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HMCS Otter

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History
Name
  • Nourmahal
  • Conseco
Port of registryUnited States
BuilderRobert Jacob, City Island, New York
Launched1921
FateSold to Royal Canadian Navy 1940
Canada
NameOtter
Namesakeotter
Acquired1940
Commissioned4 October 1940
FateDestroyed by fire on 26 March 1941
General characteristics in Canadian service
TypeArmed yacht
Displacement419 long tons (426 t)
Length160 ft (48.8 m)
Beam25 ft (7.6 m)
Draught10 ft (3.0 m)
Speed11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Sensors and
processing systems
Asdic
Armament

HMCS Otter was an armed yacht in service with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. Launched in 1921, the vessel was constructed as Nourmahal for Vincent Astor of New York as a pleasure yacht. He sold the vessel in the late 1920s and it was renamed Conseco. The Royal Canadian Navy, finding a lack of suitable vessels in Canadian ownership to be taken into naval service, sent Canadian yacht owners south to the United States to find those vessels. Conseco was acquired and brought north to Halifax, Nova Scotia where the vessel was converted to an armed yacht in 1940. Renamed Otter the ship participated in the Battle of the Atlantic, escorting convoys and patrolling the Canadian coast. On 26 March 1941, Otter suffered a catastrophic fire aboard that sank the armed yacht. Two officers and seventeen ratings died in the incident.

Discover more about HMCS Otter related topics

Armed yacht

Armed yacht

An armed yacht was a yacht that was armed with weapons and was typically in the service of a navy. The word "yacht" was originally applied to small, fast and agile naval vessels suited to piracy and to employment by navies and coast guards against smugglers and pirates. Vessels of this type were adapted to racing by wealthy owners. The origin of civilian yachts as naval vessels, with their speed and maneuverability, made them useful for adaptation to their original function as patrol vessels. In the United States Navy armed yachts were typically private yachts expropriated for government use in times of war. Armed yachts served as patrol vessels during the Spanish–American War and the World Wars. In the latter conflicts, armed yachts were used as patrol vessels, convoy escorts, and in anti-submarine duties. In the United States, yachts were purchased from their owners with the owners given an option to repurchase their yacht at the close of hostilities.

Royal Canadian Navy

Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy is the naval force of Canada. The RCN is one of three environmental commands within the Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2021, the RCN operates 12 frigates, four attack submarines, 12 coastal defence vessels, eight patrol class training vessels, two offshore patrol vessels, and several auxiliary vessels. The RCN consists of 8,570 Regular Force and 4,111 Primary Reserve sailors, supported by 3,800 civilians. Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee is the current commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and chief of the Naval Staff.

World War II

World War II

World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries, including all of the great powers, fought as part of two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. Many participants threw their economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind this total war, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. Aircraft played a major role, enabling the strategic bombing of population centres and the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war.

Ceremonial ship launching

Ceremonial ship launching

Ceremonial ship launching involves the performance of ceremonies associated with the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a nautical tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years, to accompany the physical process with ceremonies which have been observed as public celebration and a solemn blessing, usually but not always, in association with the launch itself.

Vincent Astor

Vincent Astor

William Vincent Astor was an American businessman, philanthropist, and member of the prominent Astor family.

Yacht

Yacht

A yacht is a sailing or power vessel used for pleasure, cruising, or racing. There is no standard definition, though the term generally applies to vessels with a cabin intended for overnight use. To be termed a yacht, as opposed to a boat, such a pleasure vessel is likely to be at least 33 feet (10 m) in length and may have been judged to have good aesthetic qualities.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the capital and largest municipality of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, and the largest municipality in Atlantic Canada. Halifax is one of Canada's fastest growing municipalities, and as of 2022, it is estimated that the CMA population of Halifax was 480,582,with 348,634 people in its urban area. The regional municipality consists of four former municipalities that were amalgamated in 1996: Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Halifax County.

Battle of the Atlantic

Battle of the Atlantic

The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, ran from 1939 to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, covering a major part of the naval history of World War II. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. The campaign peaked from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943.

Convoy

Convoy

A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support and can help maintain cohesion within a unit. It may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.

Naval rating

Naval rating

In a navy, a rate, rating or bluejacket is a junior enlisted sailor who is not a warrant officer or commissioned officer. Depending on the country and navy that uses it, the exact term and the range of ranks that it refers to may vary.

