Captain E.T.G. Madgwick (Retired)
16 May, 1949 to 12 January, 1950
Captain Madgwick who has just written an autobiography on his career in the navy offers an except from his book about HAIDA's rescue of the B29 crew in 1949.
"On the 15th November Haida proceeded to sea in company with the frigate Swansea, and waited for Magnificent before setting course for warmer conditions. It was intended to go to Fort Lauderdale and I think on to Puerto Rico, but the main requirement was to get fine weather for the carrier's aircraft. Other exercises were also carried out. During the dog watches of the 16th November, news was heard over the radio that an American B29 had crashed near Bermuda. Meanwhile, flying operations were carried out by Magnificent with Haida acting as plane guard. On the 17th the weather deteriorated during the day, but remained ideal for flying purposes. However, during the afternoon orders were received to proceed to an area about 400 miles north west of Bermuda to join in the search for the B29 aircraft which had not been found. So on completion of flying operations the task force altered course accordingly.
The group reached the new area by 0800 on the 18th November, and aircraft were flown off to carry out a search. This search had not been completed, however, when fresh instructions were received for the group to proceed to a new area about 300 miles to the north east of Bermuda in the vicinity of 36.07N and 60.30W, where flares had been sighted. All aircraft were recovered by 1201, and course altered to 088, speed 18 knots. The wind, which had eased during the previous night, began to get up again at about 2000, blowing from the west Force 4. Swansea was detached to proceed independently to the search area during the afternoon. Early the following morning, 19th November, she was overtaken. She had had to ease her speed during the night due to the heavy seas. Magnificent and Haida were still doing 19 knots, but the wind, having increased to Force 6 with a heavy sea running from the north west, caused the ship to yaw considerably. At 1203 on the 19th, when the task group was 40 miles away from the estimated position of any of the survivors, aircraft were flown off to search. Magnificent was an inspiring sight as she rolled and lurched and there was frequently a horrid moment when the aircraft taking off dipped from view below the rising bow. Haida too, on one occasion, rolled forty two degrees. At 1330 Magnificent commenced recovering aircraft, and it was at this stage that the seas were observed to break over her bow and come rolling down the flight deck while aircraft were attempting to land. However, by 1410 all aircraft were back on board except one, which appeared to be late returning. While waiting for this late arrival, a B17 was observed to the south and when it was noticed that it was orbiting, the fact was reported to Magnificent. At 1420 the B17 was observed to drop a parachute. This fact caused considerable interest in Haida, and was also reported, but no more could be done until the last Firefly had been landed on. The plane turned up at 1435 and started orbiting the carrier, and at the same time an object was observed to the northward, which was soon identified as a USN destroyer heading straight towards us (and the B17 beyond).
Everybody was now convinced that the survivors were at hand, and it was therefore with considerable anguish that we watched the Firefly orbit five times before finally landing. Any compassionate thoughts regarding the difficult job the pilot had to do were swamped by the fact that every minute we could see the US destroyer getting nearer and nearer. As soon as the plane had landed, Haida was despatched to the south. Even then we had to spend a few minutes getting the seaboat turned in again before speed could be increased to 20 knots. I hadn't intended to exceed this as we were steering beam on to the sea, but the plot reported that the range of the destroyer was down to six and a half miles and still closing, so we increased to 22 and then 24 knots and finally 26 ½ ! Only then did we draw ahead. The behaviour of the ship at this stage was most exhilarating but in spite of the quantities of water which came on board, no damage was done except for one bent stanchion for'd. No doubt many would expect my thoughts at this moment to have been considering how we would get the survivors on board in view of the sea conditions, but in fact I regret to say that I was far more concerned in making sure that we got there before the Americans, and in the end we went up to the 26 ½ knots which was as fast as we could go on the two boilers which we had flashed up. Hitherto I hadn't made up my mind as to whether to use the boat or not, but having seen the flimsy nature of the float and the wind having started to drop, reducing the number of breaking seas, we made what passed for a lee and lowered the whaler which proceeded to the raft. At this moment the rapidly approaching Americans started to call us by light. My first thoughts were they wanted to claim the survivors for themselves, and so to avoid any disconcerting signals we didn't answer until they were all on board! It subsequently turned out that all they wanted to know was how many survivors were on board. Meanwhile, when the boat reached the raft, two of her crew got in with the survivors, as the latter were unable to tend any lines. As it was now obvious that the whaler couldn't pull back to the ship, the ship was brought alongside the whaler on the other side of which was secured the raft. The latter was then secured on the starboard quarter where a scrambling net was rigged and with two men on either side of the net the embarking of the survivors was mainly a matter of waiting for the right moment. In some cases they practically stepped on board. By 1550 all were on board, and having hoisted the whaler the ship proceeded to rejoin Magnificent accompanied by the American destroyers USS Harry F. Bauer and USS Shannon. The survivors were all taken down to the Wardroom, where having been stripped and clothed in pyjamas and given soup and coffee they were placed in cabins. The ship, meanwhile, having closed Magnificent, the latter lowered her motorcutter and sent over Surg.Cdr. Lee RCN accompanied by a Medical Assistant. Haida then proceeded to Bermuda along with the carrier. At 2000, the seas having gone down, it was possible to increase speed to 16 knots without causing any discomfort to the survivors, who were duly landed at St. Georges.
