Nova Scotia

Sydney merchant mariners memorial to be unveiled Sunday

A monument dedicated to the memory of a brave contingent of civilians who served Canada on the high seas during two world wars will be unveiled Sunday afternoon at the Sydney Harbour.

A sculpture on the waterfront will recognize wartime contributions of the merchant navy

This is a portion of the sculpture that will be unveiled Sunday on the Sydney waterfront recognizing those who served in the merchant navy during two world wars. (Cape Breton Regional Municipality)

A monument dedicated to the memory of a brave contingent of civilians who served Canada on the high seas during two world wars will be unveiled Sunday afternoon at the Sydney Harbour.

Known as the merchant navy, these sailors risked their lives every time they boarded a supply ship and headed across the submarine-infested waters of the Atlantic. These merchant ships were routinely sunk by German submarines. 

Martin MacKinnon, who will be a part of the unveiling ceremony, served in the merchant marine during the Second World War.

'Old rust buckets'

His memories are vivid of the convoys that left Sydney bound for Europe, partially protected on the flanks by a few well-placed naval vessels.

"It was impressive," said MacKinnon, although he noted that some of the ships were not of the highest grade. 

"A number of them were old rust buckets," he said.

Mother Nature was also a challenge.

"The weather itself was quite an enemy, especially in the North Atlantic," said MacKinnon.

Artist renderings of the memorial include a sculpture showing a mariner being pulled from the water into a liferaft by his shipmates.

Martin MacKinnon served in Canada's merchant marine in 1944 and 1945. (CBC/Wendy Bergfeldt)

"It's an amazing piece of work for the boardwalk," said MacKinnon.

He says the monument will be a fitting tribute to the hard work and sacrifice of merchant mariners, who waited decades to be officially recognized for their wartime service.

"It's a beautiful sculpture and it will bring back memories for me and others that have been longer at sea than I have — and have been torpedoed even — and lived through this," said MacKinnon.

Event details

Today's ceremony will take place between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on the Sydney boardwalk near the bottom of Dorchester Street.

The event will include a visit by HMCS Shawinigan, which will be anchored in the harbour.

Following the unveiling, there will be a Battle of the Atlantic memorial service at the Victoria Park Armoury.

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