Veteran Stories:
Thomas Joseph Simpson

Navy

  • Ticket to the HMCS Shawinagan farewell dance. The vessel was torpedoed in Cabot Strait, November 25, 1944, and all ninety-four of the ship's company perished

  • Rowing team of the HMCS La Hulloise

  • Menu from the "American Café", a hangout for sailors in Halifax.

  • Thomas J. Simpson and friends

  • Thomas J. Simpson receiving the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) for courage, skill and devotion to duty on HMCS La Hulloise in a successful attack on a U-Boat during the night of 7th/8th March 1945

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"When you get to be in charge, don't underestimate a subordinate's viewpoints, because he may have something that is very unusual…"

Transcript

My name is Tom Simpson and I was an Able Seaman. I was in the Navy three years and my first venture on the high seas was to take convoys across the ocean.

In this particular case, we were doing a sweep in the Irish Sea. We were sweeping for submarines that we thought were in the vicinity because, at that time, there was vessels coming out of England that were taking troops into Italy. We got a message that there was a German submarine U-775 that torpedoed the British seaboat [SS] Empire Geraint. On the emergency call frequency a message from the damaged ship went out. Now, three ships from our escort - the Canadian Frigates, [HMCS] La Hulloise, the [HMCS] Strathadam and the [HMCS] Thetford Mines went looking for this submarine. The three ships took up our formation with the Strathadam as the command vessel. Now, the La Hulloise, which I was on, took up the port side position with the Thetford Mines on the starboard. And it was approximately, oh I would say, around 2200, I was in the radar cabin and we were closed up prepared for radar sweeping.

And the next morning, it was a beautiful morning, you know, the sea was as calm as it could possibly be and the horizon was just something else. Everything was in order for making a sweep. Now at approximately 0300, just off the St. George's Channel, the Officer of the Watch acknowledged that I had picked up a radar contact and that it was a buoy sitting out there just at the tip of land's end. And I was told to continue my sweep. Upon a second sweep the Officer of the Watch was informed, again, that the radar showed two pips off the port beam. The Officer of the Watch responded to the radar operator that the operator was seeing gremlins. Well, I took offence to that and I descended down to the bridge to have a dialogue with the officer. So the skipper of the La Hulloise, upon hearing the verbal confrontation where he sleeps just below the bridge so he heard everything that was going on between myself and the officer. I told him of the second contact but the officer ignored it. To which the skipper ordered the ship to be brought around and headed in the direction of the buoy. At approximately a hundred yards from the buoy, the skipper ordered two signal lights to pinpoint the buoy. Upon closer inspection a snorkel came into view.

Now the sub was hiding alongside the buoy in an attempt to avoid being detected. And, in doing so, they're expelling carbon dioxide from its battery. At that moment the La Hulloise fired off star shells to illuminate the night sky, then descended upon the area of the snorkel, and at that point, the sub realized that they were being attacked and started to dive. There was a contact between the ship and the sub which sent the sub to the bottom where she stayed. The other two vessels, Strathadam and Thetford Mines, launched a depth charge attack, the attack continued over some time until an oil slick and debris was observed. Items from the sub now came to the surface, boats were launched to recover some of the debris and, among other things, personal letters and journals from the engine room were found by the crew members of the La Hulloise. It was later determined it was not the U775, rather the U-Boat 1302.

I would like to add one more note and that is that, when you get to be in charge, don't underestimate a subordinate's viewpoints, because he may have something that is very unusual.

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