Canadian Coast Guard vessel named after Stellarton war hero

Published on May 1, 2013
Lynne Tebay, a grandniece of Private Robertson, VC, accepts a framed photo of the ship from Canadian Coast Guard Captain Steve Pauley

SARNIA – Though Lynne Tebay of Medicine Hat, Alta., never met her great-uncle, she is intimately familiar with his story of heroism on the battlefield, a story that will be perpetuated with the launching of his namesake, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Private Robertson VC.

The VC stands for Victoria Cross, the highest honour for valour that can be awarded in the Commonwealth.

The Honourable Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Pat Davidson, Member of Parliament for Sarnia-Lambton, officially welcomed the new Canadian Coast Guard Ship into service at a ceremony in Sarnia, Ont., on Tuesday.

Pte. James Robertson, VC, was born in Albion Mines (now Stellarton), and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Medicine Hat, Alta., in 1915. He was killed in action on Nov. 6, 1917, while rescuing two badly wounded fellow soldiers under severe fire. He is buried at Passchendaele in Belgium.

Pte. Robertson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and outstanding devotion to duty.

Lynne, Robertson’s grand-niece, travelled to Sarnia for the ceremony and served as the ship’s sponsor, breaking a bottle of Ontario sparkling wine over the bow of the ship. “There was a big article in the paper looking for relatives of Pte. Robertson in Medicine Hat,” said Will Tebay, Lynne’s husband. “She phoned Ottawa and the next thing you know, she was being asked to christen the ship.”

Will said the family knows and honours Lynne’s great-uncle’s story. Their son went on a pilgrimage to Passchendaele to visit Pte. Robertson’s grave in a Commonwealth cemetery last year.

“Lynne believes her great-uncle would have been very proud to have his name on a Coast Guard ship,” said Will. “The vessel will protect the Great Lakes, symbolic of Pte. Robertson’s protection of his comrades during WWI.”

CCGS Private Robertson VC is the first of nine Hero Class vessels – built at a Canadian shipyard for the Canadian Coast Guard – to be officially welcomed to the Coast Guard fleet. It will enhance maritime security throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway and will be used in the joint Marine Securities Enforcement Team Program, a partnership between the Canadian Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Coast Guard Hero class vessels are named after Canadian heroes who have given the ultimate sacrifice for Canada.

“The Canadian Coast Guard is a symbol of true and dutiful service," said Minister Ashfield. "The new Hero Class patrol vessels represent a modest tribute to the heroes they honour and… the brave Coast Guard personnel that risk their lives along Canada's treacherous coastline – the longest in the world."

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