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The following is the story of HMCS Prince Henry and its WWII Adventure off Callao, Peru. It is also my father’s story. Dad served in the Royal Canadian Navy on Prince Henry for this operation and the photos he captured offer us a first-hand account of the events that took place off Callao. We incorporated some of these photos within the story and the full gallery is featured at the end. I am publishing this article to honour my father on the 100th anniversary of his birth, March 21st, 2017.

Prince Henry retrofitted in Sorel, Quebec – followed an icebreaker to make its way up St. Lawrence River to Halifax, December 1940

Prince Henry was a member of a fleet of warships known as “The Princes”. The other ships were Prince David and Prince Robert. The Princes were originally designed as small luxury liners to compete with CPR’s Princess ships on the West Coast, but when the Depression hit, they were not earning their keep. The Royal Canadian Navy acquired and retrofitted them to become arms merchant cruisers. Prince Henry was overhauled in Sorel, Quebec, and commissioned on December 4th, 1940.

John Beer and fellow seaman in Bermuda – February 1941

Prince Henry left Halifax on January 12th, 1941 for Bermuda. A stormy three-day passage introduced the crew to the ship’s quick rolling action and forced them to find their sea legs in a hurry. They arrived in Hamilton, Bermuda, for five intensive weeks of workups, exercises designed to prepare the crew for any possible emergency. Training included gunnery practices, a challenge due to Prince Henry‘s rolling tendency, making it increasingly difficult to hit targets in rough seas.

After receiving orders to support forces on the Eastern Pacific, Prince Henry left Bermuda on February 19th, arrived in Kingston, Jamaica, four days later. They replenished supplies, completed more training exercises and proceeded through the Panama Canal on February 26th.

The Allies were keen to protect the coveted Panama Canal territory from the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, hence their interest in moving Latin America away from its Axis ties. Peru, in a long dispute with Columbia over territory between Peru and Ecuador, saw the war as an opportunity to use their military forces to occupy the disputed region. The United States, which was gearing up for entry into the war, wanted an end to further conflicts in Latin America by forming alliances with new President Manuel Prado Ugarteche and the Peruvian Navy. Peru was the first country to be persuaded to break away from the Axis powers and create a firm alliance with Allies, specifically the US.

British Cruiser Diomede stationed off Callao, Peru, needed assistance to disrupt German merchant ships from leaving the port at Callao. Four German merchant ships, stranded there for over a year, were closely watched by Peruvian and Allied vessels. German seamen were desperate to return home. Japan was Germany’s Ally in the Pacific, so their most likely destination.

Peruvian General visiting Prince Henry while in port at Callao

Visiting Peruvian General onboard Prince Henry while in port at Callao, March 24, 1941

Prince Henry arrived in Callao on March 1st. On March 16th, Diomede was called away, so Prince Henry took over. For awhile they anchored close by the German ships in the Callao port while arranging courtesy calls with Peruvian officials. This opportunity gave them a chance to take a closer look. The German ships were fully fueled and recently wired to fire and destroy themselves in the event of being captured. The Germans didn’t want their large cargoes to fall into Peruvian hands.

German ships (München, Leipzig, Monserrate and Hermonthis) waiting for their escape off Callao, Peru, March 24, 1941.

After leaving port and waiting and watching a few miles offshore, Captain R.I. Agnew of Prince Henry decided to move out to sea to make the German captains believe they had given up. Ten days later, at 1915, on March 31st, Prince Henry‘s Captain received a message that the Hermonthis and München had requested permission to leave Callao port. Prince Henry was 70 miles south of Callao. It would take Prince Henry three hours at full speed to get back. The knew the German ships were slower, so the Canadian crew determined their exact course and speed to intercept them.

