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HMCS Spikenard remembered in Parrsboro

The Battle of the Atlantic commemoration ceremony in Parrsboro included a reading of The Naval Prayer, which was given by Cyril Yorke, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 45 in Parrsboro.
The Battle of the Atlantic commemoration ceremony in Parrsboro included a reading of The Naval Prayer, which was given by Cyril Yorke, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 45 in Parrsboro. - Dave Mathieson

PARRSBORO, N.S. – The fate of the HMCS Spikenard was remembered during the Battle of the Atlantic commemoration ceremony on May 5 at the Government Wharf in Parrsboro.

“The human stories tell the best stories,” said emcee Martin Langford during the ceremony.

Langford told how the HMCS Spikenard’s commander, Lt-Cdr. H.F. Shadforth, hammered a six-inch spike into the floor of The Crow’s Nest Officers Club in St. John's, Nfld. on the opening night of the club on Jan. 27, 1942.

“They had a competition to see who could hammer a spike into the floor the furthest. The man who won was the captain of a corvette called the Spikenard,” said Langford. “When he left that night, the spike was still in the floor and he said, ‘I’ll pull it out when we get back.’ They never came back.”

When renovations were being done at The Crow’s Nest, the spike became an artifact that is still there to this day.

“When they did the renovations in the building they cut that piece of floor out and mounted it with the spike still in it and mounted it on one of the pillars,” said Langford. “On the floor where the spike was originally, there is a brass plaque. Nobody ever came to back to take the spike out.”

The Spikenard, a flower-class corvette serving with the Royal Canadian Navy, was sunk on the night of Feb. 10, 1942.

Carrying a crew of 80, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat during an escort convoy at the Battle of the Atlantic.

Another ship, a Norwegian escort tanker, was torpedoed at the same time and burst into flames.

Escort ships, not knowing the Spikenard had been hit because it didn’t catch fire, raced to save the crew of the Norwegian tanker while the Spikenard sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Failing to answer radio calls, escorts searched for the Spikenard and found only eight survivors.

The Battle of the Atlantic was fought from 1939 until Germany's surrender in 1945.

The Royal Canadian Navy lost 24 HMCS ships between 1940 and 1945 during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Nearly 2,000 members of the Royal Canadian Navy died during the Battle of the Atlantic, along with 1,600 Canadian merchant seaman, and 750 Canadian airmen.

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