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ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY
HMCS CHILLIWACK

HMCS Chilliwack, before June 1944

This page contains a photo of the crew of HMCS Chilliwack at the top, then a transcription of the 38 crew signatures on the back of the photo. Following that there are two news clippings from the Toronto Telegram and one clipping from the Moose Jaw Time Herald about the sinking of the German submarine U744. At the bottom is a large photo taken from HMCS Chilliwack of the foundering submarine surrounded by Canadian ships.

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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.
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.
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.

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 ].


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.

photo of sinking of U744

This photo was taken within seconds of the news photo below.

newspaper clipping of sinking of U744

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 attempt.

ESCORTING CONVOY

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 lhe 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.

"AWAY SEA-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."

SWEPT OVERBOARD

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.

MEDALS GIVEN

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.


newspaper clipping of sinking of U744

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.

photo of sinking of U744

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.


For more of Wilson Reginald McMurdo's photos taken on HMCS Chilliwack, see Gord Mumford's Merchant Navy Website. (Scroll down to HMCS Chilliwack and click on the "For more photos" link).


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
Awarded D.S.M.

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.

news clipping

Can you provide names, details or corrections?
Please email Charlie Dobie.


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