Ceremony remembers 44 crew members. Mary Griffin reports.
With the end of World War Two just three weeks away, hostilities continued just a few kilometres outside Halifax.
On the morning of April 16th, a German U-boat torpedoed HMCS Esquimalt.
The minesweeper took only minutes to sink to the ocean bottom, killing 44 crew members.
Today in Esquimalt, a ceremony marked 71st anniversary of that event.
Dozens gather for the poignant ceremony to remember 44 crew members who died aboard HMCS Esquimalt.
On the evening of April 15, 1945, the mine sweeper left Halifax harbour for a routine anti-submarine sweep, just a few kilometres from shore.
“HMCS Esquimalt was commissioned in 1942, diesel powered Bangor class mine-sweeper that mainly operated as an escort based out of Halifax.”
But a German submarine lurked below the surface.
U-190’s orders: sink merchant navy cargo ships transporting supplies for Allied efforts in Europe.
The protection for those cargo ships, mine sweepers like HMCS Esquimalt under the command of Robert C. McMillian.
At 6:20 a.m., the only crew awake are on watch.
Meanwhile on U-190, its crew believed the Allied warship detected its presence, and could see HMCS Esquimalt moving toward their position,and fired a torpedo.
The ship took a direct hit, flooding the engines, sinking in just four minutes.
The memorial ceremony next to Esquimalt city hall includes navy members, family of the crew, and local residents.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun.
And in the morning,
We will remember them.”
There are no survivors left of H.M.C.S. Esquimalt.
“All of a sudden, there was a great whomp.
Everything went dead. ”
As a 19 year old working in the radar room, Joe Wilson remembered the moment the torpedo hit.
Wilson died in 2012, but in 2008, he spoke with CHEK News.
“The torpedo hit, you came off the ship in your skivvies, no protection in the water.
You can imagine you’re holding onto a friend of yours that you’ve known for years.
You’re encouraging him to go on and on, then he’s died in your arms.”
Capt. Steve Waddell is the base commander of CFB Esquimalt.
“It’s just a really nice opportunity to gather and remember the sacrifices of those men so many years ago.
Particularly that it’s the last Canadian warship that was sunk in World War Two before the end of hostilities in Europe.
“They were young, as we are young.
They served, giving freely of themselves.
To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time.
To carry their torch and never forget.
We will remember them.”
Ralph Zbansky was named for his uncle, who died at age twenty.
J”He volunteered when he was 17.
By that time he was already in university.
He survived until the sinking of the ship.”
Zbansky attends every ceremony to remember his uncle.
“I think it is, these ceremonies are crucial.
We all have to remember how we came to be, and how our freedom came to be.”
Every April 16th, the numbers grow at the memorial remembering HMCS Esquimalt and her crew.