The Flower Class Corvette

By Bob Pearson

The two largest operators of the Flower Class corvette were the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. During the course of the war the appearance of these ships was to undergo many changes, some of which are shown here on representative RN/RCN Flowers.


HMCS Dauphin K157
1941

HMCS Dauphin would appear to have been caught while applying her camouflage. She is in overall medium gray (AP507b) with a white panel on the bow and gunshield. There are further light gray areas on her bandstand and funnel. This is the original as-built appearance of the early RCN Flowers. RN Flowers were similar, but with their bandstand where the mainmast was sited on RCN Flowers. Secondary armament consists of a pair of Lewis guns in the bandstand - sufficient quantities of the 2pdr were unavailable. Also note the original bridge with enclosed charthouse on the upper level, and the lack of radar.


HMCS Midland K220
1942

HMCS Midland is seen here in overall light grey (AP507c) with dark grey (AP507a) camouflage. Some modification is apparent in that the mainmast is gone, and the 2pdr has arrived. Her bridge is still of mercantile fashion and radar is still lacking. Actually by this date there was radar available to RCN escorts, this was the infamous Canadian designed SW1C .. which, although a technical achievement in its creation, was totally ineffective in use. It was to be another year before the vastly superior British type 271 was available to the RCN in any numbers.


HMS Abelia K184
1942

Tests revealed that rather than the previously used dark colours, the best shades for the often fogbound north Atlantic were white and various pastel shades to try and blend the ship into the surrounding murkiness. To this end, many escorts of the Western Approaches (and other commands) began to appear in off-white, light blue and light green. These were to become the classic 'Western Approaches' schemes which dominated the middle war years.

HMS Abelia is fitted for minesweeping (as were most early RCN corvettes), and is also fitted with one of the first type 271 radars. However she still has an enclosed compass house on her bridge.


HMS Borage K120
1942

Another Flower fitted for minesweeping is HMS Borage. She, however, has the 'LL' (magnetic) minesweeping gear on the stern, and an 'acoustic hammer' on the bow. This was a bucket fitted to the end of of an A-frame which could be lowered into the water. A weight was dropped into the bucket setting off a load noise which it was hoped would detonate any acoustic mines in the area.


HMS Spirea K08
April 1942

Not all corvettes used the WA colours, and HMS Spirea is a perfect example of this. She is seen here in MS1, MS4 and MS4a. Her appearance is a mixture of early and late. .. lengthened foc's'le and radar, but old bridge and mast.


HMCS Shawinigan K136
1942

HMCS Shawinigan wears the classic 'WA" colours. Again, secondary weapons are negligible. Shawinigan had a gunshield emblem consisting of a golden harp with a winged female form on a dark green background.


HMS Bluebell K80
1942

Operational experience showed that changes were required to improve the efficiency of the Flower Class. The most obvious was the extending of the foc's'le to better accommodate the additional crew required. Other improvements include a new open bridge with 20mm Oerlikons for defence, hedgehog anti-submarine mortars, type 271 radar and the mast resited behind the bridge to improve visibility forward. Bluebell is also carrying two twin Lewis guns on the aft engine room casing.


HMCS Arrowhead K145
June 1942

Although the majority of RCN Flowers weren't fully up to RN standards in mid-1942, there were a handful that were. These were the ten Flowers that had been built in Canada for the RN, but turned over to the RCN for the duration .. They retained 'Flower' names rather than the city and town names given to RCN Flowers (the RCN wanted to call them Town Class, but that was taken by the 50 four-stack destroyers lent to the RN/RCN by the USN in return for bases). Arrowhead has almost all of the upgrades except for Hedgehog and the mast. Arrowhead carried an indian head over crossed arrows on the gunshield. Indian heads were probably the second most common form of RCN gunshield art behind Donald Duck.


HMCS Snowberry K166
May 1943

Another of the RN ordered RCN Flowers was HMCS Snowberry. She can be seen in a series of excellent photos in the WR Press volume by John Lambert on the type. For those who purchased the Revell kit, here is what the gunshield art SHOULD look like.


HMS Gloxinia K22
February 1943

Gloxinia was used in the Mediterranean on minsweeping duties (one account has her leading the main fleet into harbour and setting off a dozen mines while doing so !!). In common with other Med-based ships she also carried an additional AA armament in the form of a 4" HA gun in the bandstand and the 2pdr was resited to the aft end of the engine room casing. Colours appear to be AP507a hull and 507c upperworks with a white false bow wave. The bridge is of the earliest form (with an additional level on the compass house)


HMS Clematis K36
Early 1943

Clematis shows the next major change in colours, the pastel WA blue and green were dropped in favour of B55. Interestingly, she has a quad .50 mount in the bandstand. The 2pdr may not have been the most effective of weapons, but it was superior to the machine guns fitted.


HMCS Shediac K110
May 1944

HMCS Shediac still has a short foc's'le and mast forward of the bridge at this late date. Although depicted with WA blue panels, B55 is more likely. The gunshield artwork is shown in enlarged form, colours of which are conjectural. Shediac was one of a handful of Flowers that were modified to serve as ocean-going tugs if need be.


References

  • Corvettes of the Royal Canadian Navy: MacPherson and Milner; Vanwell Publishing
  • Canada's Flowers: Lynch; Nimbus Publishing
  • Warship perspective: Flower Class Corvettes: Lambert; WR Press
  • RN Colour Chips: Snyder & Short Enterprises
  • North Atlantic Run: Milner; University of Toronto
  • Gunshield Graffiti: Lynch, Lamb and Jensen; Nimbus Publishing

NOTE: I intend to try and illustrate all of the Flower Class corvettes, and to that end I welcome correspondence with others interested in them, whether it be a correction or just a comment. This will be a long term project for eventual publication in some form along with other Allied escorts.


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