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HMS Nene is mentioned in these newspaper stories. A third account of the sinking of U257 is from White Ensign, Black Pit - By Gary McGregor
A further account is given in 1990 by a member of the Waskesiu crew, George Devonshire, who not only watched as Tweed was hit with the torpedo from U-257, but was operating the Hedgehog while HMCS Waskesiu and others hunted and destroyed this U-boat.
Wartime Report of U-257 Sinking
Memories of this Event
55 Years Later
Rescued after Sub Polished Off
Globe & Mail, April 5, 1944
Ottawa, April 4 (CP) - Nineteen days after leaving a fitting-out berth as the first Canadian frigate, H. M. C. S. Waskesiu -- pronounced Was-ka_sue --recently destroyed a German U-boat involved in the north Atlantic and brought back nineteen survivors as evidence.
Depth charges wounded the sub and forced it to the surface. A dead-eye gun crew applied the finishing touch. The crew shot away the conning tower, cutting off the U-boat gunners from their weapon. Germans who survived the withering fire plunged into the sea to be pick up by the frigate and her sister ship of the Royal Navy, H. M. S. Nene.
Fifteen minutes after the sub had been forced to the surface the shattered raider tipped up almost vertically and disappeared into the murky depths .
Skipper Recalls Incident.
The Waskesiu's captain -- Lieutenant Commander James Philip Fraser of Halifax -- told of the surface of action that followed the depth charge blossoms: "It surfaced at a good rate of speed about 1,800 yards away and almost dead ahead. We illuminated it immediately with star shells and searchlights.
"Then we opened up with everything we had. The range that closed to about 1,400 yards. It was wonderful gunnery. Our number one Oerlikon never wasted a cartridge; they were all dead on the conning tower. When the sub came into position number two Oerlikon picked it up and blasted it. A bunch of Germans who piled out of the conning tower were swept off. They never had a chance to reach their guns.
"Our four-inch guns were perfect. They had four hits on the conning tower, each scoring a bull's eye."
Intended to Ram.
Was this soon then tried to polls for ramming up the wall was inside returning circle quotation I thought there was a possibility that we might hold for a long side, but couldn't get near her.
Waskesiu Then tried to close for ramming, But the wall to was inside her turning circle: Quotation mark have fought there was a possibility that we might hold her a long side, but couldn't get near her."
Searchlights from the Nene, which had come up during the action revealed
the few survivors thrashing in the water. Waskesiu picked up four members
of the U-boat's crew. Nene, senior ship of the group, commanded by Cmdr.
John Dudley Birch, rescued fifteen, including one officer.
Germans forced to take to the water could be heard crying: "Hello, kamerad! Hello, kamerad!" in the darkness.
When the action was over was Waskesiu lowered one of her whalers in an effort to rescue other Germans, but because of rising sea and a strong drift the attempt had to be abandoned.
When the German prisoners were taken on board Canadian and British ships, they cringed like men who expected blows, said a naval release. The most amazing thing to be officers of the two ships was the attitude of their own crews.
"The prisoners were no sooner on board then my men were brushing the wet hair out of their eyes, helping them off with their wet clothes and wrapping them in blankets," said the Canadian officer. "After that the crew became quite friendly with the Germans and we were astounded one night to have one of the man make an appeal to have the prisoners allowed to go down on the mess deck and listen to the radio."
Only one of the prisoners was a rabid Nazi and he kept repeating, "England kaput," (finished). All the Germans were young. The average age was 22 in the oldest was 26. Only one was a volunteer; the rest where conscripts. All had the impression that Canadians were either cowboys for Indians.
(The ship is named after lake Waskesiu in prince Albert National Park, about 50 miles north of Prince Albert, and has been "adopted" by its citizens.)
Formally in the merchant service and one time Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, Lt.-Cmdr. Fraser is a veteran skipper. Waskesiu is his eighth command since he joined the Canadian Navy in September, 1939.
First lieutenant in Waskesiu was Lieut. John Lincoln, Calgary. Other officers included: Lieut. Jack Holmes, Victoria; Lieut. Edward Williams, Victoria; Lieut. A. A. McLeod, Glace Bay, N.S.; Lieut. James Farmer, Windsor, Ontario; Lieut. George Manson, Vancouver; Lieut. J. F. Rennie, Victoria; Lieut. Peter Nares, Winnipeg; Lieut. Donald McPhee, Bala, Ontario; Surgeon Lieut. Ronald H. McFarlane, and Sub-Lieut. Norman Irvine, both of Winnipeg.
