HILLMAN  WWII SCRAPBOOK
HMCS PRINCE ROBERT
TRIBUTE SITE

Newspaper Articles on the
Capture of the M.S. Weser
Part II
Continued from Part I
From the Sandy Sellers Collection
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WAR PRIZE
Captured Nazi Freighter Enters Canadian Harbor under Navy Escort; Crew Place in Custody
Unknown newspaper ~ October 4, 1940

A WEST CANADIAN PORT, Oct. 4. – The German speed freighter Weser arrived at this port [at 2] this afternoon with a prize crew aboard. She was under naval escort.

 The Weser, which since the outbreak of war has been dodging in and out of ports along the South American and Mexican coasts, was seized a week ago last Wednesday off Manzanillo, Mexico, as she was endeavoring to escape to sea. She slipped out at night without getting official clearance from the port authorities at Manzanillo.

CREW IN CUSTODY
 The Weser had considerable fuel oil aboard and apparently was endeavoring to escape and act as a parent ship to German submarines. She was pounced on so quickly by the Canadian cruiser Prince Robert that she was unable to go through the usual German naval procedure of scuttling herself. Quickly officers and seamen from the cruiser went aboard and took charge.

 The Weser was manned by 58 officers and men, and when they arrived here they were immediately place in shore custody. As they came ashore they were photographed. It is the first time since the outbreak of war that a prize ship has been brought to a West Coast port and the first time that a seizure has been carried out on the high seas single-handed by a Canadian man-o-war.

BOTTOM FOULED
 The exact time of the arrival of the Weser was a closely guarded secret. Owing to the fact that she has not been in drydock for nearly two years and he bottom has been badly fouled form a long spell in tropical water, the Weser was not able to hit her regular speed of 17 knots, which made her one of the fasted freighters afloat.

 Naval authorities made no announcement as to what will be done with the Weser, but she will undoubtedly be prepared of early service. A number of coast ports wanted to have the Weser placed on exhibit in order to raise funds fort the Red Cross, but it was pointed out that the value of the ship to Empire service is too great to have her tied up for sight-seeing.

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Caption to Photo
Source Unknown ~ Before October 4, 1940
CAPTURED BY CANADIAN: The German express cargo ship Weser, pictured above, is en route to Esquimalt, B.C., under escort today after having being captured Wednesday night by the armed Canadian merchantman, Prince Robert. The 9,190-ton vessel was taken off the west coast of Mexico, but Cmdr. Charles T. Beard, of the Prince Robert, gave no details of the capture.  (A.P. Wirephoto.)
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Prize Money in ‘The Good Old Days’
Source Unknown ~ Possibly October 2, 1940

Naval Minister Macdonald has announced that H.M.C.S. Prince Robert has earned something like $500,000 in prize money by capture of the German steamer Weser. Under existing regulations this will not go to the ship but into a pool which will be shared at the end of the war by the men of all the British commonwealth navies.

 It was not so in the brave days of old. Then the ships which made the capture split the proceeds and some astonishing fortunes were reaped on the seas.
 In 1744 George Anson returned from his voyage around the world in the Centurion. She had fought and captured the Manila galleon and was deep laden with treasure with few of the company left to share the prize money.

 Thirty-two oxcarts were required to convey the booty to the Tower of London, under a heavy guard of Royal Marines and to the sound of fife and drum. Crowds of people lined the way cheering the sailors and their officers riding on the treasure. Never had so heavy a treasure, £500,000, been brought home to England by a single ship.

Quickly Gone
 In 1762 the Spanish galleon Hermione was captured off Cadiz by Rodney. This affords a picturesque example of the use of suddenly acquired riches by people not accustomed to them. The cargo of the Hermione was so valuable that every officer and man in different proportions became rich at a stroke. The bluejackets each received £500 as their share.

 History records that the simple-minded sailors bought all the watches in Portsmouth and fried them over the galley fire! As uniform regulations were slack in those days the trards supplied themselves with gold-laced hats which were a novelty on the lower deck. Eventually, of course, the only people to benefit with the shore sharks.

