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Category: Tin-Can Canucks (Page 1 of 2)

Tin-Can Canucks: Now on Sale

The long wait is over!

Tin-Can Canucks is officially on sale. Available through CreateSpace & Amazon you can find it online–and hopefully on the shelves of a book store near you.

The book’s foreword is by Vice-Admiral M.F.R. Lloyd, CMM, CD who is the current Chief of the Naval Staff and Commander of the Royal Canadian navy. It covers the history of the destroyer-type warship in the Canadian Navy from 1915 to 2016.

You can get your copy through these vendors:

Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from GoodReads
Buy from CreateSpace
Buy from Amazon
 For more information, see TinCanCanucks.com

 

Cheers,

Sean

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Yukon

(Save the featured image–from ShipSpotting.com, see below–photos and associated captions are from For Posterity’s Sake)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Yukon Specifications

Length: 366’
Beam: 42’
Draft: 13’ 6″
Displacement: 2380 tons

Laid Down: 25-10-1959
Launched: 27-7-1961
Commissioned: 25-5-1963
Paid Off: 3-12-1993

Armament: 4 x 3”/50 HA/LA guns, 2 x Limbo ASW mortar, homing torpedoes

HMCS Yukon

HMCS YUKON circa 1975 Courtesy of Robert Berbeck

The first Canadian warship to carry the name, HMCS Yukon was built by Burrard Dry Dock Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia.  When she was commissioned she was the third of the Mackenzie-class to enter service with the Royal Canadian Navy.

She sailed from the west coast to Halifax on July 27th, 1963 and would operate out of that port for the next 17 months.  On January 5th, 1965 she returned to Esquimalt to exchange crews with fellow Cadillac Destroyer HMCS Ottawa, which had been ordered to transfer to Halifax.

Cartoon about a collision between HMCS Yukon and USS Kitty Hawk.

Yukon, sister ship HMCS Mackenzie, and the supply ship HMCS Provider left Esquimalt on May 4th 1970, bound for Japan.  The pair of Mackenzie-class destroyers arrived in Hakodate on May 22nd, while their compatriot Provider went instead to Yokosuka.  During their deployment they undertook exercises with naval units from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.  The three Canadian ships also visited the ports of Kobe, Osaka, and Sasebo before returning home to Vancouver Island.[1]

After undergoing a mid-life refit in February of 1975, Yukon was transferred to Training Group Pacific where she took up the role of instructional vessel for Maritime Surface and Sub-surface (MARS) Officers.  She underwent her DELEX life extension refit at Barrow Yarrow Inc. in Esquimalt staring May 28th, 1984, and had her hull and machinery repaired to bring her up to as close to as new vessel as practicable.  The DELEX also saw replacement of sensor equipment no longer supported or maintained with more up to date equipment, and the addition of a set of lightweight ASW torpedo tubes.[2]  Yukon returned to service on January 16th, 1985.

The next year, she was one of three Canadian warships to visit Australia in celebration of the Royal Australian Navy’s 75th Anniversary.

Yukon today. Dive photos of the former HMCS Yukon at Mission Bay in 2013
Courtesy of Photographer: Michael Kazma © 2013
Copyright Owner: Michael Kazma / Shark Chums

Paid off on December 3rd 1993, Yukon was eventually sold to the San Diego Oceans Foundation.  On April 25th, 1999 she was towed from Vancouver, bound for San Diego where it was intended to sink her as a diver’s wreck on July 15th.  She would sink at the intended site a day early however, due to rough weather.[3]

[1]  (Barrie & Macpherson, 1996) p. 57

[2]  (Lynch, Twilight of the St Laurents, 1990) p. 189

[3]  (MacPherson & Barrie, Ships of Canada’s Naval Forces: 1910-2002, 2004) p. 259

Featured Image Via:

ShipSpotting.com
© Chris Howell

 

Cheers,

Sean

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Saguenay (I)

(photos and associated captions are from the Canadian War Museum website)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Saguenay Specifications

Length: 320’
Beam: 32’ 6”
Draft: 10’
Displacement: 1337 tons

Laid Down: 27-9-1929
Launched: 11-7-1930
Commissioned: 22-5-1931
Paid Off: 30-7-1945

Motto “A l’erte” (Ready to act)
Armament: 4 x 4.7” LA guns, eight 21” torpedo tubes, 2 x 2pdr AA guns

Destroyer Steam Turbine Engine

HMCS Saguenay and HMCS Skeena had steam turbine engines, one of which is seen here, that could drive them through the water at speeds of well over 30 knots (55 km/h).

The Canadian Government announced its intention to purchase two new destroyers in November 1927 to be built to Canadian specification in the United Kingdom. In February of 1928 two Canadian officers reviewed the plans for the new British Acasta (or A-class) destroyers. Several design changes were requested, including a more streamlined bridge structure and oil heating . In September 1928 the government tendered for the construction of these destroyers; fourteen British shipyards responded all of whom offered the necessary “Canadianized” fittings without appreciable extra cost. Of those fourteen Yarrow’s was the cheapest, but didn’t quite meet the specs laid down. Thornycroft’s bid was the next lowest at about £10,000 more, but their proposed machinery was much more compact and efficient. Thornycroft landed the contract to build HMCS Saguenay and Skeena, with both being laid down in late 1929. The total cost of the destroyers—including armament—would be £3,350,132

Saguenay would be the first made-to-order RCN warship when she was commissioned May 22, 1931 at Portsmouth. After her sister’s commissioning the two sailed for Halifax, and in September of 1931 she said up the Saguenay River to visit Chicoutimi.

HMCS Saguenay Entering Willemstad Harbour, Netherlands Antilles, 1934

During the 1920s and 1930s, Canadian destroyers like HMCS Saguenay, seen here entering a port in the Caribbean, conducted training exercises with ships from Britain’s Royal Navy.

