HMCS Assiniboine and the Destruction of U-210
In August 1942, destroyer HMCS Assiniboine, a member of escort group C-1, was assigned to the protection of convoy SC-94 sailing from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to the United Kingdom. SC-94 suffered repeated attacks from a wolf pack of U-Boats and 11 out of its 33 ships were torpedoed and sunk.
In the afternoon of August 5th, HMCS Assiniboine and two corvettes are ordered to help six stragglers rejoin the convoy but it is already too late for merchant ship SS Spar, hit by a torpedo, a column of smoke billowing from its hull. HMCS Assiniboine attempts in vain to find the attacker. On August 6th, U-210 is sighted on the surface of the foggy sea and the chase starts for good. This is the Report of Proceedings of HMCS Assiniboine’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander J.H. Stubbs, RCN.
Source: Department of National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage, 1650-U-210.
10th August, 1942.
From: The Commanding Officer,
To: Captain (D)
St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Copy: Director of Anti-Submarine Warfare,
S.C. 94 – REPORTS OF PROCEEDINGS OF H.M.C.S. “ASSINIBOINE”
SECTION I – 5th AUGUST, 1942
Visibility maximum, Sea 11, Wind S.E.-2.
All times – G.M.T.
At 1350 H.M.S. “PRIMROSE” ordered “ASSINIBOINE” to search to the northward to contact H.M. Ships “ORILLIA” and “NASTURTIUM” and six stragglers from S.C. 94. These were sighted at 1640 and course set to close. At that time they were discovered to be 358° 17 miles from the main convoy.
2. At 1650 when still about six miles off, a large column of smoke was observed to shoot up from one of the ships. I increased speed to 20 knots and shortly afterwards a signal was received from “ORILLIA” on R/T [Radio/Transmissions] that S.S. “SPAR” had been torpedoed. He also signalled that torpedo track, sighted by “NASTURTIUM” had come from ahead. Course of ships at this time was 075°, speed 7 knots.
3. When about two and one half miles from “SPAR” at 1714, speed was reduced to 15 knots to increase Asdic efficiency. “SPAR” sank at this time – by the bows, showing that she had been hit forward. I approached position two miles to the eastward of the wreck and when it bore 255° altered course to 075° in order to run up the track. “ORILLIA” and “NASTURTIUM” were dropping depth charges in the vicinity of the convoy, which had altered to the northward.
4. At 1720 “NASTURTIUM” proceeded to search the vicinity of the wreck and pick up survivors. I ordered “ORILLIA” to search an area close northward of the wreck. Search carried out by “ASSINIBOINE” is shown on attached track chart 1. I arrived on the scene too late to organize the three escorts on a proper sweep.
5. At 1810 “ORILLIA” and “NASTURTIUM” rejoined convoy, and “ASSINIBOINE” continued to search to a depth of eight miles from the wreck, without result.
6. At 1905 an object was sighted bearing 140° about six miles and was taken for a conning tower. We turned towards it but closer investigation proved it to be a lifeboat.
7. At 1920 in position 330° 3 miles from position of wreck, a large splash of water followed by bubbles was observed, dead ahead at 2000 yards range. At first I took this to be a submarine surfacing, and possibly crash diving again before fully out of the water but there was no sound of ballast tanks blowing on the Asdic nor was any contact obtained.
8. Smoke from both sections of S.C. 94 was particularly bad about this time and could be seen for about 30 miles.
9. “ASSINIBOINE” finally rejoined convoy at 2230.
10. S.S. “SPAR” was torpedoed in position 052°13′ N, 043°14′ W.
SECTION II – 6th AUGUST, 1942
In position B, DE 7.
Convoy’s Course & Speed 068°, 7 knots.
Visibility 8 miles.
At 1125 an object was sighted on the horizon bearing 029° about six miles. I informed “PRIMROSE” and increased to 22 knots to investigate. The object was soon definitely identified as a conning tower, which altered course away.
2. At the suggestion of the Group A/S [Anti/Submarine] Officer, I set a course about 100 to starboard of the U-boat in an effort to make him definitely alter to port if possible after he dived. I considered this good advice, as on these occasions it so often happens that upon arriving at diving position, the direction of further search is purely guess work.
3. Three salvos were fired at a range of 012 at 1137½. The first fell right, the second left. Before the third fell, U-boat altered to port and dived. “DIANTHUS” was sent to assist in hunt. As “ASSINIBOINE” was first on the spot, and as the Group A/S Officer was onboard, “DIANTHUS” requested me to conduct the search.
4. “ASSINIBOINE” arrived in vicinity of diving position at 1157, and course was then altered to 330°, this being the last estimated course of U-boat before he dived. This was held until 1213 which was the farthest on position.
5. “DIANTHUS” was approaching from the port quarter and at 1213 she signalled that she had a submarine contact which was lost soon afterwards. We turned towards her and almost immediately got a contact at 600 yards, bearing 155°, 15° extent of target. H.E. was reported on bearing but this was later thought to be due to increase of own ship’s speed. The contact was certainly not our own wake, as there were definite cut-ons. Attack was carried out with a ten charge pattern set to 100 and 225 feet. Detailed narrative of these attacks is attached.
