HMCS Ojibwa - (S72)

Call Sign: Charlie - Zulu - Foxtrot - Quebec

HMCS Ojibwa was an Oberon-class submarine that served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and later the Canadian Forces Maritime Command (MARCOM). Originally intended for service with the Royal Navy as HMS Onyx, the submarine was transferred to Canadian ownership before completion, and entered RCN service in 1965. Ojibwa operated primarily with Maritime Forces Atlantic until her decommissioning in 1998. In 2010, Ojibwa was laid up at CFB Halifax awaiting disposal, with the Elgin Military Museum planning to preserve her as a museum vessel. The submarine was towed to Port Burwell, Ontario in 2012, and was opened to the public in 2013. She is now the new focal point of a planned Museum of Naval History to be built alongside.

The submarine was initially ordered for the Royal Navy as HMS Onyx, with Chatham Dockyard laying the keel down on 27 September 1962. In 1963 the submarine was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy, and was launched as HMCS Ojibwa on 29 February 1964. Ojibwa was commissioned on 23 September 1965 at Chatham Dockyard. The submarine was named after the Ojibwe First Nations people, and was assigned the pennant number S 72.

Ojibwa was assigned to the First Canadian Submarine Squadron on 22 April 1966, later joined by her sister boats and served virtually her entire career with Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) in the North Atlantic. Following the establishment of the First Canadian Submarine Squadron, personnel issues arose aboard Ojibwa and Rear-Admiral William Landymore was forced to intervene directly, relieving the commander of the submarine, Lt. Commander Samuel G. Tomlinson. Ojibwa spent time training with the Royal Navy after an exchange program was instituted in the 1960s that would see submarines from both the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy spend time with each others forces. This allowed Canadian submarines on intelligence-gathering missions. Beginning in the 1970s, Canada began underwater surveillance patrols in the western Atlantic, tracking Soviet sub and surface fleet vessels, especially the ballistic missile submarines, usually in concert with a Argus or Aurora patrol aircraft. In 1977, Ojibwa made a short deployment to British Columbia with Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) in 1977. She took part in WESTEX 77, a training exercise off the west coast.

Ojibwa underwent her SOUP refit beginning in 1979, arriving at HMC Dockyard at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 18 June for preparation. The refit began on 20 February 1981 and lasted until 31 May 1982. Following the SOUP refit and the introduction of the Mark 48 torpedoes, the Oberons were considered fully operational and counted the same as other offensive fleet units in Maritime Command.

Following the end of the Cold War, the Oberons were retasked, performing patrols on behalf of federal institutions such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Solicitor General of Canada between 1991 and 1994. For six months in 1994, the submarine served on the west coast. The delay of the introduction of the Victoria-class submarines led to the Oberons working past their life expectancy. In 1994, Ojibwa was cut in half, her engines were removed and replaced with newer ones from HMS Osiris, which had been purchased from the Royal Navy as a source of spare parts in 1992. In 1997 Ojibwa made a second small deployment to the west coast. This deployment was rife with problems, as the submarine developed mechanical and technical difficulties. She was paid off from MARCOM on 21 May 1998.

In May 2005, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald announced that MARCOM was looking to sell Ojibwa for scrap metal, along with three other Canadian Oberons. MARCOM stated that the submarines were not in suitable condition to be used as museum ships and predicted that each submarine would sell for between C$50,000 and C$60,000.

On 11 June 2010, it was reported that Ojibwa would be moved by BMT Fleet Technology Ltd to become part of the collection of the Elgin Military Museum at St. Thomas, Ontario. On 2 December 2011, it was announced that the Department of National Defence had approved the transfer of Ojibwa to the Elgin Military Museum subject to satisfaction of financial requirements. The final agreement was signed on 25 May 2012 after three years of negotiations.

On 26 May 2012, Ojibwa started her trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Hamilton, Ontario by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The submarine was transferred with the help of the tugs Florence M and Lac Manitoba and tow HM-1. She stayed in Hamilton at Heddle Marine Dockyards being repainted and fitted with specialized transport cradles that would allow her to be moved across land. On 18 November 2012, Ojibwa, on the barge HM 08, made the final leg of her journey by way of the Welland Canal and then Lake Erie from Hamilton to Port Burwell, while being towed by the tugs Lac Manitoba and Seahound.

The sub arrived in Port Burwell on 20 November after a short journey and became part of a new Museum of Naval History. The site opened for tours on 29 June 2013. During April 2015, financial issues dealing with the transfer of the submarine to Port Burwell were widely circulated, as Royal Bank of Canada called on the community to pay the $6 million loan.


Museum info: Museum of Naval History
Address: 3 Pitt Street, Port Burwell, Ontario, Canada N0J 1T0
Phone: 519 633-7641
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