Remembrance Day beneath the waves
By Capt László Cserházi,
5th Canadian Division
Many Canadians marked Remembrance Day this year with small, socially distanced ceremonies. But unlike the rest of the country, past and current members of 5th Canadian Division marked a ceremony on HMCS Saguenay, alongside past and current members of the RCN, RCAF, and RCMP.
Saguenay launched on December 15, 1956 and served our nation until 1990. It carried a complement of 249 fighting sailors and served originally as a destroyer escort and later as a destroyer helicopter escort. She has an interesting history riddled with dangerous events. On 16 July 16, 1970 she ran aground off the coast of Cape Breton Island without sustaining any damage. On April 2, 1986, a 3-inch gun misfired, causing injuries to crew members and civilian technicians. While taking part in NATO Naval Exercises, Saguenay collided with German submarine U-17. She later clashed with the American fishing boat Concordia while it was in Canadian waters. Saguenay fired three warning shots after being bumped three times, causing minor damage.
Instead of a crowd or dignitaries, former and currently serving members – including a Divemaster in training – gathered aboard a chartered fishing vessel and transited to Saguenay’s coordinates off Lunenburg. We dropped an anchor on the sonar’s sharp image and slipped down the anchor line to almost 90 feet beneath the rough ocean above. It was quiet. It was dark. My flashlight penciled a beam onto this big dark image that loomed out of the darkness as I dropped in from above on the bird’s nest. We found a quiet spot away from the swift current that flowed over her – it would sometimes send blooms of silt as it surged and cavitated in and around the ship.
You could feel the echoes of time. I thought of the members who served aboard her in the Second World War, and of our many losses. It’s incredibly important that we remember our veterans, and that we honour their sacrifice.