by Padre John Hounsell-Drover

Padre John Hounsell-Drover leading the Battle of Atlantic worship service while deployed onboard HMCS Charlottown.

On the morning of May 6, over two-thirds of the crew of HMCS Charlottetown gathered on her flight deck to commemorate Battle of the Atlantic Sunday while sailing in the Arabian Sea.

Despite the fact that the day was very hot and humid, almost every member of the ship’s company not on duty volunteered to take part in the event. All departments and all ranks played a role in the preparation for and execution of the morning’s commemoration.

During the ceremony, respects were paid to six former sailors whose ashes had travelled with Charlottetown from Halifax to theArabian Sea.  Those whose remains were reverently committed to the sea included Able Seaman Robert Gordon Boehk; Petty Officer 2nd Class Garth Trevor Crawford; LSRP2 Edward Cameron McLean; Petty Officer 1st Class/Acting Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Norbert Joseph Steele; Lieutenant Charles Edward Vennall; and Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Walker.

Following naval tradition, the names of each of the 24 Royal Canadian ships lost during the Battle of the Atlantic were read out, followed by the ringing of the ship’s bell.  It is worth noting that a formerCharlottetownis included among that number.

There was a palpable sense of peace and reverence amongst those gathered, especially during the moments of silence which solemnly punctuated the ceremony.  However, in those very same moments, below decks, HMCS Charlottetown was alive with activity as OSPREY (the codename for her Sea King helicopter) and the operations room continued to search the seas in support of Combined Task Force-150.

While taking time to remember the past,Charlottetown’s crew was also actively undertaking her current mission to help set the conditions for security and stability in the Arabian Sea, while complementing the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations to build a better future.

Military life in general and naval life in particular unfolds in a constant tension of innovation and tradition – present and past.  Canada’s military members proudly serve and proudly remember.  In the midst of a mission that fulfills the role “to be a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions” – which is a quote from the Naval Prayer – Charlottetown also took time to pay her respects to those who fought and died in the Battle of the Atlantic and bear witness to the passing of six proud members of the Royal Canadian Navy.