Canada in the Second World War


HMCS Baddeck and Convoy SC-48

Commissioned at Quebec City 18 May 1944, HMCS Baddeck required numerous repairs to resolve her engine problems. Baddeck was assigned to the Western Local Escort Force in July 1942 and later joined the North Africa invasion force. She also served on escort groups on the UK-Mediterranean route, St. John’s-Londonderry, and on the English Channel.

Commissioned at Quebec City 18 May 1944, HMCS Baddeck required numerous repairs to resolve her engine problems. Baddeck was assigned to the Western Local Escort Force in July 1942 and later joined the North Africa invasion force. She also served on escort groups on the UK-Mediterranean route, St. John’s-Londonderry, and on the English Channel.
Photo by Richard G. Arless. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-108159.

Convoy SC-48 was attacked by a pack of U-boats south of Greenland, on the nights of October 15th and 16th, 1941. HMCS Baddeck was part of the initial escort which included destroyer HMCS Columbia and six corvettes (four Canadian, one British, one France Libre). Additional escort ships, including US Navy destroyers, were dispatched to the rescue of the convoy during the night of October 16th. The combined operations to protect Convoy SC-48 were fraught with problems: poor communications, inexperience, and mechanical breakdowns. SC-48 lost 9 merchant ships.

Lt. A.S. Easton, RCNR, was commanding officer of HMCS Baddeck. The following report is reproduced from the Archives of the Canadian War Museum, 1900068-008. Time is indicated in HHMM/DD (hour minute / day).

Report of Movements of H.M.C.S. Baddeck on First Attack

1800/14 A/S [Anti/Submarine, i.e., ASDIC] broke down. Too late to notify Wetaskiwin by V/S [Visual Signal]. Carrying out R.D.F. [Radio Direction Finding] screen at 3000 yards on starboard beam of convoy.
0247/15 Heard aircraft overhead above low clouds, flying approximately east to west.
0510/15 Convoy attacked, apparently ship in rear of third or fourth column torpedoed. Increased to 140 revolutions (best speed) and closed to within 500 yards of convoy then opened searching with R.D.F. and visually.
0530/15 R.T. [Radio Transmission] message from Wetaskiwin ordering Baddeck to sweep starboard side and starboard quarter believing attack was on starboard side. This being carried out.
0539/15 R.T. message decoded from Wetaskiwin ordered Baddeck to keep convoy together. In coming into starboard quarter found Mimosa (as dawn coming in) well astern apparently hunting, so decided to cover rear up to sixth column as well as starboard quarter. While astern of convoy received signal about 0615 from a rear ship, probably Rossum in column seven, that she had passed one boatload of survivors and many in water on drifting wood and a capsized boat. Passed this message simultaneously to Wetaskiwin and Mimosa by V/S.
0636/15 Mimosa then detailed by Wetaskiwin to pick up survivors. Baddeck continued to cover starboard quarter and rear.
0725/15 Told Wetaskiwin A/S had been out of order all night and still trying to effect repairs.
0742/15 Ordered by Wetaskiwin to relieve Mimosa. Altered course to 244 when astern of the seventh column and proceeded at 140 revolutions. At this time Mimosa was out of sight.
0900/15 Arrived at scene of wreckage, Mimosa reporting she thought she had picked up all survivors. Zig-zaged though wreckage for ninety minutes picking up one man from lifebuoy at 1000.
1030/15 Proceeded at 140 revolutions to rejoin convoy.
1330/15 Man who was picked up could not be revived.
1410/15 Buried with appropriate service.
1630/15 Rejoined convoy taking up position astern until ordered to night station by Columbia.