Together with Champlain she took part in the Jacques Cartier Quartercenterary at Gaspe in August 1934 and in 1936 she escorted Great War veterans across the Atlantic to France for the dedication of the Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge. Along with her sister she would represent Canada at King George VI’s coronation the following year and in May 1939 she would escort the King and Queen up the St. Lawrence to Quebec City on their Canadian tour. This would be one of her last peacetime assignments.

Six days after the declaration of war, Saguenay and another of the River-class destroyers HMCS St. Laurent joined the escorting forces of convoy HX 1—the first fast convoy from Halifax to England. She spent the rest of the year and the early part of 1940 on patrol first from Kingston Jamaica and later from Halifax. In October 1940 she was assigned to Escort Group 10 based out of Greenock in Scotland. Two months later, while escorting convoy HG 47 from Gibraltar to England she was torpedoed by the Italian submarine Argo while west of Ireland. The torpedo had shattered the destroyer’s bows and killed 21 men, yet despite it all she made Barrow-in-Furness four days later under her own power. She wouldn’t be fit for service again until May of 1941.

HMCS Saguenay, 1931

HMCS Saguenay, photographed at the time of its commissioning in May 1931, was the first modern warship built specifically for the Royal Canadian Navy.

She put to sea to take part in screening the Home Fleet capital ships during the hunt for the Bismarck. After this she was recalled to Newfoundland, arriving in St Johns on June 7, 1941. In July she would escort Winston Churchill—aboard HMS Prince of Wales—from the conference with President Roosevelt in Placentia Bay to Iceland where she was detached to return to Newfoundland.

1942 was a hard year on the destroyer—it started in January when she suffered extensive storm damage which left her barely able to make it back to St John’s where she was laid up for three months for repairs. In November she was hit by the Panamanian freighter Azra severing her stern and causing the depth charges to detonate. The explosion sank the freighter, but luckily there were only two fatalities between both ships.

Deemed too expensive to repair her stern was sealed off and she was converted to a stationary training vessel and tender to HMCS Cornwallis. Ultimately paid off after VE Day, the first made-to-order Canadian destroyer went to International Iron & Metal in Hamilton for breaking in 1946.

Cheers,

Sean

The ‘Rolls-Royce Destroyers’ at Canadian Naval Review

I’ve been working on Tin-Can Canucks for several years, and have been saturating myself with Canadian Destroyer history, and part of what I’ve found so fascinating is the parallels between modern defence policy and vessel procurement challenges in previous eras.

The story of the first made-to-order warships for the Canadian navy (HMCS Saguenay and HMCS Skeena) is one of particular interest, as it covers all the things I like best–the evolution of a soverign Canada, the growing confidence of a Navy which had only recently avoided the budgetary axe, and a look into the early career of men who would make their mark on Canadian Naval policy in the not too distant future.

Tin-Can Canucks is almost too small a venue for all these stories, and I’ve had the immense privilege of seeing a separate article about these two ships published in the 2016 Summer issue of Canadian Naval Review.  Based on research done for the book, but separately written with a different view on it’s modern relevance I like to think it provides a good sense of the stories the books will present–even if from a more nostalgic perspective.

If you’re interested in current (and future) naval policy Canadian Naval Review is an excellent place to start–I’ve used it several times for reference in writing Tin-Can Canucks.

And if you’re interested, why not start with Volume 12, Issue 2–and an article titled: The ‘Rolls-Royce Destroyers’: Canada’s First Made-to-Order Warships

Cheers,

Sean

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Athabascan (II)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Athabascan (II)Specifications

Length: 377’
Beam: 37’ 6”
Draft: 11’ 2”
Displacement: 1927 tons

Laid Down: 15-5-1943
Launched: 4-5-1946
Commissioned: 20-1-1948
Paid Off: 21-4-1966

Armament: 6 x 4.7” LA guns, 2 x 4” HA guns, four 21” torpedo tubes, 4 x 2pdr , 1 x 12pdr 6 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns

Built by Halifax Shipyard Ltd., she was the last of the Canadian-built Tribals to complete, and the last Canadian Tribal to commission, entering the RCN in 1948—three years after the end of the war she had been designed to fight. After commissioning she took her time on trials and work ups before departing for her west coast station on May 15th 1948.  Due to an outbreak of poliomyelitis[1] Athabascan was quarantined upon her arrival in Esquimalt on June 29th.  This outbreak had resulted in the death of one crewman while on passage from Halifax.

Once the quarantine was lifted Athabascan and her sister HMCS Cayuga undertook a serious exercises and showed the flag along Canadian and American west coasts.  While in Esquimalt harbor in November of 1948 she was bumped by a fire tender, which caused some buckled hull plates.  She undertook a winter Caribbean cruise between January and May of 1949, after which she made further port calls in California and Alaska.  Between mid-September 1949 and mid-March 1950 Athabascan was in dockyard hands to be refitted for a training role.  This saw the replacement of her 4.7-inch twin gun mounting in Y position replaced with a pair of Squid anti-submarine mortars.  She also had her Action Information Center enlarged, and a pair of depth-charge throwers removed—although she retained her aft depth charge rail.  The intention was to have Athabascan join the Canadian Special Service Squadron on a cruise of European waters, but the outbreak of the Korean War saw the termination of the cruise on June 25th.

Athabascan and Cayuga were joined by HMCS Sioux and the trio escorted the cruiser HMCS Ontario from Esquimalt on their deployment to Korean waters.  After making calls at Pearl Harbor, Kwajalein and Guam, the Canadian ships arrived at Sasebo, Japan on July 30thAthabaskan’s deployment saw her undertake various duties including cruiser escort, interdiction of small costal transport craft, and gunfire support, including acting in support of the Inchon landings.  She grounded on December 4th while covering the Chinnampo evacuation, the damage causing subsequent engine issues.

