A spe­cial con­nec­tion

HMCS Char­lot­te­town docks in cap­i­tal city for Canada Day week­end

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD Mitch.macdon­ald@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Mitch_PEI

Mar­i­lyn Whyte was over­come with emo­tion when she stepped onboard HMCS Char­lot­te­town this week­end.

The Syd­ney, N.S. res­i­dent is the daugh­ter of Lt.-Cmdr. John Wil­lard Bon­ner, who cap­tained the first HMCS Char­lot­te­town ship dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Whyte was 11-years-old when the ship was tor­pe­doed in the St. Lawrence River just north of Cape Cat in 1942.

With a crew of 64 onboard, Bon­ner and eight other mem­bers died in the at­tack.

“It’s so very emo­tional,” said Whyte. “It brings back a lot of mem­o­ries but in a nice way. It’s won­der­ful to see there’s still a HMCS Char­lot­te­town, it’s such a beau­ti­ful ship.”

The cur­rent ship is the third ves­sel to have the name, which car­ries a spe­cial place in Whyte’s heart.

She was at the com­mis­sion­ing of the ship in 1995 and was a spe­cial guest to a Canada 150 re­cep­tion held onboard Satur­day night.

The ves­sel was in Char­lot­te­town pro­vid­ing tours for three days.

CO Jeff Hutt said the crew wanted to cel­e­brate Canada 150 in its name­sake city.

It also gave the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate the past, with crew mem­bers mak­ing sure Whyte was in­cluded in the event.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant we grasp onto these link­ages to our past as much as we can while they’re here,” said Hutt. “It’s very im­por­tant in the mil­i­tary for us to look back at all those who came be­fore us and hon­our their con­tri­bu­tions.”

Vet­eran Ray­mond Ma­cAulay, who is be­lieved to be the last mem­ber of the orig­i­nal crew, was also in­vited but was un­able to at­tend due to health rea­sons.

When reached by phone, Ma­cAulay said he wished he could have went and noted that he has vis­ited the ship and its var­i­ous crews many times since its com­mis­sion­ing.

“I keep quite a close bond with the ves­sel and visit the present day peo­ple who are pro­tect­ing Canada for us.” said Ma­cAulay, who was happy to see the ship’s name­sake car­ried on. “I think it’s a great thing.”

Lt. Meghan Jac­ques, port li­ai­son of­fi­cer for the visit, thanked lo­cal his­to­rian Blair MacKin­non for mak­ing her aware of Ma­cAulay and Whyte’s spe­cial con­nec­tions to the orig­i­nal ship.

“It def­i­nitely meant a lot to (Whyte). To see in her eyes how im­por­tant it was for her, I’m so happy I got to be in­volved in this,” said Jac­ques.

While Whyte was young when her fa­ther died, many who knew and served with him have ap­proached her through­out her life.

She re­called one let­ter that stated “your fa­ther was one of the finest men I’ve ever met.”

“That meant a lot to me,” said Whyte. “I’ve heard a lot about him and that’s been very com­fort­ing.”

MITCH MACDON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

Mar­i­lyn Whyte, of Syd­ney N.S., is greeted onboard HMCS Char­lot­te­town by CO Jeff Hutt dur­ing a Canada Day re­cep­tion. The ship was in town for three days of pub­lic tours while Whyte was in­vited onboard the ship to rec­og­nize her fa­ther, Lt.-Cmdr. John Wil­lard Bon­ner, who cap­tained the first HMCS Char­lot­te­town and died when it was tor­pe­doed in 1942.

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