"The black hole was an area where 100 to 150 German submarines were set up to torpedo us. It was a free zone for the Germans [...]"
Monday, April 16, 2012. Patrick C. Doucet, former marine.
I enlisted on June 24, 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, at the Donnacona base in Montréal as a first-master mechanic when I was 20 years old. I had knowledge and experience as a machinist, and my mechanics’ permits for third-class stationary steam and diesel motor machinery. I was transferred to the Stadacona base in Halifax for my basic training and for the MTE course (Marine Technical Engineering). After the course, I served as a trainer and English to French translator for four months at the MTE school to train merchant navy mechanics from the Great Lakes who wanted to join the RCNVR (Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, a reserve force for the Royal Canadian Navy) like us.
During my two and a half years of service, I had the chance to change ships and areas. I participated in the closing of the Gulf of St-Lawrence in (19)43 (during the battle with German submarines). I participated in the convoy delivery from St-John’s, Newfoundland to Londonderry, Northern Ireland and the Scapa Flow. I navigated a former destroyer, an American destroyer christened Columbia I-49 that was fully loaded and ready, from Halifax, Nova Scotia for the Great North crossings. In June 1944, I was transferred to the minesweeper, Fort Williams J-311, Bangor class, which had been recently renovated to help the convoy delivery of American cargo from the New York and Boston coast to Newfoundland to join Londonderry, among others.
On December 28, 1944, I was repurposed to work with 12 other mechanics to operate the fuel depot in the north-east of the Avalon base in Saint-John’s, Newfoundland. This major base saw much sea traffic due to the preparation of convoys coming through the area on their way to cross the Northern Atlantic and who sought to avoid the “black hole.” The black hole was an area where 100 to 150 German submarines were set up to torpedo us. It was a free zone for the Germans, since the Allied planes in charge of protecting us didn’t have enough autonomy to fly over the area. I also worked on small submarine fighters such as the Q-056 (the Fairmile Motor Gunboat, a small military vessel) in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Q-095 in Saint-John’s, Newfoundland.
On May 8, 1945, the war of (19)39-(19)45 ended. We won. On May 14, on the Q-095, our mission was to go retrieve the German U-boat 190 which had been given to the Canadian Navy after the surrender of the German captain Erwin Reith (Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Erwin Reith) and the Canadian captain LA Hickey (Lester Alton Hickey), who was in charge of the frigate Victoriaville K684, was signed. The same evening, a vessel was ready for Halifax and Bowmanville, Ontario, and the German crew was brought there to then take the train to the war prison.
On Sunday, May 20, 1945, we delivered the U-190 submarine to the Bay of Bulls via Saint-John’s Newfoundland, while waiting for the RN (British Royal Navy) submariners, who were going to take charge of the submarine. At the end of the war, I was repurposed to the Aristocrat Z-46 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a merchandise tug-boat, to unload supplies and munitions from the Canadian war ships from Europe, were several countries were involved in the demobilization.
I quit the navy officially on November 20, 1945. My work was done. Just before my dismissal, I was asked to stay on in the permanent RCN (regular force of the Royal Canadian Navy) as an assistant lieutenant officer and to take a submariner engineering course in England, but I declined, since I didn’t want to be away from my family. After the navy, I continued my studies. I received a diploma from the Canadian Institute of Science and Technology in Toronto, Ontario, in general maintenance engineering. I received my class A1 stationary machinery mechanic’s permit, with which I was able to work at Merck Canada in Valleyfield for 10 years, at St-Mary’s Hospital in Montréal for 10 years, and then at the Valleyfield Hospital are foreman for 23 years.
I retired at 64. I’m a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 62 and now I’m “dean” of the club. I’ve also been a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Association for 29 years.
Thanks for your attention. Until next time.