After a period of maintenance and R&R in Hong Kong, she undertook inshore patrol and screening of the Colossus-class carrier HMS Theseus for much of February and March before taking up station on the Korean east coast.  She departed the war zone on May 2nd bound for refit in Esquimalt.

Upon completion of the refit she sailed from Esquimalt on October 29th for her third tour in Korean waters.  Taking up her assigned roles of screening and patrolling the first week of November, save for a brief respite in Hong Kong in May of 1953 she remained in Korean waters until the ceasefire on June 27th 1953. Athabascan remained on station until the peace was established; rescuing the crew of a downed helicopter and a Vought Corsair fighter in August and standing by to assist the stranded tanker Tongshu in October.

Athabascan arrived back in Canada for conversion to an anti-submarine destroyer escort  on December 11th, 1953 staying in dockyard hands until October 1954.  Like other Canadian Tribals she emerged armed with a pair of twin 4-inch gun mounts forward and a twin 3-inch/50 mounting aft alongside a pair of Squid anti-submarine mortars and four torpedo tubes.  Her anti-aircraft fit included four 40mm Bofors single mounts.  She also received a lattice foremast to support her new radar and radio antennas.  While on trials in December of 1954 she responded for a call for assistance by the oceanographic survey vessel Cedarwood which was in danger of foundering.

The first of October 1955 she grounded on Spanish Bank off Vancouver and had to be towed off by the tug Glendon—luckily she suffered only minor damage to her sonar dome.

Between 1955 and 1958 she undertook patrol duties off the Canadian west coast, including an unsuccessful submarine hunt off the British Columbia coast in June of 1957.

In January of 1959 Athabascan and Cayuga departed Esquimalt to join their fellow Tribal-class destroyers in forming an all-Tribal east coast squadron.  Arriving in Halifax on the 16th of February the two destroyers swapped crews with east coast St. Laurent-class destroyers HMCS Saguenay (II) and HMCS St. Laurent (II)—the crew of Athabascan assigned to Saguenay for the return voyage back to Esquimalt where Saguenay and St. Laurent would then be stationed.  In May of that year Athabascan was one of the escorts for HMY Britannia which was carrying Queen Elizabeth II to Canada for the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. [2]

On September 29th 1962 Athabascan responded to a request for help from a ditched Lockheed Super Constellation airliner, rescuing 48 people but later that year her tour of European ports was cut short by the Cuban Missile Crisis in October. The crisis saw the deployment of twenty-two anti-submarine surface vessels, two submarines, the carrier Bonaventure, all of “Bonnie’s” air wing as well as shore based  Grumman Trackers and Canadair Argus patrol aircraft.  Supported by the RCN’s axillaries and commanded by Vice Admiral K.L. Dyer the Canadian deployment on “Cubex” allowed for anti-submarine coverage of the majority of the Canadian and US east coasts while the USN’s blockade of Cuba drew American vessels award from their own coasts. [3]

In March of 1964 Athabascan undertook the rescue of 18 survivors from the stern of the Liberian-flagged tanker Amphailos which had foundered in the mid-Atlantic.

Athabascan was then paid off into reserve and used as a source of spares and equipment before finally being placed on the disposal list.  She departed Halifax under tow in July of 1969, bound for La Spezia, Italy to be broken up.[4]  She was the last of the Canadian Tribals to commission, and the last to be taken out of active service.  With her demolition, only her half-sister HMCS Haida remained—and by 1969 Haida was a museum ship on the Toronto waterfront.

[1]  (English, Afridi to Nizam: British FleetDestroyers 1937 – 43, 2001) p. 50.  This illness is more commonly known as Polio and is caused by the poliovirus, which is generally transferred by contaminated water.

[2]  (English, Afridi to Nizam: British FleetDestroyers 1937 – 43, 2001) p. 50

[3]  (German, 1990) p. 272

[4]  (English, Afridi to Nizam: British FleetDestroyers 1937 – 43, 2001) p. 51

Assiniboine Underway in 1982

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Assiniboine (II)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Assiniboine (II)Specifications

Length: 366’
Beam: 42’
Draft: 13’ 2″
Displacement: 2263 tons

Laid Down: 19-5-1952
Launched: 12-2-1954
Commissioned: 16-8-1956
Paid Off: 14-12-1988

Armament: 4 x 3”/50 HA/LA guns, 2 x Limbo ASW mortar, homing torpedoes

When Marine Industries Ltd. of Sorel, Quebec delivered HMCS Assiniboine (II) to the Royal Canadian Navy it was the first post-war warship built by that yard for the RCN which subsequently commissioned her the 16th of August 1956. Her arrival in Halifax on the 25th saw her assigned to the Third Canadian Escort Squadron.[1]  She, her squadron-mates and ships from the First Canadian Escort Squadron undertook a goodwill tour of North Europe ports in October and returned back in Halifax in mid-November.

With sister HMCS Margaree (II), Assiniboine took part in an International Naval Review at Hampton Roads, Virginia in June of 1957.

HMCS Assiniboine in swell

DND photo, courtesy of RCNA Peregrine.

She was transferred to Esquimalt in January of 1959 where she became part of the Second Canadian Escort Squadron.  She hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in mid-July when they travelled from Vancouver to Nanaimo, British Columbia.

In 1962 she underwent conversion to a destroyer helicopter escort (DHH) which saw her after end remodeled to include a flight deck and hangar.  The single stack was split in two each of which was outboard of the helicopter hangar.  To make room for the flight deck the aft 3-inch/50 mount and the Limbo anti-submarine mortars were removed.  Assiniboine was the first of her class to undergo conversion; much of the work was done by the Victoria Machinery Depot Company of Victoria, British Columbia.  The remainder of the work was undertaken by HMC Dockyard Esquimalt.

