Re: the removal of the derelict Laurier II from Deep Bay.
Congratulations are due to the Canadian Coast Guard, to VIU, the Qualicum First Nations and local officials. MP Gord Johns, Regional District of Nanaimo chair Bill Venhoff and others have expressed relief that the serious risks imposed on marine life, navigational safety and area fisheries jobs have finally been addressed.
A solution to the problem of derelict vessels on our coast has been long overdue. Rightly, these are higher priorities, more so than the sentiments of us history buffs.
Unlike most derelicts however, the 201-ton Laurier easily has enough historical importance to warrant a preservation campaign, perhaps seeing her as a museum ship. This is a tough, costly sell for sure, but our maritime vets might consider it worthwhile.
Built as RCMP patrol ships in 1936, Laurier and her sister vessel were pressed into naval service on the East Coast during the Second World War, becoming HMCS Laurier and HMCS MacDonald. They escorted convoys in the Halifax/Sydney region, which was vital but dangerous duty in the early stages of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Both ship’s companies served honourably and in 1945, the vessels went back to the RCMP or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Ironically, the only time the Laurier’s main gun was ever fired at another vessel was to sink an abandoned, drifting merchant ship that was posing a hazard to shipping lanes. Now, seven decades later, she herself is deemed a hazard.
It’s not over for Laurier, at least not yet. No doubt the abatement specialists in Ladysmith will thoroughly clean her hull of pollutants and waste materials. I hope they will stop short of scrapping her until, hopefully, a plan emerges for her restoration and eventual display or other uses, perhaps in the film industry.
I hope that I am not writing an epitaph for this little survivor that served our country well for most of her 80 years.