German Traces in Newfoundland
The periscope and the sinking of the HMSC Esquimalt
The Crow's Nest Officer’s Club in St. John's houses a small museum which displays military artifacts. A particularly interesting piece is a periscope that protrudes from the roof of the multi-storey building. The periscope comes from a German submarine, the “U190” that sank the minesweeper “HMSC Esquimalt” on 16 April 1945.
The periscope protruding from the building | © Heritage Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador
The submarine had been ordered to patrol near Halifax and sink merchant ships. Werner Hirschmann, the chief engineer of the German U-boat, still remembers the moment when the Canadian minesweeper suddenly approached the submarine and the German marines assumed that they had been discovered by radar. Shocked, the crew fired a torpedo that hit the Canadian ship and sank it within minutes. Only 24 men of the 71-member crew survived this devastating attack. Shortly before the end of the war on May 11, 1945, the crew of the submarine surrendered to the Canadian corvettes “Thorlock” and “Victoriaville” off Cape Race. While the German crew was arrested and sent to Halifax for questioning, the submarine 190 was exhibited at the port of St. John's. Later it was displayed in Quebec City, Montreal and Halifax as well.
The periscope of the German submarine in the museum | © The Crow’s Nest Later on, several meetings of the survivors of the HMSC Esquimalt took place: Walter Hirschmann was present in 1995. After spending one year in captivity in Ottawa, the 21-year-old settled down in Toronto and ended up spending his entire life in Canada. In 2008, at the final veterans' meeting in St. John’s, he said that he was sad that there were going to be no more meetings, but that he was happy to have seen the last survivors because they had become good friends over the years. The periscope in St. John’s is thus not only a memorial to the war, but also a sign of friendships that have been created beyond national borders and conflicts.
Crow's Nest Officers' Club
88 Water St
St. John's, NL A1C 1A4