HMCS Assiniboine and Sea King Helicopter

This photograph shows two major postwar Canadian naval technology developments: operating large helicopters from relatively small ships, and the variable depth sonar. (courtesy http://www.warmuseum.ca/)

June 28, 1963 she recommissioned and departed for Halifax in September.  There she had the “Beartrap” rapid helicopter haul down equipment installed and became the trials vessel for this system.  In that capacity she spent two years chasing storms around the North Atlantic, purposely hunting for poor weather in which she could trial the “Beartrap” system.  Ultimately the trials were successful and the “Beartrap” became a common fitting on all future Canadian destroyers and frigates.[2]

In January 1975 she rendered assistance to the freighter Barma, rescuing her crew after the freighter began to take on water some 185 miles off Boston.

Assiniboine was selected for the Destroyer Life Extension Refit (DELEX) which she undertook entering dock at the Canadian Vickers yard in Montreal on April 23rd, 1979.  She returned to service in mid-November.

In June of 1981, Assiniboine was leading four other vessels NATO Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) out of Halifax harbour when she grounded on Point Pleasant Shoal in heavy fog.  It took several tugboats to get her free.  Her participation in a NATO exercise was thus canceled while she underwent a damage inspection and repairs.[3]

Assiniboine Limbo Well in 1956

Limbo well of HMCS Assiniboine in a photo dated October 1956. (Courtesy Rick E. Davis)

In 1984 she was assigned to escort the Tall Ships Race from Bermuda to Halifax during the early summer.  When the British sailing vessel Marques sank, Assiniboine took up a prominent role in the search for survivors.  She would receive the Chief of Defence Staff Unit Commendation for her efforts, becoming only the second ship in the RCN to receive it.

She returned to Halifax in July of 1984 having discovered fractures in her upper deck stringers and plating.  She entered dry-dock for repairs on July 17th at Marine Industries Ltd.’s Sorel shipyard—her birthplace—for a ten month refit.  This stretched out to seventeen months due to a strike at the shipyard.[4]

HMCS Assiniboine was decommissioned on December 14th, 1988, and taken out of service the following January.  After being surveyed post-decommissioning it was discovered that her steaming plant was in excellent condition, and as she was of similar configuration of the remaining steam-powered destroyers, it was decided to use her as the alongside steam training vessel, replacing HMCS St.Croix (II).[5]

She served as a floating classroom for technicians at the Fleet School for 6 years before being handed over to Crown Assets for disposal.  She subsequently sank in the Caribbean Sea while under tow to the breakers.  In 32 years while under commission she had sailed some 700,000 nautical miles.

[1]  Wartime RCN ships built by Marine industries’ Sorel yard included Flower-class corvettes Arrowhead, Bittersweet, Dunvegan, Fennel, Sherbrooke, Sorel, Calgary, Fredericton, Kitchener, La Malbaie, and Regina as well as Bangor-class minesweepers Brockville, Esquimalt, Transcona, and Trois-Rivières.  They would later build the  hydrofoil HMCS Bras d’Or in 1968 with their last ship for the Canadian Navy being the frigate HMCS Calgary which was commissioned in 1995.

[2] Known in other navies as a Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device (HHRSD) the “Beartrap” was developed by the RCN’s Experimental Squadron VX-10 in conjunction with Fairey Aviation in the 1960s.

[3]  (Cleaves, 1981)

[4]  (Barrie & Macpherson, 1996) p. 19

[5]  (Lynch, Twilight of the St Laurents, 1990) p. 192

HMCS Ottawa (I)

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Ottawa (I)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Ottawa (I) Specifications

Length: 329’
Beam: 33’
Draft: 10’ 2″
Displacement: 1375tons

Laid Down: 12-9-1930
Launched: 30-9-1931
Commissioned: 15-6-1938
Paid Off: 13-9-1942

Armament: 4 x 4.7” LA guns, eight 21” torpedo tubes, 2 x 2pdr AA guns

The first Canadian destroyer to carry the name HMCS Ottawa was launched as HMS Crusader at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard in 1931.  Like her sister HMS Comet (later HMCS Restigouche) she was commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1932 and assigned to the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla of the British Home Fleet.  She served with the Home Fleet until the Abyssinian Crisis in 1935 where she was deployed to the Mediterranean.  From then until her transfer to the RCN she saw various duties, including transporting the C-in-C Home Fleet and acting as tender to the battleship HMS Royal Oak during torpedo trials and attending the carrier HMS Courageous as a plane guard.[1]

HMCS Ottawa (I)

On 13 September 1942, while escorting convoy ON.127, in the North Atlantic, HMCS OTTAWA was torpedoed and sunk by U-91. One hundred and thirteen members of her ship’s company perished.

She was commissioned as HMCS Ottawa at Chatham Dockyard in the same ceremony as HMCS Restigouche.  Together they visited several Quebec and Maritime ports and on October 12 departed Halifax to transit the Panama canal and join the other two destroyers of the Western Division—HMCS Fraser and HMCS St. Laurent—in Esquimalt.  In February and March of 1939 this half-flotilla, joined by the two Eastern Division destroyers joined the RN’s 8th Cruiser Squadron in the Caribbean for exercises and training.  Later in the spring Ottawa and her sisters escorted the King and Queen from Vancouver to Victoria and back during their May 1939 state visit.

