Tag Archives: surrendered U-boat

Warship Wednesday, April 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 8, 2020: An Unsung Canadian River

Library and Archives, Canada

Here we see a beautiful original Kodachrome, likely snapped from the lookout box on her mast, of the Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) in 1944-45, with an officer looking down towards her bow. Note the D/F antenna forward. You can see a great view of her main gun, a twin 4″/45 (10.2 cm) QF Mk XVI in an Mk XIX open-rear mount, which she would use to good effect in hanging star shells during a nighttime scrap with a convoy-haunting U-boat. Just ahead of the gun is a Hedgehog ASW mortar system, which would also be used that night. Incidentally, scale modelers should note the various colors used on her two rigged 20-man Carley float lifeboats– which would soon see use on a different U-boat.

While today the Royal Canadian Navy is often seen as a supporting actor in the North Atlantic and an occasional cameo performer elsewhere, by the end of World War II the RCN had grown from having about a dozen small tin cans to being the third-largest fleet in the world— and was comprised almost totally of destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and sloops! The force traded 24 of its warships in combat for a butcher’s bill that was balanced by 69 Axis vessels but had proved decisive in the Battle of the Atlantic.

One of the most important of the above Canadian ships were the River-class frigates. Originally some 1,800-tons and 301-feet in length, they could make 20-knots and carry a twin QF 4-inch gun in a single forward mount as well as a modicum of 20mm AAA guns and a wide array of sub-busting weaponry to include as many as 150 depth charges.

In addition to her twin 4″/45 forward, Thetford Mines also carried six 20mm Oerlikons in two twin mounts — one seen here in another LAC Kodachrome– and two singles. Note the wavy lines on the Canadian lieutenant’s sleeve, denoting his status as a reserve officer. The running joke in Commonwealth Navies that used the practice was so that, when asked by an active officer why the braid was wavy, the reservist would answer, “Oh good heavens, so no one would mistake that this is my real job.”

Produced in five mildly different sub-classes, some 50 of the 150ish Rivers planned were to be made in Canada with others produced for the RCN in the UK. This resulted in a shipbuilding boom in the Land of the Great White North, with these frigates produced at four yards: Canadian Vickers in Montreal, Morton in Quebec City, Yarrow at Esquimalt, and Davie at Lauzon.

River-class frigates fitting out at Vickers Canada, 1944

Canadian River-class frigate HMCS Waskesiu (K330) with a bone in her mouth, 1944. Kodachrome via LAC

Thetford Mines, the first Canadian warship named after the small city in south-central Quebec, was of the later Chebogue-type of River-class frigate and was laid down 7 July 1943. Rapid construction ensured she was completed and commissioned 24 May 1944, an elapsed time of just 322 days. Her wartime skipper was LCDR John Alfred Roberts Allan, DSC, RCNVR/RCN(R). 

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459). Note the false bow wave

Coming into WWII late in the Atlantic war, Thetford Mines was assigned to escort group EG 25 out of Halifax then shifted to Derry in Ireland by November 1944. She served in British waters from then until VE-Day, working out of Londonderry and for a time out of Rosyth, Scotland.

A second Kodachrome snapped from K459’s tower. Note the compass and pelorus atop the wheelhouse. You can see the lip of the lookout’s bucket at the bottom of the frame. LAC WO-A037319

In the closing days of the conflict, the hardy frigate– along with Canadian-manned sisterships HMCS La Hulloise and HMCS Strathadam— came across the snorkeling Type VIIC/41 U-boat U-1302 on the night of 7 March 1945 in St George’s Channel. The German submarine, on her first war patrol under command of Kptlt. Wolfgang Herwartz had already sent one Norwegian and two British steamers of Convoy SC-167 to the bottom.

In a joint action between the three frigates, U-1302 was depth charged and Hedgehogged until her hull was crushed and the unterseeboot took Herwartz and his entire 47-man crew to meet Davy Jones. At dawn the next day, the Canadian ships noted an oil slick and debris floating on the water, with collected correspondence verifying the submarine was U-1302.

Thetford Mines would then come to the aid of Strathadam after the latter had a depth charge explode prematurely.

