HILLMAN  WWII SCRAPBOOK
HMCS PRINCE ROBERT
TRIBUTE SITE

Newspaper Articles on the
Capture of the M.S. Weser
Part I
Continued in Part II
From the Sandy Sellers Collection

M.S. Weser ~ Captured September 25, 1940


H.M.C.S. Prince Robert 
with M.S. Weser at Esquimalt

Click for larger image
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CANADIANS CAPTURE NAZI SHIP
Seizure Made Near Mexico
A Winnipeg paper ~ Thursday, September 26, 1940
Ottawa, Sept. 26. – The Canadian armed merchant cruiser, Prince Robert, captured the German express cargo ship Weser off Manzanillo, Mexico, Honorable Angus Macdonald, navy minister announced today.

 The minister made his announcement to assembled Ottawa reporters, hastily called to receive the news.

 The Weser, 9,180 tons, sailed from Manzanillo yesterday and was captured last night.

 Only recently the navy minister announced the commissioning of the Prince Robert for the Royal Canadian Navy. She is a former Canadian National Steamships cruise vessel.

 In the spring of this year the Canadian flotilla leader, H.M.C.S. Assiniboine, shared honors with a cruiser of the Royal Navy in the capture of the German merchantman Hannover, in the Caribbean sea.

 Just after Italy entered the war, H.M.C.S. Bras d’Or, a minesweeper of the Royal Canadian Navy captured the Italian vessel, Capo Noli, 3,690 tons, after the Italian crew ran their vessel aground of the Bic islands some 10 miles west of Rimouski, Que.  The Prince Robert is commanded by Cmdr Charles Tashereau Beard and carried a crew of 20 officers and 200 men.

One of Three Converted Ships
 She is one of three merchant ships, originally built for the passenger service of the Canadian National Steamships and acquired by the navy early in the war.

 The vessel was converted into an armed merchant cruiser at North Vancouver and commissioned in the naval service in July of this year.

 Cmdr. Beard’s message to naval headquarters did not say whether the Weser was armed or whether the Germans offered any resistance.

 The German ship is reported to have been tied up at various points on the Mexican coast since the start of the war,. Recently she was reported to have loaded a cargo of diesel oil and to be preparing for sailing.

 Reports, of which the navy has no confirmation, were heard to the effect she had served or was about to serve as a refueling ship of enemy submarines.

 Cmdr. Beard is one of the veteran officers of the Royal Canadian Navy, and a native of Montreal. He is 50 years old, and retired last summer, only to return to service on the outbreak of war.

Large, Speedy Freighter

 The Weser is 487 feet long with a speed of 17 knots making her one of the largest and fastest of freighters.

 She has frequently figured in the news since the war broke out. In November 1939, she put into Punta Arenas where it was reported she was interned. Last January there was a report she was being offered for sale to the Chilean government.

 In July she sailed for Manzanillo and reached that port after being stopped by a Mexican gun boat. Her name had been changed to the Hopeleram. Since then there were frequent reports she had been armed and that she was located with 19,000 barrels of oil and was preparing to escape to become a mother ship to a U-boat.

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ARMED CANADIAN SHIP CAPTURES NAZI VESSEL
Unknown Source: [substantially the same as the previous entry]
September 26, 1940

Ottawa, Sept. 26. – The Canadian armed merchant cruiser, Prince Robert, captured the German express cargo ship Weser off Manzanillo, Mexico, Navy Minister Macdonald announced today.

 The Weser, 9,180 tons, sailed from Manzanillo Wednesday and was captured Wednesday night.

(The British Admiralty announced today two submarines had sunk three German supply vessels. One attacked a convoy of eight ships and sunk two and the other sunk “a large supply vessel screened by two enemy destroyers.” Date and location of the sinkings were not revealed).

 The captain and most of the crew of the Weser have been transferred to the Prince Robert and the Weser is being escorted to Esquimalt, B.C.

 Manzanillo is a port in Mexico on a bay opening into the Pacific ocean.

 Only recently the navy minister announced the commissioning of the Prince Robert for the Royal Canadian Navy. She is a former Canadian National Steamships cruise vessel.