Report of Movements of H.M.C.S. Baddeck on Second Attack

1840/16 Took up night station 4000 yards ahead of convoy being approximately 2500 yards ahead of Columbia steering 020 sweeping with R.D.F. A/S out of order. Dark night.
2100/15 Observed ship apparently on starboard side of convoy attacked. R.T. message then indicated four h ship in starboard column altered course towards starboard bow and increased speed to 120 revolutions with view of cutting off U-boats possible escape in that direction. When well out on starboard bow turned hack and headed for port bow of convoy against a heavy sea at varying speeds from 80 revolutions to 130 revolutions using R.D.F. Carried out another search across convoy and on return to port bow picked up a small object with R.D.F. at 1500 yards on starboard bow. Altered course to bring it ahead. Object lost in ground splash of R.D.F. at 800 yards. Altered course 5 degrees to starboard and continued for an estimated 800 yards at 130 revolutions and dropped one depth charge set at 200 feet. No objects seen at this time or later. Continued to sweep what appeared afterwards to have been port beam of convoy, and quarter of convoy. It seemed that convoy must have made an emergency turn to starboard.
2300/15 Found by R.D.F. ship was astern of convoy at about 3000 yards. Adjusted course 50 degrees to starboard and proceeded towards convoy notifying Gladiolus, who had lost convoy, how to steer. Skirted port side of convoy and assumed position 4000 yards ahead at about 0100/16.
Note: Depth charge was set at 200 feet Instead of 50 feet because: (a) Engines were not in fit state to turn much more than 130 revolutions. (b) Engines seemed hardly in a condition to withstand an explosion so near.

Report of Movements of H.M.C.S. Baddeck on Night of October 16th and 17th.

1705/16 Proceeded from day station towards night station 4000 yards ahead of convoy screening with R.D.F. A/S out of order.
1740/16 Reached night station carrying out small zig-zag on convoy course of 025 degrees at 80 revolutions.
0920/16 Altered course to 065 degrees, 120 revolutions.
1935/16 Alter course 110 degrees to get ahead of convoy.
1950/16 Found Baddeck to be on port boy of convoy. Shaped course to regain station.
2005/16 Convoy attacked. Still steaming at 120 revolutions searched with R.D.F. ahead of convoy at about 2000 yards between about eighth column and port bow. Fired starshells N.N.E. and S.S.E.
2130/16 Resumed course of convoy modified by zig-zag at about 2500 yards ahead at 80 revolutions. At this time a two funnelled destroyer was patrolling in about the same position backwards and forwards on the convoy course. Presumably American.
2345/16 Convoy attacked again, apparently on starboard side. Proceeded towards starboard bow and then to port bow of convoy closing in and firing starshells north and south.
0015/17 Ordered to go to rear of convoy to pick up survivors. On approaching close to port bow sighted what appeared to be a destroyer carrying two lights, white over green vertically at the yardarm. She was about 500 yards ahead of number 11.
0025/17 Sighted suspicious object on port side of convoy going with it. Turned around to investigate. It appeared to be a destroyer, probably U.S.S. Kearny.
0100/17 Left port quarter and approached centre astern of convoy and proceeded at 60 revolutions steering general direction of 270 degrees in search of survivors. Saw explosions in neighbourhood of convoy. Saw several lights to west and southwest apparently from boats.
0220/17 Came on raft and took off two survivors. Chief Officer end Chief Engineer of Barfonn. Around this time two ships to westward were signalling to one another and one destroyer appeared to be a little to the eastward. Also a very brilliant and instantaneous flash, as from a photoflash powder was seen to the eastward three times by the officer, appearing to come from out on starboard quarter of convoy. Interval between these flashes was about five minutes. From 0300 when survivors were taken from raft until daylight search was carried on for survivors. at daylight reciprocal course of convoy was set and a search carried out for thirty miles.
0650/17 Passed Decuator.
0720/17 Passed Abelia.
0930/17 Passed Veronica who reported all survivors taken off Rym.
1000/17 Passed Rym lying with a heavy list to starboard. Continued for ten miles and then returned. Finding no more survivors proceeded at 1300 from position latitude 57Á02″ north longitude 23Á16″ west towards Iceland in accordance with previous orders, fuel being low.
Note: Owing to bad state of engines revolutions between 80 and 120 were most undesirable. Also it was inadvisable at any time to do more than 140 revolutions.