HMCS St. Eloi

There has been only one vessel named HMCS St. Eloi in the Royal Canadian Navy.

HMCS St. Eloi / Battle-class trawler

HMCS St. Eloi was a Battle-class trawler built during the closing days of First World War. Based on the British Castle-class trawlers, these ships were of slightly larger tonnage than the British ships. The Battle class was the first class with a distinct Canadian designation. All 12 vessels of the class received names for land battles of the First World War in which components of the Canadian Army took part. Many of these vessels also served in the Second World War but five of them exchanged their name for numbers in 1942.

HMCS St. Eloi is named for the Battle of St. Eloi (27 March – 16 April 1916, also known as the Battle of St. Eloi Craters). This battle on the fields in Belgium was the first major engagement for the 2nd Canadian Division. The plan called for British troops to take the German front line and for the Canadians to then hold it. Early in the morning of March 27, six British mines collapsed the German trenches creating huge craters in the battlefield. The mines changed the battlefield so much that, along with the high winds, sleet and mud, the British troops became disoriented. They would not be relieved by the Canadians until 4 April. The confused conditions, days of heavy rain, and enemy fire and artillery pinned the Canadians down and prevented effective communication from the front lines. The Canadians would stay in contact with the enemy for two weeks, until aerial photography demonstrated to divisional headquarters the awful position of the Canadians, and the battle was stopped. German night raids and tear gas attacks forced half the remaining Canadians to surrender, while the rest managed to escape. In total, the Canadians saw 1370 casualties over the course of the battle. The German position remained unchanged from where it had been at the start of the battle.

Built at Toronto, Ontario, HMCS St. Eloi was commissioned in November 1917. The ship was paid off in 1920 and turned over to the Department of Marine and Fisheries for conversion, she was ultimately designated Lightship No. 20. The Royal Canadian Navy recovered her on 15 June 1940 and she became Gate Vessel 12 for the duration of the war, spending at least part of that time at Shelburne, NS. The Department of Transport, successor to the Department of Marine and Fisheries, took her back in June 1945 and the former HMCS St. Eloi was finally disposed of in 1962.

  • Builder: Polson Ironworks, Toronto, Ontario
  • Date launched: August 2, 1917
  • Date commissioned: November 13, 1917
  • Date paid off: 1920
  • Displacement: 325 tonnes
  • Dimensions: 45.1 m x 7.6 m x 3.4 m
  • Speed: 10 knots
  • Crew: 20
  • Armament: one 12-pounder (5.45 kg) gun

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