The courage and bravery of Chief Petty Officer Max Leopold Bernays will forever be remembered with one of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship named in his honour. Last Monday, the Bernays family and naval personnel gathered in front of the …
Photo: 30 March 1972 in HMCS SASKATCHEWAN. Ceremonial issue of last tot to PO2 Christie, CPO1 Pegley and PO1 Ryan by Slt May. (DND Photo submitted by Cameron May)
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest, largest, and most complex naval battle in history that started with Britain’s declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1939 and ended with Germany’s defeat in early May 1945 which the world knows as Victory in Europe.
There were dozens of campaigns during the Battle of the Atlantic and some of them touched Canadian shores. Thomas Joseph Simpson who is Canada’s last living Distinguished Service Medal holder participated in many of them including the Battle of the St. Lawrence, the Arctic campaign, the Italian campaign, and the British Isles Inshore Campaign of 1944-1945.
In addition Thomas Simpson while a radar operator on HMCS LA HULLOISE (K668) participated on KMF Mediterranean–United Kingdom convoys, MKS Gibraltar-United Kingdom convoys including troop convoys for military operations in Italy and the Mediterranean, ONS, ON and HX North Atlantic convoys mostly originating from Halifax, Nova Scotia and Sydney, Nova Scotia, and other convoys sometimes called the ‘Great Northern Patrol’ where convoys passed both through the Denmark Straits or south of Iceland to as far as the Arctic Circle where convoys were handled over to the Russian Navy. Protection of these convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic was vital to winning the war.
The Battle of the Atlantic pitted U-boats and other warships of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) against the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, and Allied merchant shipping. The convoys (ON, ONS, HX), coming mainly from North America and predominantly going to the United Kingdom but also to the then Soviet Union, were protected for the most part by escort groups from the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy.
During World War Two, German U-boat warfare was the major component of the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted the duration of the war. Germany had the largest submarine fleet in the world. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that “The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”
In the words of Sir Winston Churchill “The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war. Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome”. The Battle of the Atlantic was indeed the single most important battle of the Second World War and was 5 years, 8 months and 5 days long making it the longest continuous military campaign in World War II in which the German Navy had used over 800 submarines in combat.
In the early stages of the war, German U-boats were extremely effective in destroying Allied shipping from Canada to the United Kingdom. There was an extensive trade in war supplies and food across the Atlantic, which was critical for Britain’s survival. Canada played a great role in supplying the United Kingdom with supplies during the darkest days of the war while under constant threat of the Nazi jackboot and right until Victory in Europe.
Thomas Simpson joined the Royal Canadian Navy at HMCS HUNTER in 1942 and was trained as a radar operator initially in Esquimalt, British Columbia and later Halifax, Nova Scotia before serving on HMCS SHAWINIGAN (K136), HMCS TORONTO (K538) and HMCS LA HULLOISE (K668).
As a 20 year old, Thomas Simpson was one of the first and youngest Canadians to be trained in radar technology. Simpson was one of the very first sailors to complete a radar course in Royal Canadian Navy history. By the time he was drafted to HMCS LA HULLOISE (K668) Simpson had developed enough experience at sea to command a high level of pride in his duties, confidence in his skills and expertise with the radar set that would command great trust from his Commanding Officer.
ASDIC technology was the main detection device developed during the early part of World War Two and used to locate German submarines. ASDIC interestingly originated from research conducted by Canadian physicist Robert Boyle who volunteered his expertise to the Royal Navy.
GERMAN U-BOAT TACTICS AND STRATEGY
The German U-boat of World War Two was designed to operate mostly on the surface and submerge only for evasion or for rare daylight attacks. In 1940, the surfaced U-boat was even more secure near a convoy than submerged as the development of ASDIC technology could detect him underwater but was useless against a surface vessel. It was only with continued Allied inventions that the U-boat was forced to spend more and more time underwater and then it was only running on limited electric motors which only managed a few knots and had very limited endurance.
The advances and continued development of ASDIC/SONAR technology and rapidly improved radar sets allowed Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Navy escort groups to force the Germans from their success on the High Seas of the North Atlantic closer to shore. The German Navy’s change of naval strategy was to pull back from the North Atlantic and focus on coastal waters around the United Kingdom and fight in naval combat in what has known as the British Isles Inshore Campaign.
