WWII

Canadian Navy's Wartime Heroism Saluted On HMS Belfast

Eighty Canadians served on HMS Belfast during the Battle of the North Cape.

The Canadian flag has been raised on board HMS Belfast to salute the heroism of Canadian sailors during the Second World War.

On 26 December 1943, 80 Canadians were serving on the ship in the Arctic Ocean, defending convoys when the Battle of the North Cape broke out.

The battle saw the German battleship Scharnhorst sunk.

A further three Canadian Tribal class destroyers were also defending the convoy.

Tony Ditchman, a gunnery officer who served on destroyer HMS Scorpion, is believed to be one of the last surviving people to be involved in the Battle of the North Cape.

Mr Ditcham joined the annual ceremony to pay tribute to his comrades and the bond between the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy.

"I sometimes wonder if we could've won the Battle of the Atlantic without the Canadian corvettes, in particular," he said.

"The strength of the Canadian Navy, I think it's true to say, was in their vast number of corvettes they had escorting convoys - the workhorse of the Atlantic."

The ceremony was held on HMS Belfast.
The ceremony was held on HMS Belfast.

The commemorations mark the 75th anniversary of Scharnhorst's sinking.

Alongside Mr Ditcham was Rolfe Monteith, a former captain in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War.

He arrived in Britain in 1942, aged just 17-years-old. 

"I served on HMS Hardy on Arctic convoys, she was torpedoed in January 1944, ten of my shipmates were killed and therefore I remember them constantly," he said.

"My schoolmates died, my shipmates died and it is just the least I can do to pay due reverence to those that paid the price."

British and Canadian dignitaries gathered to pay tribute, including Prince Michael of Kent.

The guns that fired the salute in recognition of the Canadian Navy are the same guns that were fitted to the ship when she was built and used in the Second World War. 

During World War Two, 10% of HMS Belfast's crew were Canadian.

Over the Christmas period, the Canadian flag will continue to fly over HMS Belfast, including Boxing Day which marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the North Cape.