In March 2011 local historian Rick James and INA Research Associate John Pollack, led a 9-person trip to the Royston Breakwater on eastern Vancouver Island, one of the most diverse and as yet unstudied ship graveyard sites on the west coast of North America. Six members of the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC (a 160-member society in existence for three decades) joined three INA members, to make the first assessment of the vessels at the Royston Breakwater.
The site is shallow (<6 m) and dense, with 14 vessels packed into an 500 x 100-m area. The original breakwater was designed to protect the Comox Logging and Railway Company log dump and booming ground on the south -western side of Comox Bay that dates from the early 20th century. The earliest ship was scuttled in the bay in 1936, and the last, in 1962.
Many have partially collapsed due to corrosion and storms on this exposed site, but significant portions are still three - dimensional, and visible above water. Sailing ships include an auxiliary schooner, a barkentine, and three Cape Horn windjammers. There are also three frigates, two destroyers, a US Navy deep sea rescue tug, two historic steam tugs, and a Norwegian -built whaler. A number of these vessels have dramatic histories, including famous convoy battles against wolf packs, U-boat sinkings, the rescue of 1,000 seamen from the capsizing battleship HMS Prince of Wales near Singapore, and multiple evacuation trips from the beaches of Dunkirk are associated with various ships.
Spencer Anderson, writing in the Comox Valley Echo in 2011 said, "Among the ships are three Cape Horn windjammers: the three-mast Melanope and Riversdale and the four mast Barque Comet. There are also six Royal Canadian Navy warships, plus Pacific lumber schooners and steam tugs. The Comox Logging and Railway Company scuttled the boats between the late '30s and early '60s to form a breakwater. Some of the remains can still be seen at low tide.
The site as a whole has been given the heritage status of 'Royston Heritage Wrecks' by the BC Government."
The name represents an odd effort to honour Verdun, Quebec, without duplicating the name of the destroyer HMS Verdun. The first frigate launched for the RCN, Dunver was commissioned at Quebec City on September 11, 1943 and arrived
at Halifax on October 3, having escorted a Sydney-Halifax convoy en route. After working up at Pictou she was allocated to EG C-5, and served continuously on North Atlantic convoys until October 1944. That July she had been Senior Officer's ship while escorting HXS.300, the largest convoy of the war with 167 merchant ships. On September 9, she and HMCS Hespeler sank U 484 near convoy ONF.202, south of the Hebrides. In Octobers 1944, she commenced refitting at Pictou, completing on December 27, and in April, 1945, joined EG 27, based at Halifax, for the rest of the European war. In June she went to the west co ast for tropicalization, but this was discontinued in August and she was laid up at Esquimalt. Paid off January 23, 1946, Dunver was sold and her hull expended as part of a breakwater at Royston, B.C., in 1948.
HMCS Eastview (K665) was a River class frigate that served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1944-1946. Named after the Ottawa suburb of Eastview (now Vanier), she was built by Canadian Vickers Ltd., Montreal. She was commissioned into the RCN at Quebec City on 3 June 1944 with the pennant K665.
Eastview arrived at Halifax on June 26, 1944 and proceeded to Bermuda to work up. On her return in August she was attached to EG C-6 as Senior Officer's ship, and on September 18 left St. John's with her first convoy, HXF.308. For the balance of tile European war she was continuously on Atlantic convoy duty, and was one of the escort of HX.358, the last HX convoy of the war, leaving St. John's May 27, 1945. That July she went to the west coast and had barely commenced tropicalization refit when work was stopped and the ship laid up in reserve at Esquimalt.
She was paid off from the RCN on 17 January 1946. On 22 January the decision was made to dismantle her armaments and scuttle her with several other surplus RCN warships to form a breakwater in Comox, British Columbia later that year.
HMS Express was converted to be used as a minelayer before the outbreak of WW2. When used for this purpose two of the four guns had to be removed and all torpedo tubes taken off to allow for the additional weight of the mines. Mines ran on rails fixed to the deck on both sides of the ship, extending to the stern, from where they were dropped.
