Navy

Attack on convoy SC-107
Navy

Attack on convoy SC-107

For a British-bound fleet and its under-equipped escort, early November 1942 brought pure carnage September and October 1942 were frustrating months for Germany’s mid-Atlantic U-boats. German Admiral Karl Dönitz’s staff attributed this to three factors: fair weather that made attacking difficult; a large number of novice U-boat captains commanding their first cruises; and the power of Allied radar. That said, German intelligence was good and Dönitz was determined to inflict heavy losses on the Allies. He knew that transatlantic convoys passed through a narrow corridor south of Newfoundland, so in late October he moved a 13-submarine wolf pack named Veilchen (violet) well inshore northeast of St. John’s to intercept eastbound convoys early in their passage. The plan worked ...
Navy

Navy: Distracting the pack

By the late summer of 1942, the Canadian navy was stretched thin. But the corvettes were still able to disrupt several U-boat attacks. Running the North Atlantic war was all about risk management, and things were better in the early fall of 1942. The rampage along the United States coast and in the Caribbean was over. In September, U-517 and U-165 ran amok in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and up the St. Lawrence River, but that was an anomaly. Operating convoys in a river—even one as wide as the St. Lawrence where it opens into the Gulf—left no scope for evasive routing. And with the technology of the day, the Royal Canadian Navy could not find the attackers. Stopping the convoys seemed prudent. Wolf packs were back in force in the mid-ocean air gap again by September, but in the la...
An unaffordable loss
Navy

An unaffordable loss

The sinking of HMCS Ottawa triggered a shift in the navy’s priorities The battle for convoy ON-127 was effectively over on Sept. 13, 1942, when HMCS Ottawa made contact in poor visibility with the relief destroyers about 400 miles east of Newfoundland. The RCN’s official history recorded Lieutenant Tom Pullen’s memory of that moment. “All was tranquil,” recalled Pullen. “The sea lay calm beneath a starry sky and the familiar swishing sounds of our bow wave fell gently away from the shoulders of the ships.” Ottawa was also moving slowly, “slipping along at ten knots,” trying to confirm the radar contacts that Lieutenant-Commander C.A. “Larry” Rutherford hoped were the destroyers HMCS Annapolis and HMS Witch. Visibility was so poor that Ottawa had to close to within 1,000 yards of Witc...
Surrounded by the wolf pack
Navy

Surrounded by the wolf pack

The battle to protect convoy ON-127 taught Allied navy commanders some tough lessons The sinking of the German submarine U-756 by HMCS Morden on Sept. 1, 1942, remained utterly unknown at the time. The only good news to drift home from distant waters in the late summer of 1942 was HMCS Oakville’s sinking of U-94 in the Caribbean. While Oakville’s hero Hal Lawrence went off on his PR jaunt, the war at sea took a decidedly sharp—and negative—turn for Canada. September began badly and ended worse. In the first week, U-517 and U-165 attacked convoy QS-33 in the lower St. Lawrence River, sinking several ships and the armed escort HMCS Raccoon. Then, after sinking the corvette HMCS Charlottetown in broad daylight just off Gaspé, Que., this pair of U-boats ran amok in the northern Gulf of S...
VE-Day in Pictures
Air Force, Army, Home Front, Military History, Navy, Remembrance

VE-Day in Pictures

Timeless images of relief and joy It’s over! The guns in Europe are silent and the troops are coming home. As the news marking the Allied victory in Europe spreads from east to west, so does the party. At the front, “men pinch themselves and feel they’re still alive,” CBC war correspondent Matthew Halton reports. In Halifax, a symphony of ships’ horns and whistles begins celebrations that travel like a wave overland to the West Coast, where air-raid sirens summon still-sleeping Vancouverites to join in the jubilation. Forgotten for the moment are the black armbands and the grim task ahead with Japan. Today—May 8, 1945—our part of the world is free.
Five U-boat kills in five weeks
Navy

Five U-boat kills in five weeks

In the summer of 1942, Canada’s escort fleet excelled at protecting supply convoys from German subs While the corvette HMCS Oakville battled the German submarine U-94 astern of convoy TAW-15 in the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico on Aug. 28, 1942, another German sub, U-511 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Friedrich Steinhoff, arrived on the scene. Steinhoff had been summoned by Oberleutnant Otto Ites’s sighting report, and he found the convoy by steering toward tracer rounds arcing through the night sky between Oakville and U-94 (see “Over the side: the courageous boarding of U-94,” Jan/Feb). U-511 reported contact with TAW-15 at about 4:15 a.m., about 15 minutes after U-94 sank, according to the Royal Canadian Navy’s official history, which differs from Oakville gunnery ...
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