Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defense
Quarterdeck of HMCS Drumheller at Sea
In the writing of this volume the author has been given full access to relevant official documents in possession of the Department of National Defence; but the inferences drawn and the opinions expressed are those of the author himself, and the Department is in no way responsible for his reading or presentation of the facts as stated.
The Far Distant Ships"Those far distant, storm-beaten ships upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the dominion of the world."
--ALFRED THAYER MAHAN.
Mahan was writing of the army of Napoleon and the ships of Nelson. Yet his words apply unchanged to the war which began a hundred and thirty-four years after Trafalgar. When Hitler at the summit of his power looked westward from a conquered Europe, the long line of the Atlantic convoy and the grey menace of the Home Fleet rose, invisible and implacable, the barrier he was never to surmount.
Sea power made the conquest of the British Isles an essential for the mastery of Europe and a key to world rule. And sea power made that conquest an impossibility. Dingy, unseen tankers brought in oil for the Spitfires and Hurricanes over seas held open by the Royal Navy. Cargoes of food and supplies, rifles and cannon for the beaten armies returning from Dunkirk, came in by sea. Thereafter sea power--of the United States and Canada and of other nations as well as Britain, sea power moving both on wings and keels--made possible the gathering of mighty resources for the offensive. Sea power bridged the gulf between the old world and the new; linked farms and mines and factories, laboratories and blast furnaces and training camps, with the battlefronts. Sea power was the means of translating strength into accomplishment; the ability to mobilize and concentrate and thrust at the chosen time and at the vital point.
This book deals with the Canadian contribution to Allied sea power. On the Atlantic, throughout the longest and most crucial struggle of the war, Canada's navy grew to be a major factor. In almost every other naval campaign her ships
or men were represented; playing frequently at obscure, sometimes a brilliant part. Their work was a share--and no more than a share--of the national effort. The men of the merchant ships wrote an epic which will not be forgotten while the nation remembers its past; and men toiling ashore performed daily impossibilities. The story of our airmen and of our soldiers has already been told, in part. This book is written in comradely remembrance of them all. It may serve to demonstrate, however inadequately, the importance to this nation of the war at sea; to show how near to our lives and interests were "those far distant, storm-beaten ships."
Chapter One Eve of Battle 1 The Existing Navy Enemy Strength and the Possibilities of Attack 7 First Defensive Measures 9 Canadian Sea-Borne Trade 10 Canada and the British Shield 11 War Organization of Trade 11 Warship Movements 15 The First Convoy 17 Chapter Two The First Year 18 Early Developments 19 Sinking of Athenia and its Consequences 21 Early Escort Arrangements 23 Naval Expansion 24 Procurement of Ships 26 The Corvette 27 Asdic 29 The Destroyers to European Waters 32 Evacuation of St. Jean de Luz 34 Loss of Fraser 35 Retreat to the Northern Approaches 38 Assiniboine in the Caribbean 39 Chapter Three State of Siege 43 The United Kingdom in 1940 43 The Northwestern Approaches 46 The Arandora Star Rescue 47 Loss of Margaree 48 Early U-Boat Actions 50 Depth Charge Attack 52 Torpedoing of Saguenay 53 Destroyers for Bases 56 Reinforcements from Canada 57 The First Canadian-Built Corvettes 58 Prince Robert and Weser 59 Prince Henry -- Hermonthis -- Muenchen 62 Establishment of Newfoundland Escort Force 65 Chapter Four The Western Atlantic 66 Sea Transport --- Problems and Necessities 66 Expanding U-Boat Operations 67 Newfoundland Command 68 Trade and the Convoys 69 The Merchant Seamen 70 Division of Ocean Convoys 72 The Enemy 72 The Navy in June of 1941 74 First Operations from Newfoundland 75 Convoy SC-42 79 Chambly and Moose Jaw Sink a U-Boat 83 Loss of Levis 86 Autumn Convoy Battles 87 Winter Trials 88 Loss of Windflower 90 Restigouche's