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Naming a destroyer after PoMo is residents' dream

HMCS Port Moody. It's a dream that local historian David Spence has been harbouring for some time - to see the name of his town painted on the stern of a Canadian naval warship.

HMCS Port Moody.

It's a dream that local historian David Spence has been harbouring for some time - to see the name of his town painted on the stern of a Canadian naval warship.

And thanks to his efforts, that dream's now a little closer to becoming reality.

In November, Spence and his compatriots at the Port Moody Commemorative Society lobbied city hall to submit "Port Moody" to the Department of National Defence for consideration for one of the more than 25 new military vessels due to set sail from Canadian shores over the next five to 10 years.

On Jan. 4, DND headquarters got back to them, and now Port Moody is one big step closer to the day when its ship comes in.

"Frigates, icebreakers, coastal defence ships; a wide variety will be coming on line," mused Spence in an interview in the entrance to Port Moody city hall. "A submarine. We might get our name on a submarine, I don't know."

So which of one of Her Majesty's Canadian Ships should the civic namesake of Colonel Richard Clement Moody be granted to?

For his part, Spence would like to see either a frigate or one of the navy's new "single-class combatants" christened after the town he loves.

"We wouldn't want it to be an icebreaker that is remote in the north or a sub which is remote under water," he told The Tri-City News before being cautioned by commemorative society treasurer and friend, Sandra Baron: "But a name on a ship is a name on a ship," she said optimistically.

And while there are no hard and fast rules about what kind of ship gets what name, like all things to do with the navy, there are traditions.

Which is why a frigate - the undisputed workhorse of the Canadian navy - might be punching above PoMo's weight as all 12 frigates currently in service are named after Canada's large urban centres (HMCS Toronto, HMCS Calgary, HMCS Vancouver).

Likewise, the norm for naming destroyers is to call them after Canada's First Nations, as was done for the current HMCS Algonquin, Iroquois and Athabaskan.

But, "there have always been exceptions," stated Daniel Sing, director general of Canada's Maritime Force Development and chairman of the Ships' Naming Committee, in a letter to Port Moody city council. "And recently the navy has named all new ships after Canadian towns and cities. Thus we have the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel HMCS Nanaimo and the submarine HMCS Victoria."

And given the complete overhaul that the Canadian Navy is undergoing, with all new types of vessels set to replace the current, all bets on old naming conventions are off.

"As we begin to consider names for our new ships over the next two to three years," wrote Sing, "please be assured that the name Port Moody will be included in the committee's deliberations."

According to online DND publications, the navy is considering six to eight new polar-class arctic support ships with icebreaker capabilities by 2014, three new joint-support multi-role vessels by 2017, 15 single-class combatants to replace the Iroquois-class destroyers and eventually the Halifax-class frigates beginning in 2016-2017 and an unknown number of Kingston-class coastal defence boats by 2020.

Both Spence and Baron, who each considered careers in the armed forces before their lives took different courses, agreed: Any of those new vessels would make them proud to have Moody as its home port, if only in name alone.

tcoyne@tricitynews.com