Two tons of military history has new Innisfail home

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Anchor of HMCS Joliette arrives at the legion

INNISFAIL – Constructed in Quebec City in 1943 as a vital two-ton part of a Second World War convoy escort ship, the 1,600-pound anchor of the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Joliette has found its permanent home at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion.

Last month, the anchor, along with its 11 chain links — each weighing 250 pounds, were hauled by flatbed truck from Red Deer to the front entrance of the local legion.

“The Red Deer Legion was downsizing and they needed to find the anchor a home. They wanted to ensure it stayed with the legion,” said Don Harrison, the manager of the Innisfail Legion.

The Joliette was a river class frigate that was commissioned for Second World War service on June 14, 1944. With a displacement of 1,445 tons, and measuring almost 92 metres long and just over 11 metres wide, the river class frigates were faster, with a maximum speed of 19 knots, and having twice the endurance of corvettes. These features were considered invaluable as an ocean escort for supply ships transporting vital goods and munitions across the North Atlantic Ocean to civilians and soldiers bravely enduring and fighting in the global conflict.

Following workup preparations in Bermuda, the Joliette joined the Mid-Ocean Escort Force, and made her first round trip overseas in the early fall of 1944. However, after returning to action for another mission the Joliette ran aground on the north coast of Ireland in November and sustained extensive bottom damage. Repairs were not completed until the following April and the Joliette sailed for Canada in June. It was later sold to the Chilean Navy to serve as Iquique, and finally retired in 1968.

Almost 30 years later the anchor was acquired by the Red Deer Royal Canadian Legion. But last month it had to leave the legion property at 2810 Bremner Ave.

“We sold our building and the new owners wanted it off the property. It wasn’t part of their plans,” said Beverley Hanes, the president of the Red Deer Legion, adding her legion will still remain at its 37-year-old site as it has leased one-third of the building from the new owners. Hanes said while it was good news the anchor is going to another nearby legion it was still sad to see it leave Red Deer.

“It is a whole change but I am a senior and you have got to learn to let things go,” she said.

The anchor arrived in Innisfail on June 20. After some heavy lifting and preparatory groundwork, the anchor, adorned with a monument and plaque dedicated to the service of the Royal Canadian Navy and Merchant Navy, was soon ready for public viewing.

Innisfail Legion members say they are pleased to have such a valuable military artifact, noting its new and visible outdoor home near the entrance complements the nearby iconic CF-104 warplane that sits upright just 20 metres away in the parking lot.

“It represents one arm of service. We have a number of veterans from the navy and we wanted to ensure they were recognized with the monument and anchor and what it represents,” said Harrison, adding that while the anchor will not serve any ceremonial role at the legion it will be a cherished reminder of the honour and sacrifice made by so many.

“They that go down to the seas in ships, that do business in great waters, these are the works of the Lord and his wonders of the deep,” begins the plaque inscription on the monument that honours the service of the men and women of both navies. “We will remember them.”

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Johnnie Bachusky

Johnnie Bachusky joined the Innisfail Province as editor in 2013. He covers Innisfail and Red Deer County news, police, crime and municipal politics. He is also a photographer and columnist.