- "Oakville". .

"Oakville". .

: ! , "Oakville" . - ? !

- 4

Cyr: Canadian Naval Chronicle Chapter 15 RAMMING and BOARDING: HMCS OAKVILLES SUCCESSFUL TACTICS The new moon night is black as ink. Off Hatteras the tankers sink, While sadly Roosevelt counts the score Some fifty thousand tons - by Mohr. KK Johann Mohr, U 124 Oakville: Flower class corvette Builder: Port Arthur Shipbuilding, ON Comm: 18 Nov 41 Crew: 5 officers, 70-75 crew Action: Sank U 94, North Caribbean, 28 Aug 42 Casualties: 19 lost Winston Churchill said at the wars end that the only thing that really frightened him during the war was the U-boat peril. The success of one of the protagonists in this chapter provides a solid basis for the concern felt by Churchill. U 94 was another of the ubiquitous Type vnc submarines that are found in so many of these accounts, but a most successful one. Launched in June 1940, between December and May 1941 she accounted for thirteen Allied ships totalling almost 75,000 tons. Under her second captain, KL Otto Ites, from September 1941 until June 1942 she sank another fourteen ships, another 75,000 tons. This submarine had been involved in most of the early convoy attacks (such as those on HX-90 and -126, SC-19 and -26, OB-318 and ONS-92) when the escorts were few, there was but little air cover and many of the warships were manned by crews with very inadequate equipment or experience. Now, in August 1942, still commanded by Ites, one of VII U-Flottille out of St. Nazaire, France, she was assigned to the Caribbean to strike at the tanker convoys which yielded so many kills. The United States, responsible for the defence in the area, learned hard lessons through their reluctance-or shortage of escorts-to adopt the convoy system. Convoy TAW-15 (Trinidad-Aruba-Key West) sailed from Port of Spain, Trinidad, in late August and consisted of twenty-nine ships, mostly tankers. The escort comprised three Canadian corvettes, Oakville, Snowberry and Halifax, the 1936-built Dutch minelayer Jan van Brakel converted to an escort ship, the 1918-built four-stack, flush deck destroyer USS Lea (DD 118) plus three small US Coast Guard patrol craft. They were northbound, about to enter the Jamaican Channel and Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba. Oakville was commanded by LCdr Clarence A. King, DSC, RCNR, who had been credited with sinking a U-boat in the first war when commanding a sailing Q-Ship. At fifty-six years of age he was considerably older than most corvette commanders, some of whom were RCNVRs in their mid-twenties. U 94 was not the only submarine in the area. On 25 August the convoy lost the Amakura to U 558 and the Stad Amsterdam to U 164. By late evening, about 2300 of the 27th, U 94 was approaching from the north on a course of 180 in hazy moonlight. Ites and his 1st watch officer were both on the bridge when they sighted the convoy. His boat was surfaced, but trimmed down so only the conning tower was above the surface. Ites estimated the convoy was on a course of 340 at a speed of ten knots, a reasonably accurate estimate at his distance of about four miles, as its actual course and speed were 351, eight knots. Snowberry was screening directly ahead of the convoy, weaving back and forth to keep her speed-of-advance at about convoy speed. Oakville was 5,000 yards, 30 to port of the lead ship of the port column, moving at twelve knots. Ites watched Snowberry until she made a turn away from him, for he planned to turn toward the targets as soon as he felt that he was beyond the range of Snowberry s asdic sweep. Ites had had a very successful career so far but now his luck was affected by a twist of fate and a pilots hunch. That day a US Catalina PBY-5A pilot at the USNs base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who had been flying protective patrols in the Caribbean but had not been scheduled to fly, had a feeling that submarines were refuelling south of the Windward Passage. So he asked his commanding officer for permission to make an extra flight. Once airborne, he was redirected to provide air cover for TAW-15. One of the aircraft that had been part of its air cover developed mechanical problems and Catalina 92-P-6 of VP-92 was the replacement. It was a clear night, although Oakvilles 1st lieutenant, K.B. Culley, recalls it as a black night, with wind force four, and there were some surface whitecaps in a heavy swell from a storm during the day. At 0257 on the 28th, from an altitude of 500 feet, U 94 was sighted by the Catalina in the light of the moons path. The PB Y made an immediate run and from a height of about seventy-five feet dropped four MK XXDC depth bombs. Ites had been watching the convoy and became aware of the air attack too late to take avoiding action. The bombs exploded on both sides of the conning tower and blew U 94s stern into the air, wrecking her after diving planes. The aircraft also dropped marker flares as the U-boat appeared to dive. When the attack on U 94 developed, SLt Graham Scott was OOW on Oakvilles bridge. King was a stickler for practice and as usual had exercised action station routines in the dog watches, from four to eight p.m., so the ship was prepared for any eventuality. Scott heard an explosion, saw a white column of water at a distance and sounded Action Stations. LCdr King immediately ordered full speed ahead and altered toward the flares. On reaching the spot where the flare was by now extinguished he dropped five depth charges set to 100 feet. At this point he did not have asdic contact and only estimated the time to fire. Almost immediately after the explosions, as Oakville was turning sharply around, a surface contact was gained at 600 yards, 10 on the ships starboard bow. King altered toward it and, within a minute and a half, the U-boat was sighted on the surface about 100 yards ahead, moving left. Two white rockets were fired by Oakville to warn the convoy of a surfaced submarine. King altered course to ram and told his 1 st lieutenant to prepare to shore up bulkheads if they were damaged themselves. When it appeared the submarine would pass close under the ships bow, hard-a-port was ordered and U 94 crashed down the port side of the corvette. Those on board could see only the bow of the submarine at this point and were firing .5-inch machine guns at what they could see. King then altered to starboard to open the range and allow his 4-inch gun to bear. At 400 