 Captain William Goldsmith, R.N., in his book “The Naval History of Great Britain,” published in 1825, records this incident:

 In October 1799, cruising in the Bay of Biscay, the British frigates Naiad and Alcmene, discovered and gave chase to two Spanish frigates, soon being joined in the chase by the Triton and the Ethalion.  The last ship succeeded in coming up with the Thetis, one of the Spaniards, a frigate of 36 guns and 250 men, bound home from Vera Cruz. On capturing her they found $1,411,256 in her strong room.
Exciting Days
 In the meantime the three other frigates pursued the Santa Brigada, also of 36 guns, with a crew of 300. The Spaniards stood close to the rocks of Monte Laura, and the Triton, headmost and eager, closing with her, struck on these rocks while running at the rate of seven knots.

 By great exertions she was soon extricated and, having received no vital damage, commenced a brisk fire on the enemy. The three other frigates, the first prize having been taken, joined in the action until the second Spaniard struck his colors.

 He had on board $1,400,000 besides other articles of considerable value. The two ships, their equipment and the treasure were adjudged lawful prizes.
Big Awards

 The treasure was sent to the Bank of England and when the awards were made officers and men of the four British frigates receive the following shares:

  • Captains, each   £40,730
  •  Lieutenants, each   £5,091
  •  Warrant officers, ea.  £2,468
  •  Midshipmen, each   £791
  •  Sailors and marines, ea  £182
 Night along the Portsmouth Hard must have been long remembered when the Tritons, the Ethalions, the Alcmenes and the Naiads rolled ashore, greased pigtails swaying in the breeze, welcomed by their sisters, their cousins and their aunts.

 A lucky and brave sailor, if he did not die of scurvy or have his head shot off by a cannon ball, might retire at ease if the press gangs did not get him again.

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Extra Men Used For Prize Crew
A WEST CANADIAN PORT. OCT 5–Cmdr. C. T. Beard of the Canadian naval escort which brought the captured German freighter Weser into port today, said that without additional personnel, sanctioned by Hon Angus Macdonald, Defense Minister for Naval Service, before the Canadian warship put out on her initial cruise, he probably would have run into difficulties in bringing home the German freighter.

 The Naval Minister visited the Canadian warship just before she sailed and Cmdr. Beard told him of the need for more men for a prize crew in case a capture was made.  “He flew back to Ottawa and the next day we had the men, That was real teamwork,” said Beard.

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Reveal Trap Laid for Nazi Ship
Vancouver, News-Herald ~ Saturday, October 5, 1940

A WEST CANADIAN PORT, Oct 5 ––BUP)–The German motorship Weser was captured by a ship of the Royal Canadian navy in the dark of night, Sept. 26, without a shot being fired, navy spokesmen said here Friday as the Weser was brought into this port under armed escort, the White Ensign flying over the Swastika.

 Capt. H. Beit of the Weser was quoted as saying he though the Canadian vessel was a Mexican gun-boat.

 Details of the capture in Mexican waters were made public for the first time.

 The North German Lloyd ship was seized four and one-half miles off the Mexican port of Manzanillo, in pitch blackness. It was all over in 15 minutes. Thirty of the Weser crew were taken aboard the Canadian warship as prisoners and 28 were kept aboard the Weser. Then the ships started the voyage north.
 Capt. C. T. Beard of the Canadian warship knew the Weser was in Manzanillo and was likely to make a dash from port. He laid for her.

 The Canadian vessel took up vigil off the mouth of the harbor. By day she would go out beyond the horizon. By night she would come to the fringe of the Three-mile limit and patrol across the harbor mouth.

 Shortly before midnight on Sept. 26, the Weser made a dash from port showing no lights. She left a float bearing lights at her mooring in the harbor, so the populace would not be aware she was gone. She had enough fuel for three months, more than enough to get her to Germany. The lifeboats were partially lowered; arrangements for scuttling had been made and buckets of gasoline along with flares had been distributed throughout the ship to set her afire if need be. Aboard were 58 men, 15 head of cattle, 15 pigs and half a dozen hens.

 A dark cloud was behind the Canadian vessel as the Weser came out of the harbor, so although she could make out the form of the German ship she could not be seen from the freighter. The warship swung in behind the freighter and pulled up close.