In August of 1939, war was imminent and Fraser and St. Laurent were ordered to the east coast with all due haste.  In November Ottawa and Restigouche would join them.  The Canadian destroyers would act as local escort until late May 1940 when four of Ottawa’s sisters were deployed to British home waters.  Ottawa was unable to join them immediately as she was undergoing repairs of damage sustained in an April collision with the tug Bansurf.  It wasn’t until late August that Ottawa would escort the troop convoy TC 7 to Britain.  Here she was sent to the Clyde to act as a local escort there.  On September 25th she had just departed the convoy OB 217 when she was ordered back—SS Sulairia and SS Eurymedon had been torpedoed and Eurymedon was still afloat but shipping water; her captain and two other officers refused to abandon the vessel.  Ottawa took aboard the other survivors and sprinted off to catch up with the convoy.  The next day she was ordered back to Eurymedon which was still afloat—and now surrounded by boats from Sulairia.  Ottawa took aboard the kit-and-kaboodle and headed for Greenock with an extra 118 souls aboard.[2]

She spent a fortnight having her aft torpedo tubes replaced with a 3-inch AA gun and then resumed her duties escorting convoys mostly in transit to and from the middle east.  In early November Ottawa and HMS Harvester[3] were dispatched to aid the freighter Melrose Abbey which reported being attacked by gunfire from a submarine on the surface.  The pair made several depth charge attacks with no apparent results.  Sunrise revealed a large oil slick spreading across the water and the destroyers departed the scene.  This was the last sign of the Italian submarine Faa Di Bruno—a “kill” not awarded to Ottawa until 1984 after closer review of both Italian and Admiralty records.

Ottawa would continue convoy escort operations out of Greenock until she was posted with her sister River-class destroyers to the Newfoundland Escort Force—newly established and to which Ottawa was assigned in June of 1941.  Between June of 1941 and September of 1942 Ottawa cycled between mid-ocean escort and local escort before joining the Newfy-Derry run.[4]

HMCS Ottawa (I) Ship's Company

HMCS OTTAWA – Ship’s Company – June 1942

September 5, 1942 saw Ottawa assigned to convoy ON 127, departing Londonderry for St. John’s Newfoundland.  Leading the escort was Lieutenant Commander A.H. Dobson aboard HMCS St. Croix as Senior Officer, Escort (SOE). On September 10 the convoy was found and attacked by the 13-boat wolf-pack Vorwärts around early to mid-afternoon local time.  Two tankers—Sveve and F.J. Wolfe—and a freighter—Elisabeth van Belgie—were torpedoed immediately by U-96.  Once survivors were rescued Dobson sent the corvette HMCS Sherbrooke to sink the Sveve and F.J. Wolfe by gunfire as the freighter remained afloat and under control.  He also positioned Ottawa astern to deter the attacking U-boat from shadowing the convoy.

The night that followed was one of confusion as the escort fought to scatter the wolf-pack, or at least force it to stay submerged and thus unable to follow the convoy.  Several more merchant ships were torpedoed that night .  Throughout the 11th and 12th the convoy struggled on, having 3 more merchant ships struck by torpedoes.  The convoy was diverted to a more westerly course the night of the 12th in the hope it would reach air-cover sooner.  Help had also been sent in the form of the British WW1-vintage destroyer HMS Witch and HMCS Annapolis—another Canadian Town-class destroyer like St. Croix.  These two ships arrived the night of the 13th and Dobson positioned them ahead of the convoy with HMCS Ottawa.  The sea was calm by this point, and the night clear, with Ottawa making ten knots and waiting for the two fresh destroyers to arrive.  Her CO, Acting Lieutenant Commander C.A. Rutherford was on the bridge and her second-in-command Lieutenant T.C. Pullen was aft at his action station near the depth charges.

HMCS Ottawa (I)

Photograph taken by Charles James Sadler, RCNVR. First Class Stoker, Official number V-4963, serving in the Canadian destroyer HMCS Columbia.

Just after midnight Ottawa’s older 286P radar detected what was believed to be Witch and Annapolis and making a challenge was hailed by Witch less than a kilometre away.  Ottawa altered to port to avoid a collision.  At that moment, the so-far invisible stalker—U-91—struck.  Two torpedoes struck the ship forward.  Pullen witnessed the explosion and heard debris falling onto the deck.  St Croix dashed to the scene and into U-91’s sights but the torpedo fired at St. Croix struck Ottawa instead, finishing her off.  Lt. Pullen and 68 others were rescued but five officers—including Lt. Cmdr. Rutherford—and 109 other crewmen were lost.

Tragically, Ottawa may have avoided her fate had she a better radar outfit.  Type 286 was known for its limitations, and the centimetric set Type 271 likely would have detected the skulking U-boat.  Before she sailed with ON 127 Ottawa’s Gunnery and RDF officer Lieutenant L.B. Jenson was notified by the dockyard that a new Type 127 set was to be installed aboard the ship and when it arrived alongside Jenson informed the CO. Lt. Cmdr. Rutherford—apparently under the impression that Jenson has ordered the installation himself—counter-manded the modification order and had it canceled; Ottawa sailed with her obsolete radar.[5]  Lt. Jenson survived the sinking of HMCS Ottawa.

[1]  (English, 1993) p. 49

[2]  (MacPherson & Butterley, River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, 2008) p. 50

[3] Harvester was a H-Class destroyer originally built for Brazil as Jurura but taken over by the Royal Navy when hostilities began.  She was a near-sister to HMS Hero—the destroyer that would eventually be commissioned in the RCN as HMCS Chaudière

[4]  (MacPherson & Butterley, River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, 2008) p. 51

[5]  (Douglas, Sarty, & Whitby, No Higher Purpose: The Official Operational History of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War, 1939-1943, 2004) p. 515

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Gatineau (I)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Gatineau Specifications

Length: 329’
Beam: 33’ 3”
Draft: 10’ 10″
Displacement: 1405 tons

Laid Down: 23-3-1933
Launched: 29-5-1934
Commissioned: 3-6-1943
Paid Off: 10-1-1946

Armament: 3 x 4.7” LA guns, four 21” torpedo tubes, 6 x 20mmOerlikon AA guns, Hedghog ASW mortar

Unique amongst the Canadian River-class destroyers, HMCS Gatineau—built as HMS Express by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Wallsend-on-Tyne—had been originally fitted as a minesweeper, and had twin sponsoons aft for the mine rails (never carried in Canadian service).  She would be the sole E-Class destroyer to serve in the RCN.

