...Through a Canadian Periscope...

© Julie H. Ferguson 1997-2019

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Our Canadian Submariners in WWII

Canadian submariners distinguished themselves during the conflict of 1939-1945 in every theatre and every conceivable type of operation. Four of the twenty-seven were decorated, one twice. They all served with determination and skill and a few did so with gallantry. A handful lost their lives. Every one is remembered on the Honour Roll of the Canadian Submarine Service in Halifax.

 

There were Canadians in full size submarines, midgets (X-craft), and chariots. They were involved in anti-shipping and anti-submarine roles, covert operations, rescue missions, support roles, and even training the Canadian escort groups in the art of ASW (anti-submarine warfare). One ended up with the Shallow Water Diving Unit at Gibraltar, locating mines on the bottoms of ships assembling for convoys; another was captain of an X-craft; and several commanded surrendered U-boats.


 

An Ottawa native, Freddie Sherwood (lower left) joined the reserves in 1933 and was one of the first Canadians to go overseas with the navy. He volunteered for submarines during his training course in Britain and went on to be one of the first reservists in WWII to take Perisher, the commanding officers' course. Sherwood served in HMS/M Sealion in Norwegian waters, in Safari in the Med, and commanded Spiteful (above) in Far Eastern waters for eighteen months. His fascinating memoir is available here.

 

Johnnie C. Ruse (below) commanded several X-craft towards the end of the war, which were almost as hazardous and demanding for their crews as the chariots had proved to be. He scared an American observer witless one day by doing an airless surface from 200 feet which blew his boat out of the water like a breeching whale. In the spring of 1945 Ruse stood by XE8 during her construction and began training for operations in the Far East. The midget submarine's name was Expunger and her visitors' book was inscribed with "The fewer the men, the greater the honour." 

 

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