 When the warship was almost abreast of the Weser, the commanding officer ordered a searchlight flashed on. At the same time he hailed the freighter though a megaphone, telling her to stop. He also had a star shell fired to intimidate the Germans.

 All the guns of the warship were grought to bear on the freighter and lights were played on the guns for emphasis.

 The Weser came to a stop and an armed boarding party of 20 men, commanded by Lieut. Commdr. G. B. Hope, went over to her. (Turn to page 3)

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Vancouver’s Cruiser Brings Home Its Nazi Prize of War
Vancouver Sun ~ October 5, 1940

Photo captions: A German merchantmen prisoner of war comes to a West Coast Canadian port.
 From left–Lieut.–Commander G. B. Hope, second in command of HMCS Prince Robert, and the man who was in charge of the prize crew which brought the Weser to Canada, lights a cigarette as he tells his part of the story to newpapermen.

 The second picture shows the captured ship.

 Next are crewmen of the Prince Robert coming ashore on leave.

 In the fourth photo, a Robert crewman shows off a Mexican hat and German duffle bag–prizes of war.

 Last, are two Able Seamen from Prince Rupert–Charles Anderson and Harry Robb.

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Weser Sailors ‘Jaunty’ when Landed in City
57 German Seamen in Immigration Shed Will Be Interned for Duration

Crew of the Nazi fast freighter Weser, which fell prize to HMCS Prince Robert, marched jauntily into the Dominion Immigration Building here shortly after 1 a.m. today.  They numbered 57 men and officers–all the ship’s company except Capt. H. Veit– and appeared pleased to spend the duration of the war as prisoners in a Canadian internment camp.

Most of the men are young and appeared glad to be safely out of the risky business of running British blockades.
 One member of the crew was ill when they landed here from a Canadian naval vessel and was taken to the infectious diseases hospital. The others remained temporarily housed in the Immigration Building until disposed of in an internment camp.

 The crew was brought ashore under heavy naval guard and walked the short distance to the Immigration Building between files of soldiers.  It is believed they will be transferred today to an internment camp.

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NAZI PRISONERS LAND IN CITY
Unknown Newspaper ~ Likely October 5, 1940

Smiling crew members of the captured German motorship Weser, apparently unconcerned with the prospect of spending the rest of the war as prisoners, were brought here early this morning under naval guard.

 One of the sailors was rushed to General Hospital by ambulance. It was learned that he was suffering from diphtheria.

 Five officers were with 52 seamen who shuffled off a naval vessel shortly before 1 a.m. today and walked to the Canadian Immigration Building, escorted by marines with fixed bayonets.

 Capt. H. Beit of the Weser, was not brought with the prisoners.

 A guard of military police lined the route from the ship to the building, where the sailors were to be kept overnight in a large room, under guard.  It is expected they will be transported to a prairie point today for internment.

 Member of the crew were all young and appeared in good spirits. They were dressed in many types of clothing, most of them in work overalls.
 No spectators were on hand and newspapermen were barred from the dock.

 Earlier in the day they had landed at a West Canadian port aboard the ship of the Royal Canadian Navy which captured the German motorship.
 

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BROUGHT IN PRIZE SHIP
Canadian Warship Convoys Weser to Anchorage in West Coast Port
Unknown newspaper ~ October 6? 1940

 Worthy of a page in the great volume of British sea traditions in the story of the recent capture of the North German Lloyd freighter and passenger vessel Weser off the coast of Mexico by a Canadian warship, as it was retold at a West Coast Canadian port yesterday for the benefit of newsmen and the public by officer of the ship. It is certainly worth a whole chapter in the book of the young Canadian Navy, which its officers and men have been writing on both coasts of North America as well as on the European side of the Atlantic since the Empire went tow war last Fall.

 Loudly acclaimed by the Canadian people when the brief announcement of the capture was flashed from the ship to shore establishments of the Royal Canadian Navy just over a week ago and made public shortly afterwards by Navy Minister Angus Macdonald from Ottawa, the details of the smart performance carried out by the commander, officers and crew of the Canadian ship under him in securing the enemy ship without loss of life or damage to the prize, will have a tendency to quicken the Canadian pulse and produce a thrill of pride, which will run through all the wide country of Canada from coast to coast.

