Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Tall Ships Regatta

An exciting transatlantic race of 7,000 nautical miles taking place over the course of five months in six countries. At their arrival in the Gulf of St Lawrence, the Tall Ships will start the Guest Port Program portion of their trip and will stop in more than 35 Canadian ports.

The Tall Ships Regatta comprises five legs of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. For each leg, there is a main point where thousands of visitors can take part in the many activities organized for the event. Meet the Tall Ships taking part in RDV2017 Class A, B, and C ships as well as ships from participating national navies will be in port.

Class A

All square rigged vessels, with sails at right angles to their length, as well as other vessels longer than 40 m.

The Empire Sandy was laid down in the shipyard of Clelands (Successors), Willington Quay-on-Tyne England on Dec 22, 1942. She was built as an Englishman/Larch class Deep Sea Tug with the added provision for mounting two Hotchkiss Anti-Aircraft guns. She was completed and went into service on July 14, 1943. 

Her first voyage commenced July 30th sailing in convoy to Iceland. Voyages were usually done in convoys for protection against the German U-Boats. The Empire Sandy sailed in a total of sixteen convoys to her destinations, the exception being the voyage to Sierra Leone in Dec 1944 where she traveled ‘Independently’.

She served in the North Atlantic from Iceland to Sierra Leone, the Mediterranean Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

Class: A

Nationality: Canada
Length: 61.89 m
Height: 35.36 m
Rig: Topsail Schooner 3
Year Built: 1943
Home Port: Thunder Bay, Ontario
Official Website: Empire Sandy

This has been a preview of my subject for this years 2017 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, join me, won’t you?
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

HMCS Ville de Quebec (K 242)



Royal Canadian Navy



K 242

Built by
Morton Engineering and Dry Dock Co. (Quebec City, Quebec, Canada)


Laid down
7 Jun 1941

12 Nov 1941

24 May 1942

End service
6 Jul 1945


Decommissioned 6 July 1945.
Sold into mercantile service in 1946 and renamed Dispina, renamed Dorothea Paxos in 1947, Tanya in 1948 and Medex in 1949. She was listed on Lloyd's Register until 1952.

Notable events involving Ville de Quebec include:

28 Oct 1942
HMCS Alberni (Lt. I.H. Bell, RCNVR) and HMCS Ville de Quebec (T/Lt.Cdr. A.R.E. Coleman, RCNR) together pick up 81 survivors from the British whale factory ship Sourabaya that was torpedoed and sunk the previous day in the North Atlantic in position 54°32'N, 31°02'W by German U-boat U-436

13 Jan 1943
German U-boat
U-224 was sunk in the western Mediterranean west of Algiers, in position 36°28'N, 00°49'E, by ramming and depth charges from the Canadian corvette HMCS Ville de Quebec (T/Lt.Cdr. A.R.E. Coleman, RCNR).


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Monday, March 20, 2017

HMCS Sackville


HMCS Sackville is the last surviving corvette used by the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War. In 1985, the warship was designated Canada’s Naval Memorial.

HMCS Sackville

HMCS Sackville served in both the Royal Canadian Navy and later as a research ship. She is now a museum piece in Halifax, NS and the last surviving Canadian corvette from the Second World War.

HMCS Sackville is the last surviving corvette used by the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War. The warship was one of 123 Canadian corvettes that escorted supply convoys crossing the North Atlantic during the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest running battle of the war. In 1985, HMCS Sackville was designated Canada’s Naval Memorial.

Early Days

In the spring of 1940, HMCS Sackville was the second “Flower” class corvette ordered by the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The corvettes were designed by Smith’s Dock Company Ltd. of Great Britain, a design based on whale-hunting vessels. The corvettes were relatively easy and inexpensive to build and were originally designed for coastal patrol duties. They were dubbed “Flower” class by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who thought it would be good for morale to have German U-boat submarines sunk by ships named after flowers. However, the RCN decided to name its fleet of corvettes after communities in Canada, because as Naval Chief of Staff Percy Nelles put it, “flowers don’t knit mittens” — a reference to civilian support for the war effort.

