Wednesday, 6 May 2015

70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic: Service and Committal Ceremony aboard HMCS HALIFAX.

On Sunday, May 3, I was privileged to be able to tag along and photograph the service and committal ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. Normally, this would occur onboard HMCS SACKVILLE, the world's last remaining Flower class corvette. For the 70th anniversary, however, they needed something a little bit.....bigger.
HMCS HALIFAX reflects on the still calm waters of Halifax Harbour before departure on Sunday morning.
HMCS HALIFAX is currently testing the new CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, and took time off from these duties to play host to the ceremony this year. Guests were escorted to the ship before 0900. Shortly before departure, Sea Cadets from RCSCC Swiftsure marched ashore to pick up the VIP guests: the ashes of the 29 veterans who were to be committed to the deep that morning.

Cadets from RCSCC Swiftsure gathered on the jetty with the ashes of veterans.
Cadets with containers of ashes marching on the helicopter deck.
The ashes were delivered to the quarterdeck of the ship, where they were arranged and covered with a white sheet for the voyage to their final resting place.

Second World War SACKVILLE veteran, Philip Clappison.
We were joined onboard by Second World War navy veteran Philip Clappison, who had served in HMCS SACKVILLE starting when he was 18. After HALIFAX departed the jetty, and backed out into the harbour, we headed south along the Halifax waterfront and took the western passage past George's Island. On our way, HALIFAX was saluted by ships in HMC Dockyard, as well as by personnel onboard HMCS SACKVILLE. Sailors onboard HALIFAX stood at attention as they received the salute.

The last corvette: HMCS SACKVILLE. Two personnel onboard salute HALIFAX as we pass by.
Sailors receiving a salute from a ship alongside in HMC Dockyard.
HALIFAX soon arrived at her station off Point Pleasant Park, and was joined by two Glen class Naval tugs, who helped HALIFAX maintain station. Ours was not the only ceremony going on that morning, and we could see marching personnel snaking their way to the memorial in the Park. 

Personnel marching to the memorial in Point Pleasant Park. The anchor from HMCS BONAVENTURE is visible on the shore in front of the line of people.
A CP-140 Aurora flying out of CFB Greenwood banks over the service in Point Pleasant Park.
As the ceremony proceeded on HALIFAX, another ceremony occurred ashore. Before our service could start, a wreath had to be placed.

Cdr Graham Roberts presented Philip Clappison with the wreath that he lay in the harbour, as Commodore (ret'd) Tino Cotaras looks on.
Padre Capt. Leonard Bednar during the service.
Padre Lt (N) Sebastien Dupont
During the service, the ship's bell was rung for each of the twenty-four RCN vessels lost during the Second World War, as well as for a representative 24 (of 73) merchant vessels lost, and finally for RCAF Squadrons that lost aircraft during the Battle of the Atlantic.

A Cadet rings the ship's bell.
The committal ceremony occurred after the main service. Families gathered on the ship's quarterdeck, and were handed the ashes of their relatives. 

Sailors pipe the ashes of each veteran as they pass over the side.
The ashes of Stoker Charles Dunbar pass over the side.
The containers of ashes were placed on the burial board, under a flag (either the RCN Ensign, or the Maple Leaf, depending on their service). When the appropriate time came, the burial board was elevated, and the ashes slid down and into the water. In the case of the above, I was quite happy to be present; Charlie Dunbar brought me along to my first of these services many years ago. I thought it was only appropriate that I should be there to photograph his final voyage.

A veteran is committed to the deep under the RCN Ensign.
In addition to being piped, military personnel onboard saluted as each veteran slid overboard.

Military personnel, including the CO and Cox'n, salute as a veteran's ashes are committed to the deep.
Once the committal ceremony was completed, HALIFAX was turned around, and she headed back to the jetty. 

Sailors tighten up HALIFAX's lines as she comes alongside.
I selected a sampling of my images for this blog posting, and probably still picked too many. If you are interested in seeing more, please visit my Smugmug gallery.

Hopefully I have not made too many faux pas with my terminology above!

Finally, thank you to the crew of HMCS HALIFAX for hosting the ceremony this year.

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