By Peter Stoffer
A few months ago I wrote an op-ed piece called Battle of the Atlantic Place. This article was about a plan to permanently house Canada’s naval memorial, HMCS Sackville (K181), the last of the Royal Canadian Navy’s 123 corvettes, in a significant facility worthy of her status.
Unfortunately, the Sackville is in dire need of urgent repairs to the tune of $3- to $3.5-million, and the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, a group of dedicated volunteers working to keep her history alive, simply just does not have the funds to pay for this.
We have been advised that the Navy of today is not in the heritage and memorial business anymore, which to me is very surprising considering that all military branches pay deep respect to their symbols and people of the past. They have various mess dinners, parades, solemn ceremonies like Remembrance Day, etc.
They even travel overseas on a regular basis to pay the country’s respect to our brave fallen. And recently the Vimy Memorial and the National Memorial underwent extensive renovations and upgrades. [This, in my view, was money well spent.]
Even the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are undergoing extensive renovations and upgrades to the tune of over possibly $5-billion when all is said and done [again, I believe that to preserve these historic buildings this will be taxpayer money that is well spent].
And yet the Royal Canadian Navy or the government of the day, which funds and directs the Navy, cannot or will not [at the time of writing] see fit to spend the appropriate funds to see that Canada’s naval memorial is repaired and safe for future generations to see and relish in her glorious past.
The RCN’s Vimy Ridge
I remind the government of the day of what the Sackville represents.
She took part in the most significant and longest continuous battle of the Second World War. The Battle of the Atlantic not only saved and freed the Western world, the battle had a transformative change on Canadian society. We are the country we are today because of that six-year-long battle that took the lives of more than 4,600 Canadian sailors, airmen and merchant mariners. She is the last corvette of her kind and was built along with the others right here in Canada. She is the Navy’s Vimy Ridge and she deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
The Canadian Naval Memorial Trust [of which I am a trustee] has been doing an amazing job over 30 years to not only help maintain the Sackville, but also to share her and Canada’s story to thousands and thousands of people both here in Canada and worldwide as well. This dedicated group of esteemed volunteers has given thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours to tell her story and just as importantly to tell the story of those who sailed her.
Also, every year during the first week of May a very touching and solemn event occurs onboard the vessel during the Battle of Atlantic ceremonies, whereby some of the honoured sailors who recently crossed the bar have their ashes buried at sea while aboard the Sackville.
For the families of these deceased heroes of Canada it is a fitting tribute to their memories.
So the Sackville and those who sailed her have done their job and the trustees have done theirs. Canada, it is now time for you to do the right by Sackville and see she gets the funding and repairs so that she can sail on to a future she deserves.
Bravo Zulu to all our women and men in service to our country … now and in the past.