German submarine tactics included moving very slowly at speeds of less than 3 knots thereby reducing their effectiveness greatly. The Germans also had adopted technology in the form of the snorkel to allow U-boats to cruise submerged for longer periods of time. These factors made it possible for German naval strategy to focus on the British Isles Inshore Campaign which would shorten the routes to closer patrol zones around England and intend to give newly snorkel-fitted U-boats a fresh advantage.
In early 1944, Germany began to mount ‘schnorkel’ breathing tubes on their submarines, which allowed them to cruise about eight metres under the surface while showing only a narrow air intake above water, which was all but invisible to only the most skilled radar operators. Germany had at least 35 Schnorchel- equipped U- boats before the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. However roughly half of the operational boats in France did not have this vital equipment at the time. The advancement of the Schnorchel breathing device on German U-Boats earlier in the war would have had an impact on the Battle of the Atlantic since German submarines could run their powerful diesel engines while submerged, and never rise to the surface for weeks on end. Although the submerged speed of the submarines was still too slow to catch most ships, the submarines could once again push close to the mouths of British – and Canadian and American –harbours or coastlines and fire torpedoes at ships as they left or entered ports. This was exactly what German U-Boat 1302 did and how it managed to stay for weeks in and around the St. George’s Channel so close to the Welsh and English coastline.
In addition to the Schnorchel breathing device to allow U-boat diesel engines to run underwater, a rare and sophisticated floating valve type of snorkel was used to detect radar was fitted on the mast on some new German U-boats. Another advantage German U-boats had in the British Isles Inshore Campaign was that the rocks and old shipwrecks littering the ocean floor near the coasts, the complex currents and temperature layers in coastal waters all combined to make it very difficult for radar operators to detect their underwater enemy. At times even advanced ASDIC/SONAR technology was incapable of finding the submarines. The human skill of the radar operator was necessary for survival at sea.
The change in German tactics and strategy although desperate was never ending and continued to be as serious threat to the Allied convoys and shipping just as it was in the North Atlantic. This continued threat combined with an overextended Royal Navy would mean that the Commander-in-Chief of the Western Approaches, Admiral Max Horton would assign Royal Canadian Navy escort groups and other naval assets to respond to the very specific German threat at Britain’s shores and coastline. This included stationing some of the RCN’s best anti-submarine destroyers and frigates to combat an ever present undersea enemy. Of these Escort Groups was EG 25 which included HMCS LA HULLOISE (K668), HMCS STRATHADAM and HMCS THETFORD MINES. Their work required nearly constant alertness at sea for days on end, for at any moment a German torpedo could – and did- often come at times racing silently from the depths.
GERMAN U-BOAT 1302
German U-Boat 1302 was ordered on April 2, 1942. The U-Boat was laid down on March 6, 1943 at Flensburger Schiffsbau-Ges in Flensburg, Germany. Flensburger Schiffsbau-Ges was a major shipyard that commissioned 28 U-Boats into the Kriegsmarine and laid down many more U-boats during the Second World War. U-Boat 1302 was later launched on April 4, 1944. The U-Boat was commissioned into the Kriegsmarine of the Imperial German Navy on May 25, 1944.
Interestingly Flensburg was also the seat of the last government of Nazi Germany when it moved from Berlin. Also, the Flensburg government was led by a German Navy officer, Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who was in power from May 1, 1945 (Hitler’s death) until its dissolution on May 23, 1945.
On January 22, 1945, U-Boat 1302 left Kiel, Germany under the command of Wolfgang Herwartz. Its first sailing was from January 22, 1945 – January 25, 1945. It arrived in Horten, Norway on January 25, 1945. U-Boat 1302 stayed in Horten, Norway until February 3, 1945 when it departed on its first war patrol. This was its second sailing.
U-Boat 1302 had general armament that most German submarines had. It had five torpedo tubes (four at the bow and one at the stern). It was armed with 14 torpedoes. The U-Boat had a stronger pressure hull than previous submarines giving it more depth to evade attack. The U-Boat could reach operational depths of 120 metres and had a crush depth at 250 metres. The U-Boat used lighter machinery to compensate for the added steel in the hull making them actually slightly lighter than previous German submarines.
German U-Boat 1302 served with the 4th U-boat flotilla for training and later with 11th U-boat flotilla from January 1, 1945 to 7 March 1945. It was the front boat in the 11th flotilla. It was part of Kriegsmarine. The positioning of U-Boat 1302 is confirmed and there is a record of its daily position. On February 20, 1945 it was position 500 km well to the west of Ireland slowing making its way to the Irish Sea.
