HMCS PRINCE ROBERT
This is a story which those interested in the Prince Robert might find interesting.
We were escorting a convoy of ships which we had picked up from the South African Navy off the west coast of Africa near Freetown. This was our usual run in the winter and spring of 1943,44. Then one bright a beautiful day some where off the coast of Cape Finistere in the Bay of Biscay we were attacked by a lone enemy bomber carrying radio controlled bombs nick named 'Chase-me-Charlies'. I was a Canadian stoker assigned to HMS Moyola, a frigate and on this particular day my partner and I were had a duty station by the forward fire hose which was between decks. From the records two of these bombs hit merchant ships, sinking one a killing four seamen on the bridge of the other when it hit the forcastle.
In the meantime shortly after the action started the Captain had sent a runner down to the engineering officer to tell him that the Prince Robert was coming. Now this fellow was a simple person who had spent at least twelve years in the navy and had never progressed past first class stoker. When he came running by Tony and I he hesitated a bit and said, quite out of breath, that the Prince Eugene was coming, the Prince Eugene was coming. I wondered what the Prince Eugene was since this was the first I had heard of the ship. Tony told me then that the Prince Eugene was a German pocket Battleship. Bad news indeed.
It wasn't too long after that that there was a huge explosion off the port bow and the ship rocked to starboard. I said to Tony that we should go top side, open a hatch to see what was going on but stay close to our station. It was then that we saw one hit the merchant ship on the f'c'sle. As the plane flew over the Robert it let fly with all it's a/a's at once creating quite a spectacular sight with a great pall of flame and smoke from her starboard side. The aircraft took off for home immediately.
It was after 'all clear' sounded that the explosion was explained and we learned that it was the HMCS Prince Robert. Apparently one of the bombs was heading directly towards our ship but the oerlican gunner on the port side tried to knock it out of the air by aiming with the incendiary shells. Every fifth shell was like this which helped to direct the shots. Fortunately for us and in particular Tony and I, he hit it on the nose and it blew up about fifty yards off the ship. These bombs had a three second delayed detonater and if we hadn't been killed by the penetration then certainly by the explosion.
At the time it was all in a days work and it is only now that the true significants of that gunners aim is to be rewarded. The only trouble is that I didn't know him. We generally stuck to our own mess mates.
This little yarn will probably have no meaning to you except that in the spring of 1944 the Prince was in the Bay of Biscay.
Harold Hutchinson at the commissioning of the Calgary in Victoria.
Steam ahead to 2. CNSS Prince Robert 1930s
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