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Corvettes and Claybank story
World War II Corvette Warship
5 December 2003
Corvettes and Claybank
Although the Destroyer certainly was the most useful ship in the Canadian Navy during the years of World War II, it is safe to say that the Navy's real backbone was supplied by the Corvette, for Canada had more Corvettes than any other single type of warship. This was because the Corvette could be built quickly and well in Canadian shipyards, and was capable of providing good protection against submarines for the merchant shipping in its care.
The Corvette was a small ship, the firebox in its engine room was lined with firebrick from the Claybank Brick Plant, this gives the Brick Plant direct involvement in the war effort. Claybank brick also lined the fireboxes of some of the Destroyers of the Canadian Navy. The Corvettes were less than 200 feet in length, but very sturdily built and so cleverly designed that it could stand up to the fiercest of gales. It was fast enough to catch and sink submarines, and was, of course, much faster than the merchant ships it was used to protect.
Most Corvettes carried at least one gun, usually of 4" caliber, as well as machine-guns, antiaircraft weapons, and enough depth charges to deal with as many submarines as they may expect to meet in several weeks at sea.
One of the miracles of the Corvette was that such a small ship could stay at sea for so long, for they are able to cross the Atlantic even when protecting a convoy of merchant ships that may take two weeks or more to go from Halifax to Britain. This, of course, uses a great deal of fuel; yet the corvettes were able to do it.
The very first Canadian Corvettes (known as the 'Flower Class') were named after flowers-Windflower, Mayflower, Snowberry, Spikenard, etc., but there were only a few of these. After those earliest ships, the Corvettes of our Navy were named after Canadian cities and towns, such as Halifax, Regina, Calgary, Chambly, Charlottetown, Trail etc. The names of many Canadian cities and towns and, of course, some Claybank firebrick has been carried far out into the Battle of the Atlantic by the Corvettes.
Like the Destroyer, the Corvette was far from being a comfortable ship at sea. It was so small and light that it bobbed about over the wave-tops like a core. Some sailors said that aboard a Corvette you learned to do everything with one hand, so as to have the other free to
hold on to a rail or something in order to avoid losing your balance and falling over board!
Corvettes usually carried a crew of about sixty, four or five of whom would be officers.
The officers, and two or three others are the only men who had cabins: the rest slept in hammocks, or on bunks against the ship's side down below. With almost every convoy that left Canada's shores carrying vital supplies for Britain or elsewhere, you would find several Corvettes steaming out in front of the Merchant Ships which were grouped together in long lines like soldiers on the march. The Corvettes are on guard against submarines. Somewhere in each ship there would be a man on watch with an anti-submarine listening device, as well as another high up in the 'crow's nest' on the mast, and yet others on the bridge and on the anti-aircraft gun-platform towards the stern. These men are the eyes and ears of the Corvettes - forever listening and looking for the U-boat, hoping for a chance to attack, and to use their long months of training and experience. The U-boats knew well how hard the Corvettes could strike. Of all the many hundreds of ships that had crossed the ocean protected by corvettes and destroyers less than one in a hundred had been sunk.
Excerpts modified from: 'Ships mean Victory' The Navy League of Canada -1942
World War II Destroyer Warship