For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
Wartime Diary of Robert V. RICHMOND, Tel, RCNVR
Courtesy of Bob Richmond
HMCS ST FRANCIS I93
April 7, 1942 - Heavy fog, fail to locate sub. Turn about for completion of our manouvers. Gun fire from corvette perfect. Ours also. Anti aircraft guns next but torpedo run called off. Steaming in the coast stat signals us bad news. One of our sparkers father has died. Church was one of (5) five survivors off a torpedoed liner and a good head. Corvette bumps into us in fog knocking us over two feet. Use fog lights all night. Corvette DUNVEGAN had joined in manouvers.
April 8, 1942 - Weather fair. Slip out tomorrow on convoy at 6 and half knots for 2500 miles. Snow and cold again today. In harbour until tomorrow. War correspondent BOB BROWN on board us, he’s going with us for passage and material for speech. He goes to Nfld Broadcasting Stat where he mentions he is leaving shortly aboard Canadian Warship which is us. 6 ratings also coming as passage. RESTIGOUCHE with Universal Newsman also coming along to take notice of our work. (click here to read the summary of Bob Brown's report of the crossing)
April 9, 1942 - Get flu and heavy cough. Zero weather and high wind. At 0630 our sirens whail and we slip to a sea that nearly capsizes us as soon as we hit open sea. Go over on a roll recorded at 57o. Corvette BUCTOUCHE forced to turn back. Mess decks already swamped and everything torn lose. Sea comes in soaking our blankets. Noise of this crate would make tug boat Annie take a stiff drink. Were on rolls now and please believe me!
Webmaster's note: The convoy was SC.78 from Halifax to Liverpool - Departed Halifax 05 Apr 1942, arrived Liverpool 22 Apr 1942 - RCN escorts from St. John's joined convoy on 09 Apr 1942.
April 10, 1942- Gale hammering us at 80 mph ripping the sea lose. Our carley floats have been smashed off and life boats swamped. Stock on (in) galley blown into sea. Steering-gear busted, using emergency. Flares on Carley floats set off at night causing immediate action. Officers, Petty Officers and our own mess decks swamped. Sweet language not being used about these modern destroyers. Officer thrown across bridge on belly. Racket from wind is beyond a humans’ imagination. Four fires break out over our ship from wiring. Generator burns up! Ships condensers out of action! Signalman Murphy nearly taken overboard. Dangerous to venture on upperdeck in gale. At 2100 wind decreases slightly but sea still playful. Out of our whole convoy we find one corvette with Greek steamer searching for others now.
April 11, 1942- Heavy seas and cold as hell. Locate another corvette with her asdic gear out of action but guarding a lone merchant ship! Locate lone tanker, pull as close alongside as possible in heavy sea and give her orders. Wind decreasing getting warmer.
April 12, 1942 - Fuel rather low after battling gale and searching for scattered convoy. Locate RESTIGOUCHE with 3 merchantmen and later COBALT with 3. Wind dying down-cool-heavy swell. Late afternoon cold-bleak-and blowing up for another storm. Never noticed crew so fed up and disgusted before. Everyone hard to get along with and no one has humor. Our collection of stray merchant ships is now eleven. COBALT, NAPANEE and RESTIGOUCHE with us and all steaming at 6 and half knots except us who steam a little more to buzz around convoy sweeping. One more merchant ship just joined us which makes 12 ships out of 47 at the start! H.M.S. WANDERER joins us but leaves later. Heavy sea and fierce rain storm arises.
April 13, 1942 - Weather fine cool wind rough sea. At dawn we find ourselves 5 miles astern of convoy due to poor visibility at night. We have a heavy stbrd list making it damn hard for us to live in comfort, ha- ha as if we could! Our 5th day at sea and our fuel is far from where it should be due of course to hunting convoy in gale. Asdic gear repaired being off. In gale Friday night one of our depth charges skid out of rack into sea. Our drinking water is rationed and to wash you are very lucky!
April 14, 1942 - Weather fair, sea fair, convoy in order. Turns black cold and choppy.
