HMCS Chilliwack, before June 1944
This page contains six photos -- (1.) the crew of
HMCS Chilliwack at the top, and below it a transcription
of the 38 crew signatures on the back of the photo. (I have another copy of this photo which passed the censor
June 20, 1944. It also has a written notation that they are alongside HMCS Assiniboine.)
Following those is (2.) a photo of the boarding party from HMCS Chilliwack,
which boarded the German submarine U-744, on 6 March, 1944. And after that are (3. & 4.) two news clippings from the
Toronto Telegram and (5.) a clipping from the
Moose Jaw Time Herald about the sinking of that submarine.
At the bottom is (6.) a large photo taken from
HMCS Chilliwack of the foundering submarine surrounded by Canadian ships.
This photo was taken before June 20, 1944, the date it passed the censor (see stamp on
the back of the photo).
Put your cursor over their faces and the following men will be identified:
Wilson Reginald McMurdo is in the top back row at the extreme left.
Gerald James Ryan (see more photos) is in the 2nd row down from the back, 3rd from left.
In front of Ryan, and one man to the left, is Garth O'Neil Kennedy, from Saskatoon.
James Norman Commerford is in the middle of the 5th row from the front, with his elbows on his knees with his hands crossed.
George Alfred Long is in the 4th row from the front, 2nd from right.
John MacMillan is in the 3rd row from the front, 3rd from left.
Maurice Sequin is in the 3rd row from the front, 7th from left.
Daniel Biletchi is in the 3rd row from the front at the extreme right.
Arthur Longbottom is in the front row, 2nd from the right.
CLICK HERE TO SEE AN ENLARGED VERSION OF THIS PHOTO.
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE MEN'S SIGNATURES ON THE BACK.
This is a transcription of the 38 signatures on the back, in alphabetical order of last
name. A few signatures are hard to decipher and I've marked them with (?). I've added information received on people
by enclosing it in [ square brackets ].
- (?). Anderson, Vancouver, B.C.
- J.R. Belske(?), Vancouver, B.C.
- D. Biletchi, Niagara Falls
- A.J. Boucher, Prince Albert, Sask.
- John R. Brunul(?), Edmonton
- G.H. Burkett, Vancouver, B.C.
- Robert Clayton, Harris(?), Sask.
- J.N. Commerford, St. Catharines, Ontario. [James Norman Commerford, aka "Hats"]
- Bill Craig, Windsor, Ont.
- R. Crawshard
- John Crook, Edmonton, Alta.
- F. Dube, Verdun, Que.
- F.N. Eveson, Toronto, Ont.
- R.E. Ganard(?), Port Alberni, B.C.
- R.N. Herd, Winnipeg, Man.
- Hedley Hewton(?), Halifax, N.S.
- C.A. Howell, Moncton, N.B.
- (?). Husson, St Agathe Des Monts, P.Q.
- [Garth] Kennedy, Saskatoon, Sask.
- (Doc) (?) Long, Montreal, Que.
- [ Later was the Reverend Canon George Alfred Long, 1922-2012.
Born in Verdun, Quebec and enlisted
in Montreal. He had several parishes in and around southern Quebec and eastern Ontario. His final years were spent as
a resident of St Anne de Bellevue Veterans Hospital. ]
- (?).W. Luker, Verdun, Que.
- John Mather, Edmonton
- J.E. McCallum, Windsor (Salt City)
- Roderick Power, Sheet Harbour, Halifax Co, NS
- R.J. Pratley, Oshawa, Ont.
- J.J. Price, Toronto
- L.B.(?) Prizeman(??), Regina, Sask.
- A. Reid, Sarnia, Ont.
- J. Robinson, Montreal, P.Q.
- L. Rodgers, Winnipeg, Man.
- K.E. Rowe, Saint John
- Gerald Ryan, Montreal, Que.
- L.G. St Pierre, Levis, P.Q.
- John D. Shaylor, Cornwall, Ont.
- George S. Smith, Montreal
- E.G. Taylor, MK II, Winnipeg, Man.
- L.B. Taylor, MK I, St. John, N.B.
- Dead Eye Thompson, Cochrane, Ont.
Boarding Party photo below added April 3, 2021.
HMCS Chilliwack Boarding Party.
Many thanks to William Gard for this photo
of the boarding party from HMCS Chilliwack, which boarded the German
submarine U-744, on 6 March, 1944. Photo taken 27 March, 1944, in England.