HMCS Gatineau (I)HMS Express was commissioned into the Home Fleet November 6, 1934 and assigned to the 5th Destroyer Flotilla.  She had her gun mounts adjusted at Sheerness between December 1934 and January 1935.  During the Abyssinian crisis she was detached to the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria where she served until March 1936, after which she returned to Portsmouth for a refit until May. After refitting she was posted back east to Gibraltar for two months, returning to home waters for the remainder of 1936.  The first three months of 1937 Express undertook Non-Intervention Patrols off the Spanish coast, returning to the UK for a brief period of repairs and then two months of minelaying trials.

Having completed a refit in Portsmouth in October 1937 she suffered a fire in her forward boiler room, which caused extensive damage to her electrical cables and necessitating further repairs.  She spent some time in home waters and patrolling out of Gibraltar until returning to Portsmouth to operate as a minelayer from August to October 1938.  After a short refit there she returned to Gibraltar and on March 21 1939 she escorted the ferry Cote D’Azur and its passengers—the French President and his retinue—to Britain for a state visit.

She was relieved of duty with the 5th Destroyer Flotilla by the J-Class destroyer HMS Janus and was selected for conversion to a Boys’ Training Ship and aircraft co-operation vessel, but ultimately these plans fell through.

HMS ExpressWhen war broke out she was assigned to Immingham and joined the 20th Destroyer (Minelaying) Flotilla on its formation.  Her first offensive minefield was laid at a suspected exit of the German mine barrage in the North Sea.  Subsequently she and HMS Esk, HMS Intrepid and HMS Ivanhoe laid 240 mines on in the Ems estuary the night of December 17th and another barrage of 164 off the Hook of Holland with the same comrades (less Intrepid) the 15th of May.  Prior to the operation off the Hook of Holland Express had collided with a trawler and had to be repaired in Hartlepool in April.

During the “Miracle of Dunkirk” Express made six trips, evacuating over 3,500 troops and was the second-last vessel to leave Dunkirk.

On August 31, 1940 Express was one of several destroyers laying a defensive minefield 40 miles off Texel.  At just past 11:00 p.m. that day she struck a mine just abreast her B-mount.  Everything forward frame 52 was demolished and 4 officers and 53 other crew were killed.  It took some two and a half hours before she was mobile again—and then only backwards.  She spent several hours plodding back to British waters stern first (having unfortunately left behind 9 of her men who would be taken prisoner once rescued) before she was found by HMS Kelvin and HMS Jupiter.  She was first taken in tow by Kelvin, but the tow broke after some 90 minutes and she was then taken in tow by HMS Jupiter to Hull, where she arrived early evening September 9.

Her reconstruction at Chatham would last until October of 1941.  After passing trials post-repair she joined HMS Eclectra to escort HMS Prince of Wales to the Far East.  They left the Clyde October 25, 1941 and sailed to join HMS Repulse, her savior HMS Jupiter and sister HMS Encounter.  When Imperial Japanese Navy carrier strikes sank Prince of Wales and Repulse, Express was able to rescue nearly a thousand of the 2,081 men who survived the sinkings.  She then took over escort duties for “China Force” between Singapore and Java but in February suffered a boiler room fire that caused extensive damage to her electric cabling, fuel tanks and bulkheads.  She continued operations until she could be repaired and refitted in Simonstown between late April and Late June 1942 thus missing the Battle of the Java Sea and the attack on Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

HMS Express H61After returning to duty she joined the Eastern Fleet’s 12th Destroyer Flotilla, and she served as an escort to the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious during the landings at Majunga, Madagascar in September of 1942.  She returned to England in February of 1943 and went into refit at Liverpool until June 2, 1943.  Upon her emergence she was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Gatineau on June 3, 1943 having been given to Canada as a gift.[1]


Gatineau
completed her work-ups at Tobermory and was then assigned to Escort Group C-2 in Londonderry to join convoy ON 191 as escort on July 2.  As the German U-Boats had suffered a serious check in May of 1943, Gatineau found her convoy escort work reasonably quiet until the combined convoy action of ON 202/ONS 18 in September of that year.

The U-boats had returned to the Atlantic with a vengeance—and a new weapon.  The Acoustic torpedo (known to the British as the GNAT) carried a new danger; it was able to run a vessel based on the noise made by that ships screws.  As escort vessels ran faster than merchant men their screws made more noise at speed—the GNAT was designed to kill escorts.  And it did that well.

Between September 20 and September 23 20 U-boats attacked the combine convoy.  The success of the GNAT could be seen in the fact that only six of 63 merchantmen were lost.  The convoy escort lost three ships sunk (including HMS St. Croix)  and one damaged.  The loss of St. Croix was especially bitter, as she and her Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander A.H. Dobson, DSC, RCN has been a successful U-boat killing team for a Town-class destroyer.

Escort Group C-2 began to be employed as a support group in December of 1943.  In this manner it didn’t escort convoys directly, but instead joined convoys specifically to hunt down U-Boats detected by ASDIC (sonar) or other means, thereby freeing up the close escort vessels to continue with the convoy.  In March of 1944 C-2 joined convoy HX 280 which had been attacked by a substantial wolf pack.  Gatineau made ASDIC contact with one of them the morning of March 5, and after a 32 hour hunt, U-744 was sunk.  Gatineau however couldn’t enjoy this success as she had already been called away to assist another convoy under attack.. [2]

She joined Escort Group 11 in Londonderry in late April with her River-class sisters, HMCS Chaudière, HMCS Kootenay, HMCS Ottawa (II) and HMCS St. Laurent.  These fiver were detailed to patrolling the west end of the English Channel during the lead up to D-Day and after the invasion.  Starting June 5 they kept a sharp eye out of U-boats attempting to attack shipping vital to landing and supporting the Normandy Invasion.  Gatineau didn’t stay long however—she left in early July bound for Halifax to have urgent boiler repairs completed.  She would be in refit there until March of the next year, after which she sailed across the Atlantic once more to work up in Tobermory before re-joining EG 11 (now consisting of HMCS Assiniboine and HMCS Saskatchewan along with veteran member HMCS Kootenay).

