The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) marked the traditional keel-laying ceremony for the second Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel, HMCS Margaret Brooke, at Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard on May 29, 2017.
A keel-laying ceremony is one of the most significant dates in a ship’s construction. This ceremony was marked by the placing of a coin onto the keel of the ship by Olivia Strowbridge, the first woman in a trade supervisory role at Halifax Shipyard, and its first female certified ship spray painter. In shipbuilding tradition, this coin will remain embedded within the ship’s structure for its entire life, and will invite good luck for all who sail in it. Once the coin was placed, Ms. Strowbridge declared that the keel is now «well and truly laid».
The ceremony was also attended by Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic; Mr. Kevin McCoy, President of Irving Shipbuilding; and Commander Michele Tessier, the future Commanding Officer of HMCS Margaret Brooke, among others.
The coin placed on this ship depicts a four-leaf clover; a symbol with special significance to LCdr Brooke, who carried two four-leaf clovers in a silver locket as a good luck charm following her survival of the sinking of the ferry SS Caribou in 1942.
The Harry DeWolf-class Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels will increase Canada’s capability in the Arctic and along its other two coasts. They will deliver armed, seaborne surveillance and increase Canada’s awareness of activities in these regions.
In traditional ship construction, the keel typically extends the entire length of the vessel, running along the bottom of the ship and serving as its «backbone». Today, many ships, including the Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels, are instead constructed in modules or blocks, fabricated separately then brought together to form the superstructure of the ship. However, the keel-laying tradition has endured.
Construction continues on HMCS Margaret Brooke at Halifax Shipyard. The ship is expected to be officially launched in a Naming/Launching ceremony in 2019.
HMCS Margaret Brooke is named after LCdr Margaret M. Brooke, an RCN Nursing Sister in the Second World War who was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her selfless act of bravery in attempting to save the life of a colleague after the ferry they were travelling on, the SS Caribou, was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1942.
When the name of HMCS Margaret Brooke was announced in April 2015, it was the first RCN ship ever to be named after a living Canadian woman. LCdr Brooke passed away the following year at the age of 100.
During her work in Sydney, Nova Scotia, at a naval hospital, a patient gave then-Sub-Lieutenant Margaret Brooke two four-leaf clovers. She had them with her when the SS Caribou was torpedoed and sunk on the night of October 14, 1942. She often said that she felt they were her good luck charm.
The niece of LCdr Margaret Brooke, Ms. Margaret Elizabeth Brooke, is the sponsor of the ship that will bear her aunt’s name.
The Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels will be large, ice-capable ships, more than 328 feet/100 meters long, and designed for a variety of missions in Canadian waters and abroad. Commander Michele Tessier has been appointed as the first Commanding Officer of HMCS Margaret Brooke.