6. “DIANTHUS” joined and gained contact. She attacked, “ASSINIBOINE” acting as directing, ship. On completion of this attack “ASSINIBOINE” went in again firing a ten charge pattern set to 150 and 385 feet. No H.E. nor Doppler were noticeable on this last attack and contact was lost. Search was carried out with “DIANTHUS” as shown in track chart II.
7. At 1323 a doubtful R.D.F. contact was obtained bearing 270°, 2000 yards, which was lost three minutes later. Course was altered towards, but contact was not confirmed.
8. At 1712 the Yeoman of Signals sighted a conning tower bearing 120°, 6 miles, retiring at full speed. Visibility from this time onwards varied in fog patches from eight miles to one cable. U-boat dived after about ten minutes. I informed “DIANTHUS” and closed the spot at 22 knots.
9. No contact was gained and search as in track chart II was carried out with “DIANTHUS”.
10. The convoy was just visible to the northeastward about 12 miles. Once again we were faced with the problem of deciding which way he had gone. Apparently in the forenoon he had altered towards the convoy, and hoping that he had done so again I organized the search in that direction.
11. At 1836 while just in the act of executing an Edward Isaac Starboard Turn with “DIANTHUS”, with visibility about 2000 yards, an R.D.F. contact appeared bearing 270° Almost immediately U-boat was sighted on the bearing, stopped, but heading about 345°. He altered course and increased speed immediately and we lost sight of him in the fog, but fired one round in the general direction. H.E. was heard at this time bearing 300°. I increased speed but misjudged the distance we had run, and thinking we had passed his position, altered to 345° his estimated course.
12. Bearing and range had been passed to the plot on sighting. After a quick look at the plot I realized my mistake and altered back to 190°. “DIANTHUS” was now out of sight, visibility being 600 to 800 yards. Ship’s company was at action stations.
13. At 1850 R.D.F. contact was gained 35° on the starboard bow, at 1200 yards. We closed at full speed and sighted him about one minute later. From this time on it is regretted that no times, alterations, or track charts are available.
14. I closed U-boat to ram at full speed, having housed the dome, with a 50 foot pattern ready. He opened fire with all his guns and for about 35 minutes the action continued at a point blank range of about 100 to 300 yards. A second degree fire broke out on the starboard side at the break of the forecastle and spread almost to the bridge and through the sick bay flat. The enemy took constant evading action and I was forced to go full astern on the inside engine to prevent him getting inside our turning circle, which he was obviously trying to do.
15. It was impossible to depress the 4.7″ guns sufficiently at this range, but I ordered them to continue firing, more to keep the guns’ crews busy while under fire than from any hope of hitting. One hit was gained on the conning tower however.
16. During most of the action we were so close that I could make out the Commanding Officer on the conning tower bending down occasionally to pass wheel orders. A gun’s crew appeared, on the deck and attempted to reach the forward gun but our multiple .5’s successfully prevented this.
17. Three or four times we just missed him. The officers left the conning tower in order to dive, and in the few seconds during which he was on a steady course we rammed him just abaft the conning tower. He was actually in process of diving at the time.
18. I turned as quickly as possible to find him surfacing again but slightly down by the stern, still firing and making about 10 knots. After a little manoeuvring, we rammed him again well abaft the conning tower and fired a shallow pattern of depth charges as we passed. Also one 4.7″ shell from “Y” Gun scored a direct hit on his bows. He sank by the head in about two minutes.
19. “DIANTHUS” appeared out of the fog just in time to see him go. The yell that went up from both ships must have frightened U-boats for about 10 miles in the vicinity.
20. Ten prisoners were picked up by “ASSINIBOINE”, 28 by “DIANTHUS” six of which were later transferred to “ASSINIBOINE”. While they were being separated the prisoners “Heiled” several times at the top of their voices. When received onboard, officers, of which there were two, and ratings, were segregated.
21. Casualties sustained amounted to one rating killed, one officer and twelve ratings wounded. Ship’s plating was punctured in dozens of places on the water line, gun shields, bridge, range finder, funnels and searchlight platform. Several bullets penetrated to the wheel house, which probably accounts for the lack of track charts for this particular period.
22. All compartments below the waterline, aft to the provision room were flooded, and extra shores were placed. A/S and R.D.F. were out of action as well as gun circuits and certain lighting circuits. It is notable that two of the most delicate instruments in the ship, the plot and the gyro, remained intact. In view of all this I decided the ship must return to St. John’s forthwith.
23. I believe the submarine did not dive because he hoped to get away from us in the fog, as during the whole action visibility was 500 yards or less. Also the fact that clouds of smoke and flares were issuing from our starboard side may have led him to believe that we were seriously damaged. It was also conceivable that if we had depth charged this U-boat during the forenoon, he may have been effecting repairs and did not like to dive except in case of emergency. The plot shows that from sighting at 1125 until sinking, the U-boat maintained practically a steady course of 025°.
24. Copies of engine movements during the action are attached.
25. The Ship’s Company behaved excellently although this was their first taste of any sort of action.
26. Photographs taken by the A/S Officer of the U-boats last moments are enclosed, clearly showing the direct hit on the bows and his sinking.
(J. H. Stubbs)
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER R.C.N.