After lunch, on 26th December 1943, ahead of the convoy, starshell (flare) began to float down. Flashes of explosions were reflecting from the overcast with thunder like rumblings. A signal came via wireless.
The three Canadian destroyers increased speed in line and moved up the starboard side of the convoy. As we were leaving our position, a geyser of water shot up about 100 yards astern of HMCS HURON. I was watching her for any signals and said aloud “What the hell was that?” The officer beside me said HURON had lost a depth charge off her stern as she increased speed.
I remember thinking “How did he know that?” There was no visual signal; no underwater rumbling or gurgles like a depth charge. Also, the trigger on depth charges are set to the required depth just before release as a sub changes depth. About half-way up the starboard side of the convoy we received a signal which instructed us to take position at the rear of the convoy.
During the first dog watch (04:00 to 06:00) starshell and explosions returned. For almost 3 hours in the gloom of the Arctic night, we watched the fireworks as the RN ships ahead of us sank the German battleship Scharnhorst. Of their crew of 1700 plus, only 36 were saved. The Royal Navy had sustained damage and several casualties but they were able to save our bacon and protect the convoy as the Scharnhorst could have picked us off without once coming within range of our guns.
The Canadian Tribals remained with the Convoy. We ate our Christmas Turkey Dinner in Russia on December 28th, 1943.
E. G. Halcrow
V38887 HMCS HAIDA Aug. 30, 1943-January, 1945
Copy of signal sent to all Convoy escorts on Dec. 28, 1943:
FROM: HMS Duke of York, Battleship, Admiral Fraser-Commodore:
“I congratulate all Captains, deck hands, engineering officers and
men on a fine feat of hard steaming and endurance in what has been
under God’s Hand, a successful and historic voyage.
Thank you for your co-operation. Good Luck and may we sail together again.