Christmas 91 Chapter Five Two More Oceans and a River 95 The U.S. Navy and the Western Atlantic 95 Integration of American and Canadian Commands 96 Effect of the Pacific War on the Western Atlantic 97 The Strain on the Escorts 98 Re-Organization 99 Loss of Spikenard 101 Campaign Along the American Seaboard 103 First Attacks in the St. Lawrence 107 Reasons for Secrecy Regarding Attacks 109 Pressure on the Ocean Routes 111 Sinking of P-514 113 The Seaboard and the St. Lawrence 113 Chapter Six "The End of the Beginning" 115 Second Campaign in the St. Lawrence 115 The Campaign in the Aleutians 122 Disposition of Canadian Ships 123 Function of the Canadian Navy 124 Growth and Development of the Navy 125 St. Croix's Kill 131 Skeena's and Wetaskiwin's Kill 131 Sackville's Encounters 134 Assiniboine's Kill 135 Oakville's Kill 137 Loss of Ottawa 138 Air Cover and the Weather 139 Convoy ON-154 139 Withdrawals for the Mediterranean 142 Chapter Seven "Operation TORCH" 144 Canadians for Combined Operations 144 Dieppe 145 Force J 147 The TORCH Corvettes 148 TORCH Landings 149 The Corvettes in the Mediterranean 151 Ville de Quebec's Kill 152 Sinking of Tritone 153 Mid-Ocean Groups to the Mediterranean 156 Loss of Louisburg 156 Regina's Kill 157 Loss of Weyburn 158 The Corvettes Return to the Atlantic 160 Chapter Eight Full Partner 161 Crisis in the Atlantic 161 Air Cover and the Support Groups 162 Doenitz for Raeder 163 Winter of 1942-3 163 Re-organization of Commands 166 Canadian Northwest Atlantic Command 167 The Peak of the German Effort 168 The Support Groups Arrive 171 Effects of Increased Air Cover 171 Hedgehog 173 Air and Sea Forces in Combination 174 The Clearing of the Convoy Routes 175 Minelaying in Home Waters 177 The Acoustic Torpedo 177 Decision in the Atlantic 181 Chapter Nine In Other Waters 184 Canadians "On Loan" 184 The Tribal Destroyers 187 Iroquois 188 Athabaskan 190 Air Attack on Iroquois Troop Convoy 190 Crew Trouble in Iroquois 191 Biscay Sweeps -- 1943 193 The Glider Bomb 194 Glider Bombing of Athabaskan 196 Biscay Actions 198 Glasgow and Enterprise 199 Landings in Sicily 203 Landing in Italy 213 The Landing Craft Return to England 214 Chapter Ten Gathering of the Giants 215 Operation OVERLORD 215 Operation NEPTUNE 215 The Policing of the Atlantic 215 A "Hunt to Exhaustion" 217 St. Laurent Fights a Fire 224 St. Laurent's Kill 226 Loss of Valleyfield 227 The Fleet Class Destroyers 229 Northern Air Strike 230 The NEPTUNE Minesweepers 232 Assembly of the NEPTUNE Corvettes 234 Landing Ships and Landing Craft 236 Destroyers and Frigates 237 Final Assembly 237 Chapter Eleven The Plan and the Preliminaries 239 The NEPTUNE Plan 239 The Weather and the Enemy 243 The Coastal Forces 245 Thee 29th Canadian M.T.B. Flotilla 246 The 65th Canadian M.T.B. Flotilla 248 Pre-Invasion Operations of the Tribals 250 Tribal Action of April 26, 1944 251 Tribal Action of April 29, 1944 253 Loss of Athabaskan 254 Disposition of Tribals for D-Day 258 The Menace of the U-Boats 258 Schnorkel 259 Anti-Submarine Dispositions 260 The Escort Groups 261 NEPTUNE Under Way 261 Chapter Twelve The Assault 267 The Minesweepers 267 Arrival of the Assault Forces 272 The LCA's Take Off 274 The Bombardment 275 Beach Obstructions 276 Beaching of the LCA's 277 Beaching of the LCI's 278 Un-Beaching and Return 281 Resumption of Bombardments and Minesweeping 284 Arrival of the Corvettes 285 Chapter Thirteen The Screening Forces 286 Re-allocation of Tribal Patrols 286 Tribal Action on June 9, 1944 288 The Escort Groups and the U-Boats 295 Teme in Collision 297 Escort Group 12 -- U-Boat Action 298 Escort Group 11 301 Haida's and Eskimo's U-Boat Kill 302 The 65th Canadian M.T.B. Flotilla 303 The 29th Canadian M.T.B. Flotilla 307 Chapter Fourteen The Build-Up 312 Return of the Landing Ships 312 Bombardment Missions of Fleet Destroyers 313 Employment of Landing Ships and Craft 314 Dangers and Difficulties of the Build-Up 317 The Storm of June 19, 1944 319 Minesweeping Continued 321 The Assault on Cherbourg 323 Bombardment by Enterprise 324 Withdrawal of Prince Henry and Prince David 325 R.C.N. Beach Commando 326 Operations of the Corvettes 327 Loss of Regina 329 Loss of Alberni 330 Chapter Fifteen "Wherever Wood Can Swim" 332 The 29th