November 5, 2021
By: Emilie Lapointe
As Remembrance Day approaches, I wanted to shed some light on a piece of Oakville history that you may not know about: the HMCS Oakville.
The HMCS Oakville, also referred to as K178, was a naval vessel commissioned in Montréal on November 18, 1941 and built in Port Arthur, Ontario. Only ten days later, she made her way out east to join the Halifax Force.
After only a handful of voyages, she was sent to reinforce convoy TAW.15 in the Battle of the Atlantic. TAW.15 was a convoy implemented to safeguard crude oil shipments as German U-subs prowled the Caribbean and claimed 48 merchant ship kills. After the convoy was attacked on August 28, 1942, and four ships sank, the HMCS Oakville’s reinforcement proved vital as it sank a more seasoned German vessel, the U-94. This sinking brought an end to the submarine’s reign in the Kriegsmarine. After being commissioned in 1940, the U-94 sunk 26 allied ships over the course of two years – totaling 141,852 registered tons of wreckage.
Click here to browse a collection of historical photos from newspaper clippings to HMCS Oakville crew members drinking Coca-Cola onboard.
The U-94 attack started with an American aircraft that spotted the submarine in passing, but the HMCS Oakville finished the job by ramming the German submarine several times and peppering it with shells. Two Canadians, Gunnery Officer Hal Lawrence and Petty Officer Art Powell, jumped the eight to ten-foot leap (reports vary) from their ship to the crippled U-sub. Ultimately, the two Canadian naval officers overtook the enemy submarine, subdued or captured the remaining survivors and dove off the sinking U-sub in its final moments afloat.
With this successful attack, the HMCS Oakville became the only Royal Canadian Navy vessel within the Caribbean theatre to have a confirmed submarine kill in World War II. It was a Flower-class corvette, which makes the successful attack even more courageous as corvettes were much smaller vessels used mainly for escort.
While the HMCS Oakville was bounced around after the dramatic U-94 sinking in WWII, its naval career ended in 1962 after many successful years of voyage and convoy. For those history buffs, click here to read the more detailed retelling of this attack.
You can visit a monument erected in Tannery Park to honour the valiant efforts made by the crew on the HMCS Oakville. You’ve likely visited Tannery Park many times to enjoy a sunset, as the park serves as a perfect vantage point to watch as the sky and distant shoreline melt together. You’ve no doubt also noticed the large statue piercing through the sky mimicking the distant lighthouse in the park below. The Tannery Hill beacon was built to resemble the spire of a compass to pay homage to the HMCS Oakville.
If you’re looking for places to visit to pay your respects this Remembrance Day, The Town of Oakville has three memorial locations that play host to ceremonies each year:
- George’s Square (179 Trafalgar Rd.)
- Trafalgar Memorial Park (120 Oak Park Blvd.)
- Chris Vokes Memorial Park (2500 Lakeshore Rd. W)
You can view virtual memorial ceremonies on November 11 at 10:45 a.m. at George’s Square and Memorial Park. For those looking for a weekend ceremony, there’s one being held at Chris Vokes Memorial Park on November 7 at 10:45 a.m. Take a look at the Town of Oakville’s website for updated links for virtual attendance.
Take a look at the sources below to read more about the HMCS Oakville’s story and specs:
Government of Canada: www.canada.ca
Legion Magazine: legionmagazine.com
University of Calgary Press: prism.ucalgary.ca
Military History Now: militaryhistorynow.com
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