HMCS Prince Henry intercepts two German ships:

After eight hours, Prince Henry discovered München north of Callao within 15 miles. The crew of the München sighted Prince Henry and altered their course northward and then to the west. Prince Henry went in pursuit. At 0700 on April 1st, a critical strategic maneuver orchestrated by Prince Henry’s Captain Agnew moved them within 6 miles of the German ship. They flashed the international signal, “Stop instantly or I will open fire.” München ignored the warning. Prince Henry fired a warning shot. The Germans scuttled the München. Within moments, the ship was in a cloud of smoke and the crew could be seen lowering the life boats. By the time Prince Henry reached the ship, it was in flames and not salvageable.

German ship sighted, but it was already scuttled

German ship sighted, but it was already scuttled

With the German crew safe in their small boats and heading towards Peru, Prince Henry proceeded full speed southward in search of the other ship, Hermonthis. Four hours later, they saw German ship on the horizon to the southeast. The ship was already on fire and the crew was lowering boats to escape. Prince Henry drew alongside and lowered her cutter to round up one of the German boats.

It looked as though the ship could be saved. They ordered the Germans back on the ship to fight the blaze. Prince Henry secured herself to the side of the German ship. The Canadian crew attempted to extinguish the fire. The heat was intense.

After four hours, they succumbed to the realization that they were losing the battle. The sea was rough. The ships were smashing and grinding against each other and the hoses were breaking. Hermonthis could not be saved. The Prince Henry along with the first group of German prisoners went in search of the Germans in the other two life boats.

After the remaining German crew were brought onboard Prince Henry, they shot gunfire at the Hermonthis to sink her. They returned to the site of München to destroy her, but it had already been destroyed by a Peruvian cruiser that had also recovered the German crew.

German prisoner

German prisoner

In retaliation for the Germans scuttling their ships, the Peruvian government seized two Deutsche Lufthansa planes and property, an airline 100% German owned and operating in Peru. Consequently, Pan-American Grace Airlines (Panagra), which was closely collaborating with the US, increased flight services within Peru, driving out German air operations.

Intercepting two German ships in the Callao operation was considered Prince Henry‘s outstanding achievement. Their success was attributed not to luck but to solid strategy and the ability and skill to carry it out.

Return to British Columbia

Prince Henry patrolled for three more weeks off Peru before heading to Esquimalt, B.C. on April 29th to transfer her prisoners and replenish supplies. She was to join up with Prince David on duty but that ship was due for a retrofit. In September, 1941, Prince Henry was assigned duty of depot ship for Newfoundland Escort Force.

Back in PEI

John was back in PEI to spend Christmas with his family and girlfriend Hazel MacLean before beginning his assignment to Newfoundland. The year 1941 was an eventful one within the Pacific theatre of war for a farm boy from Bannockburn Road.

John Beer’s photo collection: Click on photos to enlarge and proceed through gallery. John’s service record and editor’s notes follow below gallery.

John Eugene Beer, R.C.N.V.R. – V1340, Able Seaman, service record:

  • John enlisted with the Royal Canadian Navy in August 1940 at the Queen Charlotte Armouries in Charlottetown.
  • Three days after enlisting he was sent to HMCS Stadacona Naval Base in Halifax for basic training.
  • Drafted to Montreal to pick up the HMCS Prince Henry destined for the Pacific Ocean by way of the Panama Canal. Her mission was to capture German ships off the coast of Callao, Peru.
  • Drafted to HMCS Naden, Esquimalt, British Columbia and then to HMCS Stadacona, Halifax. He was drafted to Greenock, Scotland, crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth I which transported over 15,000 troops per trip. He was stationed in Newcastle, England, where he participated in gunnery classes.
  • Drafted to the Tribal Class destroyer HMCS Athabaskan on loan to the Royal Navy. For several months, he served on the Athabaskan, working out of Scapa Flow in the North Sea. This vessel was on striking force naval duties around Iceland, Norway and the Bay of Biscay.
  • Left the Athabaskan in Plymouth, England, returning to HMCS Niobe, a naval base in Greenock, Scotland. On a later trip to sea, the HMCS Athabaskan was torpedoed and sunk in the Bay of Biscay where 128 sailors perished, and 85 were taken prisoner of war.
  • While in Scotland, John was drafted to the destroyer HMCS Qu’Appelle on convoy duties to Newfoundland. He was drafted off this ship at St. John’s, Newfoundland, for gate vessel duties and shore patrol. He was then drafted for further gate vessel duty to Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
  • John received his discharge in October 1945 while in Esquimalt, British Columbia. He returned to Clyde River, Prince Edward Island, to his family and childhood sweetheart, Hazel MacLean. There were married on November 14th, 1945. He had purchased her diamond ring in St. John’s.

