Stettler has a proud history when it comes to supporting Canada’s war efforts in both of the big wars.
An interesting twist in the recent naval history has helped to put Stettler’s name in the annals of the Battle of Atlantic in the Second World War, thanks to a very early move by a town in eastern Canada by the name of Edmunston.
As the Royal Canadian Navy stepped up its efforts to beef up its presence in the Atlantic by commissioning more warships after the war started, there was intense demand from many towns and cities to have these new ships named after them.
Edmunston, a small town in New Brunswick, was one of them. Edmunston town council did put in an early application and received a positive response: A corvette was to be named after the town.
Alberta’s capital city was also willing to have a warship named Edmonton, but they were a little bit late in taking action. When they applied to the navy command, they were told that having two ships with so similar names could have complications.
Then the Edmonton city council held intensive discussions, appealed to the population for suggestions as to what the ship should be named to establish its link with the city of Edmonton. Many names were proposed. After long discussions, “Fort Edmonton” turned out to be the preferred alternative.
But the city council decided finally that the name “lacked local significance” and suggested instead that the ship be named after Stettler.
So the frigate, which later turned out to be the longest serving unit under the Pacific Maritime Command was launched on Sept. 20. 1943 as a River Class frigate at the yards of Canadian Vickers Ltd.
Then Stettler Mayor T. J. Kirby traveled to Montreal for the launching of the ship, where he thanked the City of Edmonton for the privilege of having the ship named after the town of Stettler.
After several test and training missions and repairs to the ship’s engine, HMCS Stettler sailed on Aug. 17, 1944 for its first operational duty as a member of the “Escort Group Sixteen”.
Within just six weeks into that mission, the ship faced the possibility of being sunk by a German torpedo, which, fortunately, missed its target.
As a ship designed to accompany bigger warships, the HMCS Stettler K681 remained deployed in the Atlantic Ocean as part of the battle group.
Over the war years, the HMCS Stettler patrolled the waters of the Atlantic Ocean countless times and at the end of the war decommissioned on Nov. 9, 1945.
Throughout the war years, Stettler residents remained generous to the crew of the frigate and sent many food parcels for the crew in successive shipments.
The end of the war, however, did not mean the end of mission for HMCS Stettler.
After intensive work, the ship was converted to a Prestonian class anti-submarine frigate and recommissioned with penant number 311 on Feb. 2 1954.
In her new capacity, the HMCS Stettler was assigned to the Pacific fleet and served under the Pacific command until Aug. 31, 1966, the day it was decommissioned.
The adventure of the HMCS Stettler, which began in Montreal 23 years earlier ended at the Capitol Irons and Metals shipyard in Victoria, B.C where it was scrapped.
The ship’s bell is now resting at the Stettler Town and Country Museum alongside many exhibits from the war years.