News Local

REMEMBRANCE DAY 2017

Warship duty for WW2 veteran from Cobourg

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

VALERIE MACDONALD Northumberland Today
John Bedard was very young when he served in the navy during WWII, narrowly missing being part of a collision involving the HMCS Micmac off Canada's east coast.

VALERIE MACDONALD Northumberland Today John Bedard was very young when he served in the navy during WWII, narrowly missing being part of a collision involving the HMCS Micmac off Canada's east coast.

COBOURG — John Bedard, 91, of Cobourg remembers how it took six months of pestering his mother to give him permission to go into the Navy because he was underage.

“It was the last year of the war,” he recalls and his training took him to Canada’s east coast.

He saw no action, the war ended and he was disappointed as a young man in his position would be, having signed up for two years.
But Bedard was fortunate enough to be on the “biggest warship Canada had built to that point.”

The HMCS Micmac was a Tribal-class destroyer in the Royal Canadian Navy built in the Halifax Shipyard.

Bedard recalls he was both receiving training after joining and training some sea cadets to use the guns on board.

During this time he said he was also with veterans who had served during the war, and this included Ralph Hennessey who he says “helped sink the Bismarck.”
“I’ll never forget him. He took me under his wing,” Bedard said.

According to a published obituary, Hennessy “took part in the hunt” for the famous U-boat, the Bismarck. At 95, Hennessy was Canada’s oldest vice-admiral until he passed away in June, 2014.

When the HMCS Micmac needed maintenance work, Bedard and his shipmates went on a shore leave and were still on it when a new ship captain took the Micmac out into the Atlantic with a skeleton crew to test her.

“In March 1947, Micmac received a new commanding officer, LCdr. J. C. Littler, RCN, (Cdr. from 1-7-47) and entered a yard period at HMC Dockyard Halifax to refit and upgrade her automatic weapons,” states a Wikiedia account of the day of the collision involving the Micmac.

“Early in the morning of 16 July 1947, Micmac embarked a number of civilian contractors and proceeded to sea from Halifax to conduct full power trials off Sambro Head. Shortly after the trials completed, just before 13:00 hrs, HMCS Micmac was in collision with the Victory ship SS Yarmouth County (ex-Fort Astoria).

[13][14] Although damage to the Yarmouth County was slight and none of her crew were injured, Micmac suffered 15 injured and five dead. Five more crewmen, together with a civilian dock worker, were also lost at sea and presumed dead.”

Bedard recalls one young person of the five on board who lost their life because of where they were located at the time of the crash while he and others were on shore.

“Micmac’s upper works, forward of the bridge, were extensively damaged. ‘A’ mount together with its guns was completely destroyed,” the account continues. “Moreover, she lost 40 feet of bow, her hull was badly deformed on the port side, and her keel was broken just under ‘B’ mount. Although the collision was later blamed on navigational errors…”

Because of the severity of the collision, Bedard went from shore leave to being discharged from the service with others, before their two-year hitch was up, he said. At the time, the Navy didn’t tell them anything about what happened to the destroyer.

Everything he had on board was lost, Bedard said, adding: “I was discharged with just the clothes I was wearing.”