HMCS GatineauEG 11 continued their patrols for the remainder of the war and after until all U-boats had been surrendered (or scuttled) and accounted for.  Gatineau would head home to Canada after this—briefly stopping tin Greenock to embark repatriated Canadian naval personnel.  She made two subsequent round trips to Greenock on similar “trooping” runs before she was assigned to the Canadian West Coast to become a training ship for HMCS Royal Roads in August.  Despite this plan, and an oceanographic survey she took part in in November she was laid up and decommissioned January 10, 1946.

Apparently sold for scrap and broken up in late 1946 there is some indication she may have been scuttled as a breakwater in Royston, British Columbia in 1948.[3]

[1]  (English, 1993) p. 74

[2]  (MacPherson & Butterley, River Class Destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, 2008) p. 96

[3]  (MacPherson & Barrie, Ships of Canada’s Naval Forces: 1910-2002, 2004) p. 51

Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Buxton

(photos and associated captions are from the Navsource Naval History Website)

This post is another of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.  These excerpts are presented as they’ve been developed and may not be in chronological (or any logical) order.

HMCS Buxton Specifications:

Length : 314’ 3″
Beam: 30’ 9”
Draft: 9’ 3″
Displacement: 1190 tons

Laid Down: 20 April 1918
Launched: 10 June 1918
Commissioned : 4 November 1943
Paid Off: 2 June 1945

Armament: 2 × 12pdr LA guns; one 14″ Torpedo Tube

The 'Town' class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

The ‘Town’ class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

HMCS Buxton began life as USS Edwards. She was built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at their Squantum, Massachusetts shipyard and named after Midshipman William W. Edwards.  Edwards was an officer of the US Navy during the War of 1812 assigned to USS Argus when he was killed in action against HMS Pelican 14 August 1913.  The ship bearing his name was launched 10 October 1918 by Ms. Julia Edwards Noyes, Midshipman Edwards uncle’s great granddaughter.  USS Edwards was commissioned on April 24, 1919 under the command of Commander P.L. Wilson.

In May 1919 Edwards was assigned to transport seaplane spares to St. John’s, Newfoundland as part of the historic first transatlantic seaplane flight by the US Navy.  Later that month she sailed to European waters to take up duties with the Food Administration and reporting to the Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe.  After arriving in Gibraltar she joined the escort of USS George Washington, the former ocean liner carrying President Woodrow Wilson to Brest, France.  Subsequently Edwards visited England and Germany before arriving back in the United States in late August.

The 'Town' class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

The ‘Town’ class destroyer HMS Buxton (ex-USS Edwards, DD-265) showing her well worn paintwork while serving with B6 Escort Group date and location unknown.

In September she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet and upon arrival at San Diego she was placed in reduced commission with a minimal complement.  In February of 1920 she moved to Puget Sound Navy Yard only to return to San Diego a year later still in reserve and only occasionally at sea for gunnery practice.  Finally in June of 1922 she was placed out of commission.

Edwards was recommissioned in December of 1939 to take up Neutrality Patrol duties.  She underwent an overhaul on the west coast before traveling east in March of 1940, making port in Galveston, Texas.  She continued to patrol the Gulf of Mexico until the fall of 1940 when she was selected for transfer to the Royal Navy and was handed over in Halifax on October 8, 1940.

Commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Buxton she set out to cross the Atlantic on her way to Devonport for refit when she was delayed in St. John’s, Newfoundland with serious defects.  Back to Halifax she went and repairs weren’t completed until March 1941.  Further defects arose and ultimately Buxton would go to Boston for a two month refit starting in July.  Upon her return she was assigned for local escort work until she joined the troop convoy TC 14 and crossed the Atlantic headed for the Clyde to join EG-26.  She wasn’t with that posting long before more defects cropped up and she was in Chatham dockyard for repairs and refit in November 1941 not to emerge until February 1942.  While working up after this period she grounded and subsequently those repairs kept her idle until the end of May.

HMS Buxton (H96) off Liverpool on May 22, 1942. Source: Imperial War Museum Admiralty Official Collection by Tomlin, H.W. (Lt), Photo No. © IWM(A 8658).

Finally back at sea she joined Escort Group B6 undertaking convoy and individual ship escort duties out of Liverpool until August 1943 when she was posted back to Canada to join the Western Local Escort Force (WLEF) out of Halifax.  WLEF held the operational responsibility of escorting convoys between the ports of New York and Halifax out to the Western Ocean Meeting Point (WOMP) which was east of St. John’s, Newfoundland where WLEF handed off responsibility to the Mid-Ocean Escort Force (MOEF).

HMS Buxton served on this rout for several months until her persistent defects required she return to Boston for a three-month refit in December.  In March 1943 she rejoined WLEF as part of the newly formed escort group W-1, but finally her ongoing mechanical issues and defects drove the RN to offer the Royal Canadian Navy Buxton for static training purposes.  In this manner she joined the RCN as HMCS Buxton on 4 November 1943—the last of the Canadian Town’s commissioned.  She arrived at Digby, Nova Scotia in December and  continued to serve as a static training vessel until decommissioned and sold for scrap 16 January 1945.  She was broken up in Boston that same year  after an undistinguished wartime career in which she appeared to spend more time in dock under repair than at sea.

