HMCS ST. CROIX -
The sole survivor of the St. Croix,
Stoker W. A. Fisher, told his story in a newspaper account:
(Winnipeg Free Press 1 October 1943)
Survivor Of St.
Croix Tells. Of Destruction
By LLEWELLYN McKENZIE
York, Oct. 1 (Special) The sole survivor of a torpedo
attack in the Atlantic, which claimed the lives of 146 Canadian
seamen in the sinking of the Canadian destroyer St. Croix during
a 10-day running fight with a pack of enemy U-boats, told his
story today. He is William Allan Fisher, 23, former Turner Valley,
Alberta, oil driller.
Able Seaman Fisher told his story from
a British naval receiving station in Brooklyn. He was brought
there in a merchant ship which rescued him after his first first
rescue ship was sent to the bottom. Fisher is waiting a 30-day
leave which will him back to his 20-year old wife, Marie Louise,
in Black Diamond, Alberta. His left foot was hurt during the
"We were part of an escort detailed
to a large convoy," Stoker W. A. Fisher related. "We
received a signal that submarines were about. We stayed astern
of the convoy, but on September 20, we had to come up and take
on oil from a tanker in the convoy. On our way back to our position
we saw a Canadian four-motored Liberator signalling us. We were
told that they had spotted a submarine and dropped depth charges.
We flashed two boilers and made for the spot at 24 knots. As
we neared, we had to reduce speed. As we slowed up we were hit
in the screws." Fisher said there was no panic and no one
thought of abandoning ship. "But in two minutes another
torpedo struck, this time near the mess deck, and water began
to pour in," he went on. "The captain, Lieutenant
Commander Dobson, then issued orders to abandon ship."
That was just before 8 o'clock and dusk was gathering and a
slight wind blew even though the sea was calm.
Some men were injured by the explosions
which followed the torpedoes, some were burned and cut. They
were put in the motor launch before it was lowered over the
side. The motor boat pulled away. Meanwhile attempts were made
to lower a 60-passenger oar-driven whaler. Two attempts resulted
in two large holes being gouged into the bottom of the whaler.
Carley floats were dumped over the side and the men began jumping
into the water. "No one seemed worried then," Fisher
related. "Many of the crew laughed that they would be due
for 29 day survivors' leave." The rowboat pulled away from
the sinking destroyer, and picked men out of the water. "Even
then I thought the ship would be saved," Fisher said. "Then
I saw the captain dive off the boat. I knew everyone was off
then and that the captain had given up hope."
As Lieutenant Commander Dobson headed for
the motor boat, he saw two men struggling in the water. He towed
them to Carley floats and then made for the rowboat. Fisher
was in charge of the motor boat. "No one in the boats died
during the night," the survivor went on. "It was morning
that everything happened. Men on the Carley floats insisted
on getting into the rowboat. As the men got in. it settled lower
in the water. Just before the rescue ship came along, it sank.
The whaler did not have any injured men aboard. They were oil-grimed
and cold. I saw men who were tough, big men. They hung out all
night in the hope a boat would pick them up. Then when the boat
did not come into view they died. I guess they couldn't hang
out any longer. We dropped them into the sea."
Sixty men were still alive on the
whaler. The ship which headed to their rescue was the Royal
Navy frigate ITCHEN, completed last September. As the frigate
steamed through the lifting morning mist, the men in the whaler
received the signal that the ITCHEN would come directly to their
rescue. As the ITCHEN neared, a torpedo was seen to explode
30 yards to her stern. A message was flashed to the Polyanthus,
a corvette of the Flower class, to come out of the convoy escort
and circle the ITCHEN while the men were taken aboard. "The
Polyanthus was just coming in and she was struck," Fisher
said. "I guess she went down in about 10 minutes. We rescued
10 men in our whaler. The ITCHEN headed for the convoy,"
Fisher went on. "Some of us were given jobs to do. I did
watch. On September 2, two days after we were rescued, we were
ordered to our action stations because submarines were around.
We had three orders. The first started at 6 at night. There
was another one at 7 and again at 9. At 9 o'clock I was standing
beside the funnel when a torpedo struck. I was knocked 30 feet
and landed against a gun platform. As I crawled toward the rail
I kept yelling for my pal, Stoker Rod MacKenzie, of Sydney.
MacKenzie had been torpedoed six times before. He didn't answer
and I jumped over the side. As I hit the water there was another
explosion and I felt that my stomach was being squeezed through
my ears. The water just cracked," said Fisher. When he
reached down to tug off his boots, his left boot was missing.
It had been blown off. Fisher grabbed a board and looked to
see other men jumping from the ship. Most of them drowned. A
Carley float drifted by and Fisher jumped on. During the night
others jumped on, but most of them died.
- The Naval Museum of Manitoba - 1 Navy Way - Winnipeg Manitoba
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