Navy ships named for 2 WW II heroes in Halifax ceremony

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The families of two Second World War heroes were on hand to see two Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships named after them. (Victoria Welland/CBC - image credit)
The families of two Second World War heroes were on hand to see two Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships named after them. (Victoria Welland/CBC - image credit)

Canada's second and third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships have been officially named to honour two Canadians who served in the navy in the Second World War.

The ceremony was held on Sunday at the Halifax shipyard.

HMCS Margaret Brooke and HMCS Max Bernays will be used for "sovereignty and surveillance operations" and to support other units and departments across the three coasts, according to the Canadian navy.

HMCS Margaret Brooke, launched in November 2019, is the first Canadian combat ship to be named after a woman.

Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Brooke was a Royal Canadian Navy nursing sister during the war. She was named a member of the Order of the British Empire for her bravery after the ferry SS Caribou was torpedoed and sunk in the Cabot Strait in 1942.

She tried to save her friend and fellow nursing sister, Agnes Wilkie, as they clung to a capsized lifeboat. Wilkie died in the freezing water.

Carolyn Ray/CBC
Carolyn Ray/CBC

Brooke received the news of the ship's naming on her 100th birthday in 2015. She was the first living Canadian to receive the honour.

Icing on the cake

Brooke's niece, Allyson Brooke, was present for the naming. She said even though her aunt was not alive to see the ship, knowing she was to be recognized was very important to her.

"This is sort of the icing on the cake," Allyson Brooke said.

"What's really important to me is that she was recognized for her heroism while she was still alive. This would have meant a lot less to me had she not been alive when it was announced."

Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays served as the coxswain of HMCS Assiniboine during the Second World War.

While the ship was under fire from a German submarine, the wheelhouse was engulfed in flames. Bernays ordered two junior sailors to leave while he stayed at the helm.

HMCS Assiniboine sank the submarine and Bernays survived. He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his courage.

Carolyn Ray/CBC
Carolyn Ray/CBC

His granddaughter, Shannon Bernays, attended the ceremony and said it was an emotional and amazing experience.

She said when she was told the vessel would be named after him on a video call she was overwhelmed.

"He was a quiet man, but he was such a proud man," Bernays said. "He would just be so honoured to be here today. To see all of this and to be honoured in this way is just truly amazing."

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