IN LINE OF DUTY
 The capture of the Weser was necessarily in the line of duty, but it was, nevertheless, a job well done and without any bungling, which makes it all the more worthy of applause when men who had a part in the accomplishment tell about it by firesides of friends and families, (as continued p 15, c 1)
even if a little trace of prideful satisfaction be apparent as the circumstances are told and retold.

 Nor could Commander D. T. Beard, R.C.N. who captains Canada’s smart new warship, although he told of the Weser’s capture in time-honored navy fashion without any flourish of words, hide the gratification he felt when referring to the part played by the men of his ship in taking advantage of an opportunity which brought about the capture of the rich prize, the first to be brought home unassisted during the present conflict, and which, at present tonnage values, is worth about $1,500,000 and will have an earning power of $500 daily when put in commission under the Red Ensign.

 Describing the harbor of Manzanillo and its approaches, Commander Beard stated that, having knowledge of the Weser’s presence in the Mexican port, he had stood off its headlands some thirty to forty miles distant during daylight and approached the shore at night under shadow of a highland at one end of the harbor, when he could see into the port could not be seen himself in the limited visibility prevailing in the semi-tropic night. All the time he was well outside the three-mile limit, keeping sharp lookout both forward and aft. To see and not be seen was the main consideration, and expecting the Weser would make a dash for sea some night, the plan of action was to let the freighter get into the Pacific and run in between her and the land if possible.

CRAFT SOUGHT
 About 11:15 o’clock on the night of September 26, the ship was seen leaving the harbor. Aboard the cruiser it was not sure whether she was the ship wanted or not. It could have been a Mexican vessel, although she was running without lights. The Canadian cruiser closed in on her and she was hailed through a megaphone by Commander Beard. The captain of the Weser replied in Spanish. By that time the ships were close together and the searchlights of the warcraft turned on her disclosed it was the craft sought. The crew of the Weser had intended to scuttle their ship, but they were too late, for a boarding party under Lieut.-Comdr A, M. Hope, which was standing by ready, was already approaching the German ship.

 Getting aboard the Weser, Commander Hope and the boarding party of thirty divided up and at once took stations agreed upon. Commander Hope, in charge of the party, exhibited all the coolness of which British seamen are noted, not knowing at what moment his head might be blown off. Nothing happened and shortly after some thirty German prisoners were sent aboard the Canadian cruiser. They were apparently under the impression that they were going to be shot immediately and were accordingly astonished when they were treated as human beings, given cloths and some four of them hurried to the sick bay, needing hospital attention.

 The Weser, evidently attempting to reach Germany via Japan, made a run from Manzanillo without observing shipping regulations. She had enough Diesel oil to run her engines for three months when captured, and had practically no cargo aboard, with the exception of 300 tons of coke and a quantity of peat moss. Her cargo, originally destined for Northwest Pacific ports, had been transferred and delivered since she had taken refuge at Punta Arenas, Coast Rica, at the outbreak of war in September, 1939. For her trip to Japan the crew of the Weser was on short rations. Among the items hurriedly put aboard were fifteen head of live cattle and an equal number of live hogs, which the sailors of the cruiser slaughtered and threw the carcasses overboard to the sharks.

OUTSIDE LIMIT
 When the Weser was stopped by the Canadian warship, she was just four and one-half miles off the Mexican coast. All the men aboard the Canadian ship behaved splendidly, according to Commander Beard. He is very proud of his crew members, who hail from all parts of Canada. With his ship and her personnel there is a fine combination and the will undoubtedly be heard from again, he said. While including all the men of his crew in a general compliment for their efficiency throughout the capture  and the trip up the Coast, the commander especially commended the excellent work of Warrant Engineer Matheson, who took charge of the Weser’s engine-room.

 Following the arrival of the Weser and her convoy to this Western Canadian port, the German seamen were transferred to another Canadian warcraft and started on their way to an internment camp through another West Coast Canadian port, the prisoners as they left the Weser and the warship, fifty-eight in all, getting farewell handshakes from the Canadian bluejackets who had played a part in their capture and had been their guards.

