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Did You Know?
In 1944 the HMCS Hespeler was commissioned on Feb. 28th, 1944 as a Castle class corvette named the HMS Guildford Castle for the Royal Navy. During construction, arrangements were made between the British and Canadian governments for a trade.
Canada built 16 mine sweepers for the Royal Navy in return for four increased endurance corvettes and 12 Castle – class corvettes. The Guildford Castle became part of the Royal Canadian Navy fleet and was renamed HMCS Hespeler.
HMCS Hespeler served as a unit in the C-5 escort group and she operated in the mid-north Atlantic between Newfoundland and Londonderry. In 1945, she was sent from Halifax to Vancouver and was purchased by Union Steamships Ltd. It was renamed the Chilcotin and after reconstruction operated as a cruise service to Alaska.
The cruises lasted till 1957 at which time it was purchased by Sun Line Inc. (Liberian) and renamed Stella Maris. In June 1958,
she was transferred to the St. Lawrence cruise service from Quebec to Magdalen Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon. In 1960, the vessel was registered under the Greek flag and began Greek island cruises. She was known as the “princess of cruise yachts “and the only air-conditioned yacht on the sea equipped with stabilizers.
It was an exotic life for the former Canadian Naval corvette named for the community of Hespeler. She could accommodate 150 passengers in 2-berth cabins with private shower and toilet. She continued to ply the Mediterranean until 1965.
Arrangements were made to sell the former HMCS Hespeler to Alaska Cruise Lines and return her to B.C. She never made it back home.
On January 28th, 1966 while on her voyage back to Vancouver, she caught fire and was gutted. She went aground off Cagliari after being abandoned by her crew and was later sold to Italian Shipbreakers. She arrived in Spezia on April 30th, 1966 for scrapping. It was a sad end for a proud ship.