Editor’s notes:

There were four German ships in total at the port in Callao, Peru. Prince Henry intercepted München (location of capture here) and Hermonthis (location of capture here). A Peruvian warship prevented Leipzig and Monserrate from leaving port and they also scuttled their own ships.

Prince Henry stats: Pendant – F70; Armed Merchant Cruiser, Displacement – 5736 tonnes; length – 385 ft.; width – 57 ft; draught – 21 ft.; speed – 22 kts; compliment – 31 officers and 386 crew; arms – 4-4″ gns. (2×11), 2-2 pars, 8-20mm.

Materials referenced:

Photos: John Beer’s photos should not be copied without permission – please contact Vivian Beer – vivian@eastlink.ca

This is the ninth excerpt from the Meadow Bank W.I. Tweedmuir History that was published in 1951.

MacLean Homestead

Charles MacLean came here from Aberdeen, Scotland, where he was a shepherd. The exact date of his arrival on Prince Edward Island is not known. We are told that as a young man he cut cord wood where the city scales now stand in Charlottetown and also wooed Catherine MacKinnon of Highfield to be his bride. To this union was born four daughters: Catherine, Sallie, Mary and Ann and two sons: Duncan and Allan.

The MacLeans property of 60 acres was purchased from the executors of the estate of late Lord Selkirk of London, England, by the Douses who sold to Mr. MacLean in 1850. £40 of the £300 purchase price being required as a down payment. Deeds show that the Clyde River which formed the western boundary of the MacLean farm was called Dog River and the cove, Potter’s Cove, because of a brick kiln which was there at one time.

Here I wish to record one instance of the endurance and fortitude of the women of pioneer days. Being in need of grain for seed and not able to go himself because of a recent illness, Mr. MacLean’s wife, Catherine, leaving a three-month baby at home, went along in a rowboat to Belfast, making the return trip in three days and bring with her a bag of wheat.

Charles MacLean and Emmerson

Charles, son of Allan, who inherited the property in 1862 had two wives, his first Catherine Duff, who children were Sara and John Duff; his second, Eliza Brown, to whom was born Charles, Ophelia, Emmerson, and Fred. It is said that Allan had the first cart in that part of Meadow Bank as there was no road other than a foot path he had to bring it around the shore from Clyde River Bridge.

In 1901, Allan’s son Charles acquired the property. He married Edith Fraser and to them were born Elmer, Gordon, Allan, Hazel, Winnie, Jean, Donald (Dan), Kathleen and Ida.

Since 1919, the original MacLean farm has been in possession of Gordon (the second son).

We are told by Mrs. Gordon MacLean (nee Grace MacKinnon) that her grand-uncle John L. MacKinnon, founder and editor of the Summerside Pioneer, at one time boarded at Joe Hyde’s and attended school at Meadow Bank.

img_5568-2

Wharf at Gordon MacLean’s shore once used by him to ship potatoes. Marked with an “x” is the Clyde River Pioneer Cemetery where Mr. MacLean, the immigrant, is buried.

This is the eighth excerpt form Meadow Bank W.I. Tweedsmuir History published in 1951. There are multiple family names referenced in this piece. We only highlighted a few in the title.

Click on map to enlarge

On the next farm lived the MacLeods who came out from Scotland about 1830. In this family were three sons: Alexander, Murdock and John and two daughters: Margaret, spinster; and Mrs. Robert MacMillan of Millvale. Since the death of Murdock, the farm has been owned in turn by Will Henderson, Cecil Scott, Wilfred MacLeod, Mr. Kennedy and now (1951) by John Miller who in 1928 emigrated with his wife and family of seven boys from West Calder, Scotland.

