Navy recognizes 95-year-old survivor of HMCS Louisburg sinking

Ernie Pain, right, receives a certificate honouring his 95th birthday and war service from Chief Petty Officer First Class Dave Bisal.

Ernie Pain, right, receives a certificate honouring his 95th birthday and war service from Chief Petty Officer First Class Dave Bisal.

Darlene Blakeley, RCN PA ~

The naval veterans who served so valiantly during the Second World War have not been forgotten, and that includes 95-year-old retired Chief Petty Officer Ernie Pain.

Pain was a crew member of HMCS Louisburg, a Flower-class corvette sunk by enemy aircraft on Feb. 6, 1943 while escorting a convoy from Gibraltar to Algeria. Thirty-eight members of the ship’s company were lost; 45 survived, including then Able Seaman Pain.

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was contacted by his granddaughter Jennifer Pain-Andrejin, who thought it would be a great idea if someone from the navy could attend his 95th birthday party at the Cornwall, ON, branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on Oct. 21.

“I am hoping someone from the navy would be available to come and give Ernie their best wishes on this special day,” she wrote. “My Grampa is a character, to say the least, and I know he would love this more than anything. The party starts around 7 p.m., and I’m sure he will be hitting the dance floor shortly thereafter!”

Chief Petty Officer First Class Dave Bisal of the Directorate of Naval Personnel and Training at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa was happy to attend the birthday party on behalf of the RCN.

“I was honoured to represent the RCN at the 95th birthday of Ernie Pain,” says CPO1 Bisal. “When I arrived I had the pleasure of meeting Ernie and three generations of his family, as well as a great number of his friends.”

He presented Pain with a certificate and coin from the Deputy Commander RCN, Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier, recognizing his 95th birthday, as well as his courage, sacrifice and dedication to Canada as a member of the RCN during the Second World War.

“It is important to remember and to recognize that at the start of the Second World War the RCN was a tiny navy of 11 warships. By war’s end it had over 375 combat vessels and responsibility for the entire northwest Atlantic, playing a vital role in keeping the sea lanes to Europe open,” says CPO1 Bisal. “None of this would have been possible without people like Ernie Pain, and all the others who volunteered to serve and put their lives at risk on a daily basis. That kind of dedication cannot be recognized enough.”

His granddaughter says the visit of CPO1 Bisal was a big surprise for her grandfather.

“This was unexpected and made for one proud navy man. You took the time to appreciate the sacrifices one of the last veterans of World War Two made. These men have after-effects that last a lifetime and all they really want in return is to be recognized for what they did. They returned to everyday lives with no fanfare and really didn’t expect any, but they are the reason we have the incredible lifestyles and country we live in today.”

She says that her grandfather appreciated the RCN taking notice of all he had sacrificed and given to the navy. 

“He actually never talks about his time in the navy as a sacrifice. He talks about it like one of the best times of his life, even during the war.”

Pain joined the RCN in 1939 after spending time in the merchant navy. He says that when the bombs hit HMCS Louisburg he was knocked out. When he woke up, there was no-one left on the ship. The quarterdeck was up to his knees in water and as he grabbed a lifejacket and waded out, something on the ship exploded, blowing him out of the water. Eventually he was hailed by another survivor and they made it to safety.

“I’m very lucky I’m here today,” he says.

He left the navy after the war and worked at Northern Electric, and also as a park ranger in Ontario. He and his wife Helen (who passed away eight years ago) have one son, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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