Petty Officer George Grivel: A splendid man…

I just wanted to learn more about George.

This must be the same person William Abbruzzese was refering to in his message he sent me.

Hi Pierre,

Enjoyed the info on Charles and the Athabaskan very much. My Uncle Lcdr George Grivel  RCN (ret) sent me a copy of the book Haida years back and told me the torpedo electrician mentioned as saving another of the survivors was in fact Charles

Please do approve the comment.

Bill

This is the source of this excerpt.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” The loss of HMCS Ottawa, September 1942

Late in the evening of 13 September 1942, while escorting Convoy ON 127, the destroyer Ottawa was sunk by U-91. Lieutenant L.B. Jenson, RCN, was on the bridge when the first torpedo hit:

An amazing geranium-colour flash forward was followed by a great pillar of water which went straight up! All of us took shelter under the overhang at the front of the bridge as the water and all sorts of solid objects tumbled down from the sky. When the downpour stopped, I went back to the compass and we stopped engines. The ship lay still in the water, rocking gently. The forecastle with anchors and cables together with A Gun had vanished, and the forward canopy with B Gun drooped down towards the water. This was visible because the interior lights were all on and shining out all over the ocean. We obviously were a lovely target so the engines were ordered slow astern. …… Mr. Jones left the bridge and hurried at once to the quarterdeck, where he set all the depth charges to “safe” so that if the ship sank survivors would not be blown up by our own charges.

I asked the captain if I could do a quick inspection and report back. He agreed and I went down the ladders to the starboard passage into the mess-decks. The forward mess-decks, upper and lower, were gone, and the ocean splashed outside the great open hole, illuminated by the mess-deck lights and a calcium flare from a lifebuoy burning in the tossing waters. In the after upper mess-deck a group of about 20 men were clustered by a hammock netting. A number were terribly wounded. Men with grotesquely twisted limbs were lying there; it was like a scene from hell. ……

Back on the bridge I found the captain and the first lieutenant engaged in firing a rocket, a signal that we had been torpedoed. At almost that very moment a second torpedo hit us, this time in number 2 boiler room, a huge flash then water deluging downwards on us. It was obvious that the ship was doomed.

She started to settle in the water and the captain called out to “abandon ship!” Men were trapped in the Asdic compartment in the bottom of the ship and called up the voice pipe. I cannot bear to think of it. Others were trapped in the seamen’s wash place, where a sliding steel door had jammed shut. If one thinks of war as a policy, also think for a moment what I heard that night and cannot bring myself to describe. …… Strong men become little children crying for their mothers, not like John Wayne the motion picture hero.

Able Seaman C.R. Skillen was at his action station at one of the destroyer’s anti-aircraft guns when he was ordered forward to assist the wounded. As he recalls, he never got there:

As I stepped onto the first rung of the ladder to the upper deck, the second torpedo hit us amidships and split Ottawa in two. It hit directly below me, and when I came to, I was lying on the upper deck, aft of the stern-most funnel, with my legs, somehow pinned by the guard rail. I struggle to free myself, but to no avail, As I lay there, I knew that the bow of the ship had already sunk and that it was only a matter of time before the stern would follow suit. That is when the thought entered my mind that I was going to die.

However, I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I said a little prayer to my Maker, asking him to forgive me, and then I gave it another try. My leg came free and I rolled myself into position and slipped into the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Lieutenant Jenson, also in the ocean hanging onto a spar, watched his ship sink and then,

Oil started spreading out from where the ship had been. It was all over my face, my head and hands. The smell filled the air and the taste was in my mouth. Gradually it lessened and the waves were now fresh and clean. Three or four Carley floats bobbed around hundreds of yards away. They were crowded with men, some of whom were sitting inside the floats, and the floats kept turning over. Each time there would be fewer men on the float.

Now to my astonishment the ships of the convoy passed through us – the huge ships’ sides (how could they be so big?) and small people at the top calling down to us. One voice told us they dare not stop and I hoped they wouldn’t because we would still be in the water when they were fished (torpedoed). ……

The night was getting darker, the waves were steeper, the breeze stronger and it seemed to be raining. The men on one of the rafts [floats] were singing. I recognized the cheerfully commanding voice of the gunner’s mate, Petty Officer George Grivel, a splendid man. The songs were “Pack up Your Troubles,” “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “There’s a Long Long Trail Awinding to the Land of My Dreams.” These were the hit songs of the First World War, sung by our fathers and uncles as they had faced death in the hideous mud and trenches of the Western Front.

Seaman Skillen, badly wounded, jumped off the sinking destroyer and remembered that,

When I surfaced, I could hear my shipmates yelling and moaning in the distance. I made my way towards the noise, but all the while I watched the stern of Ottawa slowly disappear beneath the surface. I was pretty certain that there would not be an explosion from the depth charges, since these had been rendered safe. Soon I came across a carley float, and this would be my lifeline for the next five hours. Although the seas became rougher as time passed and more and more of my shipmates succumbed, one by one, to the cold, slipping silently away, I clung to that float, knowing that one wrong move would spell the end. I wanted to sleep so bad, with the sea lulling me into a false sense of warmth, but I knew that if I shut my eyes, I would suffer the same fate as my shipmates. Therefore I hung on with grim determination. The sea tossed the carley float about like an old inner tube. I think that there had been originally twenty-two of us clinging to it, but there was only about six of us left, when suddenly out of the dark loomed the outline of a ship. I soon recognized it as one of the escort group and they had found us!

The rescue vessel was the British corvette HMS Celandine, and when Lieutenant Jenson was identified as an officer, he was directed to the wardroom where he encountered a shipmate from Ottawa:,

Immediately I entered, Barriault, our leading steward, came over and said, as if nothing unusual had happened, “Good evening, sir. Would you like a cup of tea?”

So I replied, “Good evening, Barriault. That would be very nice, thank you,” and had a cup of delicious, wonderful hot tea.

Of the Ottawa’s crew of 213 officers and men, 69 survived

In Peril on the Sea — HMCS Ottawa Sinks, September 1942

HMCS Ottawa

On 13 September 1942 the River Class destroyer, HMCS Ottawa, was torpedoed by U-91 while escorting Convoy ON-127. She was hit twice and many of her crew perished before the ship sank while those who abandoned ship had to wait many hours before they were rescued. Of a total complement of 213 men, only 71 survived. One of the findings of the subsequent board of inquiry was that if Ottawa had been equipped with the more modern Type 271 radar, she probably would have located her attacker before the U-boat fired. Unfortunately, it would not be until nearly a year after her demise that the RCN would begin to receive such equipment. (Drawing by L.B. Jenson who served as an officer on HMCS Ottawa)

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4 thoughts on “Petty Officer George Grivel: A splendid man…

  1. Really heartrending, hearing about all the men in distress, trapped and about to die. Heroic stoicism is overrated.

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