HMCS Algonquin Bell donated to museum


LCdr (Retired) Paul Seguna

At the behest of my wife Eva, we set out for an afternoon drive on Sunday, Sept. 26 for something to do on a rainy fall day.

We took our regular route through the Saanich Peninsula with a planned stop at a favorite antiques and collectibles store in Brentwood Bay – Everything Old.

No sooner had we entered the shop than Eva noticed on the front counter a large ship’s bell with HMCS Algonquin engraved upon it, and brought it to my attention.

A customer was engaged with the shop staff in discussion about the bell, so I went about viewing the other items keeping watch on the bell until the opportunity to speak to the store owner, Andrew English, presented itself.

I introduced myself as a volunteer with the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum and member of the Naval Association of Canada – Vancouver Island Branch, and expressed my interest in the provenance of the bell. Andrew indicated that he had just acquired the bell from a private collector who had purchased it from a scrap yard some years before.

He believed there was a possibility the bell was a ‘transitional bell’ used when the Royal Navy transferred the ‘V’ Class destroyer HMS Valentine to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), which was then commissioned into Canadian naval service as HMCS Algonquin.

Andrew was delighted to hear of my interest in the bell in the context of its acquisition by the museum as he passionately believes items of unique historical significance should ideally reside with museums for public display. Accordingly, I informed him that I would explore the acquisition of the bell by the museum and get back to him as quickly as possible.

As it turned out, although museum staff had a great interest in acquiring the bell, there was no financial means to do so. The museum already has in its collection three HMCS Algonquin (I and II) ship’s bells and the bell from HMS Valentine. The acquisition of this fourth bell would be a significant addition to the museum’s ship’s bells exhibit.

This exhibit is illustrative of an ongoing effort by the museum to identify the holders and locations of RCN ship’s bells, as in cases where the status of bells remains unknown – as was the case in this acquisition. This is further complicated by the fact there can be several ship’s bells cast during a ship’s commission.

The acquisition would be especially significant due to the possibility of its provenance as a wartime service artifact of the ship. The acquisition of the bell needed to be done quickly if it was to be available for display to the public and not returned to a private collector.

I conducted additional research online seeking to find further evidence of the bell’s possible history and found a series of photographs of the bell during the wartime commission of HMCS Algonquin. I combined that with other circumstantial evidence and visual comparisons with the bells held by the museum that pointed to the possibility of its provenance as a wartime bell. If this were indeed the case, it would have been removed from the ship 75 years ago in 1946 when HMCS Algonquin was placed in fleet reserve in Esquimalt at the end of the Second World War. In that light, and even if not, I decided to acquire the bell as expeditiously as possible to prevent its return to public obscurity.

The museum was delighted to hear I had acquired the bell with the intent of donating it to their collection. I was very glad to do so as a museum volunteer and member of the Naval Association of Canada, as both serve to illustrate the history and ongoing RCN story.

The bell was formally transferred to the museum on Oct. 20 where it will contribute to the museum’s ongoing public information mandate regarding Canada’s naval and military history.

As a final note to this story, the bell did not come with a clapper; however, by strange coincidence, I had acquired a bell clapper years ago that fits the bell perfectly and completes the donation.


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