If there were any "stars" in the grim game which the Waskesiu played and won they where the members of her No. 1 and No. 2 gun crews. Gunner on the No. 1 gun was AB. Thomas Stevenson, Mount Dennis, Ont. His loader was AB. William Booth, Windsor, Ont. On No. 2 gun were AB. William Knox, Calgary and AB. Arthur White, South Lancaster, Ontario.
Picture 1 shows Vice-Admiral Percy W. Nelles, R.C.N. Senior Canadian Flag Officer (Overseas) congratulating Lieutenant Commander J. P. Fraser of Halifax, captain of the Waskesiu, upon the successful battle.
Picture 2 shows the No. 1 Oerlikon gun crew. At the gun is AB. Thomas Stevenson of Mount Dennis, Ontario . His loader is AB. William Booth of Windsor, Ontario. This pair never wasted a cartridge and the first bursts from their gun were dead center on the conning tower.
On Page 13 of the second section are three more pictures under the
Pictures 1 and 2 show the gun crews in action: P. O. Walter Ritchie, acting gunners mate Winnipeg; AB. Roy Venner, New Toronto; LS. Arthur Wail, Midland; AB. Kieth Buse, Kamloops, B.C.; LS. Bill Gibbs, captain of the crew; AB. Wilfred Saint Peter, Leamington. On the right is Signalman Ken Worsencroft, Mimico, who illuminated the sub after depth charges had forced it to the surface.
Pictures 3: Here is that trim H.M.C.S. Waskesiu, first frigate ever to be built in a Canadian shipyard, that attacked the submarine, and sank it with such precision fire that the U-boat's crew members were unable to man their guns.
Ottawa, July 20, (CP) The navy announced today nine awards--including two Distinguished Service Crosses--to officers and men of the Canadian frigate Waskesiu for "good service in the destruction of an enemy submarine."
The sinking of the U-baot, which occurred last winter in the north Atlantic, had been announced previously.
Lieutenant J. H. Lincoln of Calgary, executive officer of the Waskesiu.
Distinguished Service Medal
AB. John H. Rickard of Port Arthur.
AB. Thomas Stevenson of 22 Cobalt Street, Toronto.
A B. B. M. Stoner of Brantford, whose wife lives at 36 Burgess Avenue, Toronto.
Mentioned in Dispatches
Lieutenant James Farmer of Windsor Ontario.
Engine-room Artificer (third class) J. G. O'Brien of Montreal.
P. O. M. G. T. Fortune of Prince Rupert, BC
Acting P. O. A. F. McGee of Liderton, Ontario whose wife lives at Halifax.
In each case the citation read: "For good service in the destruction of an enemy submarines."
First to Sink Sub
The Waskesiu was the first Canadian frigate to sink in Germany U-boat.
The action took place last winter during the dark of early morning when the undersea raider attempted to attack the convoy which the Waskesiu was escorting. Depth charges drove the U-boat to the surface, where it was illuminated by star shells and searchlights.
The Waskesiu then opened up with her Oerlikons and four-inch guns, and
fifteen minutes later the submarine tipped up almost vertically and plunged
down stern first. The Waskesiu picked up four members of the U-boat's
crew, while H. M. S. Nene, senior ship of the group, rescued fifteen
others, including an officer.
The article is accompanied by four photographs of medal recipients.
OF THE ATLANTIC
In March 1944, Percy Segal, a stoker on the frigate HMCS Stettler, found himself in Dover, waiting for the arrival of a convoy that was to be escorted to Gibraltar. Shore leave was granted the crew—leave that was restricted to the sound of the ship’s recalling whistle.
Segal and his friend, John Lemmick had other ideas. They went to Folkestone, a few miles distant. “We never did hear the recall,” said Segal.
The Stettler having sailed without them, the bemused sailors reported to naval authorities. They were promptly assigned to the Gibraltar-bound Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent. Segal was to rue his misadventure to Folkestone. “We had been at sea about ten hours and I had just come off watch and was curled up in my hammock when the torpedo struck. You have heard of people’s hair standing up on end. Well, mine actually did. I picked myself off the deck and made my way topside where the crew was abandoning ship. “The torpedo had hit the engine room where I had been a few minutes earlier and killed the entire complement. I managed to grab a Carley-float and floated around for several hours. An old freighter which was straggling miles behind the convoy, picked me up.”