Description

In Royal Canadian Navy service as an armed yacht, Otter had a displacement of 419 long tons (426 t) with a length of 160 feet (48.8 m), a beam of 25 feet (7.6 m) and a draught of 10 feet (3.0 m). The armed yacht had a maximum speed of 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) and a complement of 5 officers and 35 ratings. The ship was armed with one QF 12-pounder 12 cwt naval gun.[1] For anti-submarine warfare, Otter was equipped with depth charges and asdic.[2]

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Royal Canadian Navy

Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy is the naval force of Canada. The RCN is one of three environmental commands within the Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2021, the RCN operates 12 frigates, four attack submarines, 12 coastal defence vessels, eight patrol class training vessels, two offshore patrol vessels, and several auxiliary vessels. The RCN consists of 8,570 Regular Force and 4,111 Primary Reserve sailors, supported by 3,800 civilians. Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee is the current commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and chief of the Naval Staff.

Armed yacht

Armed yacht

An armed yacht was a yacht that was armed with weapons and was typically in the service of a navy. The word "yacht" was originally applied to small, fast and agile naval vessels suited to piracy and to employment by navies and coast guards against smugglers and pirates. Vessels of this type were adapted to racing by wealthy owners. The origin of civilian yachts as naval vessels, with their speed and maneuverability, made them useful for adaptation to their original function as patrol vessels. In the United States Navy armed yachts were typically private yachts expropriated for government use in times of war. Armed yachts served as patrol vessels during the Spanish–American War and the World Wars. In the latter conflicts, armed yachts were used as patrol vessels, convoy escorts, and in anti-submarine duties. In the United States, yachts were purchased from their owners with the owners given an option to repurchase their yacht at the close of hostilities.

Displacement (ship)

Displacement (ship)

The displacement or displacement tonnage of a ship is its weight. As the term indicates, it is measured indirectly, using Archimedes' principle, by first calculating the volume of water displaced by the ship, then converting that value into weight. Traditionally, various measurement rules have been in use, giving various measures in long tons. Today, tonnes are more commonly used.

Beam (nautical)

Beam (nautical)

The beam of a ship is its width at its widest point. The maximum beam (BMAX) is the distance between planes passing through the outer extremities of the ship, beam of the hull (BH) only includes permanently fixed parts of the hull, and beam at waterline (BWL) is the maximum width where the hull intersects the surface of the water.

Draft (hull)

Draft (hull)

The draft or draught of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull (keel). The draught of the vessel is the maximum depth of any part of the vessel, including appendages such as rudders, propellers and drop keels if deployed. Draft determines the minimum depth of water a ship or boat can safely navigate. The related term air draft is the maximum height of any part of the vessel above the water.

Knot (unit)

Knot (unit)

The knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, exactly 1.852 km/h. The ISO standard symbol for the knot is kn. The same symbol is preferred by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), while kt is also common, especially in aviation, where it is the form recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The knot is a non-SI unit. The knot is used in meteorology, and in maritime and air navigation. A vessel travelling at 1 knot along a meridian travels approximately one minute of geographic latitude in one hour.

Naval rating

Naval rating

In a navy, a rate, rating or bluejacket is a junior enlisted sailor who is not a warrant officer or commissioned officer. Depending on the country and navy that uses it, the exact term and the range of ranks that it refers to may vary.

QF 12-pounder 12 cwt naval gun

QF 12-pounder 12 cwt naval gun

The QF 12-pounder 12-cwt gun (Quick-Firing) was a common, versatile 3-inch (76.2 mm) calibre naval gun introduced in 1894 and used until the middle of the 20th century. It was produced by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick and used on Royal Navy warships, exported to allied countries, and used for land service. In British service "12-pounder" was the rounded value of the projectile weight, and "12 cwt (hundredweight)" was the weight of the barrel and breech, to differentiate it from other "12-pounder" guns.

Anti-submarine warfare

Anti-submarine warfare

Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, submarines, or other platforms, to find, track, and deter, damage, or destroy enemy submarines. Such operations are typically carried out to protect friendly shipping and coastal facilities from submarine attacks and to overcome blockades.

Depth charge

Depth charge

A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) weapon. It is intended to destroy a submarine by being dropped into the water nearby and detonating, subjecting the target to a powerful and destructive hydraulic shock. Most depth charges use high explosive charges and a fuze set to detonate the charge, typically at a specific depth. Depth charges can be dropped by ships, patrol aircraft, and helicopters.