April 15, 1942 - Snow rain and wind. Get first taste of U boats this trip and fire pattern of charges in heavy sea. Steering gear again out of order, use emergency. Our stern wake tonight is well lit up from phosphorous in water and quite visible. April 16- Weather fine sea flat. Leave convoy at 0820 in morning to run for Irish port-very short of fuel. Get taste of sunshine today for change.
April 17, 1942 - Weather fine sea flat. Sight suspicious vessel at 1200 on horizon but turns out to be H.M.S. ROCKINGHAM. About 800 miles of Irish coast. Asdic gear working off and on.
April 18, 1942 - Weather fair. Pass US destroyers MAYO - SIMPSON - HMS ACANTHERS - ROSE - MIMOSA - PONTENTILLA - EGLANTANA - schooner READY and US merchant ship IMPULSE at 0630 in morning. SURCOUF just announced as sunk in med. British aircraft looks us over then disappears.
April 19, 1942 - Weather fine sea same. Ship very high from water due to fuel shortage. Pass HMS CASTLETON - 3 new yank destroyers escorting liner with catapult plane amidships just steaming into Lough Foyle. Check on our reception of w/t mesgs this trip and find we are a little better than 99%. Arrive at port about 0730 evening where we refuel. This crossing makes my 6th complete crossing of Atlantic [since coming off our Halifax-Newfoundland and Iceland run] Submarine N50 alongside. L.Sig of Canadian corvette alongside us [Barry] dives over to save chum but drowns himself.
Webmaster's note: The sailor that drowned was L/Sig Harold Lorne Bullock, V2314, RCNVR of HMCS Barrie
April 20, 1942 - Go up before skipper to obtain leave and at 1200 I get it. By 1300 I am on my way by train to Belfast where I catch channel steamers for Glasgow Scotland.
April 21, 1942 (Tuesday) - Arrive at Glasgow 1100 and take train to Gourich Scotland where I clean up at Bay Hotel. At about 1400 I go to Greenock by train and see Mrs. Mulholland. Quite a treat to see her after such long absence. Go down to Massey’s Shop where I surprise Margaret.
Webmaster's note: Robert Richmond got married while ashore on leave
April 25, 1942 - Arrive Belfast 0700 morning after one grand-glorious binge aboard steamer. Remember nothing until I awake at berthing. Take train to Londonderry and report aboard ship at 1330 being one and a half hours adrift.
April 26, 1942 - Spend day in harbour after going shore for church service. Get general razzing and best wishes from boys.
April 27, 1942 - Weather fine. Slip out to sea with three corvettes. COBALT - DUNVEGAN and NAPANEE for submarine trials and gunnery shoot. Accuracy of our gunfire nearly perfect at extreme range. Few army fellows aboard this trip for experience. Pull in at 1800. Leaving harbour in evening we full astern and ram into corvette DUNVEGAN just below bridge tearing our port depth charge rack into scrap and putting hole in our stern plate causing us to leak and damaging our rudder. Corvette is ripped open in three places causing injury to two seamen below deck. We attempt to carry out night shoot but steam back in to Londonderry where we wait repairs.
April 28, 1942 - Weather fine in harbour. Harbour routine and corvette DUNVEGAN has temporary repairs made to her. Our damage so far not being touched. (They ignore us.)
April 29, 1942 - Weather cool with stiff wind. Holes in plate being temporary repaired until we arrive back in home port. Buffer on DUNVEGAN has fractured skull as a result of our accident. Health today is rotten-heavy cough still after seven days and continued headaches. We slip for sea tomorrow with Canada bound convoy.
April 30, 1942 - Weather fine. Health poor. Tonsils, sore throat heavy cough still after eight days. Medical officer treating me is going to put me ashore at Nfld RCNH. Condition due to travelling across from Belfast to Glasgow on damn cattle boat. Repair damage to stern plates with cement and steel. Take torn depth charge rack off altogether leaving us short of pattern. Slip downstream at 1700 and refuel at tanker. Slip away from tanker and head around coast of Ireland west to locate our convoy. Sea flat, weather warm. Our escort this trip is HMS BROADWAY - ST. FRANCIS - COBALT - DRUMHELLER - NAPANEE and DUNVEGAN out.
Webmaster's note: The convoy was ON.90 from Liverpool to Halifax. Departed Liverpool on 28 Apr 1942, arrived Halifax on 15 May 1942.