Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 1931–1949, U-boats and the RCN, HMCS U-190 and HMCS U-889

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) 1939–1945,

U-boats and the RCN,

HMCS U-190 and HMCS U-889

Data current to 23 June 2020.

German U-boats

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4090379).

RCAF Sunderlands, Cansos, Hudsons, Venturas, Digbys, Liberators and Stranraers went after the German U-boat threat in the North Atlantic with a vengeance. This is a photo of U-754, a German Type IX U-boat under attack by a Lockheed Hudson, RCAF (Serial No.625), No. 113 Sqn, on 31 July 1942.  All 43 hands on the U-boat were lost.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191699)

U-744 being boarded by sailors from HMCS Chilliwack, 6 Mar 1944.

 (Scott Wilson McMurdo)

Photo of the capture of U-744, taken from HMCS Chilliwack, 6 March 1944.

 (RCN Photo)

HMCS St. Catharines (K325) stands by the stricken submarine U-744, forced to surrender after a 32 hour running battle in the North Atlantic in March 1944.

 (RCN Photo)

U-744, surrendering after a 32 hour running battle in the North Atlantic in March 1944.  It sank shortly afterwards.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4950915)

HMCS Thetford Mines (K459) (River-class), escorting surrendered U-boats, May 1945.

 (John Lyon Photo)

HMCS Thetford Mines arrived in Lough Foyle as escort to eight surrendered U-Boats, including this one, on 11 May 1945.

 (John Lyon Photo)

HMCS Thetford Mines arrived in Lough Foyle as escort to eight surrendered U-Boats, including these two, on 11 May 1945.

(RCAF Photo)

Lockheed Hudson Mk. I, RCAF, coded OY-C, ca 1943.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3589741)

Lockheed Hudson Mk. I, RCAF (Serial No. 638), 21 June 1943.

A Lockheed Hudson bomber, flying from Kaldaðarnes, 30 miles southeast of Reykjavík, Iceland, located U-570 running on the surface off the Icelandic coast on 27 August 1941. The Hudson attacked the U-boat with depth charges, damaging the enemy craft so severely that she could not submerge.  Soon, some of the German crew appeared on deck displaying a large white cloth - possibly a bed sheet - indicating that they had surrendered.  Patently unable to capture the submarine herself, the Hudson radioed for help.

RCN U-boats post-war

HMCS U-190 (surrendered and recommissioned U-boat); HMCS U-889 (surrendered and recommissioned U-boat)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA 141636)

ML Q095 escorting U-190, Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, 14 May 1945. 

German submarine U-190 was a Type IXC/40 U-boat in service with the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) during the Second World War.  He keel was laid down on 7 Oct 1941 at Bremen and she was launched on 3 June 1942.  She was commissioned on 24 September 1942 with Kapitäleutnant Max Wintermeyer in command.  She carried out a total of six war patrols during which she sank two ships.  On 6 July 1944 Wintermeyer was relieved by Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Erwin Reith who commanded the boat for the rest of her career in the Kriegsmarine.

U-190 was fitted with six 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 10.5-cm SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 3.7-cm SK C/30 as well as a 2-cm C/30 anti-aircraft gun.  The submarine had a complement of forty-eight crew.

U-190's final war patrol began on 22 February 1945.  She left Norway equipped with six contact and eight T-5 GNAT acoustic torpedoes.   Her mission was to interdict Allied shipping off Sable Island and in the approaches to Halifax harbour.  On 16 April she was keeping station off the Sambro light ship when her crew heard ASDIC (Sonar) pinging.  The minesweeper HMCS Esquimalt was conducting a routine patrol of the harbour.  She was employing none of the mandatory anti-submarine precautions: she was not zig-zagging; she had not streamed her towed Foxer-type decoy, designed as a countermeasure against GNAT torpedoes; she had turned off her radar.  Nonetheless, the U-boat crew was sure that they had been detected, and when HMCS Esquimalt turned toward them, U-190 turned to run and fired one GNAT from a stern tube.  The torpedo struck HMCS Esquimalt's starboard side.  She sank within four minutes, the last Canadian vessel to be lost due to enemy action in the Second World War.  While eight of her crew went down with her, the remainder survived the immediate disaster. HMCS Esquimalt sank so rapidly, however, that no distress signals were sent, and no one knew of the sinking until some eight hours later when HMCS Sarnia discovered the survivors.  During the delay 44 crewmen had died of exposure, leaving only 26.

U-190 escaped the area and remained on patrol off the North American east coast until she received Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz's 8 May order to surrender.  The boat met the Canadian frigate HMCS Victoriaville 500 miles off Cape Race, Newfoundland on 11 May.  Reith signed a document of unconditional surrender, and was taken prisoner with his crew aboard Victoriaville which escorted the submarine to Newfoundland.  With the white ensign flying from her masthead, U-190 sailed under the command of Lieutenant F. S. Burbidge into Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, on 14 May.  The prisoners were taken to Halifax.

