Daily Event for March 9

March 9, 1945: In a heavy rain off Scapa Flow the HMS Rodney and her destroyer screen were conducting anti-aircraft drills. Three destroyers returning from Norway were ordered to join the Rodney as part of her screen. Visibility was less that three miles and Rodney could not be seen from the destroyers. On board the HMCS Haida, a lookout on the bridge was felled by a stray bullet fired from 20mm Oerlikon, perhaps from Rodney. He had been shot through the neck.

Soon after this one of the others on the bridge spotted a submarine periscope to starboard. The captain ordered the ship to attack and alerted the fleet of the danger. Rodney and all but two of the escorting ships made an emergency turn leaving the two destroyers to join the hunt for the enemy boat. Haida used depth charges forcing the boat to the surface. The gunnery officer asked permission to open fire with the forward gun but, Chief Mackie would not allow it.

It was not because he had any overt sympathy for the German's it was because Mackie, an expert AWS officer identified the submarine as a  T Class submarine of His Majesty's Navy. The HMS Trusty had been observing the exercise. HMCS Haida and her two destroyers, who had been ordered to join the fleet by Rodney, was not aware of all the details, having been away for the last several days. The submarine commander believed he had been spotted and dove the boat to allow Haida to go over before he fired the recognition signal. This was a great blunder.

In all the confusion Rodney and her escorts began firing at a target they could barely see. Over 150 shells were fired at Trusty but the submarine received only minor damage. Capt. Welland of Haida was transmitting a cease fire on every frequency he could but, the shells kept coming. He finally moved his destroyer into the line of fire between the fleet and the Trusty. A Polish destroyer, who was involved in the exercise ordered the Haida out of the way under threat of being fired on. Finally everyone got the word and the guns fell silent.

When Lt. May, commander of the Trusty made contact with the Haida his message was short and to the point. "Tell the bastards to stop firing!" Haida stayed with the Trusty until repairs could be completed and then escorted her to Scapa Flow. After which I am sure there was a very interesting exchange of words. Miscommunication and over zealous gunners nearly caused a disaster but one man, with a trained eye and a captain and crew, who were brave enough to put themselves in harm's way, saved the crew which, they almost destroyed.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock