By Leading Seaman Kenneth Garrett
Radar Plotter First Class
HMCS Algonquin R17.
I can't quite remember the exact date of the incident because I didn't keep a diary. After we escorted the carriers to bomb the German battleship Tirpitz in Alta Fijord, Norway we arrived in the Faroe Islands to take on fuel from an oil tanker moored in a bay. The fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife. There was approximately five or six destroyers about 300 yards apart when a trawler unexpectedly took up position near us.
The British destroyer, HMS KEMPENFELT must have missed this move and erroneously identified the trawler as an enemy sub. A message sent by R/T indicated that KEMPENFELT was going to ram the sub on the surface. The bearing of the enemy was given. Nearly everyone jumped for joy, but not me. I wanted to watch the action on the 276 radar repeater in ALGONQUIN's Plot Room since it would be rather exciting to see a destroyer sink a sub on the "tube".
I rechecked the compass bearing given by the KEMPENFELT when all of a sudden I realized the enemy was really ALGONQUIN. Immediately, I called the bridge, "Plot, bridge!". The bridge responded " Bridge, Plot!" In my most assertive voice, I told the bridge to call KEMPENFELT on the R/T and ask her to alter course to port as she was going to ram ALGONQUIN. Intuitively I also instructed the bridge for full speed ahead on all engines in order to get out of harm's way. It was the first time I ever issued any order let alone one for speed. Quickly I dashed from the Plot to the starboard side. The fog was still heavy, but I managed to see the KEMPENFELT alter course and avoid hitting us. She couldn't have been more than fifteen feet away at the peak of the crisis. Had she hit ALGONQUIN, a massive disaster would have occurred as we had eight live torpedo warheads. The British ship also had eight live torpedoes.
During the war, there were times when we had nothing to fear from the enemy compared to some of the errors committed by friendly ships. In this action, the radar set got all the credit, but what good would the radar be if I hadn't been curious enough to want to see the sinking on the tube. My action did not go unnoticed by those in command. When ALGONQUIN returned to Canada, I was given sixty days leave and two months pay in advance plus an all expense paid return trip to Brockville Ontario. The monetary reward was nothing compared to the knowledge that my action saved my own life along with those of my shipmates and the ones on the KEMPENFELT.
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