CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum
CFB Esquimalt
Naval & Military Museum

The Christening Bells Project

CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum
The Christening Bells Project
The bell of HMCS Swansea, one of many ship's bells held in the collection of CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum.
The bell of HMCS Swansea, one of many ship's bells held in the collection of CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum.

For centuries, ship's bells have played both a practical and symbolic role in the life of naval vessels and their crews.

One of the most memorable traditions for sailors and their families involves the use of ship's bells as baptismal fonts for shipboard christenings.

Children of the ship's company baptized according to this custom can also have their names inscribed on the ship's bell. Since the shipboard bell is considered such a significant part of the ship's equipment and history, this is both an honour and a privilege.

Unfortunately, an individual searching for her or his name on a specific bell from a ship of Canada's Navy may be in for a time-consuming task. The business of tracking down the actual bell itself can prove difficult.

Since a ship's bell is among its most significant artifacts, when a ship decommissions, there is demand from many quarters for this item. Bells may go to naval and civilian museums for safe-keeping and display. In the case of Canadian ships named for towns and cities, the 'home' community sometimes receives the bell, and shows it off at city hall. For example, the city of Miramichi is now in possession of HMCS MIRAMICHI's bell. On occasion, bells end up in unlikely places like retail stores or even in private hands.

Christening information for a person or ship can be retrieved using the search request form at the bottom of this page.

To simplify things, CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum is in the process of making information on the inscriptions from bells it holds in its collection accessible through this web site. Christening information from the bells held by the Museum is being entered into a searchable data archive that is accessible to any interested web site visitors. The accessible information for each of the bells entered into this archive includes the names of the ship, current location of the bell, and each child's name and date of his or her christening.

PLEASE NOTE: CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum is not responsible for innacuracies in the names or dates recorded on bells listed on this website. All names and dates appear exactly as inscribed on the individual bells in our database.

In some cases, regrettably, the names of individuals christened aboard ship were not engraved onto bells following the ceremony, as they should have been. The museum cannot enter into any discussions with individuals wishing to remedy this oversight. Nor can we provide information about bells that are not part of our project database. Every effort is being made to provide a comprehensive listing of christening bells held Canada-wide, as information on them becomes available.

Information from bells held by other institutions and organizations, including municipalities and Legions, is being added to the Christening Bell data as it becomes available. The current archive includes information from three bells held by the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, the bells of HMCS ANTIGONISH, HMCS ONTARIO (III), and HMCS YUKON (III). As a courtesy to the families of crew members, we also include inscriptions and dates for the bell of HMCS ANNAPOLIS (II), a bell currently held by the town of Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, the bell of HMCS SASKATCHEWAN, which is at the Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo, BC, and the bell of HMCS CORMORANT, now on loan to a Navy League Cadet Corps in BC.

The following bells held at locations throughout Canada, mainly by Naval Reserve Divisions, are also included:

    HMCS SCOTIAN bell - Halifax, NS; HMCS QUEEN CHARLOTTE - Naval Reserve Division, Charlottetown, PE; HMCS QUEEN Bell - Naval Reserve Division, Regina, SK; HMCS HUNTER Bell - Naval Reserve Division, Windsor, ON; HMCS HOCHELAGA bell - CFB Borden, Simcoe County, ON; HMCS CATARAQUI - Naval Reserve Division, Kingston, ON; HMCS BORDER CITIES (re: HMCS Hunter's wardroom bell)- Windsor, ON; HMCS BURLINGTON Bell - Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps - RCSCC Iron Duke, Burlington, ON.

Search for Christening Information
Enter a Surname:  
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Search requires either a surname or a ship's name to be entered  OR  both a surname and a ship's name to be entered.
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