HMCS MAGOG - TORPEDOING   

 

 Events as remembered by Crew Members
  Harold (Bud) Robertson Herb Montgomery Errol Stewart Ray Mackay  
U-Boat 223's Report Witness Paul De Villers

 
This Story Courtesy of Harold (Bud) Robertson E. A. 4/C: This is my recollection of  SATURDAY OCTOBER 14 1944:.We were proceeding up the St. Lawrence River, it was a dull day with a little bit of wind blowing. It started out as a normal slow day and the only activity was the continuing patrol of the Escort around the convoy. As mentioned previously the convoy was a slow moving group of Merchant Ships of about 12 to 14 and our Escort group of 3 or 4 Frigates  and 3 or 4 Corvettes. It was the opinion that we were so far up the St Lawrence River ,that any thought of any action was remote.

Most ratings were looking forward to some shore leave in Quebec City, at the end of this tour and thinking !about where we would be going from there.

            We had breakfast in our mess and preparing to go to our daily assigned duties, when the Quartermaster piped  and announced a message that  Captain Quick was going to have a ship inspection and would be making inspection rounds.

            I didn’t have any planned duties that were urgent so I decided to make a check  of the E.A., Workshop to make certain that it was all in order in case they did decide to go aft and 1 deck down to this area. This was not likely going to happen,but I thought it was best to be sure that my workshop was clean and in order..

So I decided , I would go down anyway and check batteries on charge, I would be doing it later anyway.

            I was not aware that earlier the “ Cat Gear “ had been pulled in. This was due to sea weed becoming fouled ,that prevented it to function properly. Of course this left us without this protection astern for a remotely possibility of a torpedo attack.

            I proceeded from the mess deck got some fresh air and a look around, back across a gangway to the watertight hatch to the lower deck. Due to the size of the hatch, I removed my life jacket and went below. Secured the hatch and went aft about 15 ft to the workshop.

This had a steel door and about a 10” scupper, which is a vertical projection which was on all lower deck doors to prevent and contain any transient water from spreading farther. 

It was customary to keep your jacket within arms length reach in case of any major problem.

            I did my battery checks and looked around the shop and figured it was Ok.  I started on the way to go back to the mess deck.. With lifejacket over my arm ,opened the door and started to step into the centre gangway. 

                 ! THIS WAS THE INSTANT ! ! - WHAM!! the torpedo hit. There was a terrific explosion and I was knocked unconscious by the door swinging back and hitting me a blow to the head and I presume trapping my leg between the  scupper and door and knocking me back into the workshop. I am not sure how long I was Out.

     The next thing I recall was total silence. I could see out to the gangway and saw steam escaping from a severed steam line to the aft steering gear. I don’t know if I was temporarily deafened by the explosion or not, I couldn’t hear anything after that for a short period. I was groping my way around in very dim light I presume from emergency lighting.             I was in chest deep  in water and trying to understand what had happened; when I heard and felt numerous depth charges exploding and some Oerlikon firing  ( not from the MAGOG)  but  by other escort ships. As reported by other witnesses a skirmish had broken out that was quite intense. To me it did not seem to be for too long but made me apprehensive,

{ see the account of the lighthouse keeper.} )             I was still trying to orient myself to this strange setting -- Bunker oil spitting out from the forward bulkhead, steam escaping, the sounds of real action -- when I realized that I could see out through an opening to the open water in the back left corner of the workshop

 My reaction now was to get the H---out of here. I realized this opening was not very large but , I guess in desperation decided to try to get out.  I was part way through when I heard ‘- Someone “ Shout,“I got someone here but I don‘t know who it is!”  I felt someone from the open quarter deck above grab me by the back of my coveralls collar. On looking up I recognized he was an E.R.A. that I knew and I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t identify me !

I later realized I was covered with gooey fuel oil, and my head injury was likely was causing swelling and bleeding.

            He with help proceeded to pull me through and lift me to the quarterdeck. This is when I knew I had a broken leg because this allowed my leg at the my knee to drop sideways , which resulted in a shot of severe pain and I guess I passed out.

 {  l do recall a little later not being able to see out of my right eye - I had a  swollen black eye and  nose. }

            The next recollection was coming around strapped to a stretcher , with some others of the injured nearby.

We were in an area that I recognized was outside the Sickbay and Officers Mess in a relative large area .

By this time I realized we must have been hit really hard by some type of armament.

 I have no idea how much time had elapsed.

            When much to my concern I heard the whistle pipe and command ABANDON SHIP followed by a lot of commotion of much running of others to their appointed A/S stations.

