Margaret Brooke keel laying

Photo: Mona Ghiz, MARLANT PA

Margaret Brooke keel laying marks next step for AOPS project

Par Ryan Melanson,
L’équipe du Trident

The second of the planned Le NCSM Harry DeWolf reprendra la mer dans le cadre de l’opération NANOOK class Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships recently passed an important date in a ship’s life, with the RCN and Irving Shipbuilding holding a keel-laying ceremony for the future HMCS Margaret Brooke. The small gathering took place at Irving’s Halifax Shipyard Assembly Hall on May 29.

A significant moment in a ship’s construction, the ceremony involves placing a coin on the keel of the ship, which will remain in place throughout its years in service, and is meant to bring good luck to all those who sail in it. And the coin placed on the future Margaret Brooke may even bring extra good luck, thanks to the four-leaf clover depicted on it. The ship is named after LCdr Margaret Brooke, an RCN Nursing Sister decorated for gallantry during the Second World War, who was known to carry two four-leaf clovers in a silver locket for good luck following her survival of the sinking of the ferry SS Caribou off the coast of Newfoundland in 1942. LCdr Brooke was named a Member (Military Division) of the Order of the British Empire for her bravery and attempts to help others during that deadly wreck.

RAdm John Newton, Commander MARLANT and JTFA, who attended the ceremony along with Formation Chief CPO1 Pierre Auger, said the Navy couldn’t have chosen a more fitting individual to honour with the first Canadian warship to be named after a woman. LCdr Brooke died in early 2016, and it was recently announced that her niece, Ms. Margaret Elizabeth Brooke, will be the sponsor of the ship that bears her aunt’s name.

And adding to the significance of the event, the group was joined by Cdr Michele Tessier, who has been appointed the first Commanding Officer of HMCS Margaret Brooke, and the first female CO of the Harry Dewolf class. And on hand to perform the important duties of the shipbuilder during the ceremony was Olivia Strowbridge, a certified ship spray painter and the first woman in a trade supervisory role at the Halifax Shipyard.

Strowbridge placed the coin on the keel of the future ship before declaring to the small crowd that the keel had been “well and truly laid”, completing the proud naval tradition.

Kevin McCoy, President of Irving Shipbuilding, said the ceremony also marks another milestone for the Halifax Shipyard, with the new class of ships now considered to be in ‘serial production’. Thanks to lessons learned from the first vessel, he said construction on the Margaret Brooke is well ahead of where the Harry DeWolf was at the same stage, with the keel module, plus pipes, valves and pumps, about 80% complete.

“There’s been significant learning for us here at the Shipyard, and I think it shows we’re heading in the right direction,” McCoy said.

The RCN is anticipating the delivery of Le NCSM Harry DeWolf reprendra la mer dans le cadre de l’opération NANOOK in 2018, with Margaret Brooke to follow sooner after; the final ships of the class are expected to be in service by 2021 and 2022.

RAdm Newton highlighted the importance of the new capability that will come with the AOPS project, allowing a warship to serve Canada in the Arctic in a way other vessels haven’t been able to, and allowing the RCN to be a stronger partner to the Canadian Coast Guard and to Indigenous communities in the North.

“At the same time, I have no doubt this ship will sail around the world, in the most dangerous oceans,” he said. “Whether it’s dealing with drugs, refugee patrols, or working on NATO’s Northern plank or in the deep Pacific, we have real, new capability coming.”