Nene K270 - Canadian Operations

Canadian Operations (begins March 1944) - EG9 (Escort Group 9), see Map

The NENE arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia on the 26th March 1944 for transfer to the RCN., to undergo a refit and the ship was commissioned with an RCN crew on April 5th. An advance party of Canadian navy specialists, amongst them Joe Schlacter, were put aboard the Nene to familiarize themselves with the ship and its equipment. On completion of her refit on 10th July 1944, the NENE proceeded to Bermuda to work up. However, due to faulty radio equipment, NENE returned to Halifax for new equipment and then proceeded again to Bermuda to complete work ups by August 1944.

HMCS NENE joined EG C-5 Western Approaches Command at Londonderry on September 8th which consisted of HMCS RUNNYMEDE, DUNVER, NENE, HESPLER, HUNTSVILLE and NEW WESTMINISTER and it made three transAtlantic convoys with this group.

Workups in Bermuda
Front: Schlacter, Desjardin
Back: MacDonald, MacDormac, Unknown

During refit, washing sinks and hot water facilities were to be installed. One member of the crew accused an officer of misappropriating funds, stating that the work done could not possibly have cost the canteen fund the $600 taken from it. The accuser was transferred immediately, never to be seen again by his mates.

Londonderry was our home base. Londonderry is a unique city, situated on the river Foyle about 10 kilometres upstream from the Atlantic Ocean. The city centre is dominated by the Guildhall and the core of the city surrounded by a wall.

Even in Canadian wartime it showed the signs of poverty. There was no visible strife between catholic and protestant, Ulster and Eire. These problems had been set aside while we got on with the war. The people were friendly and as each ship came to port, it would be boarded by young children, bringing fresh bread to sell. For a few pennies the children would sing a song with the lilt of Irish laughter. It was a relief to step ashore, to be on terra ferma and to enjoy the sites and sounds of civilization. It was a busy time in port,replenishing supplies, maintaining hardware and ensuring that the ship was in fighting shape.
[Don Delong recalls these visitors to the ship as being adults rather than children, bringing eggs, bread and whisky from Southern Ireland.]

Shorline on the River Foyle near Londonderry (Photo: Don Delong)


On one trip during daylight, an RAF Sunderland aircraft reported a submarine on the surface some miles away. NENE with Dunver proceeded at top speed to the area. Anti-submarine contact was established (Map Position #3) and a depth charge attack brought a patch of oil to the surface. The aircraft reported air bubbles boiling up. Dunver's captain said, "NENE did most of the work on that submarine". NENE stopped to pick up some debris and a special coat hanger. Bjarne Thorsen picked up the coat hanger, however Captain Shaw took it from him as evidence. Bjarne was upset about relinquishing the hanger as he wanted it as a reminder of the death of his friends in Norway.

British Plane near North England 1944-45; used these on aircraft carriers

On October 31, 1944, the NENE joined a convoy, JW 61A, of two large personnel carriers, The Empress of Australia and the Scythia carrying 11,000 Russia nationals, who had been captured in Normandy while serving with the Wehrmacht as part of the armies opposing the Anglo-American landing. The Canadian manned Nene formed part of the escort group of British destroyers and the British cruiser BERWICK. The Nene however was relieved and joined the EG 9 Escort group.

Escort Group 9 (EG 9)

The EG9 group patrolled through the Shetland and Orkney Islands, through the Irish sea, the north Atlantic, the English channel and made a treacherous trip through northern waters to Murmansk, Russia. For those on board the weather could be rough, with waves sweeping across the bow and washing the ship from stem to stern. Anything not tied down was likely to be washed away. Patrolling abreast, the ship on either side was frequently lost in the trough of a wave, only to reappear a few moments later on the crest of the next wave. The motion was both lateral as well as up and down and only the hardy with strong constitutions managed to keep their food down in the most severe conditions.

Other Ships of EG9

[Read a first hand account of "The Murmansk Run" at:]

During November 1944 the NENE carried out anti-submarine patrols off the Faeroes, in the Cape-Wrath-Butt of Lewis area, and in the north western approaches. In a position not far from Inistrahull lighthouse, (Map Position #7) off the coast of Ireland, two ships in the NENE convoy were torpedoed. Both ships managed to make port safely with most of their cargo intact.

position 1 position 2 position 3 position 7 position 6 position 5 position 4
Actions of HMCS Nene under British and Canadian command - Click on the arrows.

