Casualty list of the sinking of HMCS St. Croix

The sequel to the forgotten post about HMCS St. Croix…

The reason I forgot was because I had posted the same story on the French version of this blog. There was a French-Canadian sailor who also died.

He was in the engine room.

Here are the first in the list of casualties of HMCS St. Croix.


In memory of
Leading Coder
SELWYN ARTHUR  ADAMSON

who died on September 20, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number: V/36276
Age: 30
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. St. Croix

Additional Information:

Son of Arthur M. and Gladys Adamson, of Port Credit, Ontario.

In memory of
Leading Stoker
HUGH  ARMSTRONG

who died on September 20, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number: A/2547
Age: 40
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Navy Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. St. Croix

Additional Information:

Husband of Jean Elizabeth Armstrong, of Toronto, Ontario.

In memory of
Engine Room Artificer
WILLIAM MORRISON  ARMSTRONG

who died on September 20, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number: 21375
Age: 29
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Navy
Division: H.M.C.S. St. Croix

Additional Information:

Son of William J. and Lillian A. Armstrong, of Victoria, British Columbia. Husband of Thelma Annie Armstrong, of Esquimalt, British Columbia.

In memory of
Able Seaman
WILLIAM RUFUS  BADOUR

who died on September 20, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number: V/30991
Age: 19
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. St. Croix

Additional Information:

Son of Augusta Badour, of Kingston, Ontario.

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WILLIAM RUFUS  BADOUR

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2557394_3

WILLIAM RUFUS  BADOUR

In memory of
Able Seaman
NORRIS BENJAMIN  BAILEY

who died on September 20, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number: V/31265
Age: 25
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. St. Croix.

Additional Information:

Son of Maria J. Taitinger, of Claresholm, Alberta.

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NORRIS BENJAMIN  BAILEY


In memory of
Leading Stoker
GORDON FRANKLIN  BARNHART

who died on September 20, 1943

Military Service:

Service Number: V/8916
Age: 23
Force: Navy
Unit: Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve
Division: H.M.C.S. St. Croix

Additional Information:

Son of Reuben W. and Malvienna Barnhart, of Fort Erie, Ontario.
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HMCS St. Croix – Survivor’s Account

I wrote this draft post in September 2009, but I never got around to post it before today.

Full speed ahead!

hmcs-st-croix

The sole survivor of the St. Croix, Stoker W. A. Fisher, told his story in a newspaper account:

(Winnipeg Free Press 1 October 1943)

Survivor Of St. Croix Tells Of Destruction

By LLEWELLYN McKENZIE

New York, Oct. 1 (Special) The sole survivor of a torpedo attack in the Atlantic, which claimed the lives of 146 Canadian seamen in the sinking of the Canadian destroyer St. Croix during a 10-day running fight with a pack of enemy U-boats, told his story today. He is William Allan Fisher, 23, former Turner Valley, Alberta, oil driller.

Able Seaman Fisher told his story from a British naval receiving station in Brooklyn. He was brought there in a merchant ship which rescued him after his first first rescue ship was sent to the bottom. Fisher is waiting a 30-day leave which will him back to his 20-year old wife, Marie Louise, in Black Diamond, Alberta. His left foot was hurt during the sea battle.

“We were part of an escort detailed to a large convoy,” Stoker W. A. Fisher related. “We received a signal that submarines were about. We stayed astern of the convoy, but on September 20, we had to come up and take on oil from a tanker in the convoy. On our way back to our position we saw a Canadian four-motored Liberator signalling us. We were told that they had spotted a submarine and dropped depth charges. We flashed two boilers and made for the spot at 24 knots. As we neared, we had to reduce speed. As we slowed up we were hit in the screws.” Fisher said there was no panic and no one thought of abandoning ship. “But in two minutes another torpedo struck, this time near the mess deck, and water began to pour in,” he went on. “The captain, Lieutenant Commander Dobson, then issued orders to abandon ship.” That was just before 8 o’clock and dusk was gathering and a slight wind blew even though the sea was calm.

Some men were injured by the explosions which followed the torpedoes, some were burned and cut. They were put in the motor launch before it was lowered over the side. The motor boat pulled away. Meanwhile attempts were made to lower a 60-passenger oar-driven whaler. Two attempts resulted in two large holes being gouged into the bottom of the whaler. Carley floats were dumped over the side and the men began jumping into the water. “No one seemed worried then,” Fisher related. “Many of the crew laughed that they would be due for 29 day survivors’ leave.” The rowboat pulled away from the sinking destroyer, and picked men out of the water. “Even then I thought the ship would be saved,” Fisher said. “Then I saw the captain dive off the boat. I knew everyone was off then and that the captain had given up hope.”

As Lieutenant Commander Dobson headed for the motor boat, he saw two men struggling in the water. He towed them to Carley floats and then made for the rowboat. Fisher was in charge of the motor boat. “No one in the boats died during the night,” the survivor went on. “It was morning that everything happened. Men on the Carley floats insisted on getting into the rowboat. As the men got in. it settled lower in the water. Just before the rescue ship came along, it sank. The whaler did not have any injured men aboard. They were oil-grimed and cold. I saw men who were tough, big men. They hung out all night in the hope a boat would pick them up. Then when the boat did not come into view they died. I guess they couldn’t hang out any longer. We dropped them into the sea.”

