HMCS Little Belt
HMCS LITTLE BELT ?
Never heard of it ? Had circumstances unfolded differently, you might well have.
Between 1923 and 1941 the Naval Reserve establishments were named for their host Cities as either Companies (or Half-Companies) and later as Divisions and in anticipation of Commissioning them as HMC Ships in 1941, the issue of naming them obviously arose.
The machinations leading to those names, that we've all come to know, and indeed the naming of the multitudinous vessels built in WWII, are covered extensively in the excellent book "Canadian Warship Names (Vanwell, 2000)", by David J Freeman [UNTD NONSUCH '60 U-1049].
The initial idea was that the Reserve Divisions would be named for the earliest Warships built in Canada, which was taken to mean those builds on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812. Later this was revised to be applicable only to those Divisions in the vicinity of the Lakes and that others could use more locally relevant names. A List was finally collated in the summer of '41 by the Naval Historian and submitted for approval. There were 18 cities involved and in some cases choices were given.
There was a sense that these names could be around for a long time and so 'getting it right' was paramount.
In the case of London, ON, the Minister rejected both choices, which were 'Lady Prevost' and 'Little Belt'. In his comments and perhaps anticipating raised eyebrows, the Naval Historian added the following remarks concerning 'Little Belt'; "The name is a very good one, and would cease to annoy the officers and ratings after the first week".
The Navy of then (indeed of now) would have been a tough crowd, both Ratings and Officers. In the case of the soon-to-be UNTD's, a 'Little Belt' might have become a Gunroom mantra. In any case it was unlikely to succeed and members of PREVOST are fortunately not referred to as Little Belters.
One has to wonder where a Ship's Name like that would have come from anyway. Was it of Aboriginal origin, like Canada itself, or referring to a Wampum Belt ?
The original namesake ship goes back to The Danish Navy 22-gun Frigate LILLEBAELT launched in 1801. The name itself refers to one of the smaller Danish 'straits' connecting the North to the Baltic Seas. The Danish Navy was seized by the RN at the 2nd Battle of Copengagen in 1807, and LILLEBAELT was returned to Britain and Commissioned as HMS LITTLE BELT.
In the run-up to the War of 1812, HMS LITTLE BELT found herself attached to the North American Station, harrassing US Naval and Mercantile shipping as part of the campaign to isolate France during the Napoleonic Wars. Although not directly involved in any of those actions herself, she was attacked on May 16th, 1811 by the much superior USS PRESIDENT off the North Carolina coast, who had mistaken her for another ship that they were hot on the trail off.
LITTLE BELT sustained heavy damage and casualties and the skipper of PRESIDENT later apologized. It blew up into yet another incident between the US and Britain. LITTLE BELT as a sort of heroic David, repaired to Halifax, thence to the UK and was ultimately broken up at Battersea late in 1811.
Finally on 18 June 1812, President Madison Declared War against Britain and the panoply of famous battles unfolded.
In 1810, the US Merchantman FRIEND'S GOOD WILL was built at River Rouge, MI. The ship was captured by the British at the 1st Battle of Mackinac in July 1812 and renamed as HMS LITTLE BELT (2nd) in honour of HMS LITTLE BELT (1st). Recaptured by the US in Sep, 1813 at the Battle of Lake Erie, she ran aground off Buffalo in Dec 1813. The US tried to salvage her, couldn't, and unceremoniously burned her, to prevent recapture again by the Brits.
In 2004, a full scale replica of the FRIEND'S GOOD WILL was built and still operates out of the Michigan Maritime Museum at South Haven, MI on the East shore of Lake Michigan.
So then, to that extent, the legacy of LITTLE BELT tenuously lives on, without us having to refer to our PREVOST UNTD's as Little Belters. A win-win, just like the War itself.