HMCS Winnipeg completes operations

Photo by Master Corporal Andre Maillet, MARPAC Imaging Services/HMCS Winnipeg

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

It will be a brighter holiday season for the family and friends of HMCS Winnipeg’s crew.

The warship is on the final leg of its four-month deployment – the journey home from Pearl Harbor – and is expected to arrive in Esquimalt a few days before Christmas.

Winnipeg transited over 30,000 nautical miles on Operations Neon and Projection in the Indo-Pacific region.

Operation Projection deploys Royal Canadian Navy ships to enhance relationships with allies and partners through exercises and patrols, personnel exchanges, and port visits. It is also a demonstration of Canada’s commitment to global peace, and its ability to defend Canada’s interest around the world.   

“Our allies and partners were extremely grateful to have Winnipeg in the theatre of operations,” says Cdr Doug Layton, Winnipeg’s commanding officer.

Winnipeg participated in multinational security patrols and exercises with the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, and navies of the United States, Japan, Germany, Holland, Australia, and New Zealand. Patrols were conducted in the Philippines Sea, the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and a transit of the Spratly Islands and the Strait of Taiwan.

“Not all nation states view the international rules in the same way as we do in Western countries and they will continue to push the boundaries unless Canada and its Allies remain committed to peace and stability,” says Cdr Layton. “It provided a powerful message to the People’s Republic of China that Canada is committed to supporting international rule-based order.”

Operation Neon is Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea. Winnipeg conducted 48 patrol days at sea and collected intelligence on 23 vessels of interest suspected of violating the UN sanctions.

Limited Port Visits

Rigorous COVID-19 health and safety protocols limited the crew’s ambassadorial engagements and charitable initiatives.

Cdr Layton says the crew were restricted from leaving the ship in most places they stopped. However, there were a few opportunities for international engagement and diplomacy.

During a port visit to Busan, South Korea, 30 crew members participated in a commemorative ceremony at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery on Oct. 1 to remember the 378 Canadian soldiers, sailors, and air crew killed during the Korean War. It was led by Canada’s Ambassador to South Korea, Michael Danagher. Winnipeg crewmembers laid chrysanthemums at the graves of the fallen.

The only shore visits permitted were in Japan at the U.S. Navy bases in Yokosuke, Sasebo and Okinawa. The stopover on Okinawa allowed crew members to explore the two white sand beaches on the base and its offshore coral reefs and islands. 

To fight off the COVID-19 restriction blues, the ship’s morale team organized flight deck parties and Halloween and pizza-making nights.

HMCS Winnipeg crewmembers take part in a flower laying ceremony at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery during a port visit to Busan, South Korea.

Problems and Praise at sea

The ingenuity of crewmembers was tested with communication outages and a sudden inability to make fresh water.

“Due to the outstanding initiative and work ethic of the amazing crew, Winnipeg was able to fix all of these issues quickly and complete all mission objectives in fine fashion,” notes Cdr Layton.

There were also some success stories surrounding new technology. Winnipeg is the first navy ship to deploy with the new Naval Remote Weapons System that uses a highly advanced camera paired with .50 calibre heavy machine guns.

The crew also takes home an unusual memory, that of helping HMS Queen Elizabeth replenish its stock of Earl Grey tea. When the embarked UK Carrier Strike Group Commander, Commodore Steve Moorehouse reported they had run out of Earl Grey tea, Cdr Layton’s steward S3 Lorraine Cléroux realized the weight of the calamity and sprang into action.

“She quickly returned back to the CO’s cabin with three boxes of Earl Gray tea to the astonishment of the Commodore who was speechless,” says Cdr Layton. “Now an entire NATO task group is keenly aware of the generosity and efficiency of the Royal Canadian Navy.”

By the Numbers

  • Ship’s complement: 257
  • Replenishments at sea conducted: 10
  • ECC Vessels of Interest intercepted and collected on: 23
  • Allied ships operated with: 40 including 4 aircraft carriers
  • Countries visited: 4
  • Multinational Exercises: 3 (Pacific Crow, KAEDEX, ANNUALEX)
  • CH-148 Guardian Sorties in support of Op Neon: 60
  • Transited over 30,000 Nautical Miles
  • Completed 51 days on Op Neon
  • Completed 48 days on Op Projection
  • Ship-to-Ship transfers observed: 9


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