RCN takes delivery of second Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship

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Navy News / July 15, 2021

By Joanie Veitch,

Trident Staff

The delivery of the second of six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS), Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Margaret Brooke, on July 15, 2021 in Halifax marks an important milestone both for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and for the ship’s crew.

“The crew of Margaret Brooke finally has a ship to call their own,” said Commander (Cdr) Nicole Robichaud, the ship’s Commanding Officer. “The delivery would not be possible without the dedication of the crew, who have spent the better part of the last year to 18 months training and learning about this ship.”

The delivery of Margaret Brooke, hull number 431, is a highly anticipated event, said Cdr Robichaud of the ship, which is being built under the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Irving Shipbuilding.

“Not only is a new ship entering into service with the RCN, but a new capability is also being introduced and Margaret Brooke will directly contribute to achieving global Canadian objectives.”

Training in preparation for delivery has involved the ship’s company in both computer-based learning and a practical training program at various shore-based facilities, as well as on board HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first AOPS and the ship after which the entire class is named, said Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr) Dusty Allen, Margaret Brooke’s Executive Officer.

“While this training ensures we are well-postured to receive the ship, nothing can replace the pride and ownership of having a unit to call your own,” he said, commending the “incredible work ethic, enthusiasm and pride” the ship’s crew have shown.

The journey to delivery day was challenging at times, particularly with regard to COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID has had an impact on everyone, everywhere,” said Cdr Robichaud. “It has affected everything from materiel, parts, labour and timelines, to training, morale, personnel requirements and taskings.”

Irving Shipbuilding, the Canadian shipbuilder and prime contractor for the AOPS program, put the ship through its builder trials in mid-May. Now, with the delivery of Margaret Brooke, the ship is “one step closer to becoming part of the fleet,” said Cdr Nicole Robichaud. 

“We are quite fortunate to have had Harry DeWolf complete its post-acceptance period so that we can learn from and improve on practices that are unique to being a new class of ship,” said Cdr Robichaud. “Harry DeWolf has done a great job at blazing the path so that we are not learning everything from scratch.”

The first of the six AOPS, Harry DeWolf, was delivered in July 2020 and officially commissioned into the RCN June 2021. The third AOPS, HMCS Max Bernays, will be launched later in 2021.

A commissioning ceremony for HMCS Margaret Brooke is planned for October 2022, tying in with the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Caribou, the steamship passenger ferry that linked Newfoundland to Nova Scotia before it was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine on October 14, 1942. The ferry sunk in five minutes.

Nursing Sister LCdr Margaret Brooke (then a sub-lieutenant), who was on the Caribou, received a Member (Military Division) of the Order of the British Empire for her efforts to save her friend, Nursing Sister Sub-Lieutenant (S-Lt) Agnes Wilkie. Both women clung to ropes on a capsized lifeboat. In spite of LCdr Brooke’s heroic efforts to hang on to S-Lt Wilkie with one arm, her friend succumbed to the frigid water.

After the sinking, LCdr Brooke became the first Canadian woman to receive the award.

Remaining a member of the Navy until 1962 when she retired as a lieutenant-commander, Margaret Brooke was 100 years old before she died on January 9, 2016. On her 100th birthday, April 10, 2015, then-Minister of National Defence Jason Kenney called her to tell her that the second AOPS would bear her name, marking another couple of “firsts” for the former Nursing Sister — the first woman to have a Canadian warship named for her and the first time such a ship was named for a living person.

Margaret Brooke has a busy sailing schedule ahead, and will now officially be Cdr Robichaud’s command at sea. Following the forthcoming post-delivery work period and naming ceremony, Margaret Brooke and its crew will complete a series of trials, all leading to its commissioning in 2022.

“We will be sailing for the next year, conducting post-acceptance trials, testing and trialing all aspects of the machinery and equipment, with a plan to participate in Operation Nanook in the fall of 2022,” she said.

The AOPS will primarily conduct presence and surveillance missions along Canada’s maritime approaches, to know who is operating in our waters and be prepared to react to a wide variety of incidents. They will also support other government departments and agencies, such as the Canadian Coast Guard, that are focused on ensuring safe navigation of shipping in arctic waters.

These contemporary and multifunctional ships will be at the core of an enhanced Canadian Arctic presence, and will effectively and strategically complement the capabilities of our current and future warships through critical reconnaissance and surveillance operations.

They will also be capable of participating in a wide variety of international operations such as anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, and international security and stability. These ships will be able to contribute to humanitarian assistance, emergency response and disaster relief domestically and internationally, and undertake a diverse range of missions worldwide.