Service history

Constructed for Vincent Astor by Robert Jacob of City Island, New York as Nourmahal, the vessel was launched in 1921.[3][4] Later in the 1920s he sold the vessel to John W. Hubbard who used the yacht for coastal cruises. The vessel was renamed Conseco.[3][1]

To augment the local sea defences of East Coast ports in World War II, the Royal Canadian Navy sought large, steel-hulled yachts to requisition. However, a significant lack of capable vessels were owned by Canadians. Canada turned to its southern neighbour for suitable ships, finding several that met the navy's requirements. However, US neutrality laws prevented their sale to belligerents in the war. In order to circumvent these laws, the Royal Canadian Navy requisitioned the yachts of prominent Canadian yachtsmen and then sent them to the US to purchase the yachts that had been identified by the navy without the US government knowing they were working for the navy. The money to acquire the vessels was provided by the Canadian government through bank loans.[5]

Philip S. Ross, a business executive from Montreal, Quebec was sent to acquire Conseco after his own yacht had been requisitioned.[3][6] After acquiring the yacht, Ross has his own yacht returned, and Conseco arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia in late May 1940.[3] After arriving at Halifax, the yacht was renamed Otter and sailed with fellow armed yacht Moose to Quebec City, Quebec to undergo conversion to an armed yacht.[1] Conversion to an armed yacht involved removing most of the luxurious finery and installing naval hardware. Otter required more than just the installation of armament though. The vessel's fresh water tanks were corroded and needed replacing and all the generating machinery was shot and needed replacement.[7]

Otter returned to Halifax after conversion on 2 October 1940 and was commissioned on 4 October.[1][8] The ship was assigned to the Halifax Local Defence Force, alternating between training duties and anti-submarine patrols. The ship escorted convoys of merchant vessels from Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia to the meeting point with the ocean escorts for the transatlantic crossing.[8]

However, wiring issues arose early in Otter's service. The ship suffered a fire while sailing for its conversion, caused by a short circuit. Then, while off Newfoundland Otter had a second fire in a heavy storm. The danger of fire was higher aboard Otter than other warships as the cabins aboard the vessel were constructed of wood, not steel. Then, on 26 March 1941, the ship was ordered to await the arrival of the submarine HMS Talisman off the Sambro Light Vessel. Otter was to escort the submarine into Halifax Harbour. At 0830 while off the lightship, a fire broke out aboard Otter in the engine room. All the engine room personnel on duty died in the fire. The fire spread rapidly to the captain's cabin and the wireless office. The engines failed and with them the electric pumps for the firefighting equipment. To fight the fire, the crew used hand extinguishers and sand, which were inadequate.[9]

The captain ordered the magazine flooded and the code books destroyed. Once that was done, he gave the order to abandon ship. The crew faced 15-foot (4.6 m) waves. In the following evacuation, six members of the crew earned Mentioned in Dispatches for their conduct, including two posthumously. The surviving crew were in the water for two hours before rescue arrived. The Polish-flagged SS Wilsa and HMS Talisman picked up survivors. One lifeboat capsized in the heavy seas while approaching Wilsa, with only three of those onboard rescued.[9] Two officers and seventeen ratings died in the incident.[1]

Discover more about Service history related topics

Ceremonial ship launching

Ceremonial ship launching

Ceremonial ship launching involves the performance of ceremonies associated with the process of transferring a vessel to the water. It is a nautical tradition in many cultures, dating back thousands of years, to accompany the physical process with ceremonies which have been observed as public celebration and a solemn blessing, usually but not always, in association with the launch itself.

Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada

Atlantic Canada, also called the Atlantic provinces, is the region of Eastern Canada comprising the provinces located on the Atlantic coast, excluding Quebec. The four provinces are New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. As of 2021, the landmass of the four Atlantic provinces was approximately 488,000 km2, and had a population of over 2.4 million people. The provinces combined had an approximate GDP of $121.888 billion in 2011. The term Atlantic Canada was popularized following the admission of Newfoundland as a Canadian province in 1949.

Royal Canadian Navy

Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy is the naval force of Canada. The RCN is one of three environmental commands within the Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2021, the RCN operates 12 frigates, four attack submarines, 12 coastal defence vessels, eight patrol class training vessels, two offshore patrol vessels, and several auxiliary vessels. The RCN consists of 8,570 Regular Force and 4,111 Primary Reserve sailors, supported by 3,800 civilians. Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee is the current commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and chief of the Naval Staff.

