The Formation 

In 1986, I decide to form a Sea Cadet Coms in the South End of the City of Thunder Bay. It was not without its challenges. I have been credited with the formation, although it takes more than one man to see it through. First, you have to determine how much support you are going to get. Thanks to some ex-cadets from RCSCC Vindictive, Fort William Branch #6 Legion, the Navy League of Canada, and many volunteers it started to shape up. Although there was a lot of support, there were a few road blocks as well. The name was one. I felt that the Corps needed something new, and to this end I thought of RCSCC Fort William, named after HMCS Fort William which was built in Thunder Bay, and fought with distinction during the Second World War.

Where could we find quarters? Some helpful people suggested I fry the Lakehead Board of Education. They told me if I could find a principal that would agree, they might consider it. The principal Mr. Al Fugelsang, from Crawford Street School agreed, with conditions, clean, neat, and no trouble.

All we had was a bunch of volunteers, who by word of mouth rounded up 73 young Canadians, with the promise of forming a Corps. On December the 1 st of 1988, after signing my life away, we moved into Crawford Street School. Volunteers wore old Police Blue Shirts, with no rank, although they looked really good.

Lt(N) John Rickard
First Commanding Officer of
309 RCSCC Fort William

HMCS Fort William J311/195

Fort William was a Bangor Class minesweeper. The Bangor Class ships were built in order to replace the old Basset Class minesweepers, as they were larger, faster, had much greater endurance, and burned oil as opposed to coal. As enemy mines were laid only once in 1943 in Canadian waters, the Bangors were used principally as escorts to coastal shipping or as local escorts to ocean convoys. Sixteen of them, however, assisted in sweeping the approaches to Normandy before D-Day, and stayed to help clear German and Allied minefields in the English Channel for some months afterward.

 

Commissioned at Port Arthur, now Thunder Bay, Ontario, on November 17, 1942, Fort William arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on September 24 with a good many defects, and did not commence working up until mid-October. A month later she was assigned to Halifax Force for local convoys.

 

On January 11, 1943, she suffered considerable damage in a collision with the government vessel Lisgar at Halifax, and was under repair there for a month. In June 1943, she was transferred to Newfoundland Force. She returned to Halifax in February 1944 for a short refit, and on February 20 left with her sister-ships HMCS Blairmore, HMCS Milltown and HMCS Minas for Plymouth, United Kingdom, arriving on March 8. Assigned to the 31st Minesweeping Flotilla, she was present on D-Day in Normandy.

 

Fort William refitted at St. John’s, Newfoundland, in March 1945, rejoining the 31st Flotilla in July and remaining until September 21, when she left Plymouth for Canada. She was paid off on October 23, 1945, at Sydney, Nova Scotia, and was placed in strategic reserve at Sorel, Québec, in 1946. Re-acquired in June 1951 and extensively modernized, she lay in reserve at Sydney until November 29, 1957, when she was transferred to the Turkish Navy and renamed Bodrum. She was removed from service in 1971 and broken up.

 

Displacement: 672 tons                    Dimensions: 55 m x 8.7 m x 2.5 m

Speed: 16 knots                                  Crew: 83

Armament: one 3-inch gun (76-mm), four 20-mm guns (1 x II, 2 x I) and depth charges.

 

Battle honours

Gulf of St. Lawrence 1942              Atlantic 1943                   Normandy 1944

 

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