Roys­ton Break­wa­ter

RCN News - - News -

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."

HMCS Dun­ver

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

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.

HMCS Gatineau

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.

USS Tat­tnall

(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.


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