HMCS Sackville was built at the Saint John Shipbuilding dockyard in New Brunswick. The ship was launched on 15 May 1941 in front of a large crowd including the mayor and town council from Sackville, NB. Newspaper reports from that day recount that the Sackville was “greeted raucously by the sirens and whistles of other vessels in the harbour.” Although the ship was launched in May, it took another seven months to complete its fittings and sea trials before it was officially commissioned into the RCN on 30 December 1941.

Unfortunately, HMCS Sackville’s early months of service were tainted by dissension between the captain and his crew. Those tensions came to a head in February 1942. While escorting a convoy from Newfoundland to Halifax, Sackville was diverted to rescue survivors from the Greek ship Lily that was sunk by a German U-boat off Sable Island. Following the rescue, with the Sackville unable to find the convoy again, the first lieutenant confined the captain to his quarters and took command of the ship. The navy subsequently responded by discharging the captain from duty and dispersing the crew to other ships, replacing them with the crew from HMCS Baddeck, a corvette crippled by engine problems.

Convoy Duty

Although the corvettes were originally designed for coastal escort and mine clearing duties, the changing face of the war dictated a far more dangerous role for the small warships. With German U-boats roving the North Atlantic, sinking an increasing number of merchant ships carrying crucial supplies for the war effort in Europe, the corvettes were pressed into escorting convoys from Canada to Britain.

HMCS Sackville was assigned to “Mid-Ocean Escort Force” group C.3, which included two destroyers and three corvettes. The group was nicknamed “The Barber Pole Group,” with each ship painting a barber pole band around its smoke funnels. HMCS Sackville and the rest of the group sailed out of St. John’s, Newfoundland on 26 May 1942 escorting convoy HX 191. Its first crossing was uneventful with the convoy arriving in Londonderry, Northern Ireland on 5 June 1942.


HMCS Halifax

Built in 1942, HMCS Halifax was typical of the cheap, seaworthy corvettes built to counteract the German U-boat menace (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-145502).

Detail of HMCS Sackville in Halifax, NS. Image: Davida Aronovitch/Historica Canada.

Davida Aronovitch/Historica Canada.

HMCS Sackville and the other corvettes were ill-equipped for the treacherous North Atlantic crossings. In the often rough and frigid seas, waves constantly crashed over the low decks and into the passageways, the water seeping into the crew’s quarters. With their basic design, the corvettes lacked modern electronics and radar, and were outfitted with relatively light armaments.

Battling German U-boats

Convoys crossing the North Atlantic were in constant threat of attack by German “wolf packs” — groups of U-boats that would lie in wait, launching ferocious attacks often under the cover of darkness.

Just after midnight on 3 August 1942 convoy 115 from Londonderry to Newfoundland was attacked on the Grand Banks. German torpedoes suddenly struck two ships. While other escort ships looked for survivors, HMCS Sackville chased after the attackers, firing its guns and dropping depth charges on U-boat 43. Sackville’s captain, Lt. Alan Easton later described the scene this way: "The U-boat . . . rose up out of the water to an angle of forty degrees exposing one-third of her long slender hull . . . As she hung for an instant poised in this precarious position, a depth charge which had been dropped over the stern rail exploded immediately beneath her and she disappeared in a huge column of water."

A few hours later, HMCS Sackville encountered U-boat 552 on the surface of the water. As the sub attempted to crash dive, Sackville’s guns struck the submarine’s conning tower, causing a massive explosion. At first it was thought Sackville had registered two U-boat kills within 12 hours, but after the war it was learned that both subs, while suffering extensive damage, had managed to limp back to their home port.

In February 1944, HMCS Sackville was sent to Galveston, Texas for a major refit to make it more suitable for the rough and dangerous North Atlantic crossings. Four months later, while escorting a convoy to Londonderry, Sackville experienced problems with its number one boiler. With the war winding down, and more modern ships available for escort duty, the navy decided not to replace the boiler and Sackville was turned into a training vessel.

HMCS Sackville’s convoy escort days were over. The ship had completed 30 crossings during the long and deadly Battle of the Atlantic.