Canadian M.T.B. Flotilla 332 The 65th Canadian M.T.B. Flotilla 336 Operations of the Tribals 339 Escort Group 12 -- Operation DREDGER 341 Escort Group 11 -- U-Boat Kill 344 Escort Group 6 and Escort Group 9 345 Glider Bombing of Matane 345 St. John's and Swansea's U-Boat Kill 346 Operation KINETIC 347 Landing on Ile d'Yeu 353 Conclusion of NEPTUNE 358 Chapter Sixteen Far Waters and Near 360 Operation DRAGOON 360 Landings in Greece 365 Arrival in Athens 366 Relief Operations in Greece 368 Evacuation of Preveza 369 Northern Operations 371 Torpedoing of Nabob 372 The Fleet Destroyers in the North 376 Return of the U-Boats 379 Torpedoing of Magog 380 Torpedoing of Chebogue 380 Annan's Kill 381 Loss of Skeena 382 Attacks in Home Waters 384 Uganda Leaves for the Pacific 385 Chapter Seventeen Black Flags and a Setting Sun 386 Uganda Sails from the Mediterranean 386 U-Boat Operations -- 1945 386 Canadian Ship Dispositions -- 1945 388 Loss of Trentonian 390 Disaster at Ostend 390 La Hulloise's Kill 392 Loss of Guysborough 393 New Glasgow's Kill 394 Torpedoing of Teme 395 The Freeing of Bordeaux 395 Last Phase of U-Boat Operations 396 Loss of Esquimalt 397 Northern Strikes and the Russia Convoys 398 The Surrender Order to the U-Boats 402 Arrivals of Surrendering U-Boats 404 Discontinuance of Convoys 405 Last Missions and Departures 405 Plans for the Pacific 408 Pacific Operations 408 Return of Uganda 412 Chapter Eighteen "Goodbye, Brothers!" 414 Robert Hampton Gray 414 Canadian "On Loan" 417 The Channel Anti-Aircraft Guard 418 Motor Torpedo Boats, Gunboats and Fairmiles 418 Mine Disposal 419 Combined Operations 420 The Canadian Contribution to Naval Radar 422 The Naval Achievement 425 The Permanent Force and the Reserves 427 The Contribution of the Royal Navy 429 Battle Statistics 430 Canadian Naval Casualties 431 Demobilization 431 Appendix I Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve Divisions 436 Appendix II Principal Commands and Appointments 440 Appendix III Principal Ships of the Royal Canadian Navy, 1939-1945 452 Appendix IV Landing Craft in Operation NEPTUNE 500 R.C.N. Beach Commando "W" 501 Index 502
Quarterdeck of HMCS Drumheller at Sea Frontispiece Convoy Conference Facing page 24 Convoy at Sunset 25 Ice-Up Ship 96 Landing Survivors 97 Survivors of U.S.T. Chatham 113 Depth Charge Away 120 Depth Charges Exploding 121 Assiniboine's U-Boat 136 Corvette at Sea 137 Convoy in Bedford Basin, Halifax 160 Daily Operations Chart 161 German Survivors of U-Boat Sunk by St. Thomas 176 Survivors of HMCS Clayoquot 177 End of a Marathon Hunt 224 St. Laurent Coming Up on Surrendered U-Boat 225 Iroquois Laying a Smoke Screen 240 D-Day Briefing On Board HMCS Algonquin 241 Canadian Motor Torpedo Boats 248 Haida, Huron and Blyskawica 249 NEPTUNE Under Way 280 Landing at Bernières-sur-Mer 281 Landing in Southern France 360 Canadian LCA's at The Piraeus 361 Torpedoing of Nabob and HMS Bickerton 376 Sioux in Northern Waters 377 Disaster at Ostend 400 U-190 Surrendered 401 Robert Hampton Gray, V.C., D.S.C. 416 Haida, Iroquois and Huron Returning to Halifax 417
Maps and Diagrams
Canada in the World Front End Paper The North Atlantic--First Phase Between Pages 24-5 Hannover Intercepted Page 40 "State of Siege" Page 45 Operations of Prince Robert and Prince Henry Page 61 Diagram of Convoy and Escorts Page 80 Convoy Action, SC-42 Page 84 The Canadian and American Seaboard Facing Page 112 Attacks in the St. Lawrence Between Pages 120-121 The North Atlantic--Second Phase Between Pages 136-7 "Operation TORCH" Page 150 The Climax in the Atlantic Between Pages 160-1 Convoy Action, ONS-18 and ON-202 Between Pages 176-7 British Waters and the Bay of Biscay, 1943 Page 200 Landings in Sicily and Italy Page 208 Destruction of U-744 Page 220 Northern Waters, 1944 Page 231 Pre-Invasion Operations--Spring of 1944 Between Pages 248-9 Operation NEPTUNE Between Pages 280-1 Destroyer Action of June 9, 1944 Page 291 Channel and Biscay Area, 1944 Page 343 The Mediterranean Between Pages 360-1 Northern Waters Between Pages 376-7 Uganda in the Pacific Page 410 Silhouettes of Canadian Warships Pages 434-5 Canadian Naval Operations Back End Paper
Fairbairn Art Studios, Ottawa
Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation