- Contributed by
- Peter Walker
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 02 December 2003
The crew of HMCS 'Snowberry', photographed from above
Submarine detector operator
I served on HMCS Snowberry as a submarine detector operator from April 1941 to November 1941. I joined the ship at Greenock/Gourock on loan to the RCN.
Snowberry was one of the original flower class corvettes, and escorted several convoys from the Clyde and Londonderry to Iceland, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia often in appalling weather. Corvettes were designed for coastal convoy duty but were used for north Atlantic convoys, for which they were unsuited. As such crews received double 'hard lying money' because of the discomfort. Convoys often took weeks because they had to zig zag,also heave to or slow down in bad weather. Their speed was often that of the slowest ship, such as a whaling factory.
Snowberry had only a magnetic compass and no radar - it was nearly always too cloudy to fix a position by sextant. The only armament was a 12-pounder gun on the forecastle for surface action. For anti-aircraft (AA) defence there was a Lewis gun as well as a Tommy gun for use at the wings of the bridge. The Tommy gun was handed in by the public because of shortages; likewise, some sets of crew binoculars were actually opera glasses handed in by the public.
There was no refrigeration only a meatsafe, and vegetable locker on the welldeck at the break of the forcastle. Meat went off after 24 hours at sea. Bread went mouldy soon after (at that time 'sea bread', long-keeping bread, had not been invented). For cooking there was a coal-fired army type range in the galley on the poopdeck abaft the engine room casing. In heavy weather the fire was often swamped, so a lot of the time we lived on ships biscuits and tinned meat.
Fog and icebergs
It was common to be hove to for days in hurricane force winds and 40-foot waves, rolling 45 degrees and slowed down by thick fog. Every fog signal used a bucket of precious water as steam. Apart from U-Boats there was always the threat of icebergs and being run down by ships of the convoy in fog.
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