By Carson Ellis For the Independent
The HMCS Stettler was a River-Class frigate that was built as part of a large order of same-classed ships, which were designed to improve convoy escort functions. The same type of ships were being built by the British Navy for the same purpose. The HMCS Stettler was built in Montreal, Quebec, by Canadian Vickers Ltd. Due to space restraints with construction ports on the water, the Stettler, as well as many of other ships were built in dry dock and later launched. The Stettler was launched on Sept. 10, 1943, and was commissioned in May 1944. The newly built Stettler was part of escort group 16 and was first operated on patrol by August of 1944.
By 1945, the escort group was assigned to the UK, and although the group was mostly patrolling the waters around the U.K, a few ships including the Stettler did make two trips to and from Gibraltar. During the war, some people in town exchanged correspondence with the crew of the ship that carried the town’s name, as well as several drives for Christmas gifts, and various other ‘care packages’ were conducted by members of the town.
The Stettler is noted as being the last warship to return from Europe. She was then slated to be refitted for tropical service. However, when Japan surrendered, this refit was not required, and the Stettler found itself somewhat ‘shelved.’ With the war over, the Navy looked to reduce some of its fleets, and so the Stettler was sold into private operation.
This was a short-lived change of hands, and in 1952 the Stettler was reacquired by the Royal Canadian Navy. It was refitted as part of the Navy’s efforts to refit old frigates. The Canadian Navy was looking to improve its anti-submarine measures, and so the Stettler was remodelled as a Prestonian Class frigate.
Some notable changes included a larger bridge and a stronger hull to combat ice. After an extensive refit, the Stettler was back in action. Originally designated K681, after she was refitted, the Stettler was recommissioned in February of 1954 in Halifax, and given the new identification number of FFE 311. The newly revamped Stettler was then assigned to the west coast, and by 1955 was part of the Second Canadian Escort Squadron of the Pacific Command. As a part of this squadron, the Stettler would be involved in one of the largest naval exercises since the Second World War.
In 1960 she travelled with four other frigates making a tour of several South American Ports including the Galapagos Islands, Callao and Talara. Later, with the Fourth Canadian Escort Squadron, the Stettler travelled to Yokohama, and even Pearl Harbour.
The Stettler continued in active service until 1967, when it was sold to Capitol Iron and Metals, where she was finally scrapped.