BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in February 2012We've left it here for reference.More information

23 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site Print this page 

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


HMS Cape Sable

by brian walker

Contributed by 
brian walker
People in story: 
leading seaman clement walker
Location of story: 
orkneys/north sea
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 February 2005

In June 1941 my father reached Liverpool
on the SS Empress of Australia as a survivor
from the sinking of HMS Fiji on the 22nd May
during the Battle of Crete.He immediately went on survivors leave.At the conclusion
of this leave he was ordered to Shepherd's
Bush film studios the purpose of which he
found was to learn how to operate a film projector.He was soon to learn why the collective wisdom of the Royal Navy should
send an experienced asdic operator to do this.He was drafted to HMS Cape Sable a
special services vessel.On arrival at Scapa
Flow he soon discovered that it a spy ship!
It was painted in Norwegian colours and flew
a Norwegian flag.Deck crew had to wear civlian clothes.It's mission was to make it's way to somewhere off the Norwegian coast
and with it's German speaking operators
'listen in' to enemy communications.
The navy had decided that this would be a
somewhat boring task and dad's job was to
show movies to the crew!From the start the
ship's personnel decided by and large this would be a one way voyage with little chance
of return.If the ship was sunk as seemed
likely any survivor's would be shot as spies.Morale was very low and many crew
wrote a farewell letter to loved ones.To
make matters worse even the civilian wharfies seemed to know about their task.
The ship had to leave before being able to
replenish in full it's fresh water supply.The wharfside workers observing wryly but loudly that the water probably wouldn't be needed!About two or three day's
out they were spotted by a German long range
Kondor reconassaince plane.It's pilot was
heard transmitting the ship's position.This
fact was reported to the Admiralty who with
a welcome change of heart ordered the Cape
Sable to return to port.With further good
luck the ship found it's way into a thick
sea mist which persisted long enough for
the ship to proceed un-observed by aircraft
or u-boats and escape.The Cape Sable was
never used as a spy vessel again and served out the war as a navy transport.At
the conclusion of hostilities it was returned to it's merchant owners.My father
never served on the ship again much to his
relief.After being bombed in the English
Channel,sunk in the Med. he deserved a change of luck.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - "Cape Sable"

Posted on: 26 March 2005 by SDA

Apparently this was the sister ship to the "Cape Howe"

Scotlands Kennedy Brother's for more information.


Message 2 - "Cape Sable"

Posted on: 27 May 2005 by brian walker

the cape sable was the name the
royal navy gave to the ship whem
they took it over from its owners.
its merchant name did not have a
'cape' in it so i suspect it was
not the sister ship to the Cape Howe.
Brian Walker.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Royal Navy Category
Special Operations and Intelligence Category
Norway Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy