In mid-summer 1943, our ship HMCS Algoma (K127) was anchored in Riglet, Labrador near HMCS Albernie. One Saturday morning about 1000 hours, I was up on the bridge having volunteered to paint the radar shack. The crew was on make and mends, as the ship had just arrived after battling a gale for five days so the Captain had granted a day off to the entire crew to rest up. As a result of many sleepless nights, there was no one on the upper deck.
Voices were heard coming across from the direction of Albernie. One voice said to a leading seaman, "I never fired off a depth charge, could you show me how it is done"? The leading seaman said, " Sure...first you take the strops off the charge, put your primer in and set it for say fifty feet. Take out the key. At that point, the charge is all set and ready to launch the depth charge. Just pull the the cord like this". All of a sudden, there was a loud explosion! Rather than just demonstrating the motions, a very real situation was about to unfold. The depth charge was launched and it landed just below the stern of the Algoma. At first, nothing happened as the water depth was around the same depth as the fuze setting on the depth charge. It should have exploded within scores of seconds of hitting the water. With great dispatch, I stopped painting and decided to inform the officers in the ward room that a charge had been accidentally fired from Albernie and landed right under our ship.
When I got to the ward room the officers were seen playing euchre. One officer replied "what do you want Leading Seaman Garrett?" I informed him "a depth charged was accidentally fired from the Albernie, and the charge landed under our stern". You could hear a pin drop. The officers didn't believe me at first and warned me I would be severely punished if this was a prank. The officers quickly assembled on Algoma's stern to assess the situation. Now, events would change rapidly. From nowhere, a very strong wind came up and blew Algoma's stern away from where the charge had landed and very unexpectedly, Albernie's stern swung around towards the spot where our stern had been. All of a sudden, the depth charge exploded and blew Albernie's stern about two feet out of the water. All the pipes burst in her engine room, and she was rendered unserviceable. The entire sequence took 10 to 15 minutes to unfold. We thanked our lucky stars for whatever problem that caused the delay in the detonation of the depth charge.
Once the action was over, we informed Ottawa about the incident and were instructed to take Albernie in tow to Quebec City for repairs. This would turn out to be a tiring, tension filled, 9 day, 1000 mile voyage. We were scared that a U-boat would locate and destroy our ships in these enemy infested waters. With Albernie in tow, our options for evasive maneouvers were very limited indeed. Lady luck was on our side once again and the voyage home was uneventful. Once safely in Quebec City, the leading seaman who accidentally fired off the charge, lost his hook and got thirty days imprisonment for his participation in this act. A compassionate crew took up a collection to cover his lost wages.
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