Of the farm that Norman MacFadyen now owns the first we know is that a Captain MacDonald owned it in 1840. (Captain Gore’s deed to Andrew Cody of farm to the west) then Duncan Patterson. His two sons, Duncan and Charles lived here, the former operated the farm while the latter had a blacksmith forge on the roadside. Wallace Patterson is a grandson of Duncan Senior and is now a jeweller in Charlottetown (1951). The Pattersons sold to Bob MacMillan who later sold to Neil Ferguson from when the present owner bought.

Continuing west we find that in 1840 one Captain Gore sold to Andrew Coady 100 acres for £116, 13d. He was married to Rosie McAtter, their three children were Mary Ann, Ellen and Andrew II. It was sold to Robert Boyle May 4th, 1896. In August 23rd, it was deeded to George H. Boyle, son of Robert. The farm is now owned by Gordon Boyle.

On the South side of the road some distance West of what is now called Boyle’s Creek, on a small corner of the Coady farm, lived Matthew Boylan, labourer, and his wife Mary McAtter, sister of the aforesaid Mrs. Coady. Their two sons were Patrick and Terrance, the former was a plasterer in Charlottetown, the latter moved to the Western part of the Island.

William Boyle & Ellen Farquharson

The next farm originally Capt. Gore’s Property was owned by John Boyle who for a time lived with his family at Cornwall on or near the farm now (1951) owned by Leigh Good. In John Boyle’s family were Michael and William and two daughters, Mrs. Angus MacEachern and Mrs. James MacLean. William moved to Charlottetown and operated a tannery on Spring Park Road. Michael continued to live on the old farm where he married Miss Margaret Boyle To this union were born four sons and five daughters. One son, the late William was the subsequent owner until his death in 1928 when the property was purchased by Fred Hyde of the adjoining farm for his son Stanley, the present owner.

“Edgewood”, the farm of Elmer Hyde consists of 125 acres and was purchased from George MacEachern, son of Angus, by Henry Hyde and willed to his son Frederick in 1896. The Hydes had to clear the land where the buildings now stand, the only building on the place at the time of their occupancy being the former Meadow Bank school house and now used as a workshop.

The remaining 75 acres of the MacEachern farm which contained the MacEachern dwellings was later sold to Frank Boyle, the present owner.

The Atlas of 1880 shows James MacLean to be in possession of the next 200 acres but this was soon after divided and Hammond Crosby bought the half next to the road and occupied it until his death in 1919 when it was bought by James MacPhail. It is now owned and occupied by his son Colin D. MacPhail (1951).

The remaining part of the original MacLean home has continued in the name passing from father to son. It is now in possession of Frank MacLean.

Of the adjoining farm, Mrs. Victor MacPhail writes,

“The first trace we have of our farm is that it was leased by the trustees of the Rt. Hon. Thomas Earl of Selkirk to one John Calladow in May 1825. This lease was assigned by John Calladow in August 1827 to Donald MacNeill. Donald MacNeill died in February 1848. He willed the lease to his wife Margaret and his two sons, Ewen and Neil. The MacNeills sold to Alexander MacLeod for the same of £250 in the year 1856. The holders of a lease had to pay rent and perform certain covenants. There is no mention of Alexander MacLeod. The next deed we have is one where James MacMillan paid the sum of $195.04 to the Commissioner of Public Lands for the said 84 acres in the year 1893. In March 1900, James MacMillan sold to Edwin Jones. Edwin Jones died and his widow sold to James MacPhail in 1908. The farm must have been resurveyed at this time for here it is listed as 80 4/5 acres. James MacPhail sold 10 acres of this to Frank Boyle. In 1936, Victor MacPhail (son) bought the remaining 70 4/5 acres. The first house was down near the shore.”

