As I have mentioned before, during the winter traffic tends to slow through St. John’s Harbour. We get the usual suspects going in and out, but it’s rare that we have visits from ships that don’t call this particular port home. This week, however, we had one such visitor, and since I haven’t covered a Halifax-class ship yet, this week we are looking at the HMCS Toronto.
Displacement: 4,795 tonnes (operational)
Complement: 225 (including air crew)
Speed: 30 knots
Class: Halifax-class Frigate
HMCS Toronto is one of the 12 Halifax-class frigates in the Royal Canadian Navy. Based out of CFB Halifax, she has been on two separate deployments in the last two years. Her interior is peppered with ties back to her namesake city, keeping her crew feeling connected to Canada even when they’re thousands of miles away. The dining mess is called Royal York, and the lounge is called the Air Canada Centre. Her decks have signs with the names of major streets on them, and even the Captain’s quarters are painted Maple Leaf blue.
The Toronto was in St. John’s in last February, returning from a deployment in the Middle East. While on their eight month mission, her crew played an active role in promoting security of the area, including anti-piracy and anti-terrorism missions. They were also responsible for discovering and destroying one of the largest heroin stashes intercepted by an international ship in that area. Previously the record was held by the Australian Navy.
After she completed her mission and returned to Canada, she was in Halifax for repairs some maintenance. On July 24th, under the command of Commander Jason Armstrong she left again, heading for the Mediterranean Sea. She was relieving the HMCS Regina as part of Operation Reassurance – a NATO mission to promote stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe.
This last deployment was by no means a quiet one. In September of last year they were buzzed by three Russian aircraft in the Black Sea. According to Cmdr. Armstrong, it wasn’t the first time they had been engaged by Russian forces (though the actual number of occurrences is classified). She also had one of her Sea King helicopters grounded in the same month. The Sea King ended up needing to be replaced, and one was sent out to meet the ship in a port via a C-17 cargo plane.
In November of 2014, six members of her crew received special recognition while on shore leave in Antalya, Turkey. While they were eating at a local restaurant, a fire broke out in the building. All six were trained in first response and fire and flood control, so they jumped in, assisting in the evacuation of the building and using a firehose from outside to put out the
St. John’s is the first stop back for most Navy ships returning from transAtlantic missions. Being the most easterly port in Canada, this is where the crews come to clear customs and submit any paperwork needed. They then sail from here down to Halifax. The Toronto left St. John’s on Friday and arrived in Halifax this morning to a wonderful welcome home ceremony. The HMCS Fredricton has taken her place in the Mediterranean, and will be there for the next eight months.
Images are my own.