Fresh from refit, HMCS Sackville helps commemorate navy's contributions to D-Day
Flying the same flag it would have 75 years ago, HMCS Sackville finished her refit just in time to welcome three special guests in Halifax on Wednesday.
Three D-Day veterans who there when 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach on June 6, 1944, were on hand to see the ship representing the Royal Canadian Navy's contribution to the Battle of Normandy.
“When they see Sackville, she will look just like those 19 corvettes that were off those beaches all those years ago,” said Doug Thomas, the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust executive director.
Wendall Brown, the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust board chair, said there were 11,000 Canadian sailors involved in Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion, and Canada lost four ships to enemy attack.
Seeing the vessel brings back memories for these D-Day veterans.
Ninety-four-year-old Fred Turnbull was a bowman in the Royal Canadian Navy, meaning he was first off the landing crafts on the beaches that morning.
“It was all part of the big operation and this is the last of the corvettes,” said Turnbull, who was a Leading Seaman in the navy.“It's quite an honour.”
Ninety-seven-year-old Newfoundland naval veteran Charlie Starkes was in an aircraft carrier,
“Nearly all the boys died that I knew, they're all dead now, there aren't too many survivors,” Starkes said.
“This will be the last big event for them, as they're all ninety-three and more,” said Bill Gard, a Canadian Naval Memorial Trust member.“It was just very special, and very privileged to be there with them.”
There's still some refurbishment work to be done on HMCS Sackville, so Thursday it will return to the dockyard for that work, and then will come back to the Halifax waterfront to be open to the public by the end of this month.
Having HMCS Sackville here for these veterans is a moment to remember. It’s a symbol of the sacrifices of wartime that will remain long after those who were there are gone.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.