Commander Wolfgang Herwartz was waiting for convoy SC-167 from Canada. Captain Wolfgang Herwartz struck first on February 28, 1945 with the sinking of the British merchant vessel Norfolk Coast (646 tons). On March 2, 1945 he sank the Norwegian vessel Novasli (3,204 tons), also sailing with convoy SC-167 and shortly after on the same day sank the British ship King Edgar (4,536 ton), as well a member of convoy SC-167.
In only three days U-1302 had sunk three ships totalling 8,386 gross register tons (GRT) but it was not finished. U-Boat 1302 armed with 14 torpedoes had its sights set on the Royal Canadian Navy which was operating in the area defending the United Kingdom and Allied shipping as well as protecting troop movements into Italy.
THE NIGHT OF MARCH 7, 1945
With the increase in missing ships in the Irish Sea and particularly St. George’s Channel in late February and early March 1945 the Royal Canadian Navy was focused on increasing patrols in the Irish Sea which included sweeping for German submarines. Several German submarines were thought to be in the vicinity because, at that time, there were vessels coming out of England that were taking Canadian and British troops into Italy.
Even at this time the three ships that were sunk by German U-Boat 1302 had been unknown. However it was reported that German submarine U-775 torpedoed the British seaboat [SS] Empire Geraint with an emergency call frequency made to Allied headquarters in Liverpool. A message from the damaged ship went out and a response from the Commander-In-Chief of the Western Approaches was made.
The order was for Royal Canadian Navy frigates, HMCS LA HULOISE, HMCS STRATHADAM and HMCS THETFORD MINES to be dispatched with specific orders to hunt German U-Boat 775.
The three Royal Canadian Navy ships took up formation with HMCS STRATHADAM as the command vessel. HMCS LA HULLOISE (which Thomas Simpson was on) took up the port side position with HMCS THETFORD MINES on the starboard side.
It was approximately 2200, when Thomas Simpson was on watch in the radar cabin on board HMCS LA HULLOISE. Able Seaman Simpson was closed up and well-prepared for radar sweeping. The weather was good and the sea was calm.
At approximately 0300, just off the St. George’s Channel, Thomas Simpson had a contact, checked and rechecked again and then made his initial contact report.
GERMAN U-BOAT 1302 AND HER EVASIVE TACTICS
German submarines with the development of more advanced ‘schnorkel’ breathing tubes was to attach an apparatus that was attached to the ‘schnorkel’ to release carbon monoxide which was a great danger on board the submarines since it had no color nor smell. It had to be strictly kept under a certain level and therefore was tested few times a day. The ‘schnorkel’ also supplied air to the diesel engines while it submerged at periscope depth, allowing the U-boats to cruise and recharge their batteries while maintaining a degree of stealth.
An evasive technique for German U-Boat 1302 was to come as close as possible to the coast as and rise its ‘schnorkel’ with the attached apparatus extremely close to a “BUOY” so that any radar contact would only indicate a single contact and therefore be presumed to be a known navigational marker.
THOMAS SIMPSON’S REPORT
The Officer of the Watch (OOW) acknowledged that Thomas Simpson had picked up a radar contact however dismissed it as a possible threat and called it “ a buoy sitting out” there just at the tip of land’s end very near the British coast. Thomas Simpson was ordered to continue his radar sweep.
Thomas Simpson obeyed however once again he upon a second confirmation picked the same contact which was “two pips off the port beam”. Thomas Simpson again made his same radar report a second time informing the Officer of the Watch.
The Officer of the Watch at this time dismissed Able Seaman Simpson’s report by clearly stating that it was not possible for a German submarine to be so close to the coast and it was clearly a marked ‘buoy’ in that location and he told Thomas Simpson that he was “seeing gremlins” and to continue with his sweep.
At this time Thomas Simpson decided to take his report directly to the bridge since he believed the contact to be a threat to all three Royal Canadian Navy ships. The radar operators on both HMCS STRATHADAM and HMCS THETFORD MINES has only picked ‘one pip’ leaving only Thomas Simpson voice being a junior rank insisting that his radar report was correct and that a German submarine was at the reported location of his initial contact.
THE CAPTAIN OF HMCS LA HULLOISE
The Commanding Officer of HMCS LA HULLOISE upon hearing the verbal confrontation from his cabin below the bridge came to the bridge to find out what the problem was.
Thomas Simpson told him the Captain of his first and second contact reports and how the officer ignored them to which “the skipper” ordered the ship to be brought around and headed in the direction of the buoy which was Able Seaman Simpson’s contact location.
