On February 4, Commander Doug Layton, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 108 in Winchester, assumed command of the HMCS Winnipeg. Commander Canadian Fleet Pacific Commodore Angus Topshee presided over the change of command ceremony between outgoing Commander Mike Stefanson, and the incoming the Commander. Master of Ceremony was Lieutenant Commander Amber Comisso, HMCS Winnipeg’s Executive Officer. The ceremony was conducted aboard the HMCS Winnipeg, in Esquimalt, BC, with only the four in attendance, and streamed live on Facebook. Social distancing on a Canadian frigate is a challenge.
Outgoing Commander Mike Stefanson has commanded the HMCS Winnipeg for the last 3½ years. In his departure speech, he commended the crew of the frigate saying, “I have been so impressed with the professionalism, the ownership that I’ve seen from the ships company over 3½ years.
This has been a difficult year for everyone due to Covid-19, and serving in the Navy is especially challenging. It is impossible to work from home when deployed. Commander Stefanson commented on his time with the HMCS Winnipeg: “When I took command, I was conscious of the fact that I was joining a well formed team, and that has just followed us all through my entire tenure. I watched this ship’s company continue to fight, sometimes when others were willing to quit; struggle through adversity and support each other through adversity, and be there to congratulate each other during our successes and challenges”.
“They were also there to support each other through times of tragedy.” On 14 December, 2020, a crew member, Master Sailor Duane Earle, 47, was lost overboard off the coast of California during the frigate’s return from overseas operations.
Commodore Angus Topshee, who oversaw the change of command parade, told Commander Doug Layton, “This is the highlight of your career. It is something that, although it will strain you and challenge you, it should also exhilarate you and energize you every day. Embrace it for the experience that it is. I have absolute faith in your success aboard this great ship.”
Commander Doug Layton, upon assuming command, commented: “It is with the utmost humility, excitement, and joy, that I am honoured and privileged to accept this appointment today. I am truly and sincerely grateful to the leadership of the Royal Canadian Navy… for granting me this opportunity and responsibility, which I wholeheartedly accept.”
He thanked his parents for their support, saying “Merci aussi a ma chère mère qui nous regarde aujourd’hui de l’Ontario, et mon père… Merci pour le support et l’orientation durant ma croissance. C’est grâce à vous que je sais de vivre ma vie chaque jour avec discipline, service, et humilité.” He gave a special shout out to Winchester in his speech, saying, “Thanks to the Navy, I now have family and friends throughout Canada…a special shout out to my newly adopted hometown of Winchester, Ontario.
We wish Commander Layton and his crew fair winds and safe travels when they next take to the seas.
Ready, Aye, Ready.