HMS Express took part in the King's Review of the Fleet at Weymouth in August 1939. On September 3rd 1939, mines were loaded in Portsmouth and laid that night. From then on various minelaying trips were made with offensive operations taking place during periods when there was no moon. At other times protective fields were laid around the coast. Express was also used for convoy duties in the Atlantic and to escort troop carrying ships bound for France as part of the British Forces. One special duty was in September 1939 to take the Duke and Duchess of Windsor from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. Dunkirk:
In June/July 1940, HMS Express made a number of trips to Dunkirk and was one of the first to arrive and commence taking troops off the beaches. At first there were not many troops on the beach, but numbers soon grew and they were subject to continual attack by enemy aircraft. Taking troops off from a shelving beach could only be down in small boats, although th ere had been an attempt to make a pier by driving lorries into the sea for the troops to walk out on. Later troops were taken off from Dunkirk Harbour.
Express and Shikar were the last ships to leave with troops, before the evacuation was ended. The Express brought out 2,795 troops, including some French. Many ships were sunk or damaged during the evacuation. The Express was damaged by bombing, but was repaired in time to continue taking part in the evacuation.
On August 31st 1940, the Express and 4 other Minelaying Destroyers left Immingham to lay an offensive field off the coast of the Netherlands. At around 23.00 hours almost to the point of dropping mines, it was reported by radio that there was an enemy convoy near at hand, which was to be attacked after the mines had been dropped. Before any mines were dropped, three of the ships, including Express, had themselves struck mines. Express was the first and some of the crew were picked up by the Ivanhoe, who then also struck a mine. Meanwhile the Esk struck and sank almost immediately. There was a considerable loss of life in all three ships, the Express lost 4 officers and 55 ratings.
In spite of having most of the bows blown off, Express was towed back to port and eventually rebuilt. The Ivanhoe could not be saved and had to be sunk.
Express came back into service as a Fleet Destroyer in September 1941 and was part of the escort of the Prince of Wales and Repulse when they were sunk off the coast of Malaya and rescued 1000 survivors from Prince of Wales on 10th December 1941.
In 1943 she was transferred to the Canadian Navy and was renamed the Gatineau serving with distinction in the Atlantic. She was finally broken up in 1955.
Vic Evans, who compiled the above text, served on Express from July 1939 until she was mined. He was one of the crew of the Express picked up by the Ivanhoe and was injured when it struck. Later he was picked up by an MTB and taken to Great Yarmouth Hospital.
3rd June 1943 HMCS Gatineau ex-HMS Express commissioned in Royal Canadian Navy. Took part in sinking U-744 and as a member of Escort Group 11 for D-Day Operations. Summer 1945 transfered to Esquimalt to become training tender to HMCS Royal Roads and was in refit at HMC Dockyard at time of Japanese surrender and plan cancelled and paid off 10 January 1946.
HMCS Prince Rupert
Commander Thomas Harold Beament (1898-1984) HMCS Prince Rupert in Drydock (n.d.) Oil on canvas Beaverbrook Collection of War Art Canadian War Museum displayed in Canadian Senate Speaker’s Chambers.
Commissioned at Esquimalt on August 30, 1943, she arrived at Halifax October 21, worked up at Pictou and, in January, 1944, joined EG C-3 as Senior Officer's ship. Prince Rupert left St. John's on January 3 to join her maiden convoy SC.150, and was thereafter continuously employed as an ocean escort until late that year. On March 13, with U.S. naval units and U.S. and British aircraft, she assisted in sinking U 575 in the North Atlantic. In November 1944, she began a refit at Liverpool, N.S., and on its completion in March, 1945, joined EG 27, Halifax. In June, Prince Rupert sailed for Esquimalt, where sloe was paid off January 15, 1946. She was sold in 1947, and her hull expended as a breakwater at Royston, B.C., the following year.
Only known photo of USS ATR 13; alongside repair ship USS Ajax at Buckner Bay, Okinawa in September 1945. Photo believed to be after the horrific typhoon that swept through Okinawa that month. ATR 13 had been in Sasebo for the surrender of the Japanese Naval Base on the 14th and was one of the ships rushed to Okinawa to help with the devastation to a number of US Naval vessels caused by the Typhoon on the 16th. National Assn of Fleet Tug Sailors photo.