GERMAN SUBMARINE DISCOVERED
At approximately a hundred yards from the buoy, the Captain ordered two signal lights to pinpoint the buoy in the darkness of the night. Upon closer inspection a snorkel came into view. Now the submarine which was hiding alongside the buoy in an attempt to avoid being detected was confirmed to be a German U-Boat. It was expelling carbon dioxide from its battery.
At that moment HMCS LA HULLOISE fired off star shells to illuminate the night sky and the ship went to combat stations. The U-Boat’s snorkel was visible, and at that point, the submarine realized that they were being attacked and started to dive.
HMCS LA HULLOISE and the U-Boat were so close that there was slight contact between them which sent the submarine to the bottom where she stayed.
HMCS STRATHADAM and HMCS THETFORD MINES joined in on the attack and launched depth charges that continued over some time until an oil slick and debris was observed floating on the water.
By dawn items from the submarine came to the surface and boats were launched to recover some of the debris and which among other things were very personal letters as well as journals from the engine room. Crew members of HMCS LA HULOISE picked these materials up which were later handed over to the Royal Navy. It was later determined it was not U-Boat 775 but rather unknown U-Boat 1302.
German U-Boat 1302 never reported the sinking of the three ships to German naval command as the U-boat was too close to British land.
The fate of German U-Boat #1302:
German U-1302 was sunk with all hands on March 7, 1945 in St. George’s Channel in position 52.19N, 05.23W, by depth charges from Royal Canadian Navy HMCS LA HULLOISE, HMCS STRATHADAM and HMCS THETFORD MINES. 48 dead (all hands lost).
Upon returning to Liverpool, England, Thomas Simpson was called before the Admiralty Board and questioned in detail about the events and specifically his actions that occurred during his watch that night.
Thomas Simpson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his actions and he is the only living Canadian D.S.M holder today. Thomas Simpson is one of only 116 people in Canadian Military history to receive the Distinguished Service Medal.
Hundreds of sailors’ lives were potentially saved that night 70 years ago today as we remember the significant events and actions of March 7, 1945 which were of naval significance during the Battle of the Atlantic.
Biography of Thomas Simpson
Thomas Simpson served mostly on the High Seas in the North Atlantic when the hostilities during the Battle of the Atlantic and the Second World War were at their worst. As a Radar Operator he performed his duties with outstanding seamanship setting a new standard at the time with a wholehearted devotion to duty, worthy of the high traditions of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Navy.
Thomas Simpson is a holder of the Distinguished Service Medal (D.S.M) which was awarded gallantry, bravery, resolution and skill during battle at sea whilst serving on HMCS LA HULLOISE in successful anti U-Boat Warfare. He is a holder of the Italy Star, France Star and Germany Star with Atlantic Star bar, the 1939-1945 Star, 1939-1945 War Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with CVSM Clasp, General Service Badge, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Written by Ron Simpson
(Ron Simpson grew up in Essex County near Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Ottawa and the University of Western Ontario where he holds degrees in geography. Today he lives in Korea where he works as an Educational Consultant. His only living grandparent is Canada’s last living Distinguished Service Medal holder.)
On a sailor’s first day in the Navy, they are plunged into a strange world where the walls are bulkheads and the floors are decks. Initially, the jargon can be confusing to newcomers, especially when it’s noticed that there is more than one term for a given situation. For example, a lazy person can be called a “skiver”, “skate” or be described as “swinging the lead”. A sailor might sleep in a “pit”, “cart” or “rack”, but only occasionally in a bunk.
As well, there are nuances that must be learned. You might call a shipmate a “winger” or refer to them as a fellow “hairy bag”, but you would never call their “party” a “nice piece of trim” or try to “cut their grass”. That would certainly lead to a “parting of brass rags”.
In some cases, the term has a variety of meanings, such as “Mess”, which can carry no less than three different meanings in a Canadian warship. Other terms are far more colourful. Up top on the bridge, you’ll find “Nelson’s Balls”; down in the mess you will find “Nelson’s Blood”. In the “galley”, a “stoker” might begin to “moan and drip” when they see “Newfie Steak” on the menu for the second time in a week.
The Canadian Navy’s unique language can be traced back to its Royal Navy roots. In fact, commonly used words such as “pusser”, and nicknames such as “Nobby” are directly derived from British Navy forefathers. Still, many other terms have been formed directly from use in the Canadian Navy such as “CDF” and “Navy Gravy”.
Hopefully, you haven’t grown weary of all this, because there’s much more! What’s the difference between “duff” and “no duff”. What about “no joy”, “no names, no pack drill”, “no room to swing a cat” and “No! No!”?