The NENE left Scapa Flow with EG 9, consisting of HMCS ST. JOHN, NENE, MONNOW, STORMONT and PORT COLBORNE and EG20 (RN), to rendezvous with the Russia convoy JW 62 (2) on November 29, The convoy consisted of eleven British merchantmen and twenty American merchant ships. A large armada of thirty-four warships accompanied the convoy. There was the British cruiser HMS Bellona, two carriers, three sloops, ten frigates (including EG 9), four corvettes and fourteen destroyers. Although the German battleship the Tirpitz had been eliminated by the Royal Airforce on November 12th, the German High Command had assigned a force of JU 88, torpedo bombers to the area and the U-boat threat was constant. However Convoy JW 62 arrived safely in North Russia. The Nene was detached from the main escort group at the Kola Inlet and with one other escort accompanied several merchant ships to the mouth of the White Sea. As the White Sea is very shallow, it was practically impossible for a submarine to submerge, making it unnecessary to go further. The Soviets looked after the convoy from then on, as it required local pilotage, by local pilots through a marked channel. Nene returned to Murmansk.

Bow view from the Crows Nest
Stern View from the Crows Nest

Upon crossing the Arctic Circle, the crew of the Nene celebrated this event. New members of the "Arctic Circle Club" received a special certificate. [Arctic Circle Club Certificate]

The convoy was destined for Murmansk, a seaport on the northern coast of Russia. A railroad from Leningrad to Murmansk had been constructed during World War I. The Allies shipped thousands of tons of war supplies to Russia through this port. It was a cold and forbidding place which had a population of approximately 150,000 in 1945. Although the convoy was shadowed by German reconnaissance aircraft it arrived intact in Murmansk on December 8, 1944. Stan Zatylny remembers that trip to northern Russia. He recalls that the Nene carried a heavy load of supplies for the Russians and that on arrival at Murmansk there was a need for an interpreter. He was on duty in the coding office when John Popowich came in and asked if Stan could understand the Russian language. The Skipper wanted to communicate with the Russians. Stan Zatylny understood Polish quite well and some Ukrainian. Stan and John Popowich were able to have some dialogue with the Russians and told them that there were supplies aboard the Nene for them. The supplies were unloaded by the Russians and for their efforts Stan and John were rewarded with a small bottle of Vodka.

[Don Delong stated that the Russian women, dressed in rags and potato sacks, did most of the unloading. Standing in their boats, they indicated a desire for anything made of wool. The crew rummaged through the scran locker (lost and found) to locate old socks, filthy mitts, and sweaters. The women threw back Russian rubles in payment.]

Two days later the return convoy RA 62 left Murmansk. On December 11th., about 10 EM. Lieutenant Jim Taylor, listening on the R/T reported to the Skipper that the HMS CASSANDRA (destroyer) had been torpedoed. (Map Position #1). A Wildcat (fighter aircraft) was lost and the Tunsberg Castle (Norwegian corvette) were also damaged. EG 20 was detached to escort CASSANDRA in tow back to Murmansk leaving EG 9 as sole advance screen and stationed on the port side. Eventually it was decided that CASSANDRA was too badly damaged to repair and was scrapped.

Lts. Taylor, Coombes and Hunt

Early on December 12th, a reconnaissance plane was sighted and shot down. MONNOW picked up the crew of four. Just before the end of the dusk period the convoy was attacked with about 10 torpedo carrying JU 88's. They attacked in pairs from different directions but thanks to good handling of the convoy not one of the 20 torpedoes scored a hit.

[However, when a torpedo did hit other ships in the convoy that were up to three miles away, those who were below could feel the shock, or ping, through the hull. Even though they could not see the action, these explosion pings told the tale.]

After this attack there was no further serious interference by the enemy but the convoy and escorts had to fight for three days and nights against a terrific gale which reduced the convoy speed to three knots. NENE lost her $25,000 liberty boat and guns were sprung and rolling chocks were rolled back like paper. Temperatures were anywhere from 12 - 20 below Fahrenheit and ice on the ship was a constant hazard.

The Liberty boat was 29 feet long, weighing 2 Tons.

In January 1945 the NENE was based at Portsmouth for anti-submarine patrols in the Channel (Portsmouth to Le Havre). Portsmouth the home to the British navy was heavily bombed by the Germans in the War. It's the location of Admiral Nelson's flagship the Victory and those of us on shore leave had an opportunity to view the ship and relive the days of sail and see the spot where Lord Nelson fell at the battle of Trafalgar. The Nene patrolled the English channel and we saw on the coast of France the destruction of the fort at Cherbourg.

On the 16th and 17th of February, she assisted in the sinking of U-309 by the frigate HMCS SAINT JOHN, north west of Kinnaird's Head.

Some argument persists over which ship's depth charges sank the sub. The NENE dropped hundreds of depth charges, following asdic sounding fixes, and saw flotsam arise from 200 foot water with German numbers. Even so, the SAINT JOHN had a senior officer on board, leading some to believe that this is the reason it received the credit.