(Tweeted by James Brun, photo credited to John Mahoney,
and names per http://www.forposterityssake.ca)
The boarding party from HMCS Chilliwack, which boarded the German
submarine U-744, on 6 March, 1944.
Back, L - R: Telegrapher Martin,
Lieuts Atherton, Dunn and Hearn, AB Passerini.
Front, L - R: CERA Longbottom, Stoker Jenkins,
AB Makeranko, AB Lawrie, PO Wilson, Signalman Starr.
HMCS Chilliwack was involved in the sinking of U744 on March 6, 1944. This clipping from
The Toronto Telegram of July 14, 1945, tells the story more than a year after it happened.
This photo was taken within seconds of the news photo below.
Canucks Cripple U-Boat, Hoist White Ensign,
Boarders and Nazis Both Swim As Raider Sinks
Arrow points to swordfish insignia on Nazi submarine's shell-battered tower. Beside the
sub is a whaler from HMCS Chilliwack. Some of the Chilliwack's boarding crew are on the conning tower, draping a White
Ensign over it. Others are on the deck, and the rest are waiting their chance to leap on to the wallowing U-boat.
Details of a dashing action in the North Atlantic more than a year ago when officers and men from three Canadian corvettes
boarded a badly-battered German sub and tried to "bring her back alive," have been revealed by the Navy.
Sinking of the sub, in a lengthy action that involved five Canadian warships, was announced
previously, but to-day the RCN disclosed for the first time the story of how Canadians attempted to raise the White
Ensign -- only to find her too seriously damaged to stay afloat and also to find that she lacked a flag-staff so that
no flag could be raised.
The attack involved chilly swims in the North Atlantic for crewmen of HMCS Chilliwack, Fennel and St. Catharines, all
of which sent whalers along side the injured sub, and the whalers later capsized -- but no Canadian lives were lost
and 39 Nazis were rescued from the sea.
"Fire-ball" of the whole incident, according to Lt.-Cdr. Tony Coughlin, RCNVR, Commanding officer of the Chilliwack,
was Signalman Jack Starr of Winnipeg, who has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his part in the
The whole thing started when a U-boat was detected near a convoy that the three corvettes, along with other Canadian
ships, were escorting.
The sub surfaced near Chilliwack,
and Lt.-Cdr. Coughlin, who was standing on the bridge spotted the undersea raider dead ahead.
"Man that ruddy Oerlikon!" he shouted to Signalman Starr who was on duty on the bridge.
"I'd never fired an Oerlikon In my life," Starr grinned, "but I leaped to the port bridge and fired like hell.
It was easy to handle, and I could see my bursts hitting right on the conning tower."
Soon lhe entire armament of the corvette was brought to bear on the surfaced sub, and Nazi crew members who
attempted to man their own guns were cut down. When a regular gunner took over from Starr, he snatched up a rifle
and kept on pumping bullets into the U-boat.
Then the order came "Away Sea-boat," as Chilliwack prepared to lower a whaler and send a boarding party
to the enemy craft.
Starr grabbed a White Ensign from the bunting locker and leaped into the boat. Lt. Tim Dunn RCNVR. of Quebec City,
was in charge of the boat and he found that the sea had risen so high that it was almost impossible to get his
whaler alongside the Nazi. On the third try, the whaler swamped, and her crew had to swim aboard the U-boat.
One of the first to get aboard was Sub-Lt. Tom Atherton of Parry Sound, who seized a Sten gun and went to the
entrance hatch on the conning tower.
"I met a German just coming up the hatch," he related. "At first he refused to go down ahead of me, but he changed
his mind when threatened with the gun."
Below in the sub, things were in a mess. Chlorine fumes were bad, there was no air, and as Sub-Lt. Atherton's
flashlight had gone out, he had to grope around in the dark.
When he went back upon deck again, he found the members of the whaler crew floating around in the sea -- so he
helped pull them aboard. Then he sat down to take off his boots -- and a big sea washed him over the side.
Signalman Starr, meanwhile, had hoisted himself to the top of the conning tower, White Ensign in hand.
"There were some dead Germans there -- one was the U-boat captain. But there was no Jack-staff, and no Nazi flag
flying so I had to elevate one of their anti-aircraft guns and drape the flag over that."
CHEER GOES UP
"All the fellows in the ships that were circling the U-boat let out a cheer when they saw that. I got quite a
kick out of it."