It’s all explained inside. “Pull up a bollard” and enjoy the colourful language of the RCN.
Niobe Day is celebrated by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) on the 21st day of October each year. Niobe Day marks the arrival of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Niobe in Halifax on October 21, 1910, the first Canadian warship to enter Canada’s territorial waters and a landmark event in the beginnings of the Naval Service of Canada.
Niobe Day gives RCN personnel a chance to reflect on their collective accomplishments since 1910, what it means to be members of the profession of arms, and what is required of them to ensure the RCN’s continued excellence, both at sea and ashore, in the years to come.
HMCS Niobe, was an 11,000-tonne armoured cruiser purchased by Canada from the Royal Navy (RN). The warship entered into Halifax Harbour on October 21, 1910, having steamed across the Atlantic from Portsmouth, England.
The date of arrival of Niobe was carefully timed to coincide with the 105th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in order to symbolize the transfer to the Naval Service of Canada of the intangible and priceless winning tradition of the parent Royal Navy. It was natural for the new navy to model itself after the preeminent fighting service of the day.
Then Minister of the Naval Service, the Honourable Louis-Philippe Brodeur (father and grandfather of two future admirals of the Naval Service of Canada) welcomed Niobe and her complement with the proclamation:
“This event tells the story of a dawning epoch of self-confidence. It proclaims to the whole [world] that Canada is willing and proud to provide as rapidly as circumstances permit for her local naval defence, and to safeguard her share in the commerce and trade of the empire in whose world-girding belt Canada is the bright and precious buckle.”
Two weeks later would see the arrival of HMCS Rainbow in Esquimalt on November 7, 1910. Rainbow actually was the first ship to be commissioned as one of His or Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) on August 4, 1910. Her arrival in Canada came later as the ship had to sail south of the Americas and around Cape Horn in the era before the Panama Canal.
The arrival of Niobe and Rainbow was the manifestation of the decision of Parliament on May 4, 1910 to establish the Naval Service of Canada. It was a defining moment for the still young dominion.
HMCS Niobe was built by Vickers Limited in Barrow-in-Furness, England and launched on February 20, 1897, entering service in 1898.
Before being sold to Canada, (Her/His Majesty’s Ship) HMS Niobe served with the Royal Navy during the Boer War, being sent to Gibraltar to escort troop transports ferrying reinforcements to the Cape.
On December 4, 1899 HMS Niobe and HMS Doris rescued troops from the SS Ismore, which had run aground. She saw further action in the Boer War, escorting troops to Cape Town. The Queen’s South Africa Medal was subsequently awarded to the crew. She returned to the English Channel, but later escorted vessels as far as Colombo in Ceylon.
In March, 1901, HMS Niobe was one of two cruisers to escort HMS Ophir, commissioned as a royal yacht for the world tour of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George and Queen Mary), from Spithead to Gibraltar, and in September of the same year she again escorted the royal yacht from St. Vincent to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Niobe continued to serve in the RN until 1910, one of eight sisters of the Diadem-class.
Upon transfer to the Naval Service of Canada, HMCS Niobe, along with HMCS Rainbow, became the first two in a long and illustrious line of HMC ships and submarines that have served and continue to serve Canada with excellence at home and abroad.
Niobe was commissioned in the RCN on 6 September 1910 at Devonport and arrived at Halifax on 21 October. Niobe was almost lost during the night of 30-31 July 1911 when she went aground off Cape Sable, necessitating repairs that were not completed until the end of 1912. In the fall of 1914, after the ravages of two years’ disuse had been made good, she joined the RN’s 4th Cruiser Squadron on contraband patrol off New York.
She returned to Halifax on 17 July 1915 and was paid off on 6 September and became a depot ship. Her upper works were wrecked in the Halifax explosion of 6 December 1917, but she continued to serve as a depot ship until 1920.
Commanding Officers of HMCS Niobe
- Commander W. B. MacDonald, RN – 6 September 1910 – 20 June 1913
- Lieutenant- Commander C. E. Aglionby, RN – 20 June 1913 – 15 August 1914
- Captain R. G. Corbett, RN – 15 August 1914 – 1 September 1915
- Acting/Commander P. F. Newcombe, RN – 16 October 1916 – 22 December 1917
- Commander H. E. Holme, RCN – 22 December 1917 – 1 June 1920
For more information on HMCS Niobe please consult the following publication:
Ken Macpherson & Ron Barrie, The Ships of Canada’s Naval Forces, 1910-2002 3rd edition (Vanwell, 2002).
