Welcome to this page which is a tribute to the Canadian
World War Two minesweeper
HMCS Bras d'Or
and the men who served on her. When Canada declared war on Germany
on September 10th, 1939, the
Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was tiny in size
and possessed only a few ships. There was a
desperate need for naval vessels to undertake the many duties involved
in protecting Canada's coastline, but until Canadian shipyards began producing
new minesweepers and corvettes later in the war, the RCN had to make do with
whatever ships they could find. Along with fishing trawlers from the
the navy requisitioned a collection of ships
from such sources as the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, various government departments and even
obliging owners of private luxury yachts.
One of the new vessels-- a government-owned lightship in her civilian career --
was converted into
(His Majesty's Canadian Ship)
Unable to spare members of its permanent
navy to command the newly converted vessels,
the RCN looked instead to skilled seamen
and Merchant (Mercantile) Marine
to provide captains and officers whenever possible.
To fill the other positions on board
naval auxiliaries, the RCN relied on
the thousands of
enthusiastic young men who volunteered to join the
navy from all across Canada.
The duties undertaken by auxiliaries were varied --
for example, found herself practising minesweeping,
escorting local merchant ships, patrolling for enemy submarines
and even capturing an enemy freighter, the Italian
when Italy declared war against the Allies on June 10th, 1940.
On the night of October 19th, 1940, only
four months after her celebrated capture of Capo Noli,
was on routine patrol duty in the
St. Lawrence River
when she was ordered to escort
a Rumanian freighter,
Ingener N. Vlassopol
Quebec to the
port of Sydney,
Sydney, situated on Cape Breton Island,
was the port
where the slower merchant
ships assembled before they set out in convoy
for the United Kingdom. Romania had just recently
been occupied by German troops, and the Canadian authorities
wanted to make sure that Ingener N. Vlassopol
didn't slip away to deliver her cargo to an enemy country.
The two ships travelled down river together but in the
Gulf of St. Lawrence
they ran into a terrible storm and heavy seas which eventually
The little minesweeper and the thirty men aboard her
disappeared into the storm and in spite of rigorous
searching efforts no trace was ever found of
The following two
clippings focus on the minesweeper's
Malcolm Cumming of
has made all these clippings
available in the hope that they will
help put a human face on the tragedy.
HMCS Bras d'Or
was not the only
vessel to be lost in the St. Lawrence during World War Two.
Between May 1942 and November 1944 in what historians
now refer to as the
"Battle of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence", a total of 19 merchant ships
and 4 naval ships
were sunk in the St. Lawrence River and Gulf by a few German U-boats.
At least 340 people -- 136 of them aboard the Newfoundland ferry
SS Caribou --
died as a result of these attacks.
SUGGESTED LINKS AND SOURCES:
The Books of Remembrance
This Veterans Affairs Canada site displays each page from the
beautiful Books of
Remembrance which are located in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa,
Ontario. One of the other features of the Veterans Affairs Canada website
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
which welcomes digital images of photos and personal memorabilia of
all those who are commemorated.
The Canadian Naval Chronicle 1939-1945: The Successes and Losses
of the Canadian Navy in World War Two,
Captain Robert A. Darlington
and Commander Fraser M. McKee.
Published by Vanwell Publishing Ltd.
of St. Catharines, Ontario, c.1996.
This book is an indispensable research tool for anyone interested in
the role of the Canadian Navy in WWII. The authors have also included
a chapter on Canadian merchant ships lost to enemy action
with a helpful glossary, an extensive bibliography,
various indexes and wide variety of other very useful
Sink All the Shipping There: Canada's Lost Wartime Merchant Ships and Fishing Schooner
by Commander Fraser McKee. Published by Vanwell Publishing, St. Catharines, Ontario, 2004, ISBN 1551250551.
Commander McKee's eagerly awaited new book about Canadian Merchant Navy losses,
Amazon Books. The book includes the full story of
HMCS Bras D'Or's capture of the Italian merchantman
and the role played by the Canadian pilot and war hero,
(later Air Commodore)
Leonard J. Birchall,
"The Saviour of Ceylon".
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