Postwar Service

As the war neared its end, HMCS Sackville was stripped of its armaments and turned into a maintenance vessel. Its defective boiler was removed to allow it to store anti-sub cables, which would be laid in the water to guard the entrances to east coast harbours.

In 1946, with that work completed, Sackville was relegated to the naval reserve fleet, where it remained until 1953 when it was turned into an oceanographic research vessel. For almost 30 years Sackville participated in numerous research voyages for both military and civilian projects.

Finally in 1982 the decision was made to retire the ship. By this time Sackville was the last surviving corvette. Plans were made to turn it over to the Canadian Naval Corvette Trust. The group spearheaded a major fundraising campaign to restore HMCS Sackville to her 1944 looks and configuration.

Detail of ropes on the HMCS Sackville in Halifax, NS. Image: Davida Aronovitch/Historica Canada.

Davida Aronovitch/Historica Canada.

Detail of a pulley on the HMCS Sackville.

Image: Davida Aronovitch/Historica Canada.

Davida Aronovitch/Historica Canada.

On 4 May 1985, the now-restored HMCS Sackville was designated as the Canadian Naval Memorial, to honour the memory of the 5,000 Canadian service personnel and merchant seamen who died in the Battle of the Atlantic. During the summer, the vessel is docked along the waterfront in downtown Halifax, NS, and is open to visitors.

Battle of Atlantic Place

The Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, the non-profit organization that owns and maintains HMCS Sackville, has announced ambitious plans to build Battle of the Atlantic Place, a new museum on the Halifax waterfront. HMCS Sackville is to be the centerpiece of an interactive exhibit detailing Canada’s extraordinary naval effort in the Second World War, and honouring those who died in the Battle of the Atlantic. The trust estimates the cost of the project between $180 and $200 million. It is asking the federal government to contribute $150 million, with plans to fundraise the balance from private sponsors.

courtesy – Historica Canada

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Why are 6,000 Irish buried under a Montreal traffic island?


The Irish Diaspora Run sees Michael Collins running almost 900km between June 10th and July 10th, from Grosse Île to Toronto, tracing the steps taken by thousands of Irish immigrants who fled the Famine in 1847. This is the second of his weekly updates for The Irish Times.

The most striking fact that emerged from the research I conducted on the passage of some 100,000 who left Ireland aboard the infamous coffin ships in the spring of 1847 was how the municipal authorities, in tandem with the religious orders of Montreal, marshaled their collective resources to care and minister to the sick and dying Irish…more


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Thursday, March 16, 2017

CPR St-Jovite Station


CPR_St-Jovite_StationThe CPR St-Jovite Station in the Laurentians, north of Montreal, looks abandoned in this view from an old 1970s postcard, judging by the semaphores, now removed.  St-Jovite, which has now merged with the village of Mt-Tremblant, is situated about 130 km (± 80 miles)north of Montreal.

The first train arrived at St-Jovite in 1893 after the CPR purchased the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway (QMO&O) and extended the line. First a colonization railway, the line started to serve skiers when Herman Smith Johanssen (aka "Jack Rabbit") introduced cross-country skiing between railway stations. For many years thereafter, "Le P'tit train du Nord" (loose translation – The little train to the North Country) carried skiers in winter and cottagers in summer, first by steam than by RDC.

In 1990, the rails were removed and turned into a hiking trail, while the station was purchased and transported to a nearby location, then completely spruced up and turned into an Italian restaurant with a railway theme. View photos of the refurbished station at

One of the views shows the station in the early 1900s.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Montreal Cemeteries


Genealogists tend to visit a lot of cemeteries, so if those are beautiful places, the experience can be a pleasure. Anyone with Montreal ancestors in either Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Catholic) Cemetery or in the non-denominational Mount Royal Cemetery can consider themselves lucky: both cemeteries are located on the slopes of Mount Royal, both are filled with trees and wildlife, and both have services to assist genealogists find their relatives.

These cemeteries were opened in the middle of the 19th century after the city’s population expanded, putting earlier burial grounds too close to residential areas. Hygienic concerns became particularly important when cholera epidemics swept the continent.

In fact, because of epidemics, poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, many of the city’s dead were children…more


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