Upon completion of their deployments in the Canadian Arctic, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Kingston and Shawinigan returned to their home port of Halifax.
The ships worked closely with government partners and allied nations to continue a presence in the Canadian Arctic and demonstrate sovereignty.
HMCS Shawinigan began its northern operations by participating in Operation NANOOK, the largest of many operations in Canada’s North. The Canadian Armed Forces focus is multi-faceted: to demonstrate sovereignty by continued operations in Canada’s remote northern regions; to maintain awareness of activity in the Arctic; and to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians by supporting federal, territorial, municipal, and aboriginal authorities.
The ship supported all marine operations on Operation NANOOK, ferrying personnel and equipment ashore and to various other vessels.
Following Shawinigan’s participation in Operation NANOOK, the ship supported the Community Day in Iqaluit where they anchored in the harbour and conducted tours for community elders, town council members and the Commander of Joint Task Force North, Brigadier-General Greg Loos. The ship was later opened to the public and 130 residents toured the ship.
HMCS Shawinigan then broke a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) record by transiting further north than any modern warship, reaching a northern most latitude of 80 degrees 28 minutes north.
“Having a professional, highly trained and well-motivated Ship’s Company was the key to our success working under the demanding conditions of the Artic environment and breaking an RCN record,” said Lieutenant-Commander Frank Campbell, Commanding Officer of HMCS Shawinigan.”
The presence of the Shawinigan reinforced existing partnerships with the Canadian Coast Guard, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Environment Canada and furthered an ongoing cooperation with American and Danish allies.
HMCS Kingston was tasked to support the Canadian Hydrographic Service by mapping the ocean floor in the Canadian Arctic and assisting with the search for the ships lost during the 19th century Franklin Expedition. Upon arriving in the Arctic, they hosted Prime Minister Stephen Harper for two days as part of his annual Northern Tour.
“The Ship’s Companies of HMCS Kingston and Shawinigan served well as members of a multi-disciplinary team, multi-agency Government of Canada network and public-private partnership that was key to the RCN developing a deeper understanding of, and capacity for sovereign operations in the North,” said Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic.
Kingston made significant contributions to the expedition by working with a Canadian Hydrographic Service expert to survey over 645 squared nautical miles. The information and data received from the expedition provides significant value for Canada.
“Aiding in the hydrographic surveys was important to the success of the operation. We were able to survey previously uncharted areas such as Erik Harbour and other northern communities to support our government partners,” said Lieutenant-Commander Paul Smith, Commanding Officer of HMCS Kingston.
The ships’ contributions to CAF operations in the North were a success. The hydrographic, bathymetric and geographical information collected is key to making the internal waters a safe environment for increasing commercial activities, shipping, tourism and recreation.
The RCN’s accomplishments in the Arctic were successful in building a deeper understanding of the northern environment and culture which highlights the abundant value of the Canadian North.
Bravo Zulu to Lieutenant(N) Chantel Helwer from HMCS Chippawa in Winnipeg, an elite-level fencer recently named the Royal Canadian Navy’s Female Athlete of the Year.
In 2013, Lt(N) Helwer won the silver medal at the Canadian University Championships which qualified her to compete at the World Championships in Hungary that same year. In yet another amazing accomplishment, Lt(N) Helwer has just been named to Team Canada for the 2014 Commonwealth Fencing Championships, taking place this November in Scotland.
This year, other fencing competitions will take her to Venezuela, China, Europe and the U.S. She will also assume the role of team captain for the International Military Sports Council women’s sabre team, which will be participating in the 2015 World Military Games in South Korea.
If that wasn’t enough, Lt(N) Helwer also finds time to study law at the University of Manitoba when she’s not tending to her Naval Reserve duties or fencing.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the name of the first of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) yesterday in Hamilton, Ontario.
Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf is named in honour of a wartime Canadian naval hero. HMCS Harry DeWolf is the first of the AOPS designed to better enable the RCN to exercise sovereignty in Canadian waters, including in the Arctic.
The AOPS will be known as the Harry DeWolf Class, with HMCS Harry DeWolf as the lead ship. Subsequent ships in the class will be named to honour other prominent Canadian naval heroes who served their country with the highest distinction. This is the first time in its 104-year history that the RCN is naming a class of ships after a prominent Canadian naval figure.