            I recall saying to someone passing. For **** - please pull me to the open deck to give me a chance!

 He stopped and replied it is Ok. We are being called To A/S to establish a head count to verify if there is any one missing. I guess this must have set me at ease, because I again passed out. I was not aware that I had received a serious head fracture and concussion also.

            The rest of this day is a blur of brief moments ,the first was to recognize I was on the stretcher on the top of a motorboat. ( pictures verify that it was our ships cutter ) and we were being transferred to a flying boat, I was told later, to be taken to Mt.Joli QUE  Hospital. I have e few minutes recollection of the Canso landing on water.I am not aware of other awakenings until, what I think, was days later by a voice telling me to lie very still and not move they were going to give me an needle in my spine. I found out later this was a spinal tap to check for blood or fluid not normally present. I did ask  ” where am I “ and found it was Mt. Joli  Hospital. In emergency.

            This test was positive and I was transferred to the Montreal Neurological Institute Hospital

            I do vaguely recall being on another airplane and followed by a very bumpy ambulance ride to the Hospital.

 To eventually become aware that I was in a hospital bed.(Montreal Neurological Institute Hospital) I have tried hard to recall this period of time but I am not sure of the time line and days involved.

            It was during this time that they put a cast on my  right leg from hip to toe. I do remember my leg was in a splint prior to this and very swollen and painful.

                       I will comment the  irony of some of the days happenings when hit :- Oct. !4 1944

  1. If the “Cat Gear “ had been in the water and functioning properly, it would likely have detonated the torpedo
     

  2. If the call all for Ship Inspection had not been made a lot of personnel would have been in different areas.
    - l would not have gone at that point in time to the E.A. Workshop  but would have been in the mess deck or
     

  3. possibly in the EngineRoom at the Highpower Switch board which was normally my first daily check
     

  4.  L/seaman T. Davis would not likely have been at the aft gun overlooking the Quarterdeck doing his inspection
     of the quarter deck .    He was killed when standing at the aft 3” gun looking down at the quarter deck)
     the quarter deck folded and crashed down on the aft gun shearing off the side mounts and pinning Davis

     to the deck..
     

  5. There were Escort ships, The MAGOG happened to be in the wrong place . FATE
     

  6. Other torpedoes were used ,some missing , some failing to explode, If they had made contact with other ships
    or Escorts.  The damage and casualties would have been very high.

*   I am going to try to show in  S/Lt. Herb’ Montgomery;s report - by underlying in red  or copying his words that refer      to me,  Although I did not know him personally, at this time.  Other than he was an Officer- and he did not know me.by name.  Our paths through circumstances. were going to come together a few years later.  He was a Sales Rep. for a chemical  company and I was the contact person when I was employed at Geo. Cluthe Mfg.

             The  NEXT PART  is taken from S/Lt Herb Montgomrey’s  write up  of the time immediately after the Attack

 - -**I am going to try to try to show Herb”s  report by underlining in RED  and copying his words that refer to me, although II did not know him  at  the time only  that he was an Officer, and he did know me personally.

 ‘{ - the captain’s cabin and all the officers’ cabins on the top deck were immediately taken over as dressing stations and the wounded lads were taken to one of these cabins for attention. As we had no medical officer on board there was a rushed signal flashed to one of the frigates which carried the doctor for our escort group. Carrying on until the doctor arrived on board,  our ship’s sick bay attendant did a miraculous job of caring for the lads who had been hurt. Two lads had been working below the waterline aft when the torpedo hit were helped from the water at the end completely covered from head to toe with filthy black fuel oil. They were scarcely able to breathe or see because of this thick coating of oil. These men were rushed to one of the dressing stations for immediate attention.

Two lads had been working below the waterline }
 Aft  Port side WORKSHOP  E.A.  H.J. ROBERTSON
                                                                                     Aft Starboard side WORKSIDE   E. R. A   ALFRED LAPSLEY

            the two cabins were both immediately  forward  of the portion of the ship that  was severed

(approx 65 feet ) by the torpedo that hit.

 

This Story Courtesy of Herb Montgomery: This story begins in Godbout Bay along the Northern Shore of the Lower St. Lawrence River -- the date is October 14th , 1944; the scene--one of wild dashing about and general confusion.

The ship we proudly called our home was at anchor in the bay and tied up alongside of us was another fighting ship. You see, our home happens to be HMCS Magog, a newly-commissioned frigate in the Royal Canadian Navy. The ship had been rather sadly smashed up that morning when a German acoustic torpedo had blown away sixty-five feet of our stern. The ship tied alongside was HMCS Shawinigan, one of Canada’s gamest and oldest fight Corvettes. 

