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In April 2007 I visited the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery in Belgium seeking out the graves of Miramichi war dead. During that visit I remember seeing the grave of a Sikh soldier who served in the Regina Rifles and then coming across the graves of three Canadian sailors. I was wondering why three RCN sailors were buried 23 Km from the coast? I noted that each sailor came from a different Motor Torpedo Boat. Here is their story:


29th Canadian Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla

On 14 February 1945 in Ostend Harbour, Belgium, several flotillas of motor torpedo boats were berthed in a passage called The Cirque. Many of the crew were resting during a “make and mend” (rest period). However, earlier, highly volatile petrol had been discharged into the harbour during de-fuelling and this petrol somehow caught fire, setting many boats and their munitions ablaze. The fire and explosions continued in the harbour for two hours.

When it was all over, seven Royal Navy boats and five Royal Canadian Navy boats of the 29th Flotilla were destroyed. Thirty-five British sailors and twenty-eight Canadians were killed. MTBs 459, 461, 462, 465 & 466 were lost in the accident and the 29th Flotilla was subsequently disbanded.

RCN sailors killed that day

Buried in Adegem Canadian War Cemetery:

Stoker 1st Class Gordon Purdy, age 28 of St Catherines, ON
Able Seaman Benson Dick, age 25 of Hensall, ON
Able Seaman Joe Gauthier, age 20 of Winnipeg, MB

Buried in Oostende New Communal cemetery:

Ordinary Telegraphist John Brush, age 18 of Windsor, ON
Able Seaman Albert Cross, age 19 of Yorkton, SK
Leading Seaman Ralph MacRae, age 21 of Campbellton, NB

Commemorated on the Halifax Memorial (bodies not recovered)

Motor Mechanic John Watt, age 23 of Deep Cove, BC
Motor Mechanic John Routh, age 28 of Canoe, BC
Able Seaman David Motley, age 23 of Bonnington Falls, BC
Ordinary Telegraphist Melvin Harper, age 21 of Edmonton, AB
Motor Mechanic Ian Hunter, age 30 of Calgary, AB
Able Seaman William Crang, age 21 of Outlook, SK
Lieutenant William Hale, age 21 of Winnipeg, MB
Able Seaman Wilfred Brown, age 21 of Guelph, ON
Able Seaman James Kenny, age 20 of Woodstock, ON
Ordinary Seaman Gordon Long, age 18 of Woodstock, ON
Able Seaman Norman Cathcart, age 19 of Toronto, ON
Able Seaman John Byrne, age 20 of Toronto, ON
Able Seaman William Newbigging, age 19 of Toronto, ON
Able Seaman William Park, age 20 of Hamilton, ON
Stoker Charles Long, age 27 of Hamilton, ON
Able Seaman Michael Naydo, age 25 of Fort William, ON
Telegraphist Stephen Bahleda, age 22 of Montreal, PQ
Able Seaman Neil Bond, age 20 of Glace Bay, NS
Able Seaman James Wright, age 23 of New Glasgow, NS
Motor Mechanic William Wellington , age 39 of Cardiff, Wales

Lest we Forget

Reference: Gary Silliker

Additional photographs: