Summer exhibit honours 59 men who died in HMCS Alberni sinking

Summer exhibit honours 59 men who died in HMCS Alberni sinking

The HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial in Courtenay has spent 25 years preparing for this summer’s exhibit.

“This is our big moment,” said Bob Sackett, assistant director of the museum.

The well-hidden museum on the corner of Cliffe Avenue and 6th Street in downtown Courtenay is named after the ship that sank 80 years ago this summer, taking two-thirds of its crew to the bottom of the English Channel with it.

“She was a Flower-class corvette,” said Sackett. “She was built down in Victoria in 1941, served mostly protecting the convoys between North America and Europe from 1941 until she was torpedoed and sunk on August 21st, 1944, unfortunately with the loss of 59 crew members.”

Thirty-one sailors survived the sinking, and one of them was wearing a Bulova watch, a gift everyone on the ship had received from the Town of Alberni.

The hands now frozen in time when it hit the water at 11:44 a.m.

“She was just doing routine anti-submarine patrols, and it was just before dinner time, so about a quarter to twelve when she was attacked by the German U-Boat U-480,” added Sackett.

“Alberni was hit by a torpedo just where the engine shaft pierced the hull, and she sunk in about 30 seconds.”

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This museum, which is dedicated in part to HMCS Alberni, opened in 1999. For 25 years, a small team has been compiling information on all 59 men who died.

Now it’s complete, and a summer exhibit called “59” is open.

“Our main focus is the biography panels here and just some basic biographical information also with QR codes so they can scan those, and then that will bring you to more information online,” Sackett said.

The ages of those who died ranged from 19 to 39, but most were in their early 20s.

It’s a piece of history you can’t find anywhere else.

“Often people come in, they sort of find us, they stumble on us, and they’re kind of blown away with what we’ve done, and that makes us very proud,” added James Derry, who works at the museum.

A special memorial wall will be rededicated in the museum on Aug. 21, and near where the Alberni sank at the Isle of Wight.

More information can be found here.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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