By this time. Lt. Dunn had decided that it was no longer safe for him and his men to remain aboard the sinking sub.
He ordered "Everybody off," along with four or five men, tried to get the waterlogged whaler to float.
The boat capsized and they had to swim back to the U-boat again.
They couldn't stay long. The sub was slowly submerging, and Sub-Lt. Atherton and others had been washed into the sea.
Lt. Dunn ordered all his men into the water.
By this time, whalers from Fennel and St. Catherines had been launched, and both had capsized, so that there were
three whaler crews and a handful of Nazis floating around together.
To the rescue came the motorboat of the Canadian destroyer Chaudiere, which had also been escorting the convoy,
and was now standing by. Badly smashed in the heavy seas, the boat yet carried on and managed to pick up the
men in the water.
Lt. Charles Rathgeb, RCNVR, of Toronto, in charge of the Chaudiere's boat, reported that he heard firing from aboard
the sub as he drew near.
"I opened fire myself, then." he said, "and that silenced them, I don't know what all the firing was for."
Six medals and 18 mentions in despatches were awarded to those taking part in the sinking, including: DSCs to
Lt.-Cdr. Coughlin and to Lt. W.G. Gooderham, RCNVR, Toronto, of the St. Catharines.
DSM's were given to Signalman Starr, Petty Officer Edward Badger of Toronto, Chief ERA A. Longbottom,
Moose Jaw; AB F.D. Craig of Kamsack, Sask.
This is another clipping from the Toronto Telegram regarding the sinking of U744.
Unfortunately the caption is torn so many of the names are gone. Scott McMurdo's father, Wilson Reginald McMurdo,
was on the gun crew and is on the extreme right.
Oct. 19, 2020: Thanks to Karen Bailey who sent me another version of the above photo,
but probably from a Saskatoon newspaper, and with a complete caption. One of her
uncles, Garth Kennedy, is the one giving the "thumbs up" in the photo.
SCORE ONE FOR "CHILLIWACK."—The artist In the above photograph is Leading Seaman James Neill of Verdun. Quebec,
No. 1 gunlayer in the Canadian corvette which recently played a leading part in the destruction of a U-boat.
Leading Seaman Neill is busy painting a U-boat on the shield of the four-inch gun while other members of the gun's crew look on.
Included in the group are Able Seaman Danny Coote of Winnipeg, the sight setter; Able Seaman Garth Kennedy of Saskatoon,
the trainer; Able Seaman George Smith of Montreal, the cordite number; Able Seaman Gordon Taylor of Winnipeg, the rammer;
Able Seaman Wilson McMurdo of Weston, Ontario, QR2; and Able Seaman Joe Price of Toronto, the ammunition number and the
only bearded rating In the party. "Chilliwack" had just reached port after helping batter the submarine when this photograph was taken.
Her four-inch gun was the first to go into action.
This photo was taken from HMCS Chilliwack by Wilson Reginald McMurdo.
It shows the floundering U744 in the middle of a ring of Canadian ships.
Many thanks to
Scott McMurdo for these photos and news clippings.
Scott's father, Wilson Reginald McMurdo, served on
HMCS Chilliwack during the war.
To see earlier news reports of the sinking of U-744, see Jamie MacMillan's page on this website.
Clipping below added December 1, 2013.
Thanks to Richard Dowson of Moose Jaw, for this newspaper clipping of the
Moose Jaw Times Herald of May 25, 1945. It features the exploits of a local man,
ERA Arthur Longbottom.
Local Man Is
For good service in destroying an enemy submarine, Engine Room Artificer Arthur Longbottom, R.C.N.V.R. of this
city has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
He received the medal from the Commander-in-Chief, Canadian Northwest Atlantic, Rear Admiral L.W. Murray. C.B.,
C.B.E., R.C.N., at a recent investiture in the admiral's office.
E.R.A. Longbottom, who serves in the Royal Canadian Navy corvette H.M.C.S. "Chilliwack" was a member of the
boarding party which went aboard a German U-boat which "Chilliwack" had blown to the surface.
The submarine began to sink and the boarding parly had to abandon attempts to keep it afloat. Their seaboat
capsized and E.R.A. Longbottom and others in the party were forced to swim for their ship as the U-boat sank.
He joined the navy in May, 1941, and has served in the "Chilliwack" for two and one-half years.
His wife and two children reside at 204 Lillooet Street West.
Can you provide names, details or corrections?
Please email Charlie Dobie.
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