HMCS NIPIGON 266
Annapolis Class Destroyer
Built by Marine Industries Ltd., Sorel, NIPIGON was commissioned on 30 May 1964 with the wife of the then Governor-General Georges P Vanier DSO MC & Bar CD, Madame Pauline Vanier, as her sponsor. She arrived in Halifax for the first time on 07 Jun 1964 serving most of her career with the Atlantic Fleet.
On 18 Oct 1965, a fire broke out aboard the ship, causing the death of three crew; no official cause for the explosion and subsequent fire has ever been given. LS Doyle Clement White and Able Seaman Wendell Tolson Gray were awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry for their actions that day.
B.E.M. Citation for LS Doyle White: "At approximately 2030 hours on 18th October 1965, while at sea, two explosions occurred in 12 Mess on HMCS NIPIGON. The force of these explosions blew the locked cover off a tank containing JP 5 helicopter fuel causing a flash fire in the Mess. The compartment directly above the Mess contained ammunition. At the time of the explosions there were eleven men in 12 Mess, one of which was Leading Seaman White. Although burned about the face and hands when 'escaping from the Mess, Leading Seaman White rushed to the Quartermaster's lobby to inform the lifebuoy sentry of the explosions in order that Command could be informed. He then returned to the area of the Mess to assist where needed but when advised that one man who appeared to be unconscious had not escaped from the Mess, immediately 'donned a set of breathing equipment and re-entered the Mess. The Mess at this time was filled with fumes from the JP 5 fuel and heavy black smoke. Freeing the unconscious man Leading Seaman White, with the assistance of Able Seaman Gray who had just entered, carried the man to the foot of the hatch and then searched all bunks to ensure no one else was trapped. Then - with the assistance of the Able Seaman and other crew members, brought the man up to the mortar well on the deck above. Leading Seaman White then assisted the damage control parties in flooding the JP 5 fuel tank with sea water and the removal of smouldering material. Although burned by the initial flash fire, Leading Seaman White alerted Command, re-entered the fume and smoke filled Mess to rescue a comrade, and did excellent work in a dangerous area which contained an open JP 5 fuel tank adjacent to stored ammunition before obtaining medical attention for himself. This fine display of courage in the face of serious injury or possible death, is a credit not only to Leading Seaman White, but also his ship and the Canadian Forces.
B.E.M. Citation for AB Wendell Gray: "At approximately 2030 hours on 18th October 1965, while at sea, two explosions occurred in 12 Mess on HMCS Nipigon. The force of the explosions blew the locked cover off a tank containing JP5 helicopter fuel causing a flash fire in the Mess. Directly above the Mess was a compartment containing ammunition. At the time of the explosion, Able Seaman Gray was in the main cafeteria. Immediately making his way to the upper deck, he was instructed by the Damage Control Officer to break out all available breathing equipment. When informed that LS White had entered the Mess to free an unconscious man, he quickly donned same, and following the Leading Seaman into the mess, assisted in the evacuation of the man to the mortar well on the deck above. The Mess at this time was filled with fumes from the JP5 fuel and heavy smoke. Returning to the area, AB Gray entered the Mess on three successive occasions with fire fighting and other equipment and assisted the damage control parties in clearing the Mess of the smouldering material. Although the youngest in the group, AB Gray assisted in the rescue of a comrade, entered the Mess on several occasions where there was an open JP5 fuel tank, and assisted the damage control parties with the fire-fighting and removal of smouldering materials. His actions throughout this incident, in 12 the face of serious injury or possible death, have brought credit not only to himself, but also to his ship and the Canadian Forces."
During 04-11 Oct 1971 HMCS NIPIGON was operating in the Clyde area of the UK which included acting as a target for the UK Perisher Couse. Port visits included Anchor Llandudno, North Wales 12 oct 1971 and Liverpool, England 12-16 Oct 1971
On 07 Nov 1971, while operating off Bermuda, HMCS NIPIGON'S Sea King lost power on her engines and crashed into the sea at about 2200 hrs. There was a loss of three crew who were never recovered. Only the navigator was found by rescue crew. Seas were heavy with no moon and a strong wind.
In 1972 HMCS NIPIGON has port visits at Estoril, Portugal 19-23 Apr 1972 followed by Lisbon, Portugal also in Apr 1972.
On September 10, 1979 while underway at sea, a gasket from a steam line heated at 850o ruptured in the boiler room of the destroyer. PO Marsh ordered all personnel to evacuate the immediate area and remained at the boiler room console to carry out the emergency shut-down procedures. Outside, the main power had failed, semi-darkness made any action most difficult, confusion and a sense of danger were evident, but CWO McIntosh proceeded without hesitation through the escape hatch, although the heat was intolerable. He reached the console with difficulty and both he and PO Marsh with only ventilation fans keeping the steam from smothering them, calmly and correctly took appropriate action to minimize machinery damage and restore safety. CWO John McIntosh and PO Patrick Marsh voluntarily exposed themselves to grave danger to ensure the safety of the ship and prevent possible loss of life on board. Both CPO McIntosh and PO Marsh were awarded the Star of Courage for their actions.