Shawinigan was taking what remained of our depth charges and all but a few tons of our fuel for her journey back down the river in search of the submarine which had hit us. The scene was one of wild dashing about and confusion simply because the excitement of the morning’s happenings had not yet subsided and secondly, because this work of transferring depth charges and fuel had to be done in the dark without showing any light whatsoever.

Upon close observation, at the entrance to the bay could be seen another Corvette steaming up and down – guarding the entrance. "What a dull routine for those chaps" we must have all thought; nevertheless, it was a heartening sight to be able to look out that way from time to time and still be able to pick her out .

The wardroom was a constantly changing scene and a good deal more serious atmosphere prevailed than in previous boring evenings spent on this thankless "River Patrol." Shawinigan’s captain and a few of his officers had dropped over and the conversation fairly reeked with details of every part of the torpedoing. Shortly, however, a Shawinigan messenger brought the news that the work on deck was complete and everything secured again for sea. A simple handshake from the little Corvette captain relayed to our captain and all of us the sincerity of his statement, when he said, "Good luck from here in."

(It was with deep alarm and profound regret that we read in the newspapers while on Survivors Leave that HMCS Shawinigan had been torpedoed with all hands lost. She had been patrolling the mouth of the river off Newfoundland in search of "our" sub at the time of their tragic end.)

Our boys let go Shawinigan’s lines and she steamed slowly out toward the entrance of the bay. Most of us felt more alone than ever now, and all the while we could do nothing but remain at anchor until such time as a tug from Quebec City arrived.

Thinking back to the morning, we all tried to remember the chain of events which led to our being in Godbout Bay. It seemed a lifetime ago thinking back – so much had happened to keep us occupied. We could all remember the Sydney-Quebec convoy which we and five other escort vessels were taking up river. We could remember the drab morning and that we were on the starboard quarter of the convoy doing the usual irregular zig-zag. We could remember that Pat and the navigator were on watch and they surely can remember, as could we all, the many dozens of false submarine contacts which would be picked up during a four hour watch. The reason for these alarming reports was generally laid to the extreme temperature gradient in the lower part of the river, and to far outreaching shelves of the Northern Shore. Most we could recall with ironical regret the air of firmness which prevailed throughout the ship inasmuch as anyone on board who thought that would dare venture up the river this far, was insane .

We clearly remembered the terrific roar and the scene of up-churning fountains of water filling the air and we remembered being astonished and temporarily stunned. After picking ourselves up and finding it almost impossible to walk as the ship had taken on a fifteen degree list to starboard, no one quite realized what had happened. Lookouts from astern, dazed, shocked and bleeding about the head – ran screaming for shelter, but in a remarkably short space of time the scene of confusion had changed to one of quite efficient work in searching the ship for possible casualties.

A shout from one of the seamen brought several of us running to the twelve-pounder gun platform aft where the ship had been cut by the torpedo. Sticking out from the twisted wreckage of the gun were the battered legs of one of the seamen. Quick , efficient efforts finally succeeded in lifting the mass of steel long enough for several of us to reach in and pick up the lad and place him on a waiting stretcher. How we must all have thought as we worked feverishly to free the chap – "The one spot on the ship which was most popular for off-duty men to congregate , and only this one lad happened to be standing there that morning!"

Repeated calls from someone searching for a still more casualties brought a small party down amongst the wreckage as far aft as possible and as close to the water as was possible. There would be no stretcher needed here, it would have been like putting a crossword puzzle together –the largest of the pieces floating in the water bore an R. C. N. Life jacket –the jacket bore a number –the only possible means of identification.

The captain’s cabin and all the officers’ cabins on the top deck were immediately taken over as dressing stations and the wounded lads were taken to one of these cabins for attention. As we had no medical officer on board there was a rushed signal flashed to one of the frigates which carried the doctor for our escort group. Carrying on until the doctor arrived on board, our ship’s sick bay attendant did a miraculous job of caring for the lads who had been hurt. Two lads had been working below the waterline aft when the torpedo hit were helped from the water at the end completely covered from head to toe with filthy black fuel oil. They were scarcely able to breathe or see because of this thick coating of oil. These men were rushed to one of the dressing stations for immediate attention. (one of these men was likely my Father-In-Law Harold Robertson - P.H.)

The ship’s whaler, which had been sent away for some lads who had been thrown into the water, now pulled in close to the ship and the still blanketed figure resting on the thwarts bore testimony to all who saw it . Only eighteen years old and just recently drafted aboard the ship, the lad never shaved in his life; it certainly didn’t add up, but then, there was work to be done .

