The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

July 29th, 2015

Sgt. Ralph Cameron Helps Sink U-Boat

Jan. 14, 1943Springhill Record Sgt. Ralph M. Cameron, R.C.A.F.

     Son of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Cameron of Springhill, who was the Wireless Operator – Air Gunner in Flight Lieut. Belanger’s crew that made three attacks on enemy submarines of the Canadian Coast.  Sgt. Cameron shared in two of the attacks, having given up his place on the other occasion to a radio expert of the ground crew whose duty it was to check the instruments.

     Ralph, probably one of the most modest boys in Springhill, had an excited look in his eye as he discussed the official statement given out on the incidents with your reporter.  “It was exciting” said the youngster who is but twenty years of age and out on his own for the first time in his life.  Asked if he like flying the youngster replied “It’s great.”

     Sergeant Cameron’s first ambition was to become a pilot and he made a splendid try, but in the final analysis he found it extremely difficult to “land” his plane and he re-mustered, going in for his present position.  Troubled by sickness he was longer than usual getting through his course, but he made the grade and the attacks on the submarines was his first taste of actual war.

     Ralph joined up in April 1941 in Moncton and was posted to Manning Depot in June.  He passed through the various training schools at Toronto, St. Catherines, Trenton, Montreal and finished up his machine gunnery course in Jarvis.  He was then posted to Halifax and later to the Yarmouth base where he is now stationed.

     His father “Herb” is a veteran of the last war and was a prisoner in Germany for a considerable length of time.  A brother, Pte. John Cameron is serving Overseas.

     Sgt. Cameron returned to his base this week after spending his furlough at home, where he enjoyed the rest.  His many friends wish him luck as he continues on his way and hope for a safe return when the war is over.

Sgt. Ralph Cameron Helps Sink U-Boat

At least one German submarine is expected to sink no more ships a result of a best of three attacks against U-Boats off the east coast by a Canadian aircraft called “Kayo´ in a period of 113 hours. 

     Flight Lieutenant M.J. Belanger, D.F.C., of Vancouver, was skipper of the coastal patrol ship during this run of good hunting and his crew consisted of Pilot Officer, J.H. Houser, Hamilton, Flight Sergeant D.C. Bullock, Winnipeg and Sergeant R. M. Cameron of Springhill, with Corporal P.M. LeMarre, Montreal, a ground crew radio technician, along for one of the attacks.  Thus Canada was represented from coast to coast. 

     The submarine was cruising close to the Canadian shore at the time but the exact location was not given in the announcement.  Neither was the date of the attack, except it was “in the latter part of 1942.”

     “The depth charges were seen to explode around the hull, slightly ahead of the conning tower.  The U-Boat’s hull came up out of the water and all forward motion stopped.  It then appeared to settle straight down.”

     A direct hit on a German submarine cruising close to the Canadian shore was scored by the “Canada-wide” crew of a Royal Canadian Air Force coastal patrol aircraft in the latter part of 1942 it was revealed at R.C.A.F. Headquarters last week by Hon. C.G. Power, M.C., Minister of National Defense for air.

With the usual caution against over-optimistic reports “where direct evidence of the U-boat’s destruction is not available, this was assessed as “a promising attack.”

Depth Charges Blast Hull

     Major Power’s announcement tells of a heavy attack on the U-boat as depth charges were rained down and beat a tattoo on the enemy’s hull. 

     “This aircraft sighted the wake of a U-boat of its starboard bow” the official summary reads “Speed of the U-Boat was estimated from eight to ten knots.  The aircraft dived to attack and released a stick of depth charges across the U-boats track while the U-boat was only partially submerged. 

     The depth charges were seen to explode all around the hull slightly ahead of the conning tower.  The U-boat’s hull came up out of the water, and all forward motion stopped.  It then appeared to settle straight down.  The sea was very rough under the influence of a 31 knot and no evidence of wreckage of or air bubbles was observed during the time the aircraft remained in the area.  When running up to attack 700 rounds of machine gun ammunition were fired at the U-boat, which was of the 740 ton class, painted light grey.”