On the 24th November we arrived off Guantamano, Cuba, with Magnificent entering harbour first, picking up a pilot and securing opposite the Officers' Club. Haida had also been allocated a pilot, but as he didn't materialise we secured in the only berth available which turned out to be the right one. During the stay there, there was the opportunity to make the usual visit to the USN Ships' Service Stores and in addition a party of 75 men from the two ships went by special train to Guantamano City where from all accounts many young seamen saw life for the first time! In return we gave a cocktail party in the evening.
On the 25th November we slipped again and proceeded to sea carrying out exercises en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The stay there was very pleasant, a sufficient but not overwhelming amount of hospitality was forthcoming and there was ample opportunity to see the sights. Being fortunate enough to accompany Commodore Adams on his official calls, I was able to see the Governor's Palace, which might have been lifted straight from southern Spain. In fact the whole town had a marked western Mediterranean atmosphere with its narrow streets, goats, bells and piazzas. Several officers played golf at Morrow Castle, this course, which belongs to the US Marine Corps, has several peculiarities, the second hole - about 75 yards long - is entirely in the moat of the castle and requires negotiation of a low bridge and a right angled turn round a bastion. By means of scientific ricochets it is possible to get on the green in one. From the fourth tee one drives right over a private house. Altogether the stay was much enjoyed by all concerned, and more US citizens now know of the existence of the RCN. Finally on 30th November the ships again proceeded to sea, and with a course around North we all began to think of Halifax for Christmas.
Captain E.T.G. Madgwick in 1949. (Photo courtesy HMCS HAIDA archives).
The rescue operations were naturally the highlight of the month, and as has been noted so often in the past, when there is a job to be done there is always a surfeit of volunteers, making it difficult to pick out any man as being more deserving than the others. I do think, however, that my lst Lieutenant, Lt. Jack Panabaker RCN and CPO Roberts were outstanding in their efforts to ensure the survivors were got on board and made comfortable as quickly as possible. Sometime later, I am pleased to say, Lt. Panabaker and CPO Roberts, along with myself, were awarded the Legion of Merit for the rescue at sea of the crew of a USAF aeroplane.
Magnificent and Haida on the 6th December proceeded into Halifax harbour with bands playing, and very glad to be back home again. Haida was required for two more duties before Christmas leave but her days this commission were almost up. On the 13th she deammunitioned and the last engine movement of her second commission was made. During the month a large number of letters were received from well wishers concerning the rescue of the B29 survivors, apart from the more orthodox sources in Canada and the US, correspondence was received from a gentleman in Chile (in Spanish), a rather religious lady in Maine and two USN officers requesting rescue details. Various relatives of the survivors also wrote, and a real estate gentleman in New York who was fitting out a large cabin cruiser wanted full details of the rescue equipment used. It was though, a very pleasant note, on which to end 1949. This ended my time in command of Haida. She was duly paid off for a major refit and I was appointed to the command of HMCS Huron."
"Mook" Madgwick, who died on March 17/2004 at age 88, married Margaret "Pegs" Vicary in 1943 after a wartime romance. They had met only a handful of times when they summoned guests by postcard at three days' notice to their wedding. She survives him with their two children, one of whom is a Commodore in the Royal Navy.
© Capt. E.T.G. Madgwick. Used with permission.