(DD-125: dp. 1,090; 1. 314'4½"; b. 30'11¼"; dr. 9'4" (mean); s . 35.1 1 k . (t l . ) ; c pl . 1 22; a . 4 4 ", 2 3 ", 1 2 2 1" tt ; c l. Wickes) The f irst Tattnall ( DD-125) was laid down at Camden, N.J., on 1 December 1917 by the New York Shipbuilding Corp.; launched on 5 September 1918; sponsored by Miss Sarah Campbell Kollock; and commissioned on 26 June 1919, Comdr. Gordon Wayne Haines in command.
Following trials off the New England coast, Tattnall sailed for the eastern Mediterranean. She arrived at Constantinople on 27 July and, for almost a year, operated in Turkish waters. During that time, she also visited ports in Egypt, Greece, Russia, and Syria transporting passengers and mail. In June 1920, the destroyer began her return voyage to the United States. During the voyage home, she was designated DD -125 on 17 July 1920 when the Navy adopted the alpha numeric system of hull designations. She stopped at ports in Italy and France before entering New York ha r b or o n 2 2 Ju l y. Fo l l o wi n g ov e r h a u l ,
Tattnall pu t t o se a t o jo i n th e Pa c i f i c Fl e e t . Af t e r po r t calls along the southern coast of the United States and at ports in Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, and the Canal Zone, she reached San Diego on 17 December. The warship operated along the California coast until 15 June 1922, when she was decommissioned and placed in reserve at San Diego.
On 1 May 1930, Tattnall was recommissioned, Comdr. A. M. R. Allen in command. The warship served with the Battle
Force along the west coast until 1931. By 1 J ul y of that year , s he had been tr ansferr ed to the east coast for duty with the Scouting Force Destroyers as a unit of Destroyer Division 7.
A year later, Tattnall's activity was curtailed by her assignment to the rotating reserve. On 1 January 1934, the destroyer resumed a more active role with the Fleet when she began a year of duty with the Scouting Force Training Squadron. Following another period of relative inactivity in rotating reserve, she rejoined the Training Squadron late in 1935. During the latter part of 1937, the Training Detachment, United States Fleet, was established; and Tattnall and the other units of the Scouting Force Training Squadron joined the new organization. The destroyer continued her training duties until November 1938.
On the 17th, she and J. Fred Talbot (DD-156) relieved Dallas (DD-199) and Babbitt (DD-128) as units of the Special Service Squadron. Based in the Canal Zone, Tattnall helped to exert the steadying influence of American seapower in Latin America until the squadron was disbanded on 17 September 1940. The warship, however, c ontinued to operate in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea out of her home port at Panama. After the United States entered World War II, Tattnall began escorting coastwise convoys in her area of operations, frequently through the Windward Pas sage between Cuba and Hispaniola, one of the most dangerous areas during the height of the Caribbean U-boat blitz. Though she made many sonar contacts and depth charge attacks, Tattnall registered no confirmed kills.
Early in July 1943, the destroyer escorted her last Caribbean convoy north from the Windward Passage to Charleston, S.C. She arrived on the 10th, began conversion to a high -speed transport at the navy yard, and was redesignated APD-19 on 24 July. On 6 September 1943, the day following the 25th anniversary of her launching,
Tattnall completed conversion. She finished her shakedown cruise in mid-September. Following post-shakedown
repairs and alterations in late September, the high-speed transport began amphibious training—first, at Cove Point, Md., and later, at Fort Pierce, Fla.
