In Memoriam - Robert Walter Timbrell

CHESTER BASIN, N.S.-Toronto Star.

War hero rescued troops Apr. 15, 2006. 01:00 AM

CHESTER BASIN, N.S.

-Robert Walter Timbrell, whose bravery during the rescue of British troops 66 years ago made him the first decorated Canadian naval officer of World War II, has died. Timbrell, who died Tuesday, was a 20-year-old sub-lieutenant in May 1940 when he skippered the Llanthony, a yacht owned by a Scottish lord. It was one of 800 private boats commandeered by the British navy to evacuate as many men as they could from the beach at Dunkirk, across the English Channel from Dover. With the help of 222 battleships, 338,000 Allied troops were rescued. British prime minister Winston Churchill called it "a miracle of deliverance," though thousands were killed, and 50,000 captured by the Germans. Timbrell, who was given the Distinguished Service Cross, returned to Dunkirk six years ago for the final commemoration of Operation Dynamo. The Llanthony was hit the first time it crossed the Channel, but repairs allowed it to make two more trips. The vessel carried 300 men to safety. Crews on four fishing trawlers under Timbrell's command saved another 600. "We were just at the start of our lives," he told a reporter before the commemoration ceremony in 2000. "It was the most deep feeling, and you come to the point where you say, `War is the most futile way to solve problems because no one wins in the end.'" Later in life, it wasn't something he brought up unless specifically asked, said naval historian Wilf Lund. "He was a no-fuss sort of fellow and he never tooted his own whistle," said Lund, a retired naval captain. By the end of the war, Timbrell had been torpedoed and bombed and was one of only 26 sailors to survive the sinking of the HMCS Margaree. Originally from Vancouver, he settled in Nova Scotia after the war. Timbrell went on to command several other ships, including the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure. He was eventually promoted to the rank of rear admiral and served as the head of the navy before retiring in 1973. Canadian Press , whose bravery during the rescue of British troops 66 years ago made him the first decorated Canadian naval officer of World War II, has died. Timbrell, who died Tuesday, was a 20-year-old sub-lieutenant in May 1940 when he skippered the Llanthony, a yacht owned by a Scottish lord. It was one of 800 private boats commandeered by the British navy to evacuate as many men as they could from the beach at Dunkirk, across the English Channel from Dover. With the help of 222 battleships, 338,000 Allied troops were rescued. British prime minister Winston Churchill called it "a miracle of deliverance," though thousands were killed, and 50,000 captured by the Germans. Timbrell, who was given the Distinguished Service Cross, returned to Dunkirk six years ago for the final commemoration of Operation Dynamo. The Llanthony was hit the first time it crossed the Channel, but repairs allowed it to make two more trips. The vessel carried 300 men to safety. Crews on four fishing trawlers under Timbrell's command saved another 600. "We were just at the start of our lives," he told a reporter before the commemoration ceremony in 2000. "It was the most deep feeling, and you come to the point where you say, `War is the most futile way to solve problems because no one wins in the end.'" Later in life, it wasn't something he brought up unless specifically asked, said naval historian Wilf Lund. "He was a no-fuss sort of fellow and he never tooted his own whistle," said Lund, a retired naval captain. By the end of the war, Timbrell had been torpedoed and bombed and was one of only 26 sailors to survive the sinking of the HMCS Margaree. Originally from Vancouver, he settled in Nova Scotia after the war. Timbrell went on to command several other ships, including the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure. He was eventually promoted to the rank of rear admiral and served as the head of the navy before retiring in 1973. Canadian Press