A native of Bedford, Nova Scotia, Vice-Admiral Harry DeWolf (RCN) was decorated for outstanding service throughout his naval career, which included wartime command of HMCS St. Laurent from 1939-40, and later, his 1943-44 command of HMCS Haida, known as the “Fightingest Ship in the RCN.” Yesterday’s announcement was made at HMCS Haida, which now serves as a museum ship on the Hamilton waterfront.
Canada defends more coastline than any other country, as it is bounded by three oceans. The AOPS will conduct sovereignty and surveillance operations in Canadian waters on all three coasts, including in the Arctic. The AOPS will also be used to support other units of the Canadian Armed Forces in the conduct of maritime-related operations and to support other government departments in carrying out their mandates, as required.
The AOPS will be built by Irving Shipbuilding Inc. in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
As the Royal Canadian Navy undergoes its most extensive peacetime modernization in history, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), announced September 19 the upcoming retirement of four ships that have reached the end of their operational lives.
The ships are Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Protecteur and Preserver, two Protecteur-class auxiliary oil replenishment ships; and HMC Ships Iroquois and Algonquin, two Iroquois-class guided missile destroyers.
The retirement of these vessels has been anticipated for some time and is a step towards the introduction of new ships and capabilities set to be delivered through the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), as well as recognition of the RCN’s commitment to the responsible use of public funds while maintaining Canada’s naval readiness.
This period of transition includes the modernization of the RCN’s 12 Halifax-class frigates and the procurement of three new classes of ships, including the Joint Support Ships, the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships and the Canadian Surface Combatants, as well as the integration of a new maritime aircraft into fleet service.
During this period of transition, the RCN will be able to count on its modernized Halifax-class frigates, Victoria-class submarines and Kingston-class vessels to carry out the tasks and missions set by the Government of Canada.
The Government of Canada is delivering equipment to the RCN by investing $4 billion to modernize the Halifax-class frigates, and $36.6 billion on the NSPS for the recapitalization of the federal surface fleet during the coming decades.
The RCN has a plan in place to address the many challenges of transition, including the need to maintain excellence in operations, to deliver the future fleet and to prepare the RCN for the new capabilities and technologies that will be delivered through the NSPS over the next decade and beyond.
- HMCS Iroquois is a guided missile destroyer and the lead ship of the Iroquois Class, which comprises HMCS Athabaskan on the East Coast, and HMCS Algonquin on the West Coast.
- HMCS Iroquois has been scheduled for divestment since November 2011.
- HMCS Iroquois will prepare for its official paying off ceremony in January 2015 in Halifax.
- HMCS Algonquin is a guided missile destroyer, the fourth ship of the Iroquois Class.
- On August 30, 2013, HMCS Algonquin was involved in a collision at sea with HMCS Protecteur while conducting exercise manoeuvres en route to Hawaii. There were no injuries. The ship was able to return to its home port of Esquimalt, B.C., to undergo a full damage assessment.
- It was assessed that HMCS Algonquin suffered extensive damage to its port side hangar and remained alongside in Esquimalt.
- Considering the relatively short service life remaining for HMCS Algonquin, which was scheduled to be retired in early 2019, and its current state of repair, the cost to reinstate this ship to full operational capability no longer represents a responsible use of public funds. As a result, HMCS Algonquin will begin preparations for pay off in the near future.
- A Board of Inquiry (BOI) was convened to further investigate the incident and circumstances surrounding it, and will make recommendations as to how to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future.
- HMCS Protecteur is an auxiliary oil replenishment ship based in Esquimalt, B.C., and the lead ship of the Protecteur Class. Its sister ship, HMCS Preserver, is based in Halifax.
- HMCS Protecteur was designed to carry a large amount of supplies, including fuel, dry cargo and ammunition, which could be transferred to other ships through hook-up lines and re-fuelling hoses in a manoeuvre known as a replenishment at sea.
- HMCS Protecteur will be officially retired after sustaining serious damage in a fire in February 2014. An extensive assessment of HMCS Protecteur has concluded that the ship was damaged beyond economical repair.
- Considering the relatively short service life remaining for HMCS Protecteur, which was scheduled to be retired in 2017, and its current state of repair, the cost to reinstate the ship to full operational capability would not represent a responsible use of public funds. As a result, the ship will remain alongside and be prepared for disposal as early as is practically feasible.
- A BOI has been convened to investigate the cause of the fire on board HMCS Protecteur and the circumstances surrounding it. The BOI, which is still ongoing, will make recommendations as to how to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future, and its results will be made public when available.
