Monday, 2 May 2016

Battle of the Atlantic Sunday 2016

On Battle of the Atlantic Sunday, one did not need to look too far in the approaches of Halifax Harbour for reminders of the importance of seaborne traffic to Canada, as well as our ongoing dedication to helping make sure that it continues to pass unmolested. The modern equivalents of the freighters and convoy escorts that plied the North Atlantic during the Second World War were both evident Sunday morning, with the outgoing HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN passing the inbound container ship Allise P. Seventy-five years ago, both ships would have had the added complication of passing through the gate of an anti-submarine net that spanned between York Redoubt and McNab's Island, a firm delineation between the safety of Halifax Harbour and the dangers of U-boats at sea.

Outbound HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN passing the McNab's Island lighthouse. The anti-submarine net spanned from the spit of land upon which the lighthouse stands to York Redoubt.

Container ship Allise P inbound a few minutes later.
The submarine nets ran between the previous lighthouse on McNab's Island in the background, and York Redoubt from where the photo was taken. The two gate vessels in the centre of the image were responsible for opening and closing the gate in the nets to allow authorized ships to pass. They were First World War Battle class trawlers and were painted red and green to correspond to Port and Starboard for incoming ships. The submarine nets were installed by Foundation Maritime, and their Foundation Jupiter can be seen in the foreground. Ocean Eagle (top left), formerly an Admiralty Saint class tug named St. Arvans, was a tug owned by the Federal Government that was put under control of Foundation Maritime for the duration of the war. This photo is on display at the Canadian War Museum.
The first Sunday in May sees the commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic that ended 71 years ago, and this year I was privileged to  accompany HMCS MONTREAL for the service and committal ceremony held off Point Pleasant Park, the latter being an opportunity to commit the ashes of veterans to the sea.

Arriving in Halifax by ferry that morning, I was treated to seeing a few of the ships "dressed overall" for the occasion, including HMCS ATHABASKAN (herself being the third ship of that name, the first having been lost off the coast of France during the Second World War).

Families of departed veterans as well as other passengers embarked MONTREAL and gathered on the helicopter deck, where we received a briefing from the ship's CO (via loudspeaker) and the Cox'n (in person).

MONTREAL's kisbee ring and ensign.

MONTREAL's Cox'n briefs the ship's guests.
After departing the jetty in HMC Dockyard, MONTREAL headed out to her destination off Point Pleasant Park. On our way down the waterfront, CSS Acadia (and the former HMCS ACADIA, as she served the RCN during both World Wars) dipped her flag as we passed.

CSS Acadia.

MONTREAL's wake as we headed out, with the George's Island lighthouse to the left and with McNab's Island in the background.
After arriving off Point Pleasant Park (where another service was already in progress at the Commonwealth War Memorial), some of the ship's company manned the starboard rail facing Point Pleasant Park.

Manning the starboard rail.
Soon, two padres held a commemoration service at the aft end of the helicopter deck to remember the personnel and ships lost during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Padres Lt (N) Sebastien Dupont and LCdr (Ret'd) Andrew Cooke.

Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration Service.
During the service, a bell is rung for each of the RCN ships lost during the war.

Ringing the ship's bell for each RCN ship lost during the Battle of the Atlantic.
After the service, the ship's ensign was lowered to half mast and the committal ceremony began.

Setting the ensign to half mast.
After some words from the padres, the ashes of each veteran are committed to the sea. The box of ashes are placed on a plank and covered by the flag of their service, and the ashes are piped overboard as the box slides down the plank.

Ship's company facing starboard during the committal ceremony.

Ship's company facing starboard during the committal ceremony.

The committal party stands at the ready as family members look on.

The board is tipped, and a veteran's ashes are committed to the sea.

Each veteran's ashes were piped over the side.

A Lieutenant, the ship's Commanding Officer, and Cox'n (respectively) salute as a veteran's ashes are committed to the deep.

Of the three in uniform, the furthest is CPO1 Thomas Lizotte (Cox'n) and in the middle is Cdr Kristjan Monaghan (MONTREAL's CO).
With the committal ceremony over, food was served in the ship's hangar, and MONTREAL turned around to head back up the harbour to return to HMC Dockyard. I took this opportunity to head up to the foc'st'le to get a different perspective on this part of the trip.

MONTREAL's foc'st'le party facing to port on the trip back up the harbour.

Panorama of the foc'st'le, with the Halifax skyline on the left, and MONTREAL's Bofors 57mm Mk.3 on the right.

The first of the lines are thrown ashore from the foc'st'le. 
I would like to thank the ship's company of HMCS MONTREAL for being perfect hosts during the Battle of the Atlantic Sunday ceremonies. I always enjoy being able to document this event, but it is an added pleasure to watch the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy at work.

For those interested, I also have an online gallery with all of my processed images from Sunday.

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