up a used unbuilt Revell 1:72 scale Flower Class corvette and photographs were in the box. The photographs were taken by Tom and Sara Griffith.)
In 1939 the Royal Canadian Navy numbered the grand total of 2,000 personnel. By 1945 the RCN had mushroomed to 100,000 and manned over 400 RCN warships. The RCN played a crucial part in the Battle of the Atlantic. It was with the slow convoys crawling across the dreary North Atlantic that the RCN had the most involvement. Losses were far higher on slow convoys than in the British protected fast convoys. Accordingly it was far deadlier work for the escorts as well as the merchants.
In 1939 the firm of Smith's Dock LTD proposed to the Admiralty the construction of small, cheap anti-submarines escort vessels based on the hull of a whaler. The same firm had built similar ships for the RN during World War One and so had a track record in mass production of ASW escorts. The Admiralty quickly jumped at the idea of the Patrol Vessel of the Whaler Type and the Flower class corvette was born. These small vessels were produced in large numbers with 145 built in the United Kingdom, 121 in Canada and 4 in France.
The vessels were too small and light to be truly efficient anti-submarine ships and were a stop-gap measure until larger, more efficient ASW ships became available. However, it was the Flower Class that played key roles at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic. In due course the larger ships arrived but by then the dumpy Flower Class had already won the campaign. They were very wet ships and bobbed up and down with the seas, rather than cutting through them like heavier ships. Accordingly, the crew could be very uncomfortable for their crews. After the addition of the traditional RN open navigation bridge, service in an North Atlantic gale in January must have been very unpleasant for bridge personnel.
The Canadian Flowers did not follow the British practice of naming the class after types of flowers. Instead they were named after Canadian cities and towns. HMCS Sackville is a surviving member of this largest class of warship. It is currently open to the public at Halifax, Canada. She is a member of the long forecastle sub-group of the class and is probably the best memorial for the grueling North Atlantic campaign and the tremendous role provided by Canada.
With these photographs, you can see most of the details of the ship, most importantly their primary weapons designed to fight subs. The deck gun had a splinter shield, which protected the crew from splinters and machine gun fire but of course could not stop a U-Boats 88mm deck gun shell. However, the corvette still had the edge on the U-Boat's deck crew who were manning an unprotected gun. With most warships the 20mm Oerlikon was an AA gun. It was this on the Flower class but also doubled as an anti-personnel weapon if the corvette became involved in a gun duel with a submarine. The Sackville reflects the range of WWII antisubmarine weapons systems. There are the traditional stern racks, plus the new WWII systems such as K-Gun side depth charge throwers and the rocket assisted Hedgehog, which fired a pattern of depth bombs ahead of the ship.
When it comes to warship museum sites of steam powered warships, it is the battleship and fleet aircraft carrier which hog the glory. In any evaluation of the Battle of the Atlantic, the diminutive corvettes played a far greater role in victory over the U-Boats than either of their huge cousins. The HMCS Sackville is just waiting for you in Halifax.