Royal Canadian Navy
- On 06/10/2011
- In Wreck Diving
By T.W.Paterson - The Citizen
Thiepval Channel, between Turret and Turtle Islands in The Broken Group, Barkley Sound, honours this First World Battle Class trawler, lost in the line of duty in 1930.
E ighty years after the fact, the Dept. of National Defence is taking renewed interest in the wreck of HMCS Thiepval, long a target of recreational skindivers but now thought to be a hazard because of unrecovered live artillery shells and rifle bullets.
One of 12 Battle Class trawlers built late in the First World War, she was commissioned in the Royal Service (forerunner to the Royal Canadian Navy) in July 1918. Assigned to the West Coast with sisters Givenchy and Armentieres, she served for three years as a fisheries patrol vessel.
As a signatory to the Pelagic Sealing Treaty with Russia, Japan and the U.S.A., Canada offered the Thiepval as part of her contribution to the impossible task of trying to canvass thousands of square miles of open sea.
The idea was to restrict the hunting of fur seals to aboriginals, who were denied the use of firearms and power boats. Even if the treaty nations had had the ships and manpower, a bullet hole in a seal's pelt was easily enlarged to make it appear the work of a spear-tip.
With a maximum speed (when new) of 10 knots, and armed with a single 12-pound quick-firing gun on her forecastle, the 130foot-long Thiepval rejoined the RCN in 1923.
The following year she steamed all the way to Hakodate, Japan to establish fuel dumps for Maj. Stuart McLaren's ill-fated attempt to fly around the world.
Upon returning home after recovering what was left of McLaren's crashed aircraft from Russian territory, Thiepval had completed an 11,000-mile round trip.
She was then assigned to the Bamfield Patrol.
Simply, this was a token attempt at a Canadian Coast Guard at a time when Barkley Sound continued to earn its sobriquet, Graveyard of the Pacific.
In February 1926, Thiepval's commanding officer, Lieut. V.S. Godfrey, was alerted that the Chapultepec, a large Mexican schooner, was being driven towards the Sea Lion Rocks, off Carmanah Point.