Before I was stationed overseas, I was assigned to Summerside PEI, to patrol the area for German submarines. This area, PEI was called the Garden of the Gulf. There was pretty heavy war -time submarine activity around there. The base was very active. I wasn’t excited about my stint there – but I wasn’t disappointed either.
Several sightings of German submarines had been made in Chaleur Bay, New Brunswick over the course of a few weeks in 1942, 1943. It was decided that they would institute several dawn patrols by putting a depth charge under each wing off 250 pounds.
I flew Ansons at that time. Ansons were used in Britain and in Canada during the war. There were four crew: pilot (myself), student, navigator, and wireless air – gunner. They were easy to fly – very forgiving craft. You never had to worry about much when flying that craft. It was very modern and had a lot of “automation”. The 250 pounds of under-water bombs were mostly used by the navy – but we carried them too. The weight of the weapons, however, reduced the landing and take-off speed of the poor old Anson.
I will never forget this one particular day. It was a very calm morning. As we approached the bay, there lay right ahead of us a wake on the water which appeared exactly like the wake caused by the German submarines.
“Frank!”, I called. “Arm the depth charges!”
Frank, my wireless air gunner, ran up to the nose and we began the “run-in”. Seconds later I said, “abort, abort”. The wake belonged to a tugboat towing logs.
The skipper of that tugboat never knew how close he had come to towing a load of toothpicks instead of logs.