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Pressing Need For Nazi Ship
Unknown newspaper
Because the Canadian government needs the services of the captured German express cargo ship Weser the minute the navy is finished with her, she will not be open to public inspection in the interest of the Red Cross, as had been suggested, it was learned this morning.

 The Weser will come under Admiralty Court shortly after she is turned over by the Navy, officials of this court being Chief Justice M. A. Macdonald, Justice in Admiralty, and Sheriff H. W. Goggin, Marshal in Admiralty. J. B. Clearihue, K.C., has been named counsel for the Department of Justice in the case.

 These three discussed the handling of the Weser this morning with R. W. Mayhew, M.P., who suggested, when informed the ship could not be open to public inspection, that she be taken into Ogden Point and that 10 cents be charged the public to stand on the wharf and look at the war prize. This, however, will not be done, as crowds of people would only impede the work.

 It is pointed out that one day’s loss of the ship to the Canadian government would be many times more than the dimes and quarters the public would give to the Red Cross.

 Hon. Angus Macdonald, Minister of Naval Services will be in Victoria next week.
 

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AT SEA
“Stunning Surprise”
Unknown US source
 When war broke out, peace-loving Canada had a Navy of six destroyers, five minesweepers and 37 small auxiliary craft. Last week it had 120 vessels (including six ex-U. S. destroyers) and was growing fast. And though its vessels had long been engaged in the humdrum work of convoy and patrol, and distinguished themselves in the hell of Dunkirk, last week for the first time the Royal Canadian Navy gave the world a good, smacking sea brush of its own to show it had no barnacles on its bottoms.

 Off Manzanillo, Mexico–on  Mexico’s Pacific shore almost due west of Mexico City–the 6,892-ton armed merchant cruiser Prince Robert closed in on the 9,179-ton North German Lloyd freighter Weser and took her prize. Aboard the Weser was a fishy cargo: 19,000 bbl. of fuel oil, 600 bbl. of lubricating oil, 15 live steers, a large stock of fresh vegetables and a “lot of miscellaneous stuff.” Her clearance papers were not in order. Mexican officials, who thought that the vessel was headed either for a supply rendezvous at sea, or for Vladivostok, whence the stocks would travel across Russia to Germany, admitted “stunning surprise” that a Canadian vessel should be operating in the Pacific and so far south.

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Commend Naval Men On Smart Capture of Speedy German Ship
Commander Beard and Officers of H.M.C.S. Prince Robert 
Guests of Honor of Canadian Club – Story of Naval Strategy Told
Unknown ~ Likely before October 10, 1940

How the element of surprise delivered the German freighter Weser into the hands of the navy, represented by the H.M.C.S. Prince Robert. Off the Mexican port of Manzanillo, was related by Commander C. T. Beard, R.C.N., captain of the armed merchantman which brought the Nazi prize to a British Columbia port, when he addressed the Men’s Canadian Club at luncheon in the Empress Hotel yesterday.

 “The Germans really aren’t as clever as they are given credit for,” Commander Beard remarked, describing how the unsuspecting captain of the Weser brought his ship out of port under cover of darkness, to be captured without resistance by the waiting Prince Robert, which had been playing a watching game off the coast for seven days.

 Commander Beard, his first lieutenant, Lieutenant-Commander G. B. Hope, who led the boarding party, and A. F. Mathieson, R.C.N.R., warrant engineer, who took charge of the Weser’s engine-room, were the club’s guests of honor at a special luncheon to mark the Prince Robert’s exploit. Other guests included Most Rev. J.C. Cody, D.D., Bishop of Victoria; Commodore W. J. R. Beach, R.C.N., senior naval officer on the Pacific Coast; Col. H. C. Greer, second in command at Work Point; Air Commodore A. Earl Godfrey, A.O.C., Western Air Command; R. W. Mayhew, M.P., and Hon. Dr. K. C. MacDonald, Minister of Agriculture.

HIS HONOR”S PRAISE
 R.A. Wootton, new president of the club, read a message from Hon. E. W.  Hamber, Lieutenant-Governor, expressing His Honor’s regret that engagements in Vancouver prevented him accepting the club’s invitation to be present, and asking that his congratulations should be tendered to Commander Beard and the officers and crew of the Prince Robert. His Honor referred to the capture of the Weser as a magnificent exploit that had added honor to the already splendid record of the Royal Canadian Navy.