On 23 March, Thetford Mines got a closer look at her enemy when she recovered 33 survivors from the lost German U-boat U-1003, which had been scuttled off the coast of Ireland after she was mortally damaged by HMCS New Glasgow (another Canadian River). The Jacks aboard Thetford Mines would later solemnly bury at sea two of the German submariners who died of injuries.

Finally, on 11 May, our frigate arrived in Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland, to serve as an escort to eight surrendered U-boats.

The event was a big deal, as it was the first mass U-boat surrender, and as such was attended by ADM Sir Max Horton along with a single Allied submarine-killer from each major fleet made up the van. Thetford Mines represented Canada. USS Robert I. Paine (DE-578), which had been part of the Block Island hunter-killer group that had scratched several U-boats, represented America. HMS Hesperus (H57), credited with four kills including two by ramming, represented the RN.

A row of surrendered Nazi U-boats at Lisahally in Co. Londonderry on 14th May 1945. I believe Thetford Mines is in the background. Photo by Lieutenant CH Parnall. Imperial War Museum Photo: A 28892 (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection).

Thetford Mines, background, escorting surrendered U-boats, May 1945. LAC Kodachrome WO-A037319

Returning to Canada at the end of May 1945, Thetford Mines undoubtedly would have soon picked up more AAA mounts to fight off Japanese kamikaze attacks in the final push against that country’s Home Islands, but it was not to be and was paid off on 18 November at Sydney, Nova Scotia, before being laid up at Shelburne.

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) at anchor in Bermuda. The photo was taken after VE-day while the frigate was returning to Halifax. They were diverted to Bermuda to ease the congestion at Halifax caused by all the ships returning at the same time. From the collection of John (Jack) Davie Lyon. Via FPS 

Her career had lasted a week shy of 18 months, during which she made contact, sometimes violent, with at least 10 German U-boas in varying ways. Her battle honors included “Gulf of St. Lawrence 1944,” “North Sea 1945,” and “Atlantic 1945.”

As for Thetford Mines, as noted by the Canadian Navy, “In 1947, she was sold to a Honduran buyer who proposed converting her into a refrigerated fruit carrier.”

According to Warlow’s Ships of the Royal Navy, she was in fact converted to a banana boat with the name of Thetis. Her fate is unknown.

What of her sisters?

Of the 90 assorted Canadian River-class frigates ordered, a good number were canceled around the end of WWII. Four (HMCS Chebogue, HMCS Magog, HMCS Teme, and HMCS Valleyfield) were effectively lost to German U-boats during the conflict. Once VJ-Day came and went, those still under St George’s White Ensign soon went into reserve.

Graveyard, Sorel, P.Q Canadian corvettes and frigates laid up, 1945 by Tony Law CWM

Several were subsequently sold for peanuts to overseas Allies looking to upgrade or otherwise build their fleets to include Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Israel, Peru, and India.

Others, like our own Thetford Mines, were de-militarized and sold on the commercial market including one, HMCS Stormont, that became Aristotle Onassis’s famous yacht, Christina O. HMCS St. Lambert became a merchant ship under Panamanian and Greek flags before being lost off Rhodes in 1964. Still others became breakwaters, their hulls used to shelter others.

One, HMCS Stone Town, was disarmed and tasked as a weather ship in the North Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

Twenty-one of the best Canadian-owned Rivers still on Ottawa’s naval list was taken from reserve in the early 1950s and converted to what was classified as a Prestonian-class frigate with “FFE” pennant numbers. This conversion included a flush-decked configuration, an enlarged bridge, and a taller funnel. Deleted were the 20mm Oerlikons in favor of some 40mm Bofors. Further, they had their quarterdeck enclosed to accommodate two Squid anti-submarine mortars in place of the myriad of depth charges/Hedgehog. The sensor package was updated as well, to include ECM gear. One, HMCS Buckingham, was even given a helicopter deck.

The Prestonian-class frigate HMCS Swansea (FFE 306) in formation with other ocean escorts, 1964 via The Crow’s Nest

These upgraded Rivers/Prestonians served in the widening Cold War, with three soon transferred to the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Most of the remaining Canadian ships were discarded in 1965-66 as the new St. Laurent– and Restigouche-class destroyers joined the fleet.