No Details
 The Prince Robert is commanded by Cmdr Charles Tashereau Beard and carried a crew of 20 officers and 200 men.

 Cmdr. Beard’s message to naval headquarters did not say whether the Weser was armed or whether the Germans offered any resistance.

 Reports, of which the navy has no confirmation, were heard to the effect she had served or was about to serve as a refueling ship of enemy submarines.

 Cmdr. Beard is one of the veteran officers of the Royal Canadian Navy, and a native of Montreal. He is 50 years old, and retired last summer, only to return to service on the outbreak of war.

 The Weser has frequently figured in the news since the war broke out. In November 1939, she put into Punta Arenas where it was reported she was interned. Last January there was a report she was being offered for sale to the Chilean government.

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CANADA PROUD OF COMMANDER
Skipper of Robert Congratulated by Premier, Navy Minister and Admiralty
Source Unknown ~ October 2, 1940

Ottawa, Oct. 2 (CP).–Hearty congratulations from Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Navy Minister Macdonald and the British Admiralty were sent to Commander Charles T. Beard, of H.M.C.S. Prince Robert, on the recent capture of the German freighter Weser of Manzanillo, Mexico, Mr. Macdonald announced today at a press conference attended by some ten newspaper reporters.

 The Prince Robert, a former Canadian National Steamships passenger vessel, recently converted into an auxiliary cruiser, now is escorting its prize to the West Coast naval station at Esquimalt, B.C.

“Great Work”
 “Hearty congratulations to yourself, to the officers and men of H.M.C.S. Prince Robert from all your fellow Canadians,” was Mr. King’s message.
 “Great work, Robert. All Canada proud,” wirelessed Mr. Macdonald.

“Please convey my congratulations to all concerned on capture of German ship Weser. This early success for H.M.C.S. Prince Robert, on her maiden voyage is, I feel sure, a good augury for the future,” was the message from the Admiralty.

 Mr. Macdonald said he had not yet received detailed information on the cargo and probable destination of the Weser when the Prince Robert pounced on her shortly after her departure from Manzanillo, on September 26. The Weser’s crew numbers fifty-eight men. As non-combatants they will not be prisoners of war but they will be given the status of internees.

PRIZE MONEY
 The prize money accruing from the capture of the ship will run to more than $500,000, Mr. Macdonald estimated. While no arrangement about prize distribution has yet been made, he said, it is probable the same method followed in the last war will be adopted.

 Then the prize money coming to all the navies of the British Commonwealth as a result of the capture of enemy ships was pooled and distributed to the officers and men at the end of the war.

 Mr. Macdonald said no interference with Japanese ships reported to be carrying German-made goods to Mexican ports for sale in Latin-America was contemplated.

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Crew Had No Time to Sink Vessel
Officers and Men of Prince Robert Tell Dramatic Story of Seizing Nazi Freighter
By Don Mason (Sun Ship Reporter)
"The Sunday Sun" (Vancouver Sun) ~ Saturday, October 5, 1940

 One shell across her bows stopped and captured the Nazi cargo liner Weser off Manzanilla (sic), Mexico a week ago–one star shell.

 “It was almost too easy,” Commander Charles Taschereau Beard, master of the armed merchant cruiser HMCS Prince Robert told me during an interview in a West Canadian port, Friday.

 The master of the German freighter thought he was being stopped for routine examination by a Mexican gunboat. He had previously been informed that no British naval vessels were in the vicinity.

 HMCS Prince Robert–Port of Vancouver’s own fighting ship–was something new to him.

 “We had no trouble at all,” said Commander Beard.

 He gave most of the credit for the capture to his second in command, Lieut.-Commander G.B. Hope of Oak Bay, B.C.

 He was the man who went aboard the Weser–the man who commanded the prize crew that sailed her to Canada.

 “I really mean it when I say that Lieut. Commander Hope deserves a major share of the credit,” Commander Beard told me.

 “He boarded that ship not knowing what would happen. He didn’t know whether the Germans would blow off his head as he went over the side or whether the ship had been mined.

