One Sailor’s memory on the Battle of Atlantic

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Earlier this week, one of our members, Brian O’Connell of Vancouver Island Marine, shared his father’s story in memory of the Battle of Atlantic.  Ivor Vincent Lambkin O’Connell joined the Royal Navy in 1939 where he quickly accelerated through the ranks due to the number of casualties.

Mr. O’Connell and his Captain were the only Royal Naval personnel to bring home a torpedoed carrier. Despite active submarines in the area and repeated requested for Sunderland patrol aircraft, they were left alone to escort several ships including a Westfal Larsen oil tanker, which was also torpedoed. The Captain on the German U-Boat was on his 3rd patrol (at 23) and was later sunk. HMS Thane was built in Tacoma and fitted out in Vancouver.

HMS Thane operated in the North Atlantic protecting convoys and ferrying aircraft for use in the European Theater. On 15 January 1945, while ferrying aircraft in the Irish Sea, she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-1172 and severely damaged, losing her starboard aft 5 inch gun and its sponson, disabling propulsion, and losing 10 men. Taken to Gare Loch in the Firth of Clyde, southwest Scotland, she was examined, declared a constructive total loss and decommissioned to reserve. She was returned to United States custody while in the United Kingdom on 12 May. Determined to be of no use to the United States Navy, she was slated for disposal in October; and she was subsequently scrapped.

After six years at war and no breaks, no holidays and in typical RN fashion…little food but plenty of libations, he would say, “the only way you knew breakfast from dinner was you got jam with your toast in the morning and chutney at dinner.”

His awards:

  • 39-45 Star
  • Atlantic Star
  • North Africa Star
  • Italian Star
  • Mediterranean Star
  • Pacific Star
  • King George VI Medal
  • Malta George Cross

Above is a picture of the HMS Thane arriving from Bremerton for fitting out at Ballantyne Pier, where he met his future wife.  After the war Mr. O’Connell went on to rise the ranks of the National Harbours Board, Ports Canada, Vancouver Port Corporation. He started in 1947 and retired in 1984.

History and this week’s tragedy off the HMCS Fredericton helps put our challenges in perspective as we recognize the sacrifices that people choose to make in order to protect others.

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