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Margaret Brooke is the only Nursing Sister to have been named a Member (Military Division) of the Order of the British Empire during the Second World War for her heroic acts following the torpedoing and subsequent sinking of the SS Caribou on October 13, 1942 in the Cabot Strait off Newfoundland.

Even after 100 years, Margaret Brooke has found out you are never to old to be surprised.

The Victoria resident has learned that one of Canada's new arctic offshore patrol ships will be named in her honour, making it the navy's first vessel ever named after a living Canadian woman.

Ms. Brooke said she was blind-sided by the news.

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"I've been astounded," she said in a phone interview. "The navy doesn't just go around naming its ships after people."

But the choice is far from random. Last fall, the federal government announced it would name all six of its new arctic offshore patrol vessels after Canadians who have served in the navy "with the highest distinction and gallantry." The ships are being built as part of the government's national shipbuilding procurement strategy. The contract was awarded to Irving Shipbuilding Inc. in January.

Ms. Brooke, a native of Ardath, Sask., had studied "household science" at the University of Saskatchewan, but found herself working as a nurse in navy.

"I think just like everybody else, when the [Second World War] came along, we were all anxious to help out in some way. So I applied to the navy, and next thing I knew, I was on my way to Newfoundland."

She was a passenger aboard the ferry SS Caribou in October, 1942, when it was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Newfoundland.

She clung to a capsized lifeboat for hours awaiting rescue, using one arm to support her friend and colleague Agnes Wilkie, who ultimately died due to the frigid temperatures.

More than 70 years later, Ms. Brooke said she no longer talks about the sinking of the SS Caribou and the death of Ms. Wilkie.

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"It was traumatic. After all, you don't watch your friend die without being a little upset."

Ms. Brooke was named a member of the Order of the British Empire for her efforts. She remained in the navy another 20 years, becoming a senior officer. She retired to civilian life in 1962 and returned to Saskatchewan.

She studied paleontology at the University of Saskatchewan, where she received a doctorate.

Ms. Brooke said she had not heard from the navy since she retired more than 50 years ago.

Her niece, also named Margaret Brooke, said that when she was growing up, she was always awed at her aunt's story.

"Just unbelievable. That someone could be sound asleep and that a torpedo could hit your boat and within five minutes you're in the drink. It's amazing. Absolutely amazing," she said in an interview from her Vancouver home.

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"We're very grateful [for the honour] and surprised that something that happened in 1942, you'd think it would all be forgotten and then here it is, front and centre."

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