HMCS Max Bernays

Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Max Bernays


Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Max Bernays

Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Max Bernays, a Canadian naval hero who served as the Coxswain of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Assiniboine during the Battle of the Atlantic, will be named as the third Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) according to an announcement made by the Honourable Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, on May 25, 2015.

“Chief Petty Officer Bernays is a true Canadian hero who served our country with great distinction during the Second World War,” said Associate Minister Fantino. “Our Government is grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and will continue to stand behind our serving members and pay respect to our Veterans for the sacrifices they have made. The naming of a naval ship in honour of Chief Petty Officer Bernays is a proud moment for the Bernays family and all Canadians.”

On August 6, 1942, during intense surface gun action against the German submarine U-210, HMCS Assiniboine maneuvered in and out of a fog attempting to ram and sink the enemy submarine. Both vessels were firing high explosive shells at very close range, resulting in a fire that engulfed the bridge and wheelhouse of Assiniboine. Surrounded by smoke and flames while steering the ship, CPO Bernays ordered two junior sailors to get clear, leaving him alone at the helm and trapped by the blaze. Besieged by flames, he executed all the helm orders as Assiniboine maneuvered for position against the U-boat, and did the work of the two telegraphmen, dispatching over 130 telegraph orders to the engine room. Several bullets and shells penetrated the wheelhouse as the enemy concentrated their machine-gun and cannon fire on the bridge. Eventually Assiniboine rammed and sank U-210 in what was considered to be an extremely hard fought action, during which the Canadians suffered one fatality and 13 wounded. CPO Bernays was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his courage and dauntless devotion to duty during the battle.

“Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships are being named after Canadian naval heroes who exhibited outstanding leadership and heroism during wartime service in the Navy,” said Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy. “Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays’ example of valour and dauntless devotion to duty is a model for all Canadian Naval personnel. It is fitting that one of our naval ships will be named in his honour.”

CPO Bernays was awarded the distinguished Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM) by the British Admiralty for his valour and dauntless devotion to duty during action. He was one of only two members of the RCN to receive the CGM during the Second World War.

In September 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the new AOPS would be named in honour of prominent Canadian heroes who served with the highest distinction and conspicuous gallantry in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). The lead ship was named HMCS Harry DeWolf, with the class known as the Harry DeWolf Class. The second ship has been named HMCS Margaret Brooke, and now the third ship will bear the name HMCS Max Bernays.

The RCN will employ the AOPS to conduct sovereignty and surveillance operations in Canadian waters on all three coasts, including in the Arctic. The AOPS will also be used to support other units of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in the conduct of maritime-related operations, and to support other government departments in carrying out their mandates as required.