U-190 was formally commissioned into the RCN on 19 May 1945.  Her first assignment, in the summer of 1945, was a ceremonial tour of communities along the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  On returning to Halifax she assumed duties as an anti-submarine training vessel, which she continued to fulfill for a year and a half.  U-190 was paid off on 24 July 1947, but had one last mission to complete.  The official purpose of "Operation Scuttled" was to provide training for inexperienced post-war recruits in the art of combined operations.  U-190, painted in lurid red and yellow stripes, was towed to the spot where she had sunk Esquimalt, and at precisely 11:00 hours on Trafalgar Day 1947, the fireworks began.  The "exercise" called for a deliberately escalating firepower demonstration, beginning with airborne rockets and culminating in a destroyer bombardment with 4.7-inch guns and a hedgehog anti-submarine weapon providing the coup de grace.

While numerous reporters and photographers watched, and HMCS New Liskeard, HMCS Nootka and HMCS Haida stood by awaiting their turn, the Naval Air Arm began the attack with eight Supermarine Seafires, eight Fairey Fireflies, two Avro Ansons, and two Fairey Swordfish.  The first rocket attack struck home, and almost before the destroyers had a chance to train their guns, the U-boat was on the bottom of the ocean less than twenty minutes after the commencement of "Operation Scuttled."  Before U-190 was sunk, her periscope had been salvaged. In 1963 it was installed at the Crow's Nest Officers Club in St. John's, Newfoundland.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191841)

U-190, escorted by Fairmile ML Q095, Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, 14 May 1945.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA 112877)

U-190 escorted by RCN Fairmile MLs,  May 1945.

 (Bruce Bennett Photo)

U-190, St. Johns, Newfoundland, May 1945.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191842)
Canadian seamen raise the White Ensign over U-190 at John's, Newfoundland, in May 1945.

 (John Vukson Photo)

The White Ensign flies over the Kreigsmarine Naval Ensign on the surrendered U-190 at St. John's, Newfoundland.  HMCS Arnprior in the background.

 (Library and Archives of Canada Photo, PA 116940)

U-190 flying the RCN white ensign, aerial view.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191501)

U-190, St Johns, Newfoundland, 15 May 1945.  HMCS Lanark on the left of the photo and HMCS Arnprior on the right

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3194317)

U-190, 3 June 1945, St Johns, Newfoundland. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191843)

U-190, 3 Jun 1945, St Johns, Newfoundland.

 (Jason Salter Photo)

U-190, June 1945, St Johns, Newfoundland.

 (Ryan Lee Photo)

U-190, June 1945, St Johns, Newfoundland.

 (Ryan Lee Photo)

U-190, June 1945, St Johns, Newfoundland.

 (Ryan Lee Photo)

U-190, June 1945, St Johns, Newfoundland.

 (DND Photo)
U-190, St Johns, Newfoundland, ca May 1945.  HMCS Hawkesbury K415 across the harbour behind U-190.
 (Dennis Cardy Photo)
U-190, St Johns, Newfoundland, ca May 1945.
 (Library and Archives of Canada Photo, PA 6570)
U-190, St Johns, Newfoundland, ca May 1945.
 (Bill Perks Photo)
U-190 alongside HMCS Arnprior (K494), 1945.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3229371)
HMCS U-190, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 20 Nov 1947.
 (Library and Archives Canada Photo,  PA 6570)
HMCS U-190, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 20 Nov 1947.
 (Thetford Mines Archives Center Photo)
HMCS U-190 alongside at Quebec, ca late 1945. The submarine was  open to visitors.
 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA 112878)
HMCS U-190, Halifax, Nova Scotia, ca 1947.
HMCS U-889

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3238913)

U-889 surrender off Shelburne, Nova Scotia, 13 May 1945.  After the German surrender on 8 May 1945, the German High Command ordered all U-boats to surrender.  On the afternoon of 10 May, U-889 was spotted south of Newfoundland by a RCAF airplane, steaming at 10 knots and flying a black flag of surrender.  The RCAF plane radioed to nearby Western Escort Force W-6 who intercepted the submarine an hour later.  U-889 was ordered to head to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. 24 hours later U-889 was turned over to the frigates HMCS Buckingham and HMCS Inch Arran who escorted her to Shelburne Harbour where she was boarded and Braeucker, her Commanding Officer, made a formal surrender.
 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3238579)
U-889 surrendering to the RCN crew of Fairmile Motor Launch Q117, 12 miles off Shelburne, Nova Scotia, 13 May 1945.
 (RCN Photo via Steve Patterson)
U-889 off Shelburne, Nova Scotia sescorted by the RCN crew of Fairmile Motor Launch Q117, 13 May 1945.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3194315)
U-889 surrender off Shelburne, Nova Scotia, overflown by a Canso from No. 161 Sqn, 13 May 1945.
 (Gary Penelton Photo)
U-889 with 3 Fairmile Motor Launches, Q121 on right. RCAF Consolidated PBY flying boat overhead.    (Gary Penelton Photo)
U-889 underway with White Ensign. Q121 in background.  (Gary Penelton Photo)
U-889  underway with prize crew.
 (Gary Penelton Photo)
U-889 with Fairmile Motor Launches, Q121 and Q117 with German POWs on fo'c's'le. (Gary Penelton Photo)
U-889 with White Ensign.
 (Jim Stewart Photo)

