CAF engineers conduct repairs on Bonaventure Memorial
By Ryan Melanson,
The HMCS Bonaventure Anchor Memorial has sat at Point Pleasant Park since 1973, with the anchor and chain from Canada’s last aircraft carrier serving as a monument to sailors who lost their lives during peacetime. Over the last decade, however, it became clear the memorial needed repairs, and without a clear owner to take responsibility for the site, some feared for its future.
Through the last two weeks of March, a group of CAF engineers took over the site, assessing the condition of the Anchor Memorial, making necessary repairs, and ensuring the piece of RCN history will continue to honour those who died while being visible to all ships traversing in and out of Halifax Harbour.
The work was carried out predominantly by RCAF Reservists from 144 and 143 CEF in Pictou and Bridgewater. Capt Marc Lukaszczyk-Therien was the lead on the project; he said the main issue was with the anchor’s metal mounts, which were were rusted and deteriorating from years of exposure to the weather.
“We came in, moved a lot of the rocks out of the way, disconnected the ship’s cable, and freed the anchor from the original mounts and set it off to the side,” Capt Therien said. The team rebuilt the metal supporting structures, replaced the rocks surrounding the monument, and on March 19, moved the anchor back to its original position to be secured to the new mounts. Next steps were to pour a new concrete base to cover up the metal, add more rocks, and make some repairs to the anchor’s chain before running it back into the water.
“And then later on this spring we’ll hopefully be doing some painting, refinishing and other aesthetic types of work around the area,” Capt Therien added.
“This was a great project for us to take on and I think everyone enjoyed it.”
And the CAF members weren’t the only ones happy to see the anchor back in place after the needed repairs. A group of retired sailors, including some who fought to ensure the monument would receive the repair and maintenance work, came to the site to see the progress as a crane lowered the anchor back into position.
AB (Ret’d) Allan “Dinger” Bell, a survivor of the 1969 HMCS Kootenay explosion that killed nine of his shipmates, has been pushing for more than a decade for repairs to the monument, part of which includes the names of those who lost their lives in Kootenay.
“I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it happen, so I’m happy today,” he said.
Others on the beach included Brian Lapierre, a member of the Submariners Association of Canada who also sailed in HMCS Bonaventure in 1967 when a Sea King crashed during an exercise, killing two members of the crew. He was especially pleased by news that the memorial will be incorporated into this year’s Battle of the Atlantic commemoration, with the Lieutenant Governor and Commander MARLANT/JTFA set to stop and lay wreaths following the ceremony at the larger Sailors’ Memorial.
“To a sailor, this anchor, this memorial really means something. I think it will be a big moment on Battle of the Atlantic Sunday this year,” he said.
Part of the catalyst for getting the work done this year came from the latest Halifax International Security Forum last fall, when in a change from previous years, the Defence Minister’s morning run with conference participants went through Point Pleasant Park rather than along the Halifax Waterfront. 12 Wing Hon Col Tom Birchall said that run generated extra interest in the Bonaventure Anchor, providing more ammo for he and others who felt it was the right time for the CAF to conduct the repairs and reaffirm the commitment to those who died serving their country in times of peace.
Hon Col Birchall said credit was due to MARLANT and JTFA, CFB Halifax Base Commander Capt(N) Paul Forget, his predecessor Cmdre Chris Sutherland, AB (Ret’d) Bell, all three levels of government and others who’ve lobbied for the repairs to take place, along with the CAF members who were able to sharpen their engineering skills while doing important work.
“We’re happy to see the work get done now and it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”