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Maggie delivers peacekeepers to the Suez Canal

HMCS Magnificent (CVL 21) underway.
On Jan. 12, 1957, HMCS Magnificent arrived at Port Said, Egypt, delivering Canadian peacekeepers for the UN Emergency Force policing the Suez Crisis.

Light aircraft carriers built in Britain during the Second World War, Magnificent and HMCS Warrior were earmarked for Canada in anticipation of an expanded role in the Pacific. Only one carrier was required after the war ended and Warrior was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1946.

After the war, Canada signed the NATO agreement, pledged to an anti-submarine role. An aircraft carrier also increased the navy’s capability in the air defence of North America, including the Arctic, at the beginning of the Cold War. But Warrior, a Colossus-class vessel, was not designed for cold climate operations and was exchanged for the Majestic-class Magnificent in 1948.

Affectionately known as Maggie by its crew, Magnificent could accommodate both airplanes and helicopters—fighters, torpedo bombers and reconnaissance planes—Firefly, Sea Fury, Seafire and Avenger aircraft.

Maggie was deployed in September 1948 to the Hudson Strait on one of its first missions, and participated in many large-scale NATO exercises.

As the Cold War heated up, it was decided to replace piston-driven fighter aircraft with high-performance jet interceptors capable of day and night combat air patrols, which needed a more modern ship: HMCS Bonaventure, Canada’s last aircraft carrier.

In November 1956, Maggie’s weapons were stripped and half the complement of 1,200 crew and officers reassigned. The ship set off for Egypt carrying 406 troops, 233 vehicles (which were parked on the deck), four RCAF de Havilland DHC-3 Otters and one helicopter.

On its final mission, ironically, the jets that Canada would patrol in the Cold War did touch Maggie’s decks—as cargo. On Feb. 2, 1957, in Glasgow, Scotland, 59 Sabres were hoisted aboard, 48 on deck and 11 below. Twelve days later, Maggie entered Halifax for the last time.

The carrier was paid off in June 1957.


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