U-889 after her surrender in May 1945.  U-889 was a IXC/40 type U-boat, built by Deutsche Schiff und Machinbau Ag Weser, Bremen, launched in 1944 and commissioned 04 Aug 1944.  Her specifications on completion were: Displacement: 1120 / 1232 tons, Length: 252 ft, Beam: 22 ft, Draught: 19 ft, Speed: 18 / 7 kts, Armament: 6-21" TT, 2-37mm (1xII). U-889 was Commanded by Kptlt Friedrich Braeucker, and sailed from Germany by way of Norway in early Apr 1945.  After an uneventful weather ship patrol and at the end of hostilities in accordance with instructions U-889 surfaced & was spotted by an RCAF Liberator some 250 miles south-east of Flemish Cap on 10 May 1945.  U-889 surrendered at sea, by hoisting the black flag of surrender to an RCAF Consolidated Liberator.  It took two low passes by the Liberator before the flag went up.  They were arming depth charges and setting the bombsight when she made the hoist.  The Liberator stood by until the RCN warships appeared.  Subsequently HMCS Oshawa (J330), HMCS Rockcliffe (J355), HMCS Saskatoon (K158), and HMCS Dunvegan (K177) intercepted U-889 some 175 miles SSE of Cape Race.  HMCS Rockcliffe and HMCS Dunvegan were instructed to escort U-889 into Shelburne, Nova Scotia.  However, 24 hrs after the interception, the two ships passed their charge to the frigates HMCS Buckingham (K685) and HMCS Inch Arran (K667) of EG 28 some 140 miles SSE of Sable Island.  An "official" surrender of U-889 took place on 13 May 1945 off the Shelburne Whistle Buoy, 7 miles from the antisubmarine boom gate.  On arrival in Shelburne harbour the crew of U-889 was taken off the sub and transferred to Halifax, where they were interned in the naval dockyard.

The U-889 was on its first wartime patrol and had never fired a torpedo against any Allied ship.  Her well trained crew was actually very lucky.  Only 25 per cent of all German submariners survived their wartime patrols.  No other branch of the forces, German or Allied, had a loss rate of 75 per cent.

U-889 was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS U-889 on 14 May 1945, and used for testing and evaluation.  This was one of the most modern and technically advanced submarines in the world and the navy was interested in examining the U-boat in detail.  Of particular interest were her acoustic torpedoes and highly developed German GHG hydrophone array.  U-889 was one of 10 U-boats assigned to the USA.  As a result, a Canadian crew sailed with her on 11 Jan 1946 for Portsmouth New Hampshire.  HMCS U-889 was paid off on 12 Jan 1946 and turned over to the USN at Portsmouth, New Hampshire the same day.  The USN conducted experiments on her special hydrophone gear.  After extensive testing off Florida and in the Caribbean, she was scuttled at sea on 20 Nov 1947 off Cape Cod by USN submarine USS Flying Fish

 (Ryan Lee Photo)

U-889, possibly alongside at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,  ca. late1945.

 (Patrick Casey Photo, courtesy of Patricia Pollock)

U-889 coming alongside HMCS Joliette (K418), Shelburne, NS.


 (Arthur Witt Photos)

U-889 in RCN service.


U-501 was a Type IX C U-boat commissioned on 30 April 1941.  The boat served with the 2nd U-boat Flotilla until she was sunk off Greenland on 10 September 1941 by HMCS Chambly and HMCS Moose Jaw.  U-501 was taking part in a mass attack on Allied Convoy SC 42 when she was detected by HMCS Chambly with sonar and damaged with depth charges.  The U-boat's captain Hugo Förster decided to scuttle the submarine and surfaced, where she was spotted by the corvette HMCS Moose Jaw, which attempted to ram her.  The U-501 turned at the last moment so that the two vessels were running parallel, only feet apart.  For unknown reasons, Hugo Förster surrendered himself and abandoned his command by leaping from the submarine's bridge to the deck of the HMCS Moose Jaw.  The Moose Jaw veered away and the U-boat's first watch officer took command and continued with the scuttling.  A nine-man party from the Chambly got on board the U-501 in an attempt to seize secret papers, but the submarine sank under their feet.  One Canadian sailor and eleven Germans died.  The remaining thirty-five crewmen were taken prisoner.  This was the first U-boat kill by the RCN during the Battle of the Atlantic.  (Blair, Clay (1999). Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939-41. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 392).

 (Author Photos, 19 Apr 2018)

U-505, Type IXC similar to U-501, on display in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3211661)

German two-man "Biber" submarines guarded by two Canadian Military Policemen from No. 1 Provost Coy, CPROC, Ijmuiden, Netherlands, 25 May 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3229360)

German two-man "Biber" submarine, Kiel, Germany, 18 May 1945.  Canadian Army Film & Photo Unit Sgt.

 (Author Photos)

German Second World War Kriegsmarine Molch mini-submarine War Prize, on display in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.  This submarine was brought to Canada by Farley Mowat's Intelligence Collection Team in 1945.