A moment in history: March 6, 1943

A moment in history: March 6, 1943

· The Pulse

On this day in 1943, Edmonton's own naval reserve was searching for a ship to call its own.

The sailors at the HMCS Nonsuch weren't on the lookout for a full-sized frigate or anything of the like. After all, with about 800 kilometres and the Rocky Mountains dividing Edmonton from the Pacific Ocean, it's a pain to dock a ship. Instead, the sailors were asking for a donation of a model ship for their newly renovated barracks.

HMCS Nonsuch got its start in 1923. It was created as part of a series of divisions established across the country by the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, aimed at growing Canada's tiny navy. Edmonton's reserve started as a smaller half-company, stationed out of the Prince of Wales armoury. The division's name comes from a boat sailed by what became the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 1660s. The name means "With no equal."

Volunteers at HMCS Nonsuch would drill at the facility, while nearby Wabamun Lake would sometimes fill in for the ocean for training on the water.

In 1939, with war again on the horizon, HMCS Nonsuch moved to a more permanent home on 102 Street and 97 Avenue. During the Second World War, HMCS Nonsuch went into active service and became a training centre. Throughout the war, some 3,500 naval recruits were trained at the facility before heading off to ships in Vancouver or Halifax.

Despite many of them never having seen the ocean before, Prairie recruits gained a reputation for being solid sailors. This was partially because they usually had no experience at sea, and therefore were blank slates for training.

After the war, HMCS Nonsuch transitioned to peacetime service. The division's story almost ended in 1964, when it fell victim to funding cuts and was decommissioned. It would be another decade before Nonsuch was revived to once again provide training to recruits. This was also the time that the reserve moved to its current home off of Kingsway Avenue.

That home, by the way, is considered a "stone frigate." While it might look like a big rectangular building beside a large parking lot, it is treated like a ship by the people who work there. As such, they refer to its starboard and port sides, prepare meals in its galley, and even have a ship's bell installed inside. Last year marked the naval reserve's centennial. The anniversary was marked by a small celebration where the HMCS Nonsuch was awarded Freedom of the City in Edmonton.

This clipping was found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse of @VintageEdmonton.