Updated: Feb 5
One of the most prized artifacts that we house here at the Transcona Museum is the helm wheel from the WWII minesweeper the H.M.C.S. Transcona. The helm wheel of the ship is currently on display with other related items from the H.M.C.S. Transcona in the Remembrance section of our Back Gallery. The ship was a minesweeper that was deployed by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in the late stages of the Second World War off the Eastern Canadian coast.
Minesweepers were used by the RCN to aid the Allies in detecting and clearing underwater mines that were set by the Axis Powers. These mines were set off either when a boat or a submarine touched them. Later on in the war, pulse activated mines were developed which were much more effective and common in the Atlantic. These mines were set off from the frequencies the boats would emit as they passed above the mine. The detonation would cause a shock wave that would damage the target's hull and even disable vessels.
These minesweeper vessels were used to seek out and detonate these mines before they could harm the RCN. They towed behind them devices that would match the frequency output of a metal boat that the mines were targeted for. These boats were put ahead of the main navy when they launched an assault or moved to a new section of the water.
The H.M.C.S. Transcona was the last commissioned Bangor-class minesweeper in the Second World War for the RCN. It was used mostly off the coast of Eastern Canada. Following its launch in April 1942, its first assignment was to escort the H.M.C.S. Provider to Halifax. The ship was then ported for a couple of months from December 1942 – March 1943. It then was tasked to escort two other ships, the minesweeper H.M.C.S. Clayoquot and the frigate H.M.C.S. Kirkland Lake. Before the Transcona was able to meet the other two ships, they were attacked by the German submarine U-806. The Clayoqout was sunk and the U-806 disappeared while the Transcona and the Kirkland Lake collected the survivors. Ten minutes after the sinking of the Clayoqout, another torpedo was detonated near the hull of the Transcona, but no damage was done, and the U-806 was never found.
After the war, the Transcona was transferred to the marine section of the RCMP. The ship was renamed French and was used by the RCMP for 15 years in Halifax until 1960. The vessel was decommissioned and later scrapped at LaHave, Nova Scotia.
The Wheel and the Bell
The helm wheel and the brass bell of the H.M.C.S. Transcona was saved from being scrapped and given to various organizations for safekeeping. The original wheel of the ship now is on display here at the Transcona Museum, it was gifted to us after the ship was decommissioned and scraped.
The following is inscribed on the wheel's plaque: "This wheel from HMCS Transcona was presented to the city of Transcona by the General of Canada, the Honorable George J MCraith PC, QC, MP in appreciation of the long standing affiliation between the city and the Royal Canada Mounted Police 1969."
The original brass bell of the ship was given to the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina, SK. The bell on display at the Transcona Museum is a replica, but the City of Transcona attempted to get the original bell from the RCMP when the museum was first opened in the late 1960s. Permission was not granted and the replica bell was made and given to the museum.
H.M.C.S. Transcona - History and General Characteristics
Name: Transcona Namesake: Transcona, Manitoba Builder: Marine Industries Ltd. Sorel, Quebec Laid down: 18 December 1940 Launched: 26 April 1941 Commissioned: 25 November 1942 Decommissioned: 31 July 1945 Identification: pennant number: J271 Fate: Scrapped, 1961
Class and type: Bangor-class minesweeper Displacement: 592 long tons (601 t) Length: 162 ft (49.4 m) Beam: 28 ft (8.5 m) Draught: 8.25 ft (2.51 m) Propulsion: 2 shafts, 9-cylinder diesel, 2,000 bhp (1,500 kW) Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h) Complement: 83 Armament: 1 × QF 12-pounder 12 cwt naval gun
1 × QF 2-pounder Mark VIII 2 × QF 20 mm Oerlikon guns 40 depth charges as an escort
"HMCS Transcona J271: Then RCMP Vessel FRENCH." For Posterity's Sake: A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project. Accessed 20 July 2018.
"HMCS Transcona." Naval Museum of Canada. Accessed 20 July 2018.
"HMCS Transcona." Wikipedia. Accessed 20 July 2018.
Transcona Historical Museum. Chapter 19: H.M.C.S. Transcona.
Serving King and Country - Transcona's Hometown Heroes. Virtual Museum Canada. Accessed 20 July 2018.