Two endured in auxiliary roles for a few more years: HMCS St. Catharines as a Canadian Coast Guard ship until 1968 and HMCS Victoriaville/Granby as a diving tender until 1973.

In the end, two Canadian Rivers still exist, HMCS Stormont/yacht Christina O, and HMCS Hallowell/SLNS Gajabahu, with the latter a training ship in the Sri Lankan Navy until about 2016.

Starting life in WWII as a Canadian Vickers-built River-class frigate HMCS Stormont, Christina O was purchased in 1954 by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who transformed her into the most luxurious private yacht of her time. She went on to host a wealth of illustrious guests, ranging from Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra to JFK and Winston Churchill.

Canadian River-class frigate, ex-HMCS Strathadam, built 1944 by Yarrow, Esquimalt. Sold 1947 to the Israeli Navy and renamed Misgav. Subsequently sold to the Royal Ceylon Navy as HMCyS Gajabahu. Photo via Shipspotting, 2007.

As far as I can tell, there has not been a second Thetford Mines in the RCN. A series of posterity websites exist to honor the frigate’s crew.

For more information on the RCN in WWII, please check out Marc Milner’s North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoys.

Specs: (RCN late-batch Rivers: Antigonish, Glace Bay, Hallowell, Joliette, Kirkland Lake, Kokanee, Lauzon, Longueuil, Orkney, Poundmaker, Sea Cliff, Thetford Mines)

River Class – Booklet of General Plans, 1942, profile

HMCS Poundmaker (K675), port, for reference, via LAC

HMCS St. Lambert (K343). LAC

Displacement:
1,445 long tons, 2,110 long tons deep load
Length: 301.25 ft o/a
Beam: 36.5 ft
Draught: 9 ft; 13 ft (3.96 m) (deep load)
Propulsion:
2 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 2 VTE, twin shafts 5,500 ihp
Speed: 20 knots
Range: 646 tons oil fuel= 7,500 nautical miles at 15 knots
Complement: 140 to 157
Sensors: SU radar, Type 144 sonar
Armament:
2 x QF 4 inch/45cal Mk. XVI on a twin mount
1 x QF 12 pdr (3 inch) 12 cwt /40 Mk. V
4 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on two twin mounts
2 x 20mm Oerlikon AAA on singles
1 x Hedgehog 24-spigot ASWRL
8 x Depth Charge throwers
2 x Depth Charge racks
Up to 150 depth charges

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Oh, Canada…

The Canadian Navy has been heavy into the submarine biz for generations.

The Canucks got into subs in a weird way when in August 1914, Sir Richard McBride, KCMG, the premier of British Columbia, bought a pair of small (144-foot, 300-ton) coastal submarines from Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, an act that your local government normally doesn’t do. The boats had been ordered by Chile who later refused them as not up to snuff.

Sailing for Vancouver in the dark of night as they were technically acquired in violation of a ton of international agreements (and bought for twice the annual budget for the entire Royal Canadian Navy!) they were commissioned as HMCS CC-1 and CC-2. The Dominion Government of Canada later ratified the sale while a subsequent investigation was conducted into how they were acquired.

CC-class

Nonetheless, the two tiny CC boats were the first submarines of the Maple Leaf and continued in service until after the Great War when they were laid up and replaced by a pair of American-made 435-ton H-class submarines from the Royal Navy, HMS H14 and H15, which remained in the Canadian fleet as HMCS CH-14 and CH-15 until broken up in 1927.

H-class

After this, Canada went out of the submarine business for a while until 1945. Then, Ottawa inherited two newly surplus German Type IXC/40 U-boats, sisters U-190 and U-889, both in working condition and constructed in the same builder’s yard. After transferring them on paper to the Royal Navy, they were transferred back (apparently the same day) and both became vessels of the RCN, dubbed HCMS U-190 and U-889, which they kept as working souvenirs for a couple years.

