Wordswolf

Howl and the World Howls With You.

Tag: River-class Destroyer

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 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

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

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

mautic is open source marketing automation