 

Further to the approaching winter storm, the community of Clyde River’s 43rd Annual General Meeting is postponed to the storm date of Wednesday, March 15th at 7:00 p.m. The meeting will take place at the Riverview Community Centre. The agenda includes approval of the budget and tax rate for 2017.

This is the seventh excerpt form Meadow Bank W.I. Tweedsmuir History published in 1951.

Meadow Bank Map

Click on map to enlarge

Thomas Hyde, head of the Hyde Family, came from County Clare, Ireland in 1770 where he followed the trade of spinning and weaving, having emigrated with his parents from England some years previous. He purchased his land for the sum of £109 11s 9d. The first deed from Gov. Patterson is dated April 4th, 1786. Until this time, quit-rents were supposed to have been paid. Thomas Hyde brought with him a family of two sons and five daughters and left one daughter married in Ireland. The sons’ names were William and Thomas.

William was a captain in the militia and on two occasions served as an M.P.P. He was married to a Miss Simpson of Cavendish. To there were born a family of four sons and six daughters. The sons were William, James, Thomas and John. The daughters were Mrs. Cameron of Covehead; Mrs. Stewart of DeSable; Mrs. Todd of Arcola, Illinois; and Elinar, Jannet and Sara who were unmarried. We know that William Junior first lived on the farm now owned by Russell Hyde Senior and that during the time of his father William Hyde Senior a two-storied eight-sided house was built which contained a ballroom on the second floor. This house was the social centre at which members of parliament were often entertained. When still young, William Junior moved to the eastern half of the Hyde property later know as the “Point Farm” owned by his son Henry and grandson Harry M. until the last mentioned sold to the Alex H. MacKinnons in 1945.

Henry Hyde & his wife Isabel Adams

William Junior married Mary Braddock and to this union were born six sons: Samuel, Lemuel, William, Henry, Charles and Albert and two daughters who afterwards became Mrs. James Farquharson and Mrs. David MacEwen. Thomas Hyde moved to US, James married Bell Nelson and moved to Pictou County, N.S., John owned the mill where Harry Crosby now lives. He married a Miss MacEwen and their family consisted of seven daughters and four sons. The sons were Artemus Hyde of Clyde River, William of Halifax, Duncan who lived on the home place and John killed by accident.

Mrs. Duncan Patterson of Charlottetown and her son Wallace, the jeweller, are direct descendants of Thomas Hyde, son of the immigrant.

Here I wish again to refer to the eight-sided house which was burned, supposedly about the year 1857 at a time when two Hyde women, spinsters, were the only persons living in it. Two valuable articles of furniture saved from the flames were a sixteen-legged table made of black birch and a grandfather clock both considerable over one hundred years old. Included in the loss were several valuable papers the destruction of which severed a connecting link with relatives in the Old Land.

Sometime before 1786, one John Wilson lived on the land west of the Crosbys for we find that he bought out his land from Gov. Patterson in that year. He later sold to Williams and Webster who in the year 1852 sold to John Drake who came here from Pownal with his wife Susan Burhow of that place. They had a family of eight sons and one daughter most of whom settled here, Samuel and James H. occupying the home place which had undergone border changes, 50 acres having been sold to the Crosbys on the East and an additional 50 acres having been obtained to the West. Both brothers now owned 100 acres. These farms are now owned by Richard, son of Samuel and Lemuel H., son of James.

James Yeo lives on the farm formerly owned by Thomas Hyde (son of immigrant) and his descendants William and Joseph who in turn occupied it until 1901 when it was bought by Herbert Howard. The present owner is a veteran of World War II whose wife Dorothy Agnew came from County Monaghan, Ireland.

The next farm, as far as we know was first owned by John Small MacDonald, brother of the late Governor A.A. MacDonald. John MacDonald sold to a Mr. Cooper who later sold to the Hydes (Samuel Hyde). It was in turn sold to John Scott of Scott’s Mills for his two sons, Seymour and Peter each getting 100 acres. The former sold to Ivan Clow while the family of the latter still lives on the western half.