The first of the new breed of Canadian-built River class frigates was HMCS Waskesiu (K330). She slid down the ways in the Yarrows shipyard in Esquimalt in December 1942. When she was commissioned in Victoria in June 1943, her armament consisted of a 4-inch gun fore and aft, a 12-pounder, and 4 twin 20-mm guns in paired mounts.
At 0550, the frigate’s surface radar made a contact. AB William Booth was the loader on the No. 1 Oerlikon gun. “Someone hollered there was an object on the surface, off the port bow. She was almost dead ahead when we first sighted her.”
Fraser saw her from the bridge: “It surfaced at a good rate of speed about 1800 yards away and almost dead ahead. We illuminated it immediately with star shells and searchlights.”
To Nene, he signaled: “HEARSE PARKED”.
“Then we opened up on it with everything we had. The range had closed
to about 1400 yards. Our 4-inch guns made four hits on the conning tower.”
The frigate’s Oerlikon guns also fired on the sub. “The first
bursts from the No. 1 gun were dead centre on the conning tower and never
wavered,” the captain noted.
Stephenson downplayed his marksmanship: “I couldn’t miss at that range. She was a sitting duck, really.”
U-257 slowly crossed the frigate’s bow to her port side. Only 100 yards away, Fraser couldn’t alter course in time to ram her. But he could hammer her with the No. 2 Oerlikon: “It, too, banged right on the conning tower. The Germans couldn’t reach their guns to answer back.”
AB William Knox was on the No. 2 gun crew: “The Germans were coming out the conning tower, and we knocked about four right into the water.”
AB Arthur Wall, a Gunlayer on No. 2 gun aft, remembers vividly the battle’s close: “The instant I pulled the trigger on the last shell we fired, the searchlight on the bridge illuminated the conning tower of U-257. A figure who I assume was her CO became the cross in the crosswire of my gunsight. He was waving his arms and I’m sure was trying to signal their surrender.”
The gesture was foregone. Fifteen minutes after surfacing, still under withering fire, her crewmen tumbling into the sea, U-257 had had enough. Her stern sank down, her bow reared up to nearly vertical, and she slipped under the roiling black waters.
In his diary, AB Gordon Arnold wrote: “0552: …opened fire and sunk the dam thing. We’re as happy as hell and twice as excited. Tweed, we figure, had been revenged now.”
Overcome by the passion of battle, perhaps driven insensible by the need for revenge, one rating wanted more. Possibly still shaken by the figure in his gunsight, Art Wall related: “Later, Gibb and I tore a machine gun from the arms of a seaman who was firing at men in the water.”
From the black night and the dark, freezing waters came cries of “Hello, Kamerad! Hello, Kamerad!” Lifeboat whistles shrilled. Whalers from the Waskesiu and the Nene were lowered into the heaving swells. The sea was too rough for Waskesiu’s whaler. Two oars broke in the pounding waves.
The February 24th, 1944, five hour battle described above is followed up in these diary entries.
“Feb. 25: Left convoy for Derry. (German) prisoners all very young
fellows and seem to be a nice lot. However, they still believe they shall
the war. They had been out for 51 days when we engaged them.”
These excerpts were taken from the Hillman WWII Journals and seem to refer to the adventures of HMCS Prince Robert by Chief Petty Officer Robert Gerald (Jerry) Hillman
This is highly recommended reading for its portrayal of daily life aboard and action at sea. It contains many more daily diary entries from 1944-45.
The main page for the Hillman WWII Journals is http://www.angelfire.com/trek/rcn/
(M.V. Asbjorn and HMCS Waskesiu)
The submarine which was earlier reported on the surface, was trying to get into position to attack convoy no. SC-153.
We illuminated the target with star shells and searchlights and commenced firing from the 20mm and 4" guns. the submarine crew struggled to get out of the conning tower and from the deck hatches. Most of these were killed by our fire. Presumably, the survivors were the ones who stayed below until after we checked fire and those who were lucky enough to leave the submarine just before she sank. We saved four of them by helping them up the scramble nets which were hanging over the side, off the quarterdeck. A little later, HMS Nene appeared on the scene. She rescued 8 or 10 who were afloat in their life jackets.
So, out of 50 or 60 submarine crew members, 12 to 14 survived. The rest died by our gun
George Devonshire's daughter, Anne Lofting, has written about this incident from her recollections of her father's stories. One of the survivors from U-257, Waldemar Nickel, has visited George in Canada during a reunion of the Waskesiu crew. They are now friends.
(A DAY TO REMEMBER -written March 2002 - by Anne Lofting)