Sixty men were still alive on the whaler. The ship which headed to their rescue was the Royal Navy frigate ITCHEN, completed last September. As the frigate steamed through the lifting morning mist, the men in the whaler received the signal that the ITCHEN would come directly to their rescue. As the ITCHEN neared, a torpedo was seen to explode 30 yards to her stern. A message was flashed to the Polyanthus, a corvette of the Flower class, to come out of the convoy escort and circle the ITCHEN while the men were taken aboard. “The Polyanthus was just coming in and she was struck,” Fisher said. “I guess she went down in about 10 minutes. We rescued 10 men in our whaler. The ITCHEN headed for the convoy,” Fisher went on. “Some of us were given jobs to do. I did watch. On September 2, two days after we were rescued, we were ordered to our action stations because submarines were around. We had three orders. The first started at 6 at night. There was another one at 7 and again at 9. At 9 o’clock I was standing beside the funnel when a torpedo struck. I was knocked 30 feet and landed against a gun platform. As I crawled toward the rail I kept yelling for my pal, Stoker Rod MacKenzie, of Sydney. MacKenzie had been torpedoed six times before. He didn’t answer and I jumped over the side. As I hit the water there was another explosion and I felt that my stomach was being squeezed through my ears. The water just cracked,” said Fisher. When he reached down to tug off his boots, his left boot was missing. It had been blown off. Fisher grabbed a board and looked to see other men jumping from the ship. Most of them drowned. A Carley float drifted by and Fisher jumped on. During the night others jumped on, but most of them died.

©1996-2004 – The Naval Museum of Manitoba – 1 Navy Way – Winnipeg Manitoba – R3C 4J7

HMCS ST. CROIX – A Tragic Saga

This is the source of my article…

I have added a few pictures.

Built in 1919 for the United States Navy, she operated with the Atlantic Fleet as USS McCook until placed in reserve at Philadelphia in 1922.

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She was recommissioned in December, 1939, and again served with the US Atlantic Fleet prior to being transferred to the Canadian Navy at Halifax as HMCS ST. CROIX on September 24, 1940.

HMCS St. Croix

She sailed for the U.K. via St. John’s on November 30, but ran into a hurricane and had to return. Arriving at Halifax on December 18, she remained under repair until mid-March 1941, when she took up the role of local escort.

18 Dec 1940. HMCS ST. CROIX returning to Halifax with hurricane damage (article picture)

In August, 1941, she joined the Newfoundland Escort Force, escorting convoys to Iceland. In May, 1942, following six months’ refit at Saint John, N.B., she escorted her first convoy, SC.84, to the U.K., and was thereafter employed constantly on the “Newfie-Derry” run.

In April, 1943, she was assigned to Escort Group C-1, and in June to Escort Group C-5. During this period she sank U90 while escorting convoy ON.113 on July 24, 1942, and on March 4, 1943, while accompanying convoy KMS.10 from Britain to Algeria, she assisted HMCS SHEDIAC in destroying U87.


THE LOSS OF HMCS ST. CROIX

HMCS ST. CROIX had distinguished herself in the early days of the Battle of the Atlantic. Her crew was credited with two U-boat kills. Of the Canadian ships she was one of the most successful.

In September 1943 ST. CROIX was with Mid-Ocean Escort Group C-9, comprised of another of the ex-USN “four-stackers” ST. FRANCIS and the veteran corvettes CHAMBLY, MORDEN and SACKVILLE, plus the British Navy frigate HMS ITCHEN.

By the summer of 1943, the German U-Boat wolf packs had found the Atlantic battle turning against them, but by the end of August a large number of submarines had been re-equipped with a new weapon, the GNAT (German Naval Acoustic Torpedo) torpedo which homed in on the sounds from the propellers of ships.

The ST. CROIX, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander A.H. Dobson, was headed for the Bay of Biscay (off France) when she was ordered north to escort a slow moving convoy. A large wolf pack had gathered, and the extra escorts were required badly.

On 20 September 1943, at 2151, U305 struck at HMCS ST.CROIX with two GNAT torpedoes, hitting her aft, near her propellers. The ST. CROIX did not sink immediately; however U305 eventually fired a third torpedo at her. The third torpedo was the final blow as it caused ST. CROIX to sink within three minutes.

A number of her ship’s company were lost in the sinking, but many of the crew remained in the water looking for possible rescue.

Two RN ships from the escort force rushed to the area, now astern of the convoy, to see what had taken place and could be done. The frigate ITCHEN signaled to B-2:

“ST. CROIX TORPEDOED AND BLOWN UP. FORECASTLE STILL AFLOAT. SURVIVORS IN RAFTS AND BOATS. TORPEDOES FIRED AT ME. DOING FULL SPEED IN VICINITY. WILL NOT ATTEMPT TO P.U. SURVIVORS UNTIL POLYANTHUS ARRIVES.”

But the RN escort corvette POLYANTHUS, was herself torpedoed by U952 just after midnight, again in the stern by a GNAT. ITCHEN then had to become involved in attempting to locate the attacking U-boat. She was only later able to locate one survivor of Polyanthus.

Polyanthus

HMS Polyanthus

ITCHEN was eventually able to pick up eighty-one ST. CROIX survivors, five officers and seventy-six ratings, but only after they had been in the very cold water for thirteen hours. Most of those lost had perished in the sea after abandoning the ship.

For the survivors of ST. CROIX and the single Polyanthus crewman the few hours of rescue came to a bitter end at approximately 0200 on the 23rd as U666, again using a GNAT, sank HMS ITCHEN.

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HMS Azelea similar to HMS Itchen

This time there were but three survivors, two from ITCHEN and Stoker W. Fisher from ST. CROIX. They were rescued by a Polish merchant ship, the Wisla.

One of the ST. CROIX seaman, lost in the ITCHEN, was Surgeon Lt W.L.M. King, RCNVR, Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s nephew.

St. Croix crew

A footnote…

medal auctioningNo comment… Well not until tomorrow.