On 27 Jun 1983, she was paid off for her DELEX refit at Davie Shipbuilding & Repairing Co., Ltd., Lauzon, Que. She was re-commissioned on 22 Aug 1984. On 28 Apr 1985 HMCS NIPIGON provided SAR assistance to fishing vessel Lady Marjorie. The crew was rescued and vessel sunk by gunfire from HMCS NIPIGON. The Crown was subsequently sued by vessel owners - an out of court settlement was reached. On 22 Feb 1987 HMCS NIPIGON'S helo assisted in the rescue of the crew from the burning tug Gulf Gale off Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. On 19 May 1993 HMCS NIPIGON departed Halifax with HMNZS Endeavour and HMNZS Canterbury for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic ceremonies off the coast of Wales and Liverpool. On 14 Jun 1995 HMCS NIPIGON'S crew members along with DFO enforcement officers boarded the Spanish trawler Patricia Nores and found 11 tonnes of turbot in excess of amounts recorded in the ship's log.
She was paid off on 02 Jul 1998 and sold for use as an artificial reef. She was sunk in the St. Lawrence River north-east of Rimouski, Quebec on 22 Jul 2003.
In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice
Lest We Forget
In memory of those who have crossed the bar
They shall not be forgotten
Former Crew Members
Photos and Documents
(HG69) HMCS NIPIGON 266 (HG70) HMCS NIPIGON 266 (HG71) HMCS NIPIGON 266 - Halifax, Jan 1971
(HG72) HMCS NIPIGON 266 during MARCOT '71 off Bermuda Bermuda - 1971 (HG73) St. George's, Bermuda - 1971 (HG74) Ireland Island, Bermuda - 1971 (HG75) Hamilton, Bermuda - 1971 (HG76) Town Cut Channel - the entrance to St. George's Harbour 24 Feb 1972
Soviet ship Akademik Sergey Korolyov photographed from HMCS NIPIGON 266 during an East Coast Patrol 17 Apr 1971
Historical note: The Akademik Sergey Korolyov was a space control-monitoring ship or Vigilship (Veladora) constructed in 1970 to support the Soviet space program. Named after Sergey Korolyov, the head Soviet rocket engineer and designer during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, the ship also conducted upper atmosphere and outer space research. The ship mainly operated in the Atlantic Ocean monitoring spacecraft trajectory, telemetry data, and guaranteed a communications link with the cosmonauts. The ship had about 1200 accommodations, including 79 laboratories, in which 188 scientific workers performed their duties.
(HG78) Sea Cadets boarding HMCS NIPIGON 266 at Digby, NS - 21 Jul 1971 (HG79) Boston Navy Yard - 1971
The Governor General's Cruise
South Coast of Newfoundland 1-12 Aug 1971
Conducted by Lt. Gov. Ewart J.A. Harnum
(HG80) Lt. Gov. Ewart Harnum flanked by his Aide de Camp (HG81) St. Pierre, Island of St. Pierre. The islands St. Pierre and Miquelon are a French archipelago off the South coast of Newfoundland (HG82) Belleoram, Nfld (HG83) Transiting the Grey River (HG84) Grey River, Nfld
Lt Gov. Harnum was the 5th Lt. Gov or Newfoundland and served from 1969-1974.
Most places visited were inaccessible by road. Therefore annual visits by sea from the Lt. Gov. were a local highlight. Coming alongside was not always possible and NIPIGON usually anchored, the Lt. Gov. and party being taken ashore by helicopter. This was further complicated by severe fog and blind pilotage was more frequent than visual entries. For each visit, several Nipigons accompanied the Lt. Gov. It was a busy and fascinating two weeks that introduced us to a part of Canada that we would normally never see.
Ports Visited: St. Pierre (France), Pool's Cove, Belleoram, English Harbour, Harbour Breton, Hermitage, Gaultois, McCallum, François, Rencontre Baym Grey River, Ramea, White Bear Bay, Burgeo, Grand Bruit, La Poile, Petites, Rose Blanche and Port Aux Basques
(HG85) The Crash of HMCS NIPIGON'S helo with the loss of three crew
Helicopter Crash - the Air Controller's perspective: On the night of 6th November 1971, tragedy struck. NIPIGON'S helicopter crashed shortly after take-off with the loss of three men - both pilots and the sonar operator.
Helicopter 4020 (call sign: Skirt-Two-Zero) recovered, fueled and changed crew during a night screening exercise on the destroyer squadron's return passage to Halifax. NIPIGON (call sign: Night Ruler) re-launched about 2200 local (0200Z on the 7th). It was a dark night with moderate to high winds but conditions initially were night VFR. Two-Zero was tasked with ASW screening several miles ahead of the main body. The launch was routine, flying stations were stood down and the LSO (Paddles) turned Two-Zero over to the air controller in the ops room for employment. Communication was established and air control advised the vector to screening station. Almost immediately Two-Zero reported a terse "single engine". NIPIGON came to emergency flying stations which included turning the sea boat out and preparing the flight deck for immediate recovery. Two-Zero was trying to gain height but could not make an emergency recovery as it was still full-up with fuel. Little could be done from ops other than to warn other ships in company, who readied their sea boats and night lights, and also monitored the air control frequency. Two-Zero's last report was "dumping fuel", and then silence …..
Further attempts to communicate were unsuccessful. Then the final transmission from NIPIGON: "Skirt-Two-Zero, Night Ruler. Nothing heard. Out".
The remainder of the night was spent by all ships and their sea boats in search and recovery, mainly rescue of the TACO, whose position was next to the window and managed to escape, and also various loose parts. This became more difficult due to deteriorating weather conditions. The depth of water, about 1,500 fathoms (from memory), made future recovery impossible.
(HG86) Halifax Harbour - 27 Feb 1972 (HG87) HMCS NIPIGON 266 pulling away after completing a RAS with HMCS PRESERVER 510 - 14 Apr 1972 (HG88) HMCS NIPIGON 266 entering St. John's, Nfld - May 1972
From the collection of Heinz Gohlish
Courtesy of Heinz Gohlish