Living life to the ‘MAX’

HMCS Max Bernays alongside in Sept-Iles, Que in January. Photo: RCN

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer 


HMCS Max Bernays, the first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV) to call the West Coast ‘home’, is on a historic journey. 
The ship’s arrival in Esquimalt mid-April will mark the first commissioning of a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) vessel on the West Coast in several decades. 
Max is headed home with a crew of more than 85 sailors, above its standard capacity of 65. Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr) Clayton Erickson, the ship’s Executive Officer, says this ensures proper knowledge transfer from the ship’s East Coast-based crew. 
“A large percentage of our West Coast-based crew are fully established with Max, with the remainder joining us upon arrival,” Erickson said. “We will bid farewell to our East Coast team not long after arrival in Esquimalt.” 
LCdr Erickson says he and his crew are loving life aboard the AOPV, which is proving to be a great platform to live and work on.
Max began the four-and-a-half-week transit from CFB Halifax on Mar. 11. The journey takes it through the Panama Canal where it will travel to Esquimalt stopping at ports along the way.Getting Max ready for its sail was no small task.
The ship’s company, Maritime Forces Atlantic shore units, and private sector contractors spent the fall and winter months getting Max ready for its coastal transfer. This included a series of short work periods and two main at-sea programs in December and January.
LCdr Erickson says he and his crew are brimming with pride about delivering the Harry DeWolf-class vessel to the Pacific Fleet.
“Max is comprised of an incredibly talented and motivated group of sailors,” LCdr Erickson said. “It is important to show as many Canadians as possible who we are and what we do to support Canada.”
The AOPV will be in Vancouver on May 3 to participate in Fleet Week and conduct its commissioning ceremony. It will participate in Task Group Exercise (TGEX) 24 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca with Halifax-class frigates HMCS Vancouver and HMCS Regina, and Kingston-Class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels HMCS Edmonton and Yellowknife. Afterwards, Max will return to Esquimalt for a vital work period in preparation for a busy summer program, including participation in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2024 exercises off Hawaii. The ship will then patrol the Western High Arctic North as part of Operation Nanook-Nunakput 2024.
The vessel is not the first AOPV to come alongside in Esquimalt. In October 2021, HMCS Harry DeWolf became the first RCN vessel in over 50 years to complete a transit through the Northwest Passage. It then arrived for port visits in Vancouver and Victoria before making the transit back to Halifax via the Panama Canal.

What’s in a name?

HMCS Max Bernays, the third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPV) derives its name from Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Max Bernays, a Canadian Naval hero who served as Coxswain of HMCS Assiniboine in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War.

CPO Max Bernays. Photo: RCN

During an attack by German U-Boat U-210 on Aug. 6, 1942, Assiniboine maneuvered in and out of fog, attempting to ram and sink the enemy submarine. With both vessels firing high explosive shells at close range, a fire eventually engulfed the bridge and wheelhouse of Assiniboine. Surrounded by smoke and flames while steering the ship, CPO Bernays ordered two junior sailors to get clear, leaving him alone at the helm and trapped by the blaze as the enemy concentrated their machine gun and cannon fire on the bridge. With CPO Bernays at the helm, Assiniboine rammed and sank U-210, with his vessel suffering one fatality and 12 wounded. CPO Bernays was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his courage and devotion to duty during battle.

HMCS Max Bernays and the rest of Canada’s AOPVs were created as part of the Canada National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. All Harry DeWolf-class vessels were named for Canadian sailors who exhibited outstanding leadership and heroism during wartime service to the Navy. Canada’s other AOPVs are HMCS Harry DeWolf, HMCS Margaret Brooke, HMCS William Hall, Frédérick Rolette, and HMCS Hampton Gray.

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