HMCS Winnipeg returns home after four-month deployment

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Navy News / December 20, 2021

By Peter Mallett

It will be a brighter holiday season for the family and friends of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Winnipeg’s crew, as the warship returned home on December 16, 2021 from its four-month deployment.

Winnipeg transited over 30,000 nautical miles on Operations Neon and Projection in the Indo-Pacific region.

Operation Projection deploys Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) ships to enhance relationships with allies through exercises, patrols, personnel exchanges and port visits. It is also a demonstration of Canada’s commitment to global peace and its ability to defend Canada’s interest around the world.  

“Our allies and partners were extremely grateful to have Winnipeg in the theatre of operations,” said Commander (Cdr) Doug Layton, Winnipeg’s Commanding Officer.

Winnipeg participated in multinational security patrols and exercises with the United Kingdom (UK) Carrier Strike Group, led by Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Queen Elizabeth and joined by ships from the United States, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

Patrols were conducted in the Philippine, East China and South China seas. The ship also sailed off the Spratly Islands and transited through the Strait of Taiwan.

“Not all nation states view the international rules in the same way we do and they will continue to push the boundaries unless Canada and its allies remain committed to peace and stability,” said Cdr Layton.

“It provided a powerful message that Canada is committed to supporting the international rules-based order.”

Operation Neon is Canada’s contribution to a coordinated multinational effort to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea.

Winnipeg conducted 48 patrol days at sea and collected intelligence on 23 vessels of interest suspected of violating UN sanctions.

Rigorous Covid-19 health and safety protocols limited the crew’s ambassadorial engagements and charitable initiatives on this deployment.

However, there were a few opportunities for international engagement and diplomacy.

During a port visit to Busan, South Korea, 30 crew members participated in a commemorative ceremony at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery on October 1 to remember the 378 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air crew killed during the Korean War. Winnipeg crew members laid chrysanthemums at the graves of the fallen.

The only shore visits permitted were in Japan at U.S. Navy bases in Yokosuka Sasebo and Okinawa. The stopover in Okinawa in mid-November allowed crew members to explore two white sand beaches on the base and its offshore coral reefs and islands.

To fight off the pandemic restriction blues, the ship’s morale team organized flight deck activities and pizza-making nights.

The ingenuity of crew members was tested with communication outages and a sudden inability to make fresh water.

“Due to the outstanding initiative and work ethic of the amazing crew, Winnipeg was able to fix all of these issues quickly and complete all mission objectives in fine fashion,” said Cdr Layton.

When the embarked UK Carrier Strike Group Commander Commodore Steve Moorehouse reported they had run out of Earl Grey tea, Sailor 3rd Class Lorraine Cléroux realized the weight of the calamity and sprang into action.

“She quickly returned back to the Commanding Officer’s cabin with three boxes of Earl Gray tea to the astonishment of the Commodore who was speechless,” said Cdr Layton. “Now an entire NATO task group is keenly aware of the generosity and efficiency of the RCN.”