Canadian war artist Tom Wood's watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John's. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat's crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190's crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine's surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Canadian war artist Tom Wood’s watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John’s. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat’s crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190’s crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine’s surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Fast forward a bit and the Canadians began using two U.S. boats, —USS Burrfish (SS-312) and USS Argonaut (SS-475), as HMCS Grilse (SS 71) and Rainbow (SS 75), respectively– from 1961 to 1974.

Then they bought their first new subs since CC-1 & CC-2, a trio of British Oberon-class diesel boats– HMCS Ojibwa (S72), Onondaga (S73) and Okanagan (S74), which served from 1965 to 2000.

Three O-boats (Oberon-class) submarines of the Royal Canadian Navy in Bedford Basin, Halifax, 1995. RCNavy Image 95-0804 10 by Corp CH Roy

Since then, they have been using the quartet of second-hand RN Upholder-class subs, HMCS Victoria (SSK-876), Windsor (SSK-877), Corner Brook (SSK-878) and Chicoutimi (SSK-879) which are expected to remain in service in some form until the 2030s.

HMCS Submarine Chicoutimi.

The thing is, the Canadian Navy managed exactly zero (-0-) days underway with their subs last year– but not without cause.

As reported by CBC:

“The boats were docked last year after an intense sailing schedule for two of the four submarines over 2017 and 2018. HMCS Chicoutimi spent 197 days at sea helping to monitor sanctions enforcement off North Korea and visiting Japan as part of a wider engagement in the western Pacific. HMCS Windsor spent 115 days in the water during the same time period, mostly participating in NATO operations in the Atlantic.”

It is hoped that three of the four may return to sea at some point this year.

Yikes.

Warship Wednesday, April 17, 2018: Canadian Snorkel Power

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, April 17, 2018: Canadian Snorkel Power

U-190 surrendered

George Metcalf Archival Collection, Canadian War Museum (CWM) 20030014-094

Here we see IXC/40-class submarine U-190 of the German Kriegsmarine sailing to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland in May 1945, under escort by Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) vessels including the Fairmile-type motor launch seen in the distance. If you note, she is flying the RCN’s White Ensign and had just become the country’s first post-WWII submarine.

U190 surrendered Canadian jack

Boom! The RCN Jack over her conning tower, as the first German submarine, to surrender to the Canadians (and their first sub in service since 1927). Note the sub’s distinctive 8-pointed star crest and her post-commissioning snorkel apparatus. Photo via The Rooms

One of the nearly 200 Type IXC/40s completed during the war, U-190 was laid down in 1941 at DeSchiMAG AG Weser of Bremen and commissioned on 24 September 1942 with Kaptlt. Max Wintermeyer as her first skipper. At some 1,257-tons, she was not a big boat, running just 251-feet overall. However, the class was well designed and capable of 13,000-nm cruises on their economical diesel engines. Able to carry 22 torpedoes and a 4.1-inch deck gun with 180~ shells as well as a Flak armament, they were deadly and efficient killers when it came to stalking Allied merchantmen.

This photograph shows the September 1942 commissioning of the German submarine U-190. As part of the commissioning ceremony, the German navy’s ensign flies from the conning tower (left) and is being given the Nazi salute by the submarine’s commanding officer (center right) and by spectators (lower right). George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19870078-002

By 1 March 1943, she was assigned to 2 Flottille in Lorient, France.

As noted by Uboat.net, although she conducted six war patrols and took part in at least three North Atlantic wolfpacks (Neuland, Ostmark, and Stürmer), she was not very successful. Her only confirmed merchant victim was the British-flagged freighter Empire Lakeland (7,015-tons) sunk south of Iceland while part of New York-to-Glasgow convoy SC-121 during the submarine’s 111-day 2nd Patrol.

In August 1944, Oblt. Hans-Erwin Reith, 24, took command of the vessel and bugged out for Flensburg as the Allied liberation of France removed Lorient as an operating base. On 19 February 1945, Reith left Horten for U-190‘s final (German) patrol. It would last 85-days, with the crew later saying she spent upwards of 40 days on this patrol snorkeling continuously.

