Bob Sackett studies the memorial wall at the HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial. Photo by Dave Flawse

Bob Sackett studies the memorial wall at the HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial. Photo by Dave Flawse

Courtenay’s HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial revisits D-Day

Displays include recovered leaflet dropped by plane behind enemy lines warning of impending battle

By Dave Flawse

Special to The Record

Three simple words form the slogan of the HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial (HAMM): I will remember. On June 6, HAMM invites you to remember the turning point of the Second World War at 5-625 Cliffe Ave. in the Courtenay Mall Mews for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

To commemorate the day that Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, volunteer and veteran Bob Sackett will be unveiling two large panels that outline Canadian involvement in the landings.

The first 100 visitors to the museum will receive a poster from Juno Beach Centre and everyone will get a packet of poppy seeds to plant in remembrance. The museum opens at 10 a.m.

HAMM isn’t a typical war or military museum. Its exhibits focus on the human element and the personal stories of everyone affected by war on both sides of conflicts.

Sackett reflects on a memorial that forms the heart of HAMM. It’s a list of names of not only those who served on the HMCS Alberni, but also the names of the men who served on U-480—the German submarine that torpedoed and sunk the Canadian Flower-Class Corvette.

When asked why a Canadian memorial would also commemorate men serving in the German Kreigsmarine in WWII, Sackett says it was the German government that instigated the war and that the men who sunk the HMCS Alberni on Aug. 21, 1944 “were just doing their job.”

After serving 31 years in the Royal Canadian Navy, Sackett retired in 2016. He began volunteering with HAMM after answering an ad to help them move furniture.

Almost three years later and he’s an integral part of the museum.

“I wish I could clone him,” says museum founder Lewis Bartholomew.

Before getting involved with HAMM, Sackett had never researched history. Now he researches many of the exhibits and created the two D-Day panels.

Sackett volunteers his time because he believes in the importance of remembering. He doesn’t want young people to forget what happened, so it doesn’t happen again.

“Sounds cliché,” he says. “But it’s exactly how I feel.”

Inspired by a painting of the HMCS Alberni on a B.C. ferry, Bartholomew created HAMM in 2002. Seventeen years later and the museum sees upwards of 4,000 visitors a year. The exhibits are mostly personal artifacts donated by family members or directly by those who served.

One such artifact is a recovered leaflet dropped by airplane behind enemy lines. It warns French citizens that the Allied army has just taken the beaches of Normandy, and to prepare themselves for the ensuing bombings and fighting.

Bartholomew and Sackett continue to tell the untold stories of war. One of last year’s exhibits, Innocent Eyes, came from their realization that children’s experiences in war are seldom told.

“Military museums really just focus on the adults,” says Bartholomew. “We very rarely talk about children.”

The museum’s slogan “I will remember” is embodied in the living field of poppies on their plaque. The poppies represent everyone involved with war. And as the older poppies fade and become reseeded, “It’s up to us,” says Bartholomew. “To remember going into the future.”

As part of that remembering, HAMM is creating a video reading of the poem Destruction Came Fast by Leo McVarish, a sailor on the HMCS Alberni at the time of its sinking.

Upcoming exhibits include A Sailor’s Sketch Book: Glimpses of War Through Art. It opens June 3 and continues throughout the summer.

The museum accepts donations and is always looking for volunteers for various jobs, including manning the front desk, cataloguing artifacts and updating the library.

75th Anniversary of D-Day

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Cumberland is hoping for its lab at the Cumberland Health Centre to re-open. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland hopeful for lab re-opening

“People in Cumberland are getting a little bit left behind with the loss of that lab.”

Ramona Johnson at the I-Hos Gallery. Photo by Ali Roddam/Black Press
Community rallying to support I-Hos Gallery manager

Ramona Johnson has recently been diagnosed with cancer for the second time

Brian Chow, a medical first responder for the Comox Valley division of St. John Ambulance for over six years, is one of the volunteers giving time at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Comox. Photo supplied
Medical first responders volunteer at Comox vaccine clinic

St. John Ambulance Medical First Responder (MFR) volunteers are providing support and… Continue reading

A West Vancouver developer has applied to the City of Courtenay to construct a 39-unit strata development at 2650 Copperfield Rd. Scott Stanfield photo
Courtenay council gives second reading to contentious development proposal

At the May 3 meeting, Courtenay council approved second reading for a… Continue reading

Jay Valeri and Lyndsey Bell own Bigfoot Donuts in downtown Courtenay. File photo
Courtenay donut shop wins Small Business BC Award

Bigfoot Donuts has won the Premier’s People’s Choice category of the Small… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Jay Valeri and Lyndsey Bell own Bigfoot Donuts in downtown Courtenay. File photo
Courtenay donut shop wins Small Business BC Award

Bigfoot Donuts has won the Premier’s People’s Choice category of the Small… Continue reading

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read