Prelude to the Tin-Can Canucks: HMCS Grilse (I)

(photos and associated captions are from the Canadian War Museum website)

This post is the first of a series of excerpts from my book Tin Can Canucks.  As the book is still under development these posts should be considered as part of a work in progress.

HMCS Grilse (I) Specifications:

Length : 205’
Beam: 18’ 6”
Draft: 9.2’
Displacement: 287 tons

Laid Down: 1912
Launched: 1912
Commissioned : 15-07-1915
Paid Off: 10-12-1918

Armament: 2 × 12pdr LA guns; one 14″ Torpedo Tube

HMCS Grilse on Convoy Duty - Arthur Lismer

Looking forward along HMCS Grilse’s long, narrow hull, war artist Arthur Lismer‘s print captures Grilse’s destroyer-like shape and high speed.

Only five years old, and facing the prospect of German U-boats in Canadian waters—and without destroyers for protection—the Royal Canadian Navy set about acquiring private yachts for use as patrol and escort vessels. One of these was a 202 foot steam turbine yacht by the name of Winchester. To avoid running up against the American’s neutrality, several Canadian yacht owners privately purchased boats from Americans and then traded them to the RCN. This is the manner in which Grisle came to fly the white ensign in 1915.

HMCS Grilse as SY Winchester was one of a family of fast steam yachts used for commuting by P.W. Rouss. She was designed by Cox & Stevens and built by Yarrow along the sleek torpedo boat destroyer lines—which in conjunction with her Parson’s steam turbines could drive her up to 34 knots in good weather.
In an odd quirk of fate, Mr. Rouss commissioned the construction of another yacht named Winchester (the fourth), only to have it pressed into service with the US Navy in 1917—and she would later see wartime service with the Canadian Navy in 1940 as HMCS Renard . In all, three of the 4 Winchesters owned by Rouss would see military service with various navies at least once in their life.

Although not a destroyer in the truest sense, having been designated a Torpedo Boat she was tasked with many of the same escort and patrol duties in Canadian waters as Royal Navy torpedo boat destroyers (those of an earlier vintage than the front-line fleet’s destroyers represented by the M and R classes ). In that respect, she could be seen as the precursor of the navy’s destroyer force.

HMCS Grilse at Speed

HMCS Grilse, seen here steaming at high speed, was the Royal Canadian Navy’s closest ship to a destroyer during the First World War.

She arrived in in Canada and was commissioned the middle of July 1915 and after arriving at the Canadian Vickers shipyard in Montreal she was converted from a luxury yacht to a torpedo boat by the addition of a pair of 12-pounder (3-inch) quick firing guns and a 14-inch torpedo tube (located aft in place of the former salon/deck house). Additionally care was taken to de-store the ship’s fine china and other luxury items—although the wood fittings and other décor remained, leaving one to wonder how difficult life aboard the ship was in good weather!

Although she saw no U-boat during the war, Grilse was much in demand as an escort for convoy’s arriving and departing Halifax (a major Royal Navy base at the time). By October of 1915 she was patrolling off Cape Breton where she hunted for a reported U-boat in and around Little Bras d’Or Bridge and took part in an abortive U-boat trap off Cape Dauphine. The winter of 1915-1916 Grilse was loaned to the British Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies station based in Bermuda. She would spend her time in the Caribbean undertaking anti-submarine patrols out of Jamaica. Her trip south was complicated by her high fuel consumption (3000 gallons—over 11,000 litres—of fuel oil a day at cruising speed) which left her 150 nautical miles out of Bermuda almost out of oil. She had used more than 13,000 gallons of fuel oil in her passage leaving Grilse to be towed in to Ireland Island Bermuda by the cruiser HMS Cumberland. After several quiet months in fine weather she returned to Canada—again short of fuel and needing to be towed into port.

Her patrols off Cape Breton during 1916 once more showed her lack of fuel economy and so she was pulled from her posting at Sydney, Nova Scotia to report back to Halifax where she would be reserved for escorting important vessels into and out of the port—with the stipulation that she couldn’t exceed 13 knots as a means of limiting her oil consumption.

Torpedo Practice, HMCS Grilse

These photographs show HMCS Grilse taking part in a torpedo firing exercise, a type of practice important for maintaining the ship’s fighting efficiency.

Once again she was loaned to the Royal Navy for the winter and setting out for Bermuda with extra barrels (some 2,000 gallons) of oil lashed to her upper deck Grilse departed Halifax December 11, 2016. She would never complete her passage to the Caribbean. Running into a gale near Sable Island the former yacht nearly foundered as she was repeatedly swept by green seas. The oil barrels were jettisoned, but several crew members were lost as they were washed overboard—including one of the signalmen who was attempting to repair the radio antenna damaged by the gale.  When one of the engine room skylights was smashed open the sea poured in—some four feet of water being shipped in the engine room giving the vessel a 20° list to starboard. Through dogged determination, a long night of bailing and not a little luck Grilse made it into Shelburne, Nova Scotia December 14 with little in the way of free board. In addition to the men washed overboard she had lost 3 lifeboats and a torpedo reload (including the warhead but excluding the gyro ).

Refitted and back to sea by May 10, 1917 to return to her anti-submarine patrol work, she would see no further adventures. She was likely laid up during the winter of 1917-1918 with a caretaker crew (her thin steel hull wouldn’t have fared well against thick maritime ice). By the Armistice she was little used having become very expensive for upkeep and for the limited local patrols.

Grilse was still with the navy when HMCS Patriot and HMCS Patrician joined the ranks of Canada’s naval vessels. She was however no longer in commission, having been paid off in 1918.

Eventually sold to Solomon Guggenheim in 1922, she foundered in a gale in 1938.

Cheers,

Sean

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