The fox’le party was busy forward preparing to be taken in tow by another escort vessel. The bridge, from which the ship is run, was a beehive of activity. It seemed to resemble a small scale library as every confidential secret book and pamphlet had been mustered and placed in their weighted bags ready for dumping into the sea just prior to abandoning ship. The enemy would salvage none of our secret information if we were going down!

A quick, snappy salute from the chief engineer preceded his heartening statement to the captain that the engine room had been shored up and was holding nicely. There was still danger of sinking but it had temporarily been minimised by efficient engine room artificers, stokers and the ship’s carpenter, whose speciality on all ships was damage control and the shoring of bulkheads.

Suddenly, the feeling of utter helplessness which we all had felt as we drifted aimlessly about was dispelled as we felt ourselves moving under tow. This would be the test for the engine room bulkheads. The doctor had arrived on board and was frantically busy. All the men had been accounted for and things in general began slowly to steer toward an almost normal course. This was only momentarily, however, as suddenly the towing escort vessel dropped our tow, swung hard to port, rang on full speed and proceeded to drop a pattern of ten depth charges not more than four hundred yards off our port beam.

Helpless as we were all our guns, which could bear, were trained on the spot where the depth charges had exploded, ready and ever so willing to blast away at the first sign of a conning tower or periscope. By this time, however, the U-Boat had likely travelled a safe distance away and left behind her a trail of submarine bubble targets (S. B. T.’s) which would produce on our submarine detecting apparatus an echo similar to the echo of the submarine itself. The fact that two other escorts were busy dropping patterns of depth charges within a radius of about twenty-five hundred yards in opposite directions bore out the theory of the S.D. B. T.'s.

Shortly we were taken in tow again and proceeded toward the bay. A cheery report from the chief engineer that the bulkheads would hold if the weather did, put the ship’s company more at ease and once again things began to take a nearly normal course. There was still the tension which had built up inside everyone; there was still the tension which had resulted from the feeling of death in the air, as well as the rotten odour of the provisions blown up from the provision stores aft and scattered all over the ship, but over all was the feeling that there was work to be done and everyone was busy.

Glancing back as we entered the mouth of the bay we could see the masts of the ships in the convoy disappearing over the horizon; and we also caught a glimpse of the senior escort vessel rounding up the group to start a concerted search which we hoped above all else would culminate in the destruction of the sub that got us.

As twilight was coming upon us the cook had commenced to rustle up some steaks and coffee, as in the course of the day’s events, food had been our last concern. This time it was a matter of going into the gallery and grabbing, as there was still plenty of work to be done on deck .

The splash of the anchor in the shallow water of the bay told us that our ship was temporarily out of danger. However, there were several on board that were still in grave danger and still others who would never be in danger again. The doctor had done a miraculous job with the facilities at his disposal. Just before dark a twin-engined seaplane was seen overhead and it was soon evident that it intended to come down. At the request of the doctor an emergency signal had been sent to Gaspé requesting aircraft to fly out the injured. (Bud remembered being evacuated by sea plane-P.H.)

The Diesel cutter was made ready and the critically injured were bundled up in special stretchers and placed in the boat. The aircraft touched down on the water and informed us by light of his intention not to stop his engines, his reason being, no doubt , because of the slight wind which had come up and made the water in the bay quite choppy. It was a tricky job and one well done, manoeuvring the cutter over to the aircraft and securing it to the plane while in the steam of the propellers and being bounced around by the waves.

With the return of the cutter from its mission, a pipe was made by the quartermaster to stand to take the Shawinigan’s lines as she was coming alongside. By the time she had secured alongside and a gang-way had been put up, it was completely dark.

Remembering all this was comparatively easy, and as we took another glance out toward the mouth of the bay and saw the corvette still streaming up and down guarding the entrance, we realised for the first time what had happened. We had kept so busy and our minds had been so fully occupied that the reality and adventure of it all had stayed hidden away in our thoughts until now.

The two shrouded figures lying in the after ammunition shelter and the recollection of the C. N. C. life jacket floating in the water, together with the picture of the officers’ flats crowded with the injured sailors, had the grim reality of the episode stand out clearly .

After all this vivid remembering of the torpedoing, suddenly we were thinking ahead –thinking of the trip up river to Quebec and wondering what would happen if the weather did not hold. The chief had said that the bulkheads would hold if the weather did. Certainly, the possibility of the remainder of the ship breaking in half after we were under tow remained ever present .

However, this thought along with several others equally as terrifying, remained only as thoughts and were never mentioned aloud, as there was to much work to be done –yes , fortunately, there was always work to be done on a frigate to keep it happy and efficient and typically Canadian.

