Anticipation mounts for Bernays family 

Shannon Bernays

Shannon Bernays

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer

Shannon Bernays is brimming with pride about her recent selection as Ship’s Sponsor of the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship.

“I was pleasantly shocked and just felt so honoured to be named the sponsor, but with this honour comes great responsibility,” Bernays says. “The whole family is so excited the ship will be stationed in Victoria, so we can continue to build a strong relationship with the Max Bernays and her crew for years to come.”

The 54-year-old Colwood resident and mother of two says she was beyond excited to learn that she would be the sponsor of the ship named after her grandfather. She found out about her appointment in March through a Zoom call from Vice-Admiral Craig Baines and Commander Collin Forsberg, Max Bernays’ Commanding Officer.

The appointment of a ship’s sponsor is a long naval tradition. The sponsor plays a key role in the ship’s naming ceremony and most sponsors continue their relationship with their ship for many years.

The future HMCS Max Bernays is named after her grandfather Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays, who served as the Coxswain of HMCS Assiniboine during the Second World War’s Battle of the Atlantic.

The ship is in its final stages of construction at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax. It is set to launch at a naming ceremony on May 29.

Shannon Bernays will attend the ceremony along with her husband Scott Thompson and children Max and Tessa. Shannon says they have been looking forward to the event for weeks since learning about her appointment.

She will christen the ship by breaking a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow.

“Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps and brings tears to my eyes because I am so proud of my grandfather and everything he has done,” she says. “I know this moment would make my grandfather so proud if he were here, and he may be with us in some way and watching.”

A Canadian hero

Max Bernays died on March 30, 1974, at the age of 64 but his heroism remains legendary in the RCN to this day. During close range action with a German submarine U-210 on Aug. 6, 1942, he maneuvered Assiniboine out of fog to allude and ram the submarine.

Yet, a fire caused by the enemy submarine’s shells engulfed the bridge and wheelhouse. Surrounded by smoke and flames, CPO Bernays ordered two junior sailors to leave the bridge for safety.

He stayed at the helm and continued to maneuver Assiniboine against the U-boat for nearly 40 minutes alone. During that time, he dispatched over 130 telegraph orders to the ship’s engine room. Despite taking prolonged machine-gun and cannon fire to the bridge, Assiniboine rammed and sank U-210. There was one fatality and 13 wounded on board the warship. CPO Bernays’ actions earned him the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, one of only two during the Second World War.

VAdm Baines says by naming the ship after Max Bernays and naming Bernays’ granddaughter as its sponsor, the RCN is recognizing the courage, dedication and valour CPO Bernays demonstrated under fire.

“These attributes will help inspire and galvanize each of the officers and sailors who serve in [the RCN] for years to come,” VAdm Baines said. “Ms. Shannon Bernays will help provide these sailors with a link to their ship’s namesake and in so doing will also help us celebrate the heroism of her grandfather.”

Ready to launch

Shannon says she didn’t start to truly comprehend the entirety of her grandfather’s legacy until she began to research it on her own.

The RCN tradition runs three generations in Bernays family. Shannon’s great grandfather Leopold Bernays served the RCN during the First World War and died at sea. Her father Max Bernays Jr. served aboard the RCN supply ship HMCS Provider and later worked for the Department of National Defence at Rocky Point Ammunition Depot. He died in 2013. Shannon’s mother Marilyn was hoping to see Max Bernays’ launch but sadly passed away in Sept. 2021.

The Bernays family will be treated to a day sail aboard the RCN’s second Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship HMCS Margaret Brooke prior to the launch of Max Bernays.

For more information about AOPs visit the RCN web page:


Max Bernays

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