HALIFAX – Crews past and present were on hand Friday at the navy dockyard in Halifax to give a final salute to HMCS Iroquois.
The warship served the Royal Canadian Navy for more than four decades before it was taken out of service in a so-called paying off ceremony at HMC Dockyard.
After the event, George Byzewski recalled the day the destroyer was commissioned on July 29, 1972. The retired chief petty officer was part of the original crew, calling the vessel home for four years.
“We would leave the ice cold North Atlantic and in two days you’d be in the Caribbean doing what’s called upon, or go back to the Arctic,” he said.
“She did it all.”
From rescues at sea to international operations against terrorism, HMCS Iroquois has been involved in some of the navy’s more heroic moments.
On Dec. 4, 1983, HMCS Iroquois rescued 20 crew members from a Panamanian-registered ship that was at risk of capsizing. Eighteen of the warship’s company were decorated for bravery.
While heading south from Halifax for spring exercises in March 2000, HMCS Iroquois was redirected to assist a bulk carrier that had gone down 700 kilometres northeast of Bermuda. It picked up 13 survivors and recovered six bodies.
Now, the vessel is showing signs of its age. Last year, the navy found fatigue cracks on the ship and rust patches were found on its hull, forcing it to be sidelined.
“General rule of thumb, warships should last about 25 years,” said Cmdr. Robert Watt, the ship’s final commanding officer.
Standing in front of his former vessel, Watt told the crowd the ship owes its 43 years to the people charged with taking care of it.
Lt.-Cmdr. Geoffrey Steed, who spent two years with HMCS Iroquois, said it became his home at sea.
“You spend every moment supporting this vessel. You interact with people on a regular basis and each and every one of them become part of your family,” said Steed.
“There’s the container that holds the people and then there’s the people that make up that personality of the warship.”
Steed’s new home, the recently refitted HMCS Charlottetown, was anchored across from Iroquois during the ceremony.
“You look at one side of the jetty and you see this beautiful destroyer that served her nation well for 43 years,” said Steed.
“Now you look on the other side of the jetty and now you have a very modern, capable warship ready to do the business but carrying on that tradition.”