 
This Story Courtesy of Edison Stewart: It is a good thing for me my father, Errol, didn't always follow orders. As a crew member aboard the HMCS Magog in World War II, he missed curfew one night walking a young lady home and the next day was in trouble with the Captain as the ship patrolled the St. Lawrence River .

He had been summoned, reprimanded, and then was preparing to return to work when a German torpedo hit the ship -- right where he would have been had he not missed curfew.

He and most others survived, and I was born nine years later. But several died that day, and their loss is still commemorated by the Quebec town for which the ship was named.

Now I am a father myself, and my own father has passed on. This is dedicated to the men of the Magog and my son, Justin, who wishes he could have known his grandfather. I want to especially thank Herb Montgomery, another member of the crew, who has provided much all of the material you see here, and Mike Esraelian , son of Dick Esraelian, another member of the crew, who saw the site and offered additional photos.

I am also grateful to Jacques Boisvert of the town of Magog , both for keeping the memory alive and for contributing to this site.


This Story Courtesy of Ray MacKay: - Cape Breton Post : During MacKay’s time with the navy, his ship escorted convoys across the Atlantic and then escorted empty ships coming back. The HMCS Magog escaped every one of those ocean crossings unharmed, (our research indicates Magog was not on transatlantic runs Ray may be referring to another ship he was on. P.H.)but that was not the case during a mission in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the ship was torpedoed Oct. 14, 1944.

“It happened on a Saturday morning when the ship was on a routine cleanup,” said MacKay.

“If it had happened an hour earlier the whole ship’s company would have got it, but as a result only (three) were killed. They got the watertight compartments closed off and it was towed into Quebec City by HMCS Toronto.”  (our research indicates Magog was initially towed by HMCS Toronto, then HMCS Shawinigan to Baie de Godbout on the St. Lawrence then later by the Lord Strathcona tug to Quebec City. P.H.)

When the torpedo that took 65 feet off the ship’s stern struck, MacKay was nowhere near the ship. Instead, he was beginning a new assignment.

“We came into Sydney on a boiler clean. The communications officer said ‘You’re from this area. Would you take over for this fellow at the wireless station in Sydney and we’ll pick you up after the next trip in?’ Five days after it left Sydney it was torpedoed in the gulf.”

MacKay, in his new duties as a wireless operator, took that message.

“They sent the message in plain language. Usually it was coded. I almost froze there because I figured the whole ship’s company would have gone down, but they were fortunate where the torpedo had struck. If it had hit the magazine the whole ship would have been blown up.”

MacKay worked in Sydney until 1945 when he was discharged from the navy.

 
This Story Courtesy of Paul De Villers: In 1944, I was in a convoy in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when the corvette HMCS Magog was torpedoed (Mr. De Villers mistook her for a corvette) . She wiped us starboard. I will always remember the explosions that took place after the Magog was torpedoed, when the escorts launched depth charges to destroy the enemy submarines.

I also witnessed the torpedoing of the SS Fort Thompson off the coast at Matane [Quebec]. We weren’t in convoy at that time. The commanding officer officer saw a torpedo fly in front of our ship. It only missed us by a bit.

The convoys provided reassurance and safety. We could also admire the keels of the corvettes that escorted us. They had a thankless job because they were obliged to tack the convoy, exposed to the open sea. We felt sorry for those seamen who only had hammocks to sleep in. I think that the wartime convoy system is the best way to protect ourselves from the enemy at sea. The story of the battle of the Atlantic is part of our Canadian history. Let us never forget it.
 
This Story Courtesy of U-Boat.net :  At 19.25 hours on 14 October 1944, U-1223 fired a spread of two torpedoes at the convoy ONS-33G in Gulf of St.Lawrence and hit the HMCS Magog (Lt. Lewis Dennis Quick, RCNR) with one torpedo in the stern. At 19.30 hours, a Gnat was fired, which detonated in the wake of the Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto (A/Lt.Cdr. H.K. Hill, RCNVR) without damaging the vessel. HMCS Magog lost 65 feet of her stern, three men were killed and three injured. The ship was first taken in tow by the HMCS Toronto and later taken over by a tug and towed to Quebec City, where the ship was declared a total loss. She was decommissioned on 20 December 1944.  


FROM UBOAT.NET - Account of Action Against Magog by U-1223  Record of U-1223


The first passive acoustic torpedo was the G7es T-5 Zaunkönig torpedo 
deployed in late World War II by the German U-Boat fleet

 

 Please contribute to this website with information, links, pictures etc. email me at paul@hmcsmagog.com