An interesting story about how a town in Canada wish to honour their Royal Naval namesake has been unearthed by Port Towns and Urban Cultures. It is a perfect story about how maritime heritage, imperial sentiment, and urban identities can converge, but could you help them find out more?
The town of Ajax, Ontario, Canada, are trying to trace the men of HMS Ajax who were serving when the frigate visited in 1976. The town was named after the 7th HMS Ajax after its part in the famed victory at the Battle of the River Plate (December 1939), and there has been a policy of naming streets after crewmen from the ship.
When the town was incorporated in 1955, a formal invitation was sent out to the ship every year by the new Mayor. On August 25 1976, this invitation was taken up by the 8th incarnation of HMS Ajax, whose crew spent a week in the town. Last year a Memorial Wall was unveiled to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the visit. The Memorial Wall contains a list of over 4,500 names of the crew of the 7th HMS Ajax during the Battle of River Plate (December 1939) and World War Two, as well as the crew onboard HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles during the Battle of River Plate. A list of the crew from the 1976 visit compiled by the HMS Ajax and River Plate Veterans Association were also added, however, organisers are aware that the list may not be as accurate and complete as hoped for.
Brenda Kriz, who is coordinating efforts to track down an official crew list has found the process difficult. She has sought out help from the Naval Historical Branch, the National Archives, and the National Maritime Museum, but to no avail. Mrs Kriz has most recently applied to the Ministry of Defence under the Freedom of Information Act, however, she was informed that the Royal Navy had abandoned the process of using crew lists in the 1850s; relying instead on pay and victualling ledgers. Unfortunately, the MoD say that these are only available for the years spanning 1939-1952.
Could you help the town of Ajax?
Do you know of anyone who served on board in Canada, 1976?
Do you know how to find a comprehensive crew list of those serving?
If so, please contact: Brenda Kriz, CMO, Records and FOI Co-ordinator, Legislative and Information Services, Town of Ajax at firstname.lastname@example.org