Montreal

Montreal

Montreal is the second-most populous city in Canada and most populous city in the Canadian province of Quebec. Founded in 1642 as Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill around which the early city of Ville-Marie is built. The city is centred on the Island of Montreal, which obtained its name from the same origin as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. The city is 196 km (122 mi) east of the national capital Ottawa, and 258 km (160 mi) southwest of the provincial capital, Quebec City.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the capital and largest municipality of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, and the largest municipality in Atlantic Canada. Halifax is one of Canada's fastest growing municipalities, and as of 2022, it is estimated that the CMA population of Halifax was 480,582,with 348,634 people in its urban area. The regional municipality consists of four former municipalities that were amalgamated in 1996: Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Halifax County.

HMCS Moose

HMCS Moose

HMCS Moose was an armed yacht of the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. The vessel, originally the yacht Cleopatra constructed in 1930 in Massachusetts, was acquired for port defence in 1940. Following the war, Moose was sold into private ownership and reconverted to a pleasure yacht. Still in service, the vessel has been named Fraternité, Ottelia, Shogun, Naroma, Eretria, Candida A and as of 2019, Uthingo.

Quebec City

Quebec City

Quebec City, officially Québec, is the capital city of the Canadian province of Quebec. As of July 2021, the city had a population of 549,459, and the metropolitan area had a population of 839,311. It is the eleventh-largest city and the seventh-largest metropolitan area in Canada. It is also the second-largest city in the province after Montreal. It has a humid continental climate with warm summers coupled with cold and snowy winters.

Ship commissioning

Ship commissioning

Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to placing a warship in active duty with its country's military forces. The ceremonies involved are often rooted in centuries-old naval tradition.

Convoy

Convoy

A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support and can help maintain cohesion within a unit. It may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.

Newfoundland (island)

Newfoundland (island)

Newfoundland is a large island off the east coast of the North American mainland and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has 29 percent of the province's land area. The island is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the French overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

HMS Talisman

HMS Talisman

HMS Talisman has been the name of more than one ship of the British Royal Navy, and may refer to:HMS Louis (1913), a destroyer originally named HMS Talisman but renamed Louis while under construction HMS Talisman (1915), one of four Talisman-class destroyers, taken over by the Royal Navy during the First World War HMS Talisman (N78), a submarine commissioned in 1940 and sunk in 1942

Lifeboat (shipboard)

Lifeboat (shipboard)

A lifeboat or liferaft is a small, rigid or inflatable boat carried for emergency evacuation in the event of a disaster aboard a ship. Lifeboat drills are required by law on larger commercial ships. Rafts (liferafts) are also used. In the military, a lifeboat may double as a whaleboat, dinghy, or gig. The ship's tenders of cruise ships often double as lifeboats. Recreational sailors usually carry inflatable liferafts, though a few prefer small proactive lifeboats that are harder to sink and can be sailed to safety.

Source: "HMCS Otter", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMCS_Otter.

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Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e Macpherson & Barrie 2002, p. 209.
  2. ^ Tucker 1952, p. 526.
  3. ^ a b c d Darlington & McKee 1996, p. 30.
  4. ^ McKee 1983, p. 73.
  5. ^ McKee 1983, pp. 53, 63–64.
  6. ^ McKee 1983, p. 63.
  7. ^ McKee 1983, pp. 90, 93.
  8. ^ a b McKee 1983, p. 137.
  9. ^ a b McKee 1983, pp. 138–139.
Sources
  • Darlington, Robert A. & McKee, Fraser (1996). The Canadian Naval Chronicle 1939–1945: The Successes and Losses of the Canadian Navy in World War II. St. Catharines, Ontario: Vanwell Publishing. ISBN 1-55125-032-2.
  • Macpherson, Ken & Barrie, Ron (2002). The Ships of Canada's Naval Forces 1910–2002 (Third ed.). St. Catharines, Ontario: Vanwell Publishing. ISBN 1-55125-072-1.
  • McKee, Fraser (1983). The Armed Yachts of Canada. Erin, Ontario: The Boston Mills Press. ISBN 0-919822-55-X.
  • Tucker, Gilbert Norman (1952). The Naval Service of Canada, Its Official History – Volume 2: Activities on Shore During the Second World War. Ottawa: King's Printer. OCLC 4346983.

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