Unit History: HMCS Bonaventure
HMCS Bonaventure was a Majestic class aircraft carrier, originally laid down for the British Royal Navy as HMS Powerful. She served in the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Forces Maritime Command from 1957 to 1970 and was the last aircraft carrier to serve Canada. Complement: 1200 - 1370 (war).
As HMS Powerful she was laid down at Harland and Wolff in Belfast on 21 November 1943, and launched on 27 February 1945. Work was suspended after the end of World War II, and was not resumed until the ship was bought by Canada. She was acquired in the early 1950s by the Royal Canadian Navy, which was looking to replace its aging WW2-vintage light carriers Magnificent (another Majestic class carrier) and Warrior which were deemed too small and slow for the jet age. Several surplus U.S. and U.K. ships were considered, and the then-incomplete HMS Powerful, a Majestic-class light fleet carrier, was purchased in 1952 from the Royal Navy on the condition that it be refitted with an angled flight deck and steam catapult.
Bonaventure - named after Bonaventure Island, a bird sanctuary in the Gulf of St. Lawrence - was commissioned into the Canadian Navy on 17 January 1957, upon completion of its refit and modernization. The navy’s new flagship, affectionately known as the "Bonnie", carried a force of about 34 McDonnell Douglas F2H-3 Banshee jet fighters, Grumman CS2F Tracker ASW aircraft (built by de Havilland in Toronto), and Sikorsky HO4S helicopters.
Even with the refit, landing a Banshee on the Bonaventure’s relatively short flight deck was pushing the envelope. While Canadian pilots did it routinely, American Banshee pilots flatly refused to even attempt landing on Bonaventure during joint operations. The wide-winged Trackers were also a tight fit. Despite this, and because of the hard work and dedication of her crew, the Bonaventure was able by 1958 to conduct around-the-clock SUSTOP (SUSTained OPeration) operations, keeping four Trackers and two HO4S’s in the air at all times, saturating an area of 200 square miles (670 km?) with ASW aircraft. This made the Canadian Navy the only one in the world at the time other than the US Navy capable of conducting around-the-clock air operations for sustained periods.
The Banshees were retired in 1962. In 1964 new CHSS-2 Sea King helicopters were added to Bonaventure’s complement, and in 1966 the carrier docked in Quebec for a mid-life refit. This second refit took eighteen months and cost $11 million. After the 1968 unification of the Canadian Forces, the Bonaventure was decommissioned, in Halifax, on 3 July 1970 and was scrapped in Taiwan in 1971.
Canadian Naval Air Group
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