Newspaper article The Canadian Press

HMCS Sackville: A Window into Canada's Naval History and the Centre of Big Plans

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

HMCS Sackville: A Window into Canada's Naval History and the Centre of Big Plans

Article excerpt

HMCS Sackville: a window into our history


HALIFAX - Floating on the Halifax harbour is a living naval time capsule -- a window into one of Canada's great contributions to the Allied cause during the Second World War.

HMCS Sackville is Canada's last corvette and now serves as a floating museum in the harbour's salt-kissed air, generations removed from when it protected merchant ships from German submarines in the North Atlantic.

During the summer, the 71-year-old flower-class corvette is berthed at Sackville Landing, where anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 people stop by to tour the ship, now preserved by the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust.

Sackville has even hosted royalty, as Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the ship during the International Fleet Review in Halifax in June 2010.

But during the Second World War, it was young crewmen that packed the vessel -- sometimes more than 100 of them at a time -- sleeping like sardines in hammocks strung from the ceiling in a compartment where the men also ate and washed.

The corvettes made their reputation shepherding vulnerable merchant ships carrying food and vital supplies to Great Britain through waters infested with German U-boats. Winning the Battle of the Atlantic was vital to the Allies' victory in the Second World War.

Visitors who come aboard Sackville catch a glimpse into those tumultuous times. Several mannequins are propped up at a picnic table to showcase the life of a Canadian sailor aboard a warship.

A tour guide explains that a wool Hudson Bay blanket was a sailor's most prized defence against the harsh cold. On the other side of the vessel, a catwalk gives visitors a view of the ship's engine room, where the guide says the stifling heat prompted some crew members to bake potatoes.

The ship became Canada's naval memorial in 1985, but George Borgal says HMCS Sackville is much more than that.

"It's also the symbol of... the coming of age of the country during the Second World War," says Borgal, a director on the board of the trust. "We see it as a symbol of a national achievement, something much greater than it seems to be just by looking at it."

As the last of 123 corvettes from the Second World War, Sackville has cut through many salty waters. …

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