Tom Bridger, an electrician with Canadian Maritime Engineering Ltd., with the six-metre-long model of Naval ship HMCS Rainbow, sitting in CME’s facility at Canal Waterfront Park in Port Alberni. The large vessel under construction in the background is a geoduck packing ship. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Tom Bridger, an electrician with Canadian Maritime Engineering Ltd., with the six-metre-long model of Naval ship HMCS Rainbow, sitting in CME’s facility at Canal Waterfront Park in Port Alberni. The large vessel under construction in the background is a geoduck packing ship. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Giant model of Island’s only First World War warship saved from scuttling

Canadian Maritime Engineering saves massive HMCS Rainbow model from a Port Alberni trash heap

A six-metre-long model of a Canadian Navy ship was nearly scuttled in Port Alberni after the company storing it needed to make room for expansion.

The HMCS Rainbow model belonged to Navy League Cadet Corps. Armour Ford, which was meeting at Canadian Maritime Engineering’s building on the waterfront before the coronavirus pandemic halted meetings. The ship was used for training—various ship parts were labeled—and was often used for parades. It had already been restored once by a retired shipbuilder.

the NLCC Armour Ford’s commanding officer, Robin Allen, worked at CME, so the engineering firm agreed to store the large model for the Navy League cadets. Allen retired in December, and CME now needs the space formerly used to store the model.

The actual HMCS Rainbow was an Apollo-class protected cruiser built for the British Royal Navy in 1892. It was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910 and served on Canada’s west coast.

“It has a very colourful history,” Dunagan said. “It was really the only warship (on the west coast) during the First World War.”

The HMCS Rainbow was taken out of service in 1917 due to its age and sold for scrap in 1920.

The model nearly suffered the same fate after efforts to locate its original owner failed. Manager of operations at CME Simon Schofield was ready to scrap the model, but employee Ben Kingston tried a last-ditch effort to find a home for it with a social media post.

“Within half an hour he had 10 inquiries,” Dunagan said, adding that a maritime museum in Ladysmith agreed to take the model, and arrangements to have it moved to its new home will be made soon.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society already owns a lifeboat from the HMCS Rainbow, according to someone at the museum.

This is the second time the model ship has been moved because a Navy League cadet corps. lost its meeting space, said Todd Flaro, an executive officer with NLCC Armour Ford. The model HMCS Rainbow was one of several that hull technicians from Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt built for an exhibit at the maritime museum in Victoria. The Rainbow was permanently on display at the RCSCC Rainbow cadet hall, where Canada’s first sea cadet corps. was formed.

When RCSCC Rainbow lost their building on the Canadian Naval base a dozen years ago, Armour Ford’s branch president at the time offered a home for the model at Armour Ford’s building in the former Alberni Valley Youth Centre. The model was used for training and for parades. The youth centre closed permanently a few years ago and CME offered to store the model temporarily.

“I heard it’s going to a museum in Ladysmith and that’s just awesome,” said Flaro. “This boat is not part of our history, so it’s not a loss to Alberni Valley history,” he added.

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susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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