In April 1944, Tattnall was designated flagship of Transport Division (TransDiv) 13, the only high-speed transport division in the Atlantic theater. On 13 April, she departed the east coast for Oran, Algeria, in company with
Roper (APD-20), Barry (APD-29), Greene (APD-36), and Osmond Ingram (APD-35). TransDiv 13 joined the 8th Fleet at the end of April, and Tattnall moved to Corsica to practice for her first assignment, the capture of Elba and Pianosa Islands in the Tyr rhenian Sea. However, before the invasion and during her training period, Tattnall was called upon to feign a landing near Civitavecchia, Italy, north of Rome, to draw off German reinforcements headed south to turn back the American forces breaking through at Monte Cassino and heading for Rome. The ruse apparently worked. The reinforcements never reached Monte Cassino; and, on the following day, German radio announced an Allied invasion north of Rome. On 17 June, the invasion troops went ashore on Elba and Pianosa. Tattnall's boats came under machinegun fire, but suffered no serious damage. After the landings in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the high-speed transport began convoy duty between Italian, Sicilian, and North African ports. Following that duty, she resumed amphibious operations, this time with members of the American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force embarked. Their mission was to capture the heavily fortified Hyeres Islands, located just east of Toulon, and hold them during the main landings in the invasion of southern France. On 15 August, the five ships of TransDiv 13 rapidly put 1,600 troops ashore; and the islands were secured within three days. During the next two weeks, Tattnall and her sister transports shuttled reinforcements and supplies into southern France and evacuated Allied wounded and German prisoners of war. For the remainder of the year, the hig h -speed transport escorted convoys between ports in the Mediterranean Sea.
Tattnall returned to the United States at Norfolk on 21 December and began a month-long availability period before heading for the Pacific. She got underway from Hampton Roads on 31 January 1945. After transiting the Panama Canal ear ly in February and making stops at San Diego, Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok, and Ulithi, the fast transport reached the Okinawa area on 19 April.
The high-speed transport remained in the Ryukyus through the end of the month. During that time, she stood guard on several of the screen stations which circled Okinawa to protect the units of the fleet from attack by kamikazes, Japan's final suicidal attempt to stem the American tide in the Pacific. Tattnall fired at enemy planes several times in the days preceding the nig ht of 29 and 30 April; however, it was not until that night that she
drew Japanese blood.
Three red alerts before 0200 failed to materialize into enemy attacks; however, at about 0215, bogies began closing her from the west. A twin-engined plane crossed Tattnall astern about 3,000 yards distant, and her 40 millimeter gun crews took him under fire. The attacker retired to the fast transport's starboard quarter with one engine ablaze, but only to renew his attack. Again, he dove at Tattnall. This time, her gunners finished the job they had begun on his first pass, and he plummeted into the sea. Soon thereafter, a kamikaze approached the warship from her starboard quarter and dove at her. Tattnall, her engines at full speed, turned hard to port to evade the attacker. He splashed into the sea close aboard Tattnall's starboard bow. Debris rained down on the ship and pierced her hull above the waterline. Fortunately, she suffered neither casualties nor serious damage.
The following day, Tattnall departed Okinawa and headed for the Mariana Islands and convoy escort duty. She arrived at Saipan on 3 May and returned with a convoy to Okinawa on the 20th. The warship resumed picket duty but experienced no more action like that of the night of 29 and 30 April. To be sure, her crew stood long watches and, on 25 May, was at general quarters for 18 hours straight. On that day, two of her sister ships from TransDiv 13, Barry and Roper, were hit by kamikazes. Barry later sank, and Roper was sent to a rear area for repairs.
Early in June, Tattnall was ordered to report for duty with the Philippine Sea Frontier. She stopped at Saipan on 13 June and reached Leyte on the 17th. Through the end of the war and for almost a month thereafter, she conducted patrols in the Philippines and escorted convoys to Ulithi and Hollandia. On 13 September, Tattnall headed back to the United States. After stops at Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, the fast transport arrived in San Francisco on 30 October.
From there, she was routed north to the Puget Sound Navy Yard and disposition by the Commandant, 13th Naval District. Tattnall was decommissioned at Puget Sound on 17 December 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 8 January 1946. She was sold to the Pacific Metal & Salvage Co., of Seattle, Wash., on 17 October 1946 and subsequently was scrapped.
Tattnall received three battle stars for her World War II service.
Muséoparc Vanier Museopark photo.
Photo from “A Sailor’s Life” by Peter G Chance, available from SeaWaves Press.
USS ATR 13