 “Fortunately we had two boatloads of men, about 20 in all, aboard the Weser before they knew what was going on.”

 The Weser, a ship well known in Port of Vancouver before war started–a regular caller, in fact–was captured by the Prince Robert a week ago last Wednesday.

 She tried to sneak to sea out of Manzanillo, where she had skulked for three months or longer. Lieut. Commander Hope told me his story:

 “The Weser’s chief officer was standing at the top of the companionway when I went aboard.
 “He was a little stubborn, inclined to argue the matter with me.
 “I shouldered him aside. The sight of a Lewis machine gun took the fight out of them–if there was any to be taken out.
 “After that, it was plain sailing.”
 The Weser was captured at 11:30 p.m., Sept 26.

 “We had cruised up and down outside Manzanillo Harbor for a week. “ Commander Beard told me.

 “Yes, we wore a groove in the ocean,” said Able Seaman Charles Anderson of Prince Rupert, a member of the “Robert’s crew.

SHIP KEPT HIDDEN
 Commander Beard said:

 “In daytime we cruised 30 to 40 miles off shore. At night we came in closer–3 ½ to 4 miles out. I kept the Robert in the shadow of a headland.
 “We were hidden so that we could see the harbor mouth, but could not be seen ourselves.
 The Weser came out at 11:15 o’clock.
 “Visibility was not good that night…a bit foggy it was,” said Commander Beard.
 “I moved in closer.”
 Commander Beard was not sure, at first that his quarry was the Weser. He’d been fooled before:  An American freighter, built in Trieste, Italy–not unlike the Weser–had passed by a day or two before. Commander Beard ordered her to stop for examination.  A British merchantman, Port of Vancouver bound, was halted too.

 It was an unfortunate stop for the Britisher. Her master thought that the Prince Robert was a German raider. Immediately, as ordered by the Admiralty, he threw all his records overboard.

 “He was a very peeved captain when he found out who we were,” said Commander Beard.

 “Well, we got in close behind the Weser, to prevent her running back into port,” the commander told me.

 “We had to be careful about that three-mile limit, tool

ACTION STATIONS
“Every man aboard was at his action station. Everything was ready.

 “I hailed the German commander from by bridge–by megaphone.

 “That’ll tell you how close we were before he found out we were in the Pacific,” the commander said.

 The German freighter was ready for the Nazis’ favorite stunt–destruction rather than capture.

 But the Prince Robert gave her crew no chance.

 “They had buckets of gasoline and diesel oil all ready.” Said Lieut.-Commander Hope. “But we didn’t give them time to touch them off.

 Commander Beard took up the story again:  “The Weser’s commander–who by the way, was Capt. H. Veit–her chief officer when she was last in Port of Vancouver in peace-time–had no chance to get way from me,” he said.  “We were too close. I had the searchlight on my guns. He knew what he was up against. He didn’t try anything."

CHANGED CAPTAINS
 Commander Beard, whose guest, Captain Veit was during an eight day voyage to Canada, told me that Capt. F. Voight, commander of the Weser when last here, was relieved of his command three weeks ago.

 The chief engineer of the Weser, and some of his men were just lifting glasses of liquor to their lips to drink to a safe voyage and a get-away when the Prince Robert’s searchlight came through his port.

 “We got them just when they thought they were safe,” Commander Beard said.

 There was quite a sea running at the time, the commander declared. He had intended to pull alongside the Weser, but had to send two boarding parties instead…Lieut.-Commander Hope in chard.

 The latter brought the Weser home to Canada with a prize crew and some of the German engineers–who worked because they could do nothing else.

 There were 58 officers and men aboard the Weser.

 “And they were a ‘cocky’ crew,” I was told.

 When they came ashore for internment in Canada, some of them said:  “We’ll get the Weser back in a few weeks, as soon as we win the war.”

 What a hope they have, according to crewmen of  the HMCS Prince Robert.

CATTLE ON BOARD
 There were 15 head of cattle aboard the Weser and 15 hogs–for food during the long trip back home.

 Lieut-Commander Hope told me that the animals were slaughtered and thrown overboard because they were diseased.

