HMCS Alberni, circa 1943-1944.
|Namesake:||Alberni, British Columbia|
|Operator:||Royal Canadian Navy|
|Ordered:||14 February 1940|
|Builder:||Yarrows Ltd., Esquimalt|
|Laid down:||29 April 1940|
|Launched:||22 August 1940|
|Commissioned:||4 February 1941|
|Out of service:||21 August 1944|
|Identification:||Pennant number: K103|
|Atlantic 1941-44; Normandy 1944; North Sea 1944|
|Fate:||Torpedoed and sunk on 21 August 1944 by U-480|
|Class and type:||Flower-class corvette (original)|
|Displacement:||925 long tons (940 t; 1,036 short tons)|
|Length:||205 ft (62.48 m) o/a|
|Beam:||33 ft (10.06 m)|
|Draught:||11.5 ft (3.51 m)|
|Speed:||16 knots (29.6 km/h)|
|Range:||3,500 nautical miles (6,482 km) at 12 knots (22.2 km/h)|
Flower-class corvettes like Alberni serving with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War were different from earlier and more traditional sail-driven corvettes. The "corvette" designation was created by the French as a class of small warships; the Royal Navy borrowed the term for a period but discontinued its use in 1877. During the hurried preparations for war in the late 1930s, Winston Churchill reactivated the corvette class, needing a name for smaller ships used in an escort capacity, in this case based on a whaling ship design. The generic name "flower" was used to designate the class of these ships, which – in the Royal Navy – were named after flowering plants.
Corvettes commissioned by the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War were named after communities for the most part, to better represent the people who took part in building them. This idea was put forth by Admiral Percy W. Nelles. Sponsors were commonly associated with the community for which the ship was named. Royal Navy corvettes were designed as open sea escorts, while Canadian corvettes were developed for coastal auxiliary roles which was exemplified by their minesweeping gear. Eventually the Canadian corvettes would be modified to allow them to perform better on the open seas.
Alberni was ordered on 14 February 1940 from Yarrows Ltd. in Esquimalt, British Columbia and laid down on 29 April. She was launched on 22 August 1940 and commissioned into the RCN on 4 February 1941 at Esquimalt. She was named after Alberni, British Columbia. The town of Alberni later merged with nearby Port Alberni to create one town after the tsunami of 1964 which originated in Alaska and wiped out much of Alberni.
During her career, Alberni had one minor refit in May 1942 where her boilers were replaced. She had one major refit in November 1943 at Liverpool, Nova Scotia which took until early February to complete. She was among the few Canadian Flower class vessels not to have her fo'c'sle extended.
Alberni sailed to the Panama Canal and joined the RCN's Atlantic Fleet in Halifax arriving in April 1941. She was assigned to the Newfoundland Escort Force in May 1941 and tasked as a mid-ocean convoy escort in the western North Atlantic where she played a vital role in escorting Convoy SC42 in September 1941 and subsequent North Atlantic convoys until May 1942.
On 3 May 1942, Alberni, along with HMCS Assiniboine, rescued 47 survivors from the British tanker British Workman that was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-455 southeast of Cape Race at . Alberni then had her boilers replaced through the rest of the month of May.
From October 1942 until February 1943, Alberni was allocated for Operation Torch duties in and around the Mediterranean Sea, escorting convoys to and from Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. On 27 October 1942, Alberni, rescued 12 survivors from the American tanker Gurney E. Newlin that had been torpedoed and damaged by U-436 at . Gurney E. Newlin was sunk the following day by U-606. The next day, 28 October, Alberni, along with HMCS Ville de Quebec, rescued 81 survivors from the British whaling ship Sourabaya that had been torpedoed and sunk the previous day by U-436 at .
Alberni returned from Torch duties in March 1943 and briefly served with the Western Local Escort Force before an assignment with Quebec Force. She spent the next five months escorting Quebec-Labrador convoys. After workups in Bermuda following her refit, Alberni joined the Royal Navy commanded escort group EG 4. In April 1944, she was reassigned to Western Approaches Command for a part in Operation Neptune, the naval aspect of the D-day landings.
Alberni was torpedoed and sunk by U-480, commanded by Hans-Joachim Förster, in the English Channel at . She was escorting a convoy approximately 25 nautical miles (46 km) southeast of St. Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight at 11:45 on 21 August 1944. 59 crew were lost after the torpedo struck the warship on her port side immediately aft of the engine room, causing her to sink in less than a minute. (Acting) Lt. Frank. Williams was awarded the Royal Humane Society's bronze medal for his work in saving members of the crew. 31 crew members were rescued by Royal Navy motor torpedo boats (MTB).
In 1997, the wreck was first dived and identified by archaeologist Innes McCartney and later featured as part of Deep Wreck Mysteries television series, alongside the wreck of U-480.
In 2000 a privately funded memorial program titled "The Alberni Project" was established to honour all the crew who served on Alberni from the time she was commissioned in 1941 at Esquimalt until her sinking in 1944. With the help from relatives of HMCS Alberni crewmen, private and public contributions, and community volunteers, TAP became TAPS (The Alberni Project Society) to serve a growing dedication to preserving the times of the Battle of the Atlantic through the stories of the Canadian forces and civilians involved in the Battle of the Atlantic. A traveling exhibit and memorial was developed in 2005 and continues to make appearances on Vancouver Island and the lower British Columbia mainland. On 1 September 2013 a permanent museum (The HMCS Alberni Museum - HAMM) was opened at the Comox Centre Mall in Comox, British Columbia. In November 2016 HAMM moved to the city of Courtenay, British Columbia to an expanded facility incorporating Canadian Forces from the Great War to the present day.
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- The Alberni Project - Canadian Heritage Website
- HMCS Alberni on the Arnold Hague database at convoyweb.org.uk.
- Canadian Navy Heritage Project: Ship Technical Information
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