Canadian Naval Heroes Comic Vignettes

 

It was August 9, 1945, and the Second World War was almost over.

Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, a Canadian naval pilot serving with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, was flying with 1841 Squadron from the aircraft carrier His Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Formidable.

There was little enemy activity; a first strike from Formidable had left the targets in ruins.

Since Gray was briefed for the secondary target of naval ships at nearby Onagawa Bay, he decided to attack again.

The other flight members recall him saying he was going in, and peeled off to follow him in the high speed run.

As Gray levelled out his Corsair, it was blasted with cannon and machine gun fire.

The aircraft was set on fire and one of his 500-pound bombs was shot off. He steadied the aircraft and aimed his remaining bomb. It hit the ocean escort vessel Amakusa below the after gun turret, exploding the ammunition locker and blowing out the starboard side of the ship.

Amakuza rolled and sank immediately.

Gray continued flying but brief seconds later his burning aircraft rolled over, hit the water at high speed and broke up. Gray was killed, becoming one of the last Canadians to die in combat in the Second World War.

For his actions, Gray was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on August 31, 1945, and the Victoria Cross (VC) on November 13, 1945, the highest medal for valour in the British Commonwealth.


Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray

Canadian Naval Heroes - Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray


Read the full article about Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray's heroic service during the Second World War.

 


 

It was August 6, 1942 and the wheelhouse area of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Assiniboine was on fire, pierced by explosive shells fired by German U-boat 210 during a fierce battle. Surrounded by smoke and flames in the wheelhouse, Acting Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays ordered the two junior sailors working as telegraph operators to get clear, leaving him alone at the helm and trapped by the blaze.

With Assiniboine on fire amidships and riddled with shell holes, Bernays executed all helm orders as Assiniboine's captain manoeuvred for position against the U-boat. Eventually Assiniboine rammed U-210 twice and sunk it with depth charges.

Although one Canadian was killed and 13 wounded during the hard-fought battle, Bernays miraculously survived the bombardment of wheelhouse and bridge.

He was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal for his heroic actions.


Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays

Canadian Naval Heroes - Lieutenant-Commander Margaret Brooke


Read the full article about Chief Petty Officer Bernays' heroic service during the Second World War.

 


 

On October 14, 1942, during a crossing of the Cabot Strait off the coast of Newfoundland, the ferry SS Caribou was torpedoed by the German submarine U-69. The ferry sank in five minutes. Fighting for her own survival, Lieutenant-Commander Brooke did everything humanly possible to save the life of her colleague and friend, Nursing Sister Sub-Lieutenant Agnes Wilkie, while both women clung to ropes on a capsized lifeboat. In spite of LCdr Brooke’s heroic efforts to hang on to her with one arm, her friend succumbed to the frigid water.

For this selfless act, LCdr Brooke was named a Member (Military Division) of the Order of the British Empire.


Lieutenant-Commander Margaret Brooke

Canadian Naval Heroes - Lieutenant-Commander Margaret Brooke


Read the full article about LCdr Margaret Brooke's heroic service during the Second World War.

 


 

Veterans’ Week is a time to reflect on our RCN history & the courageous sailors who came before us. Lest we forget Lieutenant-Commander John Stubbs who commanded HMCS Assiniboine and later HMCS Athabaskan. Assiniboine was assigned to North Atlantic convoy runs during the Second World War, and LCdr Stubbs was recognized for outstanding skill in prevailing in a fierce surface battle with a U-boat. In an English Channel action in 1944, HMCS Athabaskan was hit by a torpedo, killing much of the crew including LCdr Stubbs, who refused rescue to keep searching for survivors.


Lieutenant-Commander John Stubbs

Canadian Naval Heroes - Lieutenant-Commander John Stubbs | From Kaslo, B.C., John Hamilton Stubbs became a naval cadet at age 10 and commanded his first warship at 28. He was a renowned ship handler and tactician, as well as a confident leader who improved the morale in the ships he commanded. LCdr Stubbs first command, HMCS Assiniboine, was assigned to the treacherous North Atlantic convoy runs. When convoy ONS-100 was attacked by six U-boats, LCdr Stubbs relied upon sound tactics to escape with the loss of only four merchant ships. In August 1941, HMCS Assiniboine caught U-210 on the surface in the Atlantic fog. During the battle Assiniboine’s bridge "was deluged with machine gun bullets" but LCdr Stubbs "gave his orders as though he were talking to a friend at a garden party." On fire and riddled with shell holes, Assiniboine rammed U-210 twice and sunk it with depth charges. In 1944, LCdr Stubbs commanded HMCS Athabaskan, which was hit by a torpedo during a battle with two enemy ships. A massive explosion threw most overboard or killed them outright. After fighting off the enemy, HMCS Haida returned to rescue the remaining crew, but LCdr Stubbs refused rescue to help find more sailors. Badly burned and last seen clinging to a life raft, he eventually succumbed to the frigid waters.


Read the full article about LCdr John Stubbs' heroic service during the Second World War.