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Diver remembers American dead in war between Britain and the USA 200 years ago

Diver remembers American dead in war between Britain and the USA 200 years ago

15/10/2013

A Royal Navy diver has joined Canadians in honour American sailors killed when Britain and the USA went to war two centuries ago. Lt Cdr Robin Walker and his Canadian comrades cast carnations into Lake Ontario over the wrecks of two schooners lost in a storm during the War of 1812.

Out of the tribulations of the 1812 war the solid foundations of the close relationship all three nations share was laid.
Lt Cdr Robin Walker RN

Casting a red carnation into the smallest of the Great Lakes, Royal Navy clearance diver Lt Cdr Robin Walker honours Americans killed when our countries went to war 200 years ago.

The officer joined the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Griffon which sailed over the wreck site of two US Navy schooners sunk by Nature before they could attack the British during the War of 1812.

The USS Scourge and Hamilton were preparing for attack British vessels on the lake which borders both Canada and the USA.

Just after midnight on August 8 1813 a sudden squall resulting in the loss of 53 lives before a single shot was fired.

It was the heaviest loss of life on the Great Lakes during the conflict between Britain and the USA which, despite its name, continued until 1815.

Major bicentennial events have been staged on the other side of the Atlantic – and will continue until 2015.

In the case of the Scourge and Hamilton, the Griffon sailed out to the site in Canadian waters where a memorial service was held.

The ship’s bell rang 53 times and after each clang a red or white carnation was cast over the side to symbolise blood, sacrifice and remembrance.

“It was a sombre experience to be out on the lake above the ship wrecks remembering those who gave their lives,”

said Lt Cdr Walker, who’s on exchange with the Canadian Experimental Diving Team in Toronto.

“It was also a real honour to represent the RN in commemorative events which led to not only to the establishment of Canada as a nation but also proved the defining moment in history for the relationship between the US and UK.

“Out of the tribulations of the 1812 war the solid foundations of the close relationship all three nations share was laid.”

The wrecks of the American vessels were discovered 40 years ago, lying around 90 metres (295ft) down and as well as being graves for more than 50 souls are also time capsules from the days of sail.

As they’re in fresh water the wrecks lie ‘in state’ in immaculate condition with their guns still run out, muskets still racked on the upper deck, rigging still in place and the boat still on the davit. 

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