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Keel Laid for Canada’s Third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship

Vicki Berg
Vicki Berg

By The Maritime Executive 2018-12-08 22:02:29

The keel has been laid for the future HMCS Max Bernays at Halifax Shipyard, Canada. Welder Vicki Berg laid a coin on the keel signifying the start of full production of the Royal Canadian Navy’s third Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship. 

Chief Petty Officer Max Leopold Bernays is a Canadian naval hero who served as the Coxswain of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Assiniboine during the Battle of the Atlantic. The coin placed was the fifth in the Canadian Mint Second World War Battlefield series, designed to captures the intensity of the Battle of the Atlantic, the time at which Bernays performed the actions that earned him honors.

On August 6, 1942, in an intense surface gun action against the German submarine U-210, HMCS Assiniboine maneuvered in and out of fog attempting to ram and sink the enemy submarine. Both vessels were firing high explosive shells at very close range, causing a fire which engulfed the bridge and wheelhouse of Assiniboine

Surrounded by smoke and flames, while steering the ship, Bernays ordered the two junior sailors to get clear, leaving him alone at the helm and trapped by the blaze. Besieged by flames, he executed all the helm orders as Assiniboine maneuvered for position against the U-boat and did the work of the two telegraphmen, dispatching over 130 telegraph orders to the engine room. Several bullets and shells penetrated the wheelhouse as the enemy concentrated their machine-gun and cannon fire on the bridge. Eventually Assiniboine rammed and sank U-210 in what was considered to be an extremely hard-fought action, during which the Canadians suffered one fatality and 13 wounded. 

Bernays was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his valor and dauntless devotion to duty during the action. Post-war he stayed in the RCN and retired as a Chief Petty Officer on February 20, 1960. He died in North Vancouver, BC on March 30, 1974.

The Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships under construction at the Halifax Shipyard are the first class of Royal Canadian Navy ships named after Canadian war heroes. Once complete, and turned over to the Royal Canadian Navy, the future HMCS Max Bernays will be the first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship to join Maritime Forces Pacific.

The Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships will patrol Canada’s oceans, including the Arctic, and are suited for missions abroad to support international partners, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, search and rescue and drug interdiction. The lead ship in the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship program, the future HMCS Harry DeWolf, is now pier side at Halifax Shipyard and is scheduled to be turned over to the Royal Canadian Navy in summer 2019. At 103 meters (338 feet) and 6,615 tons, Harry DeWolf is the largest Royal Canadian Navy ship built in Canada in 50 years. 

Construction of the second ship, the future HMCS Margaret Brooke, is underway at Halifax Shipyard. The first two major sections of the future HMCS Margaret Brooke, the center and stern mega-blocks, are assembled at land level and the bow section is under construction. 

In November, the Government of Canada announced a sixth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship will be built by Halifax Shipyard.