Her mission, as detailed by Cameron Pulsifer:

Equipped with a schnorchel and armed with 6 [T-3 Lut] contact torpedoes and eight T-5 Gnat acoustic torpedoes, its mission was to interdict Allied shipping off Sable Island and the approaches to Halifax harbor. It was, in fact, part of the new strategy on the part of the commander-in-chief of the German Navy, Admiral Karl Dönitz, initiated in the dying days of the Nazi regime, to increase pressure on shipping in North American waters in an attempt to ease allied naval pressure in waters closer to home.

There, on 16 April, U-190 encountered a Bangor-class minesweeper, HMCS Esquimalt (J272) and sank her with a single Gnat fired from a stern tube. Esquimalt was the last Canadian warship lost to enemy action during the Second World War (or since, for that matter) and took 39 souls with her to the bottom. U-190 remained submerged for a solid week following this attack, during which time she was hunted by surface vessels, who rained numerous depth charges down upon her decks.

Dönitz had ordered all his U-boats to surrender as from 08:00 5 May, but not all did so immediately.

According to an interrogation report of U-190s crew, it was only on the 11th that U-190 picked up an incomplete version of the surrender orders, to which they responded “An B.d.U.: Seit 12 April ohne F/T. Nach erfolgreicher Unternehmung auf Ruckmarsch. F/T über Kapitulation verstuemmelt aufgenommen. Bitte um nähere Anweisungen”. (“To Admiral Commanding U-boats: Have been without wireless communication since 12 April. Now homeward bound after a successful patrol. Wireless orders about surrender received in a mutilated form. Request fuller details”)

However, Germany never returned their call and on 12 May U-190 surfaced, raised a black flag, tossed her secret papers and gun ammo overboard, and sailed on a heading of 305-degrees while sending surrender signals to New York, Boston, and Cape Race. Soon met by the River-class frigate HMCS Victoriaville (K684) and Flower-class corvette Thorlock (K394) at 43° 54’N., 45° 15′ W, Reith signed a surrender document and deeded his boat over to Canada.

In this sketch by HMCS Victoriaville's gunnery officer, U-190's captain surrenders his submarine to the captain of the Canadian frigate, Lieutenant Commander Lester Hickey (center left, with cap). Hans-Erwin Reith (center, with beard), U-190's commander since July 1944, subsequently signed a deed of unconditional surrender handing over the U-Boat to the Royal Canadian Navy. Lieutenant Bud Burbridge (left) was among the Canadians who would form part of the crew taking U-190 to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 20030255-010

In this sketch by HMCS Victoriaville’s gunnery officer, U-190’s captain surrenders his submarine to the captain of the Canadian frigate, Lieutenant Commander Lester Hickey (center left, with cap). Hans-Erwin Reith (center, with beard), U-190’s commander since July 1944, subsequently signed a deed of unconditional surrender handing over the U-Boat to the Royal Canadian Navy. Lieutenant Bud Burbridge (left) was among the Canadians who would form part of the crew taking U-190 to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 20030255-010

In the early hours of 12 May 1945, Hans-Erwin Reith, U-190's commander, signed this document formally surrendering the submarine to the Royal Canadian Navy. Although units of the Royal Canadian Navy had been involved in the boarding or surrender of U-Boats during the war, this document marked the first formal surrender of a German submarine to Canadian forces. Kenneth George Tryon donated this document and related artifacts to the Canadian War Museum in 1968. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19680168-009

In the early hours of 12 May 1945, Hans-Erwin Reith, U-190’s commander, signed this document formally surrendering the submarine to the Royal Canadian Navy. Although units of the Royal Canadian Navy had been involved in the boarding or surrender of U-Boats during the war, this document marked the first formal surrender of a German submarine to Canadian forces. Kenneth George Tryon donated this document and related artifacts to the Canadian War Museum in 1968. George Metcalf Archival Collection CWM 19680168-009

For the next two days, with a skeleton German crew aboard watched by an armed force of Canadians, U-190 made for Bay Bulls while flying an RCN White Ensign.

Once they arrived, the Germans were transferred ashore to a POW camp.