Editor’s Note:

Hyde & Crosby Pioneer Cemetery, click here.

This is our sixth excerpt of the Meadow Bank W.I. Tweedsmuir History published in 1951.

Of the early history of what is now Meadow Bank before the British took possession of the Island then known as St. John, nothing seems to have been recorded and little seems to be known. There are evidences, however, of certain parts of it having been occupied by the French and Natives, some crude cooking utensils and tools later being discovered nearby some of the old cellars or where a large quantity of ashes in the soil told of someone having lived there before. On the farm now occupied by Robert Jewell (part of the old Hyde farm) there is the remains of an old French fortress. Two round iron cannon balls have also been found on this farm. Whether fired from a cannon or carried there is a matter of conjecture. Now in possession of Ray Crosby is an ox shoe found on his farm and a sword and bayonet supposed to have been brought here by his ancestors, also a flint and iron for kindling in those early days long before Lucifer matches were ever heard of. In 1926, the school boys of Meadow Bank found the remains of eight or ten flint-lock muskets beside a spring on the back of Ivan Clow’s farm (the old Samuel Hyde farm). It is supposed that the muskets were hidden there by the French about the time the British took possession of the Island in 1758.

The Crosbys

John Crosby, grandson of immigrant

In searching early records for authentic data, I have found it difficult to secure the exact date when the first British subject settled in Meadow Bank. The earliest we can find is of William Crosby who came from the Town of Newry, County Down, Ireland, about 1770 and three years later married Margaret Orr who died in 1824. To these were born six daughters and two sons. The sons were John, in 1775, who was the first child born of British parents in what was then known as Elliot or West River settlement and William, the younger son born in 1784. It was not till the year 1786 that Mr. Crosby, the immigrant, purchased his farm of 203 acres outright from Gov. William Patterson for the sum of £113, 12s. 3d. stirling.

Click on map to enlarge

This land, after William Crosby’s death in 1815, was divided between his two sons. John took the western half and paid William £10 for certain advantages that went with the farm. Both these men married Miss Clarks (sisters). John’s family consisted of seven sons, four remained in this vicinity purchasing more land adjoining the original farm. One of these Theophilus D. (the writer’s grandfather) lived on the farm now owned by Ray Crosby. James, Mrs. Henry Drake’s father, owned the farm now occupied by Wilbert Drake. John was unmarried. He owned the property now in possession of Fred MacGregor, the other settled in Freetown.

North River Bridge, 1894 - Public Archives photo

North River Bridge

 

William who got the eastern 150 acres of the original Crosby farm had the contract of building the first North River Bridge for the sum of £900 or, it is said, £1 per foot. He had a family of three sons and three daughters. One son, John, later became owner of the home farm while Ewen and Andre moved to Bonshaw where they bought considerable land and also founded Bonshaw Mills, later owned by Hon. Cyrus Crosby and Heath Crosby, sons of Andrew.

John married a Miss MacEwen and to this union were born two sons, James, who died while a young man studying medicine, Isaac, father of W.W. Crosby, and one daughter Elizabeth who continued to live with W.W. Crosby on the old farm which is now owned by his son, John W. As may be seen there have been six

Marie & Jack, great grandchildren of John

Marie & Jack, great-grandchildren of John

generations of Crosbys who have occupied the same land. The daughters all married farmers, Margaret, George Clark of Clark’s Mills, Wilmot; Hannah, John MacEwen of Long Creek; and Mary Elinor, T.D. Crosby, father of Pope Crosby who in turn passed his farm on to his son W. Ray.

Editor’s Notes:

  • More details on history of North River Bridge here.
  • Hyde & Crosby Pioneer Cemetery, click here.

“The Pioneers” will continue in the next excerpt – Hydes

All residents are invited to attend the community of Clyde River’’s 43rd Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, March 14 at 7:00 p.m.

The meeting takes place at the Riverview Community Centre. If by chance there is a storm that evening, the meeting will be held the following night on the 15th, same time.

The agenda includes approval of the budget and tax rate for 2017.