 Four men of the Weser’s crew were taken to the Prince Robert’s sick bay. All of them were scantily dressed–in clothing good for the tropics, but not for wear in Canada.

 The Prince Robert crew gave them what they could spare in the way of trousers, jackets, sweaters, underwear. Several Robert seamen today sport radios and other possessions they did not have before…because they were good to the German prisoners.

 Even Germans are not unappreciative when they are treated as human beings.

 Only men aboard the Weser wo were unappreciative were the officers. Some of the crew weemed even glad to be captured.

 Commnader Beard told me that 30 men from the Weser were taken aboard the Prince Robert immediately.

 “We gave them what clothing we could and fed them sandwiches and hot coffee. They needed both badly,” he said.

 The officers were taken to Commander Beard’s quarters.

EXPECTED EXECUTIONS
 “They could not understand why they were not to be shot right away,” said the commander.

 They all did as they were told. They gave us no reason not to trust them as people whose luck had run out….men who had loost a game.”

 Commander Beard was careful to explain that the Weser’s crew had no chance at all to fight–or even to destroy their ship:  “We were on top of them before they had a chance.  When I hailed the German commander, he answered in Mexican, believing my ship to be a Mexican gunboat. He discovered his mistake too late, when were aboard him.”

 Lieut. Commander Hope, who led the boarders on to the Weser, is a well-known resident of Oak Bay.  He joined the Royal Navy back in 1906, he told me Friday.  The first warship he served aboard was the battleship Vanguard–blown up during the First Great War. He has seen his share of service, and more.

 The Weser’s trip back to Canada from Mexico was slow because the German freighter’s bottom is fouled with barnacles. She has not been drydocked for overhaul for two years.  Her loaded speed is 17 ½ knots, and she can do about 20 knots when light.

FINE PRIZE
 “She is a fine prize, and she can earn $500 a day for Canada if she is put right to work after overhaul,” Commander Beard told me.

 When the Weser was captured she had 300 tons of coke and several hundred tons of peat moss aboard. Previously, cargo she had for Port of Vancouver – whence she was headed when war started more than a year ago–was unloaded at Punta Arenas, Costa Rica, and shipped overland to destination.

 Commander Beard expressed the opinion that the Weser had intended to attempt a return to Germany via Iceland and Norway.  Both she and the Prince Roberts were ‘blacked out’ when the speedy capture took place.

 “There was no armament aboard the Weser other than a few revolvers held by officers,” Commander Beard said.

 The Canadian commander pays high tribute to his officers and men. Especially does he give credit to Lieut.-Commander Hope and Warrant Engineer Mathieson, who took charge of the Weser’s engine room.

 “Most of my men were green when the Prince Robert sailed three weeks ago,” he said. “They were from all over Canada. And they are real seamen.”

 I could tell by Commander Beard’s tone and facial expression that he is more than proud of his men and his ship.

 “For many of them, this was their first chance at action,” he told me. “I am proud of the way in which they behaved.”

 Commander Beard meant it – every word.

NAVY VETERAN
 He is a real seaman, and a veteran in the Royal Candian Navy.

 Commander Beard was the first cadet to enter the Royal Canadian Naval Academy in 1908. He has been RCN ever since, except for two years in retirement.  This war he has been Commodore of Convoy on the Atlantic and now commander of HMCS Prince Robert.  Canada has reason to be proud of him.

 Extreme youth seemed to be the outstanding feature of the crew of the Weser who came ashore for internment in Canada, Friday.

 Commander Beard explained it.  “The German merchant navy expanded very fast before the war,” he said. “A good many extra apprentices were taken on at small pay.”

 The Canadian commander says that the Weser is worth about $1,500,000.

 The Prince Robert’s crew members are glad to be home -- though they have been at sea only three weeks.  Capture of the Weser has been “a lot of fun” to them.
 

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Continued in Part II

click for larger image

In its pre-conversion days as a passenger ferry ship.

Read more about the capture of the M.S. Weser at:
http://www.airmuseum.ca/rcn/prstory03.html

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