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Sydney woman shares special connection with HMCS Charlottetown

Marilyn Whyte, of Sydney N.S., is greeted onboard the HMCS Charlottetown by CO Jeff Hutt during a Canada Day reception. The ship was in town for three days of public tours while Whyte was invited onboard the ship to recognize her father, Lt.-Cmdr. John Willard Bonner, who captained the first HMCS Charlottetown and died when it was torpedoed in 1942.
Marilyn Whyte, of Sydney N.S., is greeted onboard the HMCS Charlottetown by CO Jeff Hutt during a Canada Day reception. The ship was in town for three days of public tours while Whyte was invited onboard the ship to recognize her father, Lt.-Cmdr. John Willard Bonner, who captained the first HMCS Charlottetown and died when it was torpedoed in 1942.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Marilyn Whyte was overcome with emotion when she stepped onboard the HMCS Charlottetown this weekend.

Lt.-Cmdr. John Willard Bonner

The Sydney, N.S. resident is the daughter of Lt.-Cmdr. John Willard Bonner, who captained the first HMCS Charlottetown ship during the Second World War.
Whyte was 11-years-old when the ship was torpedoed in the St. Lawrence River just north of Cape Cat in 1942.
With a crew of 64 onboard, Bonner and eight other members died in the attack.
“It’s so very emotional,” said Whyte. “It brings back a lot of memories but in a nice way. It’s wonderful to see there’s still a HMCS Charlottetown, it’s such a beautiful ship.”
The current ship is the third vessel to have the name, which carries a special place in Whyte’s heart.

She was at the commissioning of the ship in 1995 and was a special guest to a Canada 150 reception held onboard Saturday night.

The vessel was in Charlottetown providing tours for three days.

CO Jeff Hutt said the crew wanted to celebrate Canada 150 in its namesake city.

It also gave the opportunity to celebrate the past, with crew members making sure Whyte was included in the event.

“It’s really important we grasp onto these linkages to our past as much as we can while they’re here,” said Hutt. “It’s very important in the military for us to look back at all those who came before us and honour their contributions.”

Veteran Raymond MacAulay, who is believed to be the last member of the original crew, was also invited but was unable to attend due to health reasons.

When reached by phone, MacAulay said he wished he could have went and noted that he has visited the ship and its various crews many times since its commissioning.

“ I keep quite a close bond with the vessel and visit the present day people who are protecting Canada for us.” said MacAulay, who was happy to see the ship’s namesake carried on. “I think it’s a great thing.”

Lt. Meghan Jacques, port liaison officer for the visit, thanked local historian Blair MacKinnon for making her aware of MacAulay and Whyte’s special connections to the original ship.

“It definitely meant a lot to (Whyte). To see in her eyes how important it was for her, I’m so happy I got to be involved in this,” said Jacques.

While Whyte was young when her father died, many who knew and served with him have approached her throughout her life.

She recalled one letter that stated “your father was one of the finest men I’ve ever met.”

“That meant a lot to me,” said Whyte. “I’ve heard a lot about him and that’s been very comforting.”

 

Mitch.macdonald@theguardian.pe.ca
Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI

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