- HMCS Preserver is rapidly approaching the end of its operational life, which was planned for 2016.
- Engineering surveys conducted in recent months identified levels of corrosion in HMCS Preserver that have degraded the structural integrity of the ship below acceptable limits, specifically in the vicinity of the port side boiler room.
- As a result of its current material state, and considering the relatively short service life remaining for HMCS Preserver, the cost to reinstate this ship to full operational capability does not represent a responsible use of public funds. HMCS Preserver will therefore cease its operational life, remain alongside and prepare for pay off in the near future.
Today, the massive Canadian flag flying over Parliament Hill in Ottawa is dedicated to the HMCS Alberni, a Second World War ship named after the Vancouver Island town that had its short life ended 70 years ago by a torpedo from a German submarine.
At the end of the day, the 15-foot flag is scheduled to be lowered in honour of the 59 men who lost their lives while serving on the ship, then will be sent to the Alberni Project collection in Comox.
The permanent exhibit plans to add the flag to its extensive display of artifacts memorializing the 205-foot warship, part of a fleet of corvette vessels that were built after Canada joined the war in 1940.
The corvette was a small warship used from 1941 to 1944 to escort large convoys across the Atlantic. It also served on the St. Lawrence River and off the coast of Quebec and Labrador, as German U-Boats had reached Canadians waters during the latter years of the war. A notable event in its short but busy life was the rescue of 145 merchant seamen near Londonderry, North Ireland after torpedoes hit their vessels. Lewis Bartholomew founded the Alberni project 14 years ago, amassing a collection of details on the HMCS (His Majesty’s Canadian Ship) Alberni, an example of the many corvettes built for the Royal Canadian Navy for war service.
“They had to have some sort of an escort ship that had maneuverability because these convoys would stretch out for miles,” he said. “These corvettes would run along the side and behind and would scan back and forth for submarines.”
The corvettes were named after Canadian cities in the hopes of gathering more support from communities across the country. The HMCS Alberni was given the name of the former town of Alberni, now existing as the northern section of Port Alberni. This sparked interest with a group of locals who purchased a potato-peeling device and knit sox for the ship’s crew, said Jane
Hutton, past president of the Alberni District Historical Society and former co-ordinator of the Maritime Discovery Centre.
“They bought a washing machine to be used on the ship so the guys wouldn’t have to wash their clothes in the bathroom basins,” said Hutton, who now serves as curator of the Port Hardy Heritage Society Museum.
Thirty-one men survived the UBoat’s attack, including Capt. Ian Hunter Bell, the youngest man to command ship in the Royal Canadian Navy at the age of 24.
The vessel sank in half a minute after being struck by the U-Boat, a submarine that approached the Alberni’s sonar undetected by using a newlydesigned rubber coating. Most of the crew were below deck in the mess hall getting lunch.
“If you were on the deck or you were close to a doorway, you had a chance for survival; if you were below decks you had no chance,” Bartholomew said. “Some of them were able to grab hold of things that were floating in the water, there was no time really to grab any of your lifejackets.”
The men were spotted by Allied torpedo boats returning from duties near Normandy, France. Joseph Leo McVarish was one of these men.
“Leo, he was listed as missing in action for several days, and then they discovered him in a pub somewhere in England,” recalled Bartholomew from a past meeting with the survivor.
McVarnish had a reputation as a vivid storyteller of his times from the war, but this was unusual among Second World War veterans.
Huttan met two other survivors of the HMCS Alberni a few years ago while she was living in the Valley. They hadn’t told their wives about the shipwreck until 50 years later. “They had never talked about it. They used to get together and play cards all of the time and just one night the two guys started talking about it,” Huttan recalled. “The wives were just gobsmacked, they couldn’t believe it.”
At least one surviving member of crew came from Port Alberni: Nelson Shudeen.
Bartholomew is unsure if the veteran is still alive, and first heard of Shudeen a few years ago when a man visited the Alberni Project as his wife saw the dentist next door.
“He said that as a child living in Halifax everyone rented out rooms to the sailors there. There was a particular man from Port Alberni who served on the ship and he was wondering if I had his name,” said Bartholomew.
The German U-Boats has proved to be a terror in the seas, and the U-480 sunk four vessels including torpedoing the Alberni on Aug. 21, 1944 under the command of 24-year-old captain Hans-Joachim Förster.
He died along with the 47 members of his crew the next January when the German submarine hit a mine off the Isle of Wight in the vicinity of where the HMCS Alberni sunk.
Eric Plumme / r Alberni Valley Times