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HMCS 'Snowberry', Convoy Escorticon for Recommended story

by Peter Walker

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Contributed by 
Peter Walker
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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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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 - Snowberry

Posted on: 06 February 2004 by Harry Hargreaves

Being totaly familiar with this ship I know this story to be absolutely ridiculous. For example, ever tried picking up a depth charge physically and throwing it over the rails Ever tried using a tommy gun on a bridge full of people. Ever tried using a pair of opera glasses to spot aircraft. The maximum tested roll was 35 degrees, any further and she would have turned over. From the day of launching in Canada she had a mast fitted antenna for radar. What was the point in telling this story and, more to the point, why has the team put it to the forefront as a true war story.


Message 2 - Snowberry

Posted on: 06 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

The WW1 D type depth charge weighed a hefty 300lb and initially were rolled off the stern of the ship, but I thought the WW2 type weighed 600lb (270Kg).

And didn't the WW2 type have to be thrown 50 metres clear of the ship (for safety reasons) in a pattern of 9 or 10 charges? Or have I got this wrong?



Message 3 - Snowberry

Posted on: 06 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

"Snowberry was built on the Clyde at Greenock/Gourock where she was commisioned."??

HMCS Snowberry was commissioned at Quebec City on 26 November, 1940. She arrived at Halifax on 13 December for further work and sailed 9 February, 1941, with convoy HX.108 for the U.K. There she completed fitting out at Greenock, completing on 3 April, and worked up at Tobermory before joining Western Approaches Command, Creenock, in May. She left Aultbea early in June to join convoy OB.332, arriving at Halifax on 23 June 1941 to join Newfoundland Command.

Just to set the record straight.


Message 4 - Snowberry

Posted on: 06 February 2004 by Member no. U554515

Harry and Peter,

It is so refreshing to see that despite those who continually revile me for being so active in the matter of authenticity, that there are others now becoming concerned.

The fact that someone with such a high site "profile" as Peter is now raising questions, may finally have the team re-consider the whole matter of this site and what it is trying to achieve.

Max Strammer.


Message 5 - Snowberry

Posted on: 10 February 2004 by Harry Hargreaves

I am glad someone did some research to confirm my original comments. As regards the depth charges the answer is "No" for the first part of the war they were rolled over the stern from previously stored depth charge rails. The operators set the depth of explosion as ordered from the bridge. The depth set was such that, prior to exploding the ship had steamed sufficient distance to avoid damage. They were normally launched in two's until the advent of the "Throwers". Then they were rolled over as usual but the "Throwers" hurled a lighter charge to supplement them. On one occasion I was in a destroyer when a charge exploded prematurely blowing off our starboard screw and creating problems with the port drive shaft. It took us five days to get back to harbour over a distance that should have taken 24 hours.Thanks for the memory jog.


Message 6 - Snowberry

Posted on: 10 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Many thanks for that information Harry.


Message 7 - Snowberry

Posted on: 21 February 2004 by Peter Walker

HMCS SNOWBERRY CONVOY ESCORT Comments on Forum refering to message number

Message 3
I joined Snowberry 21st April 1941 at Greenock lent to the RCN because they were short of asdic operators likewise a coder was lent because at that time the RCN did not have coders
I thought the ship was built on the Clyde because I seem to recall that tha drafting authorities told me that The Admiralty had given the ship to the RCN
I do not recall going to Loch Ewe but now that you mention it it rings a bell.I definately recall going to Tobermory as "MONKEYBRAND" the Admiral in charge of working up came on board to offer the services of his team for general drill The Captain politley declined .He was a professional a Lt in the RCNR not RCNVR and in peacetime the Master of a freighter .on the West Coast hauling timber .

I remember the convoy to Halifax a few of the crew suffered chronic seasickness and were incapacitated for nearly all the voyage some vomiting blood

Thanks for your valuable contribution


Message 8 - Snowberry

Posted on: 21 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Thanks for for that clarification; your initial post caused quite a rumpus :)

Our memories are fallacious things, especially after 60 years.

