AMHERST – A piece of Second World War Naval history rang back to life Friday night at the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury in Amherst.
“I’m glad the process is finished and the bell is here. It has a good home where it will be well respected by the cadets,” said Jim Triff, a 29-year veteran of the Canadian military, who was in attendance for the 258 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps annual ceremonial review Friday night.
Triff, whose wife Helen is the commanding officer of the 258 Amherst Sea Cadets, has worked eight years to bring the HMCS Amherst bell to the James Layton Ralston Armoury from the Cumberland County Museum.
“I started about eight years ago talking to naval officers and the Navy League and stuff like that,” said Triff. “Everybody thought it was a great idea and said they were going to get back to me but that didn’t work out.”
Working from the bottom to the top wasn’t working for Triff, so about a month ago he changed tactics.
“I decided to work from the top down and talked to Bill Casey (MP for Cumberland-Colchester) and I talked to the minister of National Defence,” said Triff.
Things moved fast after that.
“I waited a little bit, and his (Casey’s) assistant sent me an email and asked how I was making out, and I said I was on the same old bureaucratic merry-go-round,” said Triff. “She said, ‘I’ll phone Bill,’ and the next day we had the bell.”
The bell was cast in 1941 for the HMCS Amherst, a flower-class corvette of the Royal Canadian Navy. Royal Navy corvettes were open-sea escort vessels. While escorting convoy SC-107 in the North Atlantic in 1942, the convoy came under attack by German U-boats from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4. The Amherst engaged in battle with U-boats and survived the encounter. The Amherst, in 1946, was sold to the Venezuelan navy where she was decommissioned in 1956.
After decommissioning, bells from Royal Canadian Navy vessels ended up in museums across Canada, including the bell from the HMCS Amherst.
Triff wasn’t aware of the existence of the HMCS Amherst bell until his first visit to the Cumberland County Museum.
“I didn’t know it was there until I went to the museum and saw the bell. I asked the curator at the time (if it could be moved to the armoury) and they said they didn’t have a problem with it,” said Triff. “A lot of the credit has to go to Bill and, also, the Cumberland County Museum. They agreed that it should be in a place where it will be used for what it was designed for.”
The bell is now hung by a door in the armoury and will be used for ceremonial purposes.
“It’s a physical presence of the memory of Amherst,” said Triff. “Every time they walk by that door they will see the ships bell there.