Naval Monument honours Royal Canadian Navy prairie seamen and RCN ships
H.M.C.S. Regina (K234) and H.M.C.S. Weyburn (K 173)
John Thompson RCNVR (V 34087), a cook aboard the HMCS Regina aged 24 son of Robert Parker Thompson and Helena Thompson, of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was one of the naval seamen honoured on Sunday, September 22, 2013 at an unveiling ceremony held on Navy Way in Regina, Saskatchewan in front of the HMCS Queen naval reserve unit.
The Friends of the Navy have honoured Royal Canadian Navy sailors who hail from Saskatchewan, particularly those who fell in World War II. The new Saskatchewan Naval monument honours the naval ships, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Weyburn and the HMCS Regina who were both lost in World War II. The HMCS Weyburn on the 67th anniversary of its sinking was commemorated earlier during the centennial year of the Royal Canadian Navy in 2010. Royal Canadian Navy ships paid tribute to dozens Saskatchewan Communities in their naming including the HMCS Waskesiu and the HMCS Estevan.
The HMCS Weyburn (K 173), the namesake for the city of Weyburn was a flower class corvette mainly serving in the Battle of the Atlantic. This smaller ship was needed as an escort ship and equipped by minesweeping gear. However, on February 32, 1943 at 11:17 a.m., the Weyburn struck a large SSMA (Sonder Mine A) magnetic mine laid by German U-boat U-118. The mine, new technology for the time, could be laid as deep as 350 meters, and the Weyburn taken three weeks after the charge was laid was one of the first victims. Though HMS Wivern assisted Weyburn after the initial explosion, two depth charges exploded, everyone in the water, and crew members of the Wivern were killed or severely injured. Of the 83 officers and men aboard the Weyburn 12 died and there were 71 survivors.
The HMCS Regina (K 234), was another Saskatchewan namesake for the province’s capital city, Regina. HMCS Regina, was a flower-class corvette also engaged in escort duties in the Second World War. The American Liberty Ship, the Ezra Weston was a cargo ship carrying war material to the theatre of war. The Ezra Weston took a torpedo from the U-667. Her only escort was the HMCS Regina who was under the impression that the merchant ship had fallen to a mine. Therefore the Regina turned to assist the flailing ship and pick up survivors. The U-boat then also fired on the corvette. Within 30 seconds on August 8, 1944 at 9:27 p.m., one officer and 27 men fell.
Robert Watkins, a prairie sailor out of Winnipeg, sums it up this way, “during the war, the one thing he was scared of was the submarines, if the supply lines from Canada and the U.S. had dried up on account of the submarines, Britain would have gone under.”
Alongside John Thompson, Douglas Peter Robertson RCNVR (V 11460) son of Robert Angus Robertson and Elizabeth Jane Robertson, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan aged 26 fell August 8, 1944 in his capacity as Petty Officer Stoker aboard the HMCS Regina. As well, John Charles Henry Rathbone RCNVR (V 34478), son of John and Florence Rathbone, of Regina, Saskatchewan, aged 27 who took on the duties of supply assistant did not survive his wounds incurred that fatal evening. These three Saskatchewan prairie naval reservists lost their lives along with their crew mates, British and Canadian Navy sailors.
The Fall Action Stations magazine reports that, “exactly how many Saskatchewanians served in the RCN during the war is hard to estimate as many volunteered at recruiting offices outside the province, and vice versa. And due to wartime staffing pressures, sailors from a particular city or town rarely served on the ship bearing its name.”
For instance, Joseph McGrath, V/11616, son of Margaret McGrath of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, serving with the Royal Canadian Volunteer Reserve aboard the HMCS Athabaskan was one of those honoured in the commemorative naming program of the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board with the naming of McGrath Lake in Saskatchewan.
Natural geographic features across Saskatchewan honour armed forces personnel and merchant sailors from the Second World War and the Korean War, and also those who fell during peacekeeping or NATO missions, or while protecting the public while on active duty such as police officers, firefighters, and Emergency Response Personnel.
The Naval Memorial erected at a cost of about $30,00 honours was spear-headed by Doug Archer, Chairman of the Friends of the Navy, and Steve Smedley. There are over 6,000 war memorials in Canada remembering those who fought with courage. Saskatoon’s Next of Kin Memorial Avenue in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is a national historic site. Both the Regina Cemetery and the North Battleford Cemetery are homes to two of the 28 Crosses of Sacrifice. Alongside these memorials, the Royal Canadian Legion branches and towns across Saskatchewan have erected monuments and cenotaphs honouring those who fell in military service from their community.
Quoting Lieutenant James Balfour, himself a prairie seaman, serving in the naval reserve stemmed from “the belief that there are things that are more important than just you as an individual, it’s about serving your country and doing something for the good of others.”
Terrence McEachern of The Leader Post quoted Doug Archer, former mayor of Regina, “We are so truly blessed that others have gone before us to preserve our freedom and our democracy. We need to honour them and never forget the contribution they’ve made.”
~Article written by Julia Adamson
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Crewlist from HMCS Regina 1995 – 2013 Guðmundur Helgason
Falloon, Dan.Veteran hoping to commemorate fellow sailors. 04 24 2013. Winnipeg Free Press.
For Posterity’s Sake Canadian Genealogy HMCS Weyburn K173 Corvette Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII uboat.net. 1995 – 2013 Guðmundur Helgason
HMCS Regina (K 234) of the Royal Canadian Navy – Canadian Corvette of the Flower class – Allied warships of WWII uboat.net. 1995 – 2013 Guðmundur Helgason
HMCS Regina (K 234) Canadian K 234) (Canadian Corvette) ships hit by German U boats during WWII 1995 – 2013 Guðmundur Helgason
HMCS Regina (K234) Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia
HMCS Weyburn (K173) (Canadian Corvette) Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII uboat.net 1995 – 2013 Guðmundur Helgason
HMCS Weyburn (K173) Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. id version =571908407.
Home/About Government/News Releases/November 2006/New Commemorative Naming Program to Recognize Saskatchewan Heroes. Government of Saskatchewan. c/o Grant Bastedo. Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan ISC
JosephMcGrath – The Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Records and Collections. Veteran’s Affairs Canada. Government of Canada. 2013-07-29.
Liberty Ship. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. id version=572158310
Mceachern, Terrence. Monument honours Navy seamen from Sask The Leader-Post, republished The StarPhoenix. September 23, 2013. 2010 – 2013 Postmedia Network Inc.
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Naval Monument Planned for Regina. From the files of Will Chabun, Leader Post, Regina. Memorial Honours RCN War Hero. 2012 Fall Action Stations. Volume 30 Issue 5 HMCS Sackville Newsletter.
Christianson, Adriana. Navy Reservists in Regina Commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic. May 6, 2013. New Saskatchewan Naval Monument. 620 CKRM the Source. Harvard Broadcasting Radio Stations September 23, 2013.
Travel Article: Lest We Forget: Outstanding Canadian War Memorials / 1994-2013 World Web Technologies Inc.
Volume 2 Part 1 Extant Commissioned Ships. HMCS Regina. National Defence and the Canadian Forces. DHH Home. Histories. 2006-07-07. Government of Canada.
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