Best wishes,



Message 9 - Snowberry

Posted on: 26 February 2004 by Harry Hargreaves

Sorry Peter. That reply does not go anywhere near an explanation of the gross and impossible inaccuracies of the original input.Our memories as you say, become dulled with time but forgive me for saying so ,not that dull.


Message 10 - Snowberry

Posted on: 26 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


You are the expert in these matters, and I do take that into account.

However, in 1939 you were already an old salt with years of service under your belt. In 1939 Researcher 235181 (check him out here U235181) was a Boy Seaman. He has another story(Secret Operations) here A2325656 in which he mentions the Minna.

When I first read that story I checked for the Minna, no trace. I then checked the entire list of navy ship names, no Minna. So I dismissed the story.

Then, a few days ago on a hunch, I tried something different and found this site links

and found this: "The £7.8 million Scottish Executive-funded vessel has been built at Ferguson’s shipyard in Port Glasgow, and is the third ship to be named ‘Minna’, all of which have been built on the Clyde." So there had been a Minna, and the story had a basis in truth.

When I posted my own story, which of course I know to be true, I was astonished to find it disbelieved. In the light of all this, I now am inclined to accept Researcher 235181 for what he says he is, an ex matelot.

Why don't you ask him some direct questions Harry? You know the service inside out.

Fond regards,



Message 11 - Snowberry

Posted on: 27 February 2004 by Harry Hargreaves

I have tried but received no answer. Despite his youth there were so many fundamental untruths and exaggerations it was impossible to ignore. The following examples I pointed out to him.
(1) Throwing a depth charge manually over the guard rail is virtually impossible due to it's weight.
(2) The ship was fitted with radar (known as RDF) when she first sailed.
(3) She was fitted with the standard gyroscope so all this problem of finding the correct course was simply gobblygook.
(4)No convoy with a maximum speed of three knots in fair weather was ever assembled. It would have been suicidal.
(5) The opera glasses and tommy gun were obviously the product of a fertile imagination.
(6) Admiralty would never have accepted a corvette without armament.
(7) The roll from upright at an angle of 45 degrees sounds dramatic but truly impossible.
So you see Peter, get him to answer these questions and we may have an explanation such as "Poetic License". He obviously will not answer me. If he cannot then his story should be deleted.


Message 12 - Snowberry

Posted on: 29 February 2004 by Peter Walker

At the beginng of the war minna was used as an examinatio vessel in the Forth off May Island
Please read the following book:-

Secret Operations of World wAR II

AUTHOR A.Cecil Hampshire
Publisher William Kimber London 1981


Message 13 - Snowberry

Posted on: 13 April 2004 by Peter Walker

Snowberry did not have a gryo compass She had magnetic compasses in the wheelhouse on the open bridge and for the Asdic (Type 123a trawler set)
During ww2 ships sometimes were accepted incomplete .Bellona had to be accepted incomplete on Admiratlty Instructions.
As far as I can recall it was the intention to use a parbuckle to roll the charges over the gunwhale near the thrower stowages.The charges would have had an appropriate depthe setting
The binoculars were not lorgnettes they were small and not very powerful unlike the AP ones
There was no Radar ,There was a crows nest on the mainmast

Rolls of 45DEG were recorded by Escort Carriers on Russian convoys


Message 14 - Snowberry

Posted on: 21 April 2004 by Harry Hargreaves

Absolute baloney. Why persist in this fabrication. Surely it was enough for you to endure the situation and what conditions actually prevailed, these needed no elaboration, they were bad and people like yourself endured them with fortitude. Exaggeration demeans your real war time contribution. Both the Canadian and Admiralty archives written at the time and the hand over documents signed by the Admiralty and first Captain and XO contradict almost everything you described. This is my last word on this subject. I suggest you do the research yourself.


Message 15 - Snowberry

Posted on: 10 May 2004 by Peter Walker


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