 Commander Beard was greeted with the singing of “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and a round of cheers after he had been introduced by Mr Wootton. He spoke of the capture of the Weser as a small detail in the war, and expressed a hope that when the Prince Robert went out again she would give the club something of which to be really proud.

 “We went out to do a job, prepared for it. We were lucky; we didn’t know the enemy would fit into the scheme quite as well as he did,” was the way the speaker summed up the capture.

 ARMED MERCHANTMAN
Describing the function of the navy in wartime as that of keeping the trade routes open for the Empire’s own trade, and denying them to the enemy, Commander Beard explained that armed merchantmen had been brought into the picture because they were cheaper to build and were admirably suited to perform duties such as that done by the Prince Robert. These merchantmen were able to stay at sea for long periods, and were sufficiently armed to be able to tackle enemy raiders.

 The Prince Robert had left here in a hurry, and it was that hurried departure that presented far more difficulties than the actual capture of the Weser, Commander Beard said. It was essential that the ship should get out without anyone knowing her movements.

 To preserve that secrecy, no wireless signals were made by the Robert while she was at sea. However, it appeared as if that secrecy had been broken when, not far out, the naval vessel ran into a ship which was at first thought to be the one for which she was looking and which radioed a description of the occurrence. Later the Robert passed another ship bound for Vancouver, and stopped her, Commander Beard wishing to transfer important mail to her. The skipper of that ship immediately made signals that he was being captured by an enemy raider, after dumping all his confidential papers overboard.

SURPRISE SPRUNG
So, by the time the Prince Robert reached her objective, there was little hope that her presence remained unknown, Commander Beard continued. However, it turned out that the captain of the Weser was completely unaware that there was a naval ship in the vicinity, and the engineer was in his cabin drinking cognac to celebrate a safe departure when the Weser was stopped and boarded.

 Commander Beard described the strategy employed in the week of waiting and in surprising the Nazi ship when she eventually left the security of the Mexican port, giving the fullest credit to Lieutenant-Commander Hope, whose quick and well-planned actions had prevented the scuttling of the prize, and to Mr. Mathieson, who had been given the difficult and dangerous charge of her engine-room.

 Lieutenant-Commander Hope told of the actions of the boarding party, mentioning that the Weser’s crew had made preparations to set the ship on fire if necessary, but had been unable to give effect to their plan. The trip north aboard the Weser had been uneventful, but every member of the German engine-room crew had a guard placed over him so that no monkey wrenches could be thrown into the works.

 Lieutenant-Commander Hope added that the Weser, with her 10,000 ton cargo capacity and speed of seventeen or eighteen knots, would prove a most useful ship to Canada.
 

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Cruiser’s Visit Seen as Warning
Globe & Mail ~ Monday, October 28, 1940
(Wireless to the New York Times and the Globe and Mail)

San Jose. Oct 27. The Canadian cruiser Prince Robert’s recent visit to Costa Rica’s pacific port, Puntareanas, where she remained for ten hours, is believed here as a warning to the German vessel Eisenach and the Italian ship Fellah, which have taken refuge there. The Prince Robert recently captured the German ship Weser off Manzanillo. It is reported that the Eisenach and the Fellah are ready and have received orders to depart, brought by the Japanese ship Nosiro Maru. Hence it is believed that the Prince Robert will remain in nearby waters.

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Prince Robert is at Chilean Port Shipping Stores
Unknown ~ November 13, 1940

Santiago, Chile. Nov. 13 (AP)–Four British warships were reported patrolling the Pacific off the South American coast today in search of German surface raiders. The Canadian auxiliary cruiser Prince Robert arrived at the port of Talcahuano to take on stores.

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CALLS AT VALPARAISO
Unknown ~ November 11, 1940
VALPARAISO, CHILE, NOV. 18 (AP).–The Canadian armed cruiser Prince Robert arrived at this port on the west coast of South America, yesterday, for a twenty four hour stay. The Prince Robert came here from Talcahuano, Chile.

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

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