     The Commanding Officer’s summary of the engagement, following perusal of photographs made by the attacking aircraft says “In view of the photographic evidence which shows the submarine completely bracketed by depth charges, and in the light of ensuing events, it is reasonable to assume that the U-boat has been destroyed.  Unless subsequent evidence proves differently, the crew of the aircraft should be credited with a kill.”

Local Boy in Crew

     The Wireless-Operator Air Gunner of the crew was Sgt. Ralph M. Cameron of Springhill, son of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Cameron, McGee St.

Three Attacks in 113 Hours

     This was one of three attacks by aircraft skippered by Flight-Lieut. Belanger on German submarines operating off the east coast and all were made within 113 hours.  All of the members of his crew shared in the three attacks except Flight Sergeant Cameron who was replaced on one of the attacks by Cpl. F.M. LeMarre, Montreal, a radio technician who was on a test flight and is the only member of the squadron’s ground crew

To have been “in on a show they would all like to see.”

     In the first of three attacks Flight-Lieut. Belanger said it was around midnight when he spotted a “white streak” on the sea immediately below.  It was certainly the wake but there was some “yes it is – no it isn’t” discussion before they caught the outline of the U-Boat in the moon path.  The conning tower and the deck with forward gun were quite visible.

     “We came in on his tail and let go a load of depth charges” Flight-Lieut. Belanger reported.  “We circled and the conning tower was still showing.  So we poured in a few rounds for good measure.”

    “Then the moon clouded over and it was pitch black on the sea.  Weather the next day prevented any check of the result of the attack if any were visible.”

Caught Flat-Footed by “Kayo”

     Flying Officer Houser was in his “office” in the nose of the aircraft.  After he had checked everything for the attack he said he sat back to watch the show. 

     “The skipper kept going lower and lower.  I was sure he was going to ram the sub instead of bomb it.” Houser said.

     Cpl. LeMarre probably got the biggest thrill out of the attack.  He had been overseas as a radio technician and his comment was “I had to come back to Canada to get a crack at those so and so’s”

     The second attack by “Kayo” their name for their “skycrate” came fourteen hours later.  Subs had been reported twice during the day but the U-boats submerged before attacks were possible. 

     “When we started our patrol we knew there was at least one prowling around somewhere and it was just a matter of “catching him unawares.” Said Flight-Lieut. Belanger.  “It was just about five o’clock when I spotted him off the starboard just s he surfaced.  We caught him flat-footed ….. we let the bombs go while his deck was still awash and one of them dropped right beside him.  As we came about on the return circuit we could see the conning tower just disappearing and eight minutes later oil bubbles appeared.”

     The next day an oil slick in the area of the attack was reported by another aircraft.

     “It was a honey of an attack and I bet they really got a shaking up.” Was Flying Officer Houser’s report.

The Best Attack of All

     The last of the three attacks was considered “the best of the lot” by the crew and was the one which Major Power announced as “promising.”

     “I spotted him surfaced ……. He was so far away he looked like a peanut passing through the water.  He was dead ahead but I doubt if he saw us until we started pouring lead into him.”

     “I think we had a perfect straddle with our depth charges and 700 rounds of ammunition were fired at good range”

     Houser, who was as usual in the nose, said “it was really a hot attack.  I could see the machine gun bullets splattering around the conning tower.  In fact when we were directly over and dropped our bombs the conning tower was still out of the water.  It was the best attack of the lot.  That sub sure took it on the chin and if they lived through that one ……if they ever reach port they’ll think twice before venturing out again.”

     Flight Sgt. Bullock who took pictures of the attack said he climbed all over the Captain to get his shots.

     “As soon as the sub was spotted I grabbed the camera.  I nearly broke the Skipper’s neck trying to get a shot of the sub through his window ……it was a dandy attack.”


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