On the 6th of April about one mile outside the net gate of Portsmouth harbour, the NENE and other escorts heard the hydrophone effect of an approaching torpedo. Orders were given to reduce speed to 7 knots (George 7) as this nullified the effect of the homing or gnat torpedo. The SS CUBA was so close to the gate that her captain thought he could make it in safely and kept going at 17 knots. This was a mistake and the torpedo struck the CUBA right under the telemotor steering engine killing one of the oilers lubricating it. CUBA sank in 56 minutes (Map, Position #6). The NENE landed 265 survivors from the SS CUBA at Portsmouth, torpedoed in Convoy VWP 16. The U-boat which torpedoed the CUBA was subsequently sunk by the rest of the escort.

SS Cuba sinking Apr 6 1944 Portsmouth

left - 265 survivors aboard Nene

[Those interested in a first hand account from the survivor of a torpedoed merchant ship are invited to read "Last Voyage of the Quien Sabe (Scapa Flow)". It is an insightful, well-written, honest account of the daily lives of these men, performing the most dangerous Atlantic crossings, in a ten chapter novel format. The Scapa Flow was an American ship, first turned over to the Brits by the Germans at the end of WWI. The survivors spent two weeks in life boats after the SS Scapa Flow met its end in 1942.]

Two days later the fuel pump broke and NENE had to stop dead, (Map, Position #5) leaving her a sitting duck in sub-infested waters for about four hours. Two corvettes were sent to sweep while repairs were made and by late afternoon however they had to rejoin the convoy as it was fully loaded with war supplies.

We sailed into Scapa Flow, a sound in the Orkney Islands with its centre of civilization Kirkwell, the site of St. Magnus Cathedral. It was a British naval base where German warships scuttled themselves in 1919 following the first World War. We were surrounded by ships of the British fleet. The huge battleship, the H.M.S. Renown lay at anchor, unique in its appearance as the stern had been rounded off to meet the disarmament requirements following World War I. Its huge guns were a sight to behold. There were large cruisers and aircraft carriers and supply vessels anchored in the sound. The complement aboard the battleship was about 1500 sailors and marines, a small city in itself.

[Between Atlantic crossings and major convoy runs, the crew would be given 7 to 10 days shore leave - a way to take the edge off after dangerous and stressful duties. However, bombings in the major cities and industrial areas took the "relaxation" out of "rest". Don Delong recalls sleeping in a London house with a large picture window during a night raid, when a bomb exploded ten blocks away, causing the window glass to split.]

In February 1945 while patrolling with the EG9 group in the Moray Firth, the Senior Officer picked up a U-Boat contact. A Dan buoy was dropped over the contact and the NENE ordered to continue the attack. (Map, Position #4) NENE did so with a ten charge pattern but was damaged in the stern by the depth charges while doing creeper attacks. After inspection in the dry dock at Scapa, she was sent to Newcastle on Tyne for repairs. Anyone who saw the water spouting out of the loose rivets will never forget the sight, as she was being lifted out of the water into dry dock.

(This stern view, while in dry dock at North Shields on the Tyne River, may not have occurred at the time of the above incident (no signs of depth charge damage here). Photo: Don Delong)

Note the twin props characteristic of river class frigates.

(This view of the Nene, while in dry dock at North Shields on the Tyne River, may not have occurred at the time of the above incident (no signs of depth charge damage here). Photo: Don Delong)

A signal was sent 10th February 1945 to C in C, Rosyth and C in C, Western Approaches as follows:

"Docking of HMCS NENE reveals approx. 300 defective rivets in Hull plating. Bilge keels port and starboard torn away fore end. Rudder Bushes and Bearings defective, starboard steam Gland leaky. Estimated time for making good all defects 3 weeks.

Bilge Keels are being cut back, holes in after Ballast Tank and Deck of Cordage Store are being plugged, defective stud renewed in Upper Rudder Gland, and Scuttle in starboard side forward is being made water tight. This work will be completed for ship to be undocked noon Monday, 26th February and she will then be fit to steam to repair port".

HMCS Nene in dry dock at Wallsends

While just of Narvik, Norway, Frank Burton, Nene telegraphist, received the message that all had been waiting for. Although not to be released to the press, the message stated that the German High Command had surrendered unconditionally, effective May 9. The message warns that all German U-Boats have not yet been informed. [photocopy of the original message]

In May 1945 she formed part of the escort for the final convoy to Russia JW 67 which sailed from Lock Ewe on May 12, 1945. More... Surrender of U-Boats.

2      Details of the convoys JW 61A and JW 62, RA 62 may be found in the book "Convoys to Russia, 1941-1945, by Bob Ruegg and Arnold Hague, Published in 1992 by the World Ship Society, 28 Natland Road, Kendal, LA9 7LT, England.

(Source: Nene Lives, ed. Kenneth Riley, 1993, ppg. 23 - 28)

Webmaster: Dan Delong - Updated: December 12, 2002