Canadian war artist Tom Wood's watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John's. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat's crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190's crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine's surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Canadian war artist Tom Wood’s watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John’s. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat’s crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190’s crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine’s surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

U-190 reached its destination on 14 May.

U190 alongside at Bulls Bay

U-190 star of Rio

According to the Crow’s Nest, the 8-pointed star was the Stern von Rio (Star of Rio).” Some say this name came from the boat’s inaugural trip which was supposedly to Rio but others recall it simply as the name to a popular song in Germany at the time. Hirschmann the U-190’s chief engineer, says it was only a compass rose.”

Canada’s early submarine program

The Canadians got into subs in a weird way when in August 1914, Sir Richard McBride, KCMG, the premier of British Columbia, bought a pair of small (144-foot, 300-ton) coastal submarines from Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, an act that your local government normally doesn’t do. The boats had been ordered by Chile who later refused them as not up to snuff.

Sailing for Vancouver in the dark of night as they were technically acquired in violation of a ton of international agreements (and bought for twice the annual budget for the entire Royal Canadian Navy!) they were commissioned as HMCS CC-1 and CC-2. The Dominion Government of Canada later ratified the sale while a subsequent investigation was conducted into how they were acquired.

CC-class

Nonetheless, the two tiny CC boats were the first submarines of the Maple Leaf and continued in service until after the Great War when they were laid up and replaced by a pair of American-made 435-ton H-class submarines from the Royal Navy, HMS H14 and H15, which remained in the Canadian fleet as HMCS CH-14 and CH-15 until broken up in 1927.

H-class

After this, Canada went out of the submarine business– until 1945.

Now back to our U-boat.

U190 pennant

Marked “HMC Sub U-190,” for “His Majesty’s Canadian Submarine,” the pennant graphically marked the new ownership of the surrendered submarine, with a bulldog seizing a Nazi eagle by the neck. CWM 19760322-001

The Canadians in May 1945 had two German Type IXC/40 U-boats, sisters U-190 and U-889, both in working condition and constructed in the same builder’s yard. After transferring them on paper to the Royal Navy, they were transferred back (apparently the same day) and both became vessels of the RCN, dubbed HCMS U-190 and U-889.

The navy promptly took U-190 on a tour of eastern Canadian ports before putting it to use for training.

German submarine entering U-190 in St. John's Harbour Newfoundland courtesy of The Rooms

German submarine entering U-190 in St. John’s Harbour Newfoundland, courtesy of The Rooms

German submarine U-190 in St. John's Harbour Newfoundland courtesy of The Rooms U190

German submarine U-190 in St. John’s Harbour Newfoundland, courtesy of The Rooms

German submarine U-190 in St. John's Harbour Newfoundland courtesy of The Rooms U190

German submarine U-190 in St. John’s Harbour Newfoundland, courtesy of The Rooms. Today, her periscope is still there, located since 1963 in The Crow’s Nest Officer’s Club overlooking this very spot.

U-889 in the meantime had been deemed as one of the 10 U-boats allocated to the U.S. by the Tripartite Naval Commission and was decommissioned in December 1945 and transferred to the Yanks who later scuttled her in 1947 after a series of experiments.

U-889 in U.S. service before she was scuttled. The Navy was very interested in her snorkel, as numerous images of it are in the archives. NH 111270

As for U-190, she was soldiered on as Canada’s sole submarine throughout 1946 and into 1947.

Of her time in Canadian custody and use, dozens of detailed photos exist of her interior, a rare sight today. (See For Posterity’s Sake, The Rooms, The Crow’s Nest and Haze Gray for more.)

In October 1947, the Canadian Navy sank U-190 as a target during Operation Scuttled, a live-fire naval exercise off Halifax– near the site of Esquimalt‘s loss. It was to be epic, with the Tribal-class destroyers HMCS Nootka and HMCS Haida using their 4.7-inch guns and Hedgehog ASW mortars on her after an aerial task force of Seafires, Fireflies, Ansons and Swordfish worked her over with ordnance.

U-190 was the featured star of “Operation Scuttled” staged near the spot where Esquimalt was sunk.

