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Okanagan Military Museum



The Canadian Navy has a long tradition of naming ships after Canadian towns, cities and geographical features such as rivers. This tradition continues to this day with the modern city class frigates named after major Canadian cities. Although there are no naval vessels currently in commission in the navy with Okanagan Valley related names there were two ships named after Okanagan Valley place names during WW II and a submarine in the post-war era:

HMCS Kelowna

HMCS Kelowna was commissioned in the Canadian Navy at Prince Rupert on Feb.5, 1942. She was assigned to the Local Defence Force and was continuously employed on precautionary sweeps of the approaches to Esquimalt and Prince Rupert Harbour until being paid Oct. 22, 1945. She was sold for commercial purposes and first renamed Condor and later, in 1950, Hung Hsin. She subsequently disappeared from Lloyd’s Register.

RCN at sea during WWII

The allied maritime supply lines to the Aleutians and Alaska were especially important aftre the initiation of the war in the Pacific with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December, 1941. The threat posed by Japanese Imperial Forces in 1942-43 was especially great with the occupation of two Aleutian Islands, Attu and Kiska by Japanese forces. In addition, Japanese aircraft carriers and submarines presented the constant potential of attack on sea lanes and BC itself.

USN battleships attacked at
Pearl Harbour, 7 Dec. 1941
Large Imperial Japanese Navy
submarine with the range to
strike at Canada's west coast

Japanese carrier planes ranged
on deck with another carrier in the wake.

The main Japanese threat to BC was removed by the victories of the United States Navy in major battles in the far-flung Pacific Campaign however the threat of submarine laid mines and torpedo attacks remained throughout the war. HMCS Kelowna and the other ships of the RCN maintained their patrols against this danger throughout the war.

Ship information:

Type Minesweeper
Class Bangor
Displacement 672 Tonnes
Length 180 Feet
Armament 1-4" Gun,
1-3" Gun,
Top Speed 16 Knots
Pennant Number J261
Crew 83 (6 Officers)

HMCS Kalamalka

Another RCN ship named after a place name in the Okanagan was the Llewellyn class minesweeper, HMCS Kalamalka. The Kalamalka was built in the Vancouver shipyard of Benson Ltd and commissioned in the RCN on 2 October 1944. The ship served in a coastal defence role on the west coast until paid off at the end of the war on 16 November, 1945.

Ship information:

Type Minesweeper
Class Llewellyn
Displacement 228 tonnes
Length 119.3 Feet
Armament 4 x. 50 cal machine guns
Top Speed 12 Knots
Pennant Number J395
Crew 23 (3 0fficers)


RCN warship in heavy seas during WWII


HMCS Okanagan, a Canadian O - class submarine

In the post-war era the Canadian Navy went through a series of changes as Canada's maritime defence policies adapted to the changing realities of the Cold War and Canada's role in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The Canadian Navy had built the third largest navy in the world by the end of WW II and although the navy was drastically reduced in peacetime the tremendous expertise in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) developed during the war continued to serve the Canadian Navy well. Within NATO navies Canada specialized in this field of maritime warfare with the Canadian Navy pioneering major developments such as the incorporation of ASW helicopters on ASW specialized destroyer escorts with advanced sonar sensors.

HMCS Nipigon with Seaking helicopter hovering over flight deck

Submarines had historically played an important role in training Canadian ASW forces during WW II and the immediate post-war era using Royal Navy and ex-United States Navy submarines for this role. Submarines have a critical role in developing the combat readiness skills of the surface fleet in countering potential submarine threats. This important function was continued with the acquisition of three British subs in the 1960s. The post-war O class submarines took their class name from the first letters of their names. In the Royal Navy, the lead boat was Oberon. (Customarily, submarines are called “boats,” not “ships,” no matter what their size.) The Canadian boats were named after First Nations tribes.

A bow shot of HMCS Okanagan at sea

Built at the Chatham Dockyard in England, the Okanagan was named after a tribe of the Interior BC Salish Nation. Commissioned into the Canadian Navy on 22 June 1968 the boat served in the Atlantic fleet based in Halifax until 14 September 1998. A special paying off ceremony (the term for bringing a ship's naval service to an end) including a celebration of 30 years of service in the navy was held soon after on the 28th September that year.

Submarine info:

Type Submarine
Class Oberon
Displacement 1,610 / 2,410 tons surfaced / submerged
Length 295 x 29 x 18 feet
Armament Mk.37 Mod 2 electric homing torpedoes 6x 21" tubes forward, 2x 21" "short" tubes - stern firing- with Mk.37 Mod 0 electric straight running torpedoes.
Top Speed 2 x 3,680 hp V16 diesels, 2 x 3,000 hp electric motors, diesel-electric, 2 shafts, 6000 shp, 12/16 knots
Pennant Number 74
Crew 68




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