A double homecoming: welcome home HMC Ships Vancouver and Winnipeg

Vancouver-Winnipeg Homecoming

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

Hugs, kisses and heartfelt embraces were abundant on Dec. 5 when HMCS Vancouver and HMCS Winnipeg returned home to CFB Esquimalt from lengthy deployments.

The two Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigates, with a crew of 470 members, departed from Esquimalt on June 14. Their 173-day deployment included participation in Operations Neon and Projection, and Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, among others.

Hundreds of family members and friends lined A-Jetty with homemade signs and banners, and waved to their loved ones aboard as the ships pulled into Esquimalt Harbour.

First alongside in Dockyard was HMCS Winnipeg.

Master Sailor (MS) Thomas McDavid, Navy Cook, was also first to cross the ship’s brow and deliver the traditional ceremonial First Kiss of the homecoming. MS McDavid was bestowed with the honour after winning a lottery aboard, which determined who would be the first off the ship to kiss their spouse. MS McDavid’s First Kiss was with his his high-school sweetheart, Colleen McDavid. As they kissed for the first time in nearly six months, a great cheer rose from the crowd gathered on the jetty.

“It’s so exciting to be home and it feels a little bit like the honeymoon stage all over again,” said MS McDavid. “It’s so wonderful to not be on a ship and be able to walk wherever I want to go instead of being in one place all the time.”

Sailor Second Class (S2) Nathaniel Bourke, HMCS Vancouver’s Naval Combat Information Officer (NCIOP), was selected for his ship’s First Kiss.

“It was really a big surprise for me to find out I had been selected for the First Kiss on Dec. 2 as this was also my birthday,” said S2 Bourke. He delivered it to his girlfriend Shelby Cavill and also delighted in the experience with the crowds.

Commander (Cdr) Annick Fortin, Winnipeg’s Commanding Officer, said she was equally enthused to be back in Esquimalt and reunited with her husband Nicholas. It was Cdr Fortin’s first experience commanding a major RCN warship on a lengthy deployment, and she said it was a positive one.

“Like any mission at sea, there are great challenges and great rewards, so, being here alongside with all our sailors and being reunited with our families is the greatest reward of all,” she said.

The feeling was mutual for HMCS Vancouver Commanding Officer, Cdr Kevin Whiteside, who was moved to tears after crossing the brow and embracing his wife and three children on the jetty.

“This is what it means to be home,” Cdr Whiteside said as he pointed to his family. “I am absolutely full of love and energy right now, so proud of everything we accomplished and so happy to be back here with our loved ones.”

HMCSVancouver - Winnipeg Homecoming

A very heartfelt reunion. Photo: Corporal Tristan Walach.

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