Surprise visit during weepers

Special Visit during weepers

Daniel LeBlanc, Chief of Staff-Executive Officer to Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific; Cdr Wes Golden, Base Administration Officer; and SLt (Ret’d) Louis Howard, share stories after an impromptu speech from SLt (Ret’d) Howard.

A packed lunchtime Weepers crowd at the Wardroom on March 27 was treated to an impromptu speech on by a unique former Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve officer, SLt (Ret’d) Louis Howard.

SLt (Ret’d) Howard, 91, is one of only three surviving crew members from HMCS Sarnia, the ship that helped rescue survivors from HMCS Esquimalt, the last RCN vessel sunk during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Base Administration Officer, Cdr Wes Golden had the pleasure of introducing SLt (Ret’d) Howard, who spent a few moments telling the story of that fateful sinking and throwing in a few other stories along the way.

“We knew something was wrong because we were supposed to meet up with Esquimalt and she never made it,” said SLt (Ret’d) Howard, who was navigating officer and sonar officer in HMCS Sarnia.

HMCS Esquimalt was torpedoed by German a U-boat in the approaches to Halifax harbour on April 16, 1945.

The warship sank within four minutes, unable to send out a distress message.

The surviving members of HMCS Esquimalt’s crew spent six hours adrift before HMCS Sarnia and her 78 crew members rescued them.

“From the moment he began telling us his story, I was immediately drawn in,” said Lt(N) Paul Trenholm, who was having lunch at the Wardroom that day.

“Standing before us was a living Canadian hero with so much to share and there is only a thin window of time left for us to hear from these veterans.”

SLt (Ret’d) Howard and the rest of the crew eventually rescued 27 men and recovered the bodies of 13 others. In total, 44 men were lost.

For his actions, he was presented with the Oak Leaf – Mention in Dispatches (MID).

It is awarded for valiant conduct, devotion to duty or other distinguished service, and is something he is rightfully very proud of.

“That Oak Leaf Cluster is very important to me,” he said. “It is reported that only 9,533 such MIDs were awarded to all three services and I received one of them.”

The sinking of HMCS Esquimalt is commemorated annually in April at a gathering outside Esquimalt City Hall.

It is only fitting that the lunchtime Wardroom crowd heard from a Second World War naval veteran who was so close to events surrounding the sinking of HMCS Esquimalt.

It is even more fitting that it happened during the 70th anniversary year of the sinking of HMCS Esquimalt and the end of the Battle of the Atlantic, Canada’s longest military engagement of
the war.

More than 4,600 service men and women and 24 Royal Canadian Ships were lost during the battle.

Katelyn Moores
MARPAC Public Affairs

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