yards one round was fired at the bow for a near miss, two more rounds were fired at the conning tower. By now the Oerlikons, machine guns and small arms were all firing at the U-boat which effectively prevented the Germans from manning any of their guns. Ites had increased speed and was dodging the corvettes movements. He passed to starboard of Oakvilk but his 88mm deck gun had been destroyed by a 4-inch shell. King wheeled and again rammed the U-boat, striking her another glancing blow on the starboard side, as upper deck stokers hurled soda bottles from a storage locker at the no doubt startled people on the U-boats bridge. With all the firing, shouting of orders to the various guns, there was an air of organized uproar. A further depth charge was fired, this one exploding right under the submarine which at least caused her to decrease speed. Again King opened the range, turned and this time truly rammed the U-boat squarely abaft the conning tower. Although this provided the coup de grâce for 17 94 it also smashed Oakvilles asdic dome and oscillator and flooded the lower asdic equipment compartment. One of her crashes against the submarine had severely gashed Oakvilles hull, causing serious flooding in No. 2 boiler room. King intended to capture the U-boat by putting SLt H.E.T. Lawrence, his gunnery officer, on board by boat in charge of a boarding party of twelve. With the now-stopped submarine close by, however, King ordered the boarding party to jump from the forecastle. As the ship swung toward the wallowing boat, Hal Lawrence was almost wiped out by Oakvilles 4-inch gun firing a last round. There had been a misfire which Lt Culley was dealing with, and Scott, on the bridge and separated from the gun platform in these short-forecastle corvettes, was also shouting to the guns crew. The gun captain reloaded and fired another round, unaware in the turmoil of Lawrence preparing to board the U-boat close alongside. At last Cease fire! was ordered. Only Lawrence and Stoker Petty Officer A.J. Powell of the boarding party were able to make the leap to the U-boats casing. The rest of their party were stunned by the guns blast and Oakville rebounded before they could recover. Once aboard the partly submerged and rolling submarine affairs were still in a wild state. Lawrence lost his tropical shorts when his belt broke and he was washed over the side in a wave surging across the casing. Helped to the deck again by Powell, they were now in danger of being hit by small arms fire from Oakville, still directed at the U-boat. Then the two were met by Germans emerging from the conning tower. After a brief struggle in which two Germans were shot by Lawrence and Powell, they controlled at least the upper deck. At this point it was decided to let the remaining U-boat crew come on deck where Powell gathered them on the after anti-aircraft gun platform. Lawrence descended into the boats control room, searching for the most valuable prizes sought in all submarine engagements, the secret signal books and machines. But he could do nothing as the submarine was already filling with water and obviously sinking. Powell called down for him to come up and Lawrence was obliged to swim back to the ladder to climb back out of the conning tower. He quickly ordered everyone into the water. As he swam away he looked back and saw the U-boat sink. USS Lea had closed the area to look for survivors and was asked by King to rescue his own boarding party as well, as he was now temporarily stopped by Oakvilles engine room flooding. The Chief ERA organized damage control efficiently, while Lea collected twenty-one Germans and SLt Lawrence. With no uniform on of any kind, Lawrence had to resort to some un-German salty language to convince his American rescuers that he was Canadian, not part of the U-boats crew. Oakville picked up Petty Officer Powell and five Germans in her own dinghy. Lawrence had cut his hand in the leap to the submarines deck and this was the only Canadian injury. Otto Ites was wounded by three bullets but was rescued. Nineteen of his crew were killed by gunfire or went down with U 94. Unfortunately, while all this action was taking place, three more ships of the convoy were torpedoed by U 511 although one, the valuable tanker Esso Aruba, made port on her own. The victorious corvette was soon able to get under way again but Oakvilles damage was too great to allow her to continue as a useful escort. She was detached at 0705 and arrived at Guantanamo Bay at 1700 on 28 August. After temporary repairs, she steamed on one boiler to New York and Halifax for a refit. For the rest of the war Oakville served in a number of escort groups including W-7 and W-8 of Western Local, finishing with W-6. She was paid off into reserve in 1945 and sold to the Venezuelan Navy in 1946. Renamed Patria, she served until 1962. LCdr King was awarded the DSO and the United States Legion of Merit for his destruction of U 94. He went on to assist in the sinking of three more U-boats when CO of the frigate Swansea, earning a second DSC and two Mentions in Despatches. He eventually commanded an escort group and retired as a captain. Hal Lawrence was awarded a DSC to add to his M.I.D earned earlier in Moose Jaws destruction of U 501. He was later to write several books about this and other actions in the Atlantic battle. Stoker Petty Officers Powell and David Wilson both received DSMS, the latter for his quick reaction in Oakvilles boiler and engine rooms when flooding occurred due to the multiple rammings. Lt Culley was awarded a Mention in Despatches. SOURCES: Borrett, East Coast Port. Conways All the Worlds Fighting Ships, p. 393. Johnston, Corvettes Canada, pp. 151-152. Lawrence, A Bloody War, pp. 95-106. Lawrence, Victory at Sea, pp. 152-160 Macpherson & Burgess, Ships of Canadas Naval Forces, p. 82 & 232. Macpherson & Milner, Corvettes of the RCN, p. 107. McKee, HMCS Swansea, The Life & Times of a Frigate, pp. 37-42 Paquette & Bainbridge, Honours & Awards Canadian Naval Forces. Rohwer, Axis Submarine Successes 1939-1945, p. 119 and var, pp. Roscoe & Wattles, US Destroyer Operations in WWII, p. 134. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive 1914-1945, p. 143. Schull, Far Distant Ships, pp. 137-138 United States Fleet, Headquarters of the C-in-C, Information Bulletin No. 19, Anti-Submarine Warfare.

: , : "Oakville". .

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