Sadly, the actual show fell far short.

From Michael Hadley’s, U-Boats Against Canada:

Almost before the ships had a chance to enter the act, U-190 pointed its bows into the air after the first rocket attack and slipped silently beneath the sea. And thus, the RCN press release announced with inflated pathos, “the once deadly sea raider came to a swift and ignominious end” – just 19 minutes after “Operation Scuttled” had begun.

Nonetheless, for a destroyed U-boat, U-190 is remarkably well preserved as relics of her are all over North America.

U-190‘s war diary is in the collection of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

The working Enigma machine recovered on U-190 is now part of the Canadian CSE’s (Communications Security Establishment– the country’s crypto agency) collection of historical artifacts.

The Canadian War Museum has her pennant, star globe, equipment plates, a C.G. Haenel-made MP28/2 Sub-machine Gun seized from her armory (which had been on display at Naval Service Headquarters in Ottawa until 1959) and other gear.

MP28 2 Sub-machine Gun seized from U-190

How about a submarine’s submachine gun? The CWM has it, from U-190

And of course, U-190‘s sky periscope, one of just five such instruments preserved worldwide, has long been in the care of the historic Crow’s Nest Officers Club in St. John’s, Newfoundland where its top sticks out over the roof to allow members and visitors to peak out over the harbor.

U190 scope Crows nest

The periscope has reportedly been there since 1963 (Photo: The Crow’s Nest)

Only a single member of the Type IXC class survives, U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Of the 87 Type IXC/40 subvariants, such as U-190 and U-889, the salvaged hull and conning tower of U-534 remains preserved at Birkenhead in England.

As for Reith, he was repatriated to Germany in 1946 and died there in 1987, aged 67. His personal DWM Model 1906 (1st issue) Navy Luger recently came up at auction. Likely presented to him by family or friends on the occasion of his new command, it is marked “U-190.” It appears that it too was surrendered in 1945 and went on to live its own life.

Reith Luger P06 Navy RIAC U-1902

RIAC

Esquimalt was his only victory and she is remembered every year at a public ceremony in the British Columbia that served as her namesake.

Meanwhile, the Canadians took a decade break from subsea ops after U-190 was scuttled but eventually got back into the sub biz, using two U.S. boats, —USS Burrfish (SS-312) and USS Argonaut (SS-475), as HMCS Grilse (SS 71) and Rainbow (SS 75), respectively– from 1961 to 1974. Then they bought their first new subs since CC-1 & CC-2, a trio of British Oberon-class diesel boats– HMCS Ojibwa (S72), Onondaga (S73) and Okanagan (S74), which served from 1965 to 2000. Since then, they have been using the quartet of second-hand RN Upholder-class subs, HMCS Victoria (SSK-876), Windsor (SSK-877), Corner Brook (SSK-878) and Chicoutimi (SSK-879) which are expected to remain in service in some form until the 2030s.

Specs:

U-190 model by Maschinenbau, Gabler CWM 19720073-001

U-190 model by Maschinenbau, Gabler CWM 19720073-001

Displacement:
1,144 t (1,126 long tons) surfaced
1,257 t (1,237 long tons) submerged
Length:
251 ft 10 in o/a
192 ft 9 in pressure hull
Beam:
22 ft 6 in o/a
14 ft 7 in pressure hull
Height: 31 ft 6 in
Draught: 15 ft 4 in
Installed power:
4,400 PS (3,200 kW; 4,300 bhp) (diesels)
1,000 PS (740 kW; 990 shp) (electric)
Propulsion:
2 shafts
2 × diesel engines
2 × electric motors
Range:
13,850 nmi at 10 knots surfaced
63 nmi at 4 knots submerged
Test depth: 230 m (750 ft)
Complement: 4 officers, 44 enlisted
Armament:
6 × torpedo tubes (4 bow, 2 stern)
22 × 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedoes
1 × 10.5 cm (4.1 in) SK C/32 deck gun (180 rounds)
1 × 3.7 cm (1.5 in) SK C/30 AA gun
1 × twin 2 cm FlaK 30 AA guns

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!