25 September 2023

Canada’s Periscope Into History

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By David Ellis.

TRAVEL writing colleague Roderick Eime didn’t think too much about what appeared to be a very large flagpole sticking out of the roof of an old one-time warehouse he was walking by on a recent visit to St John’s in Newfoundland.

But prompted to look closer at its height and unusual characteristics, he found himself staring at a fascinating chapter of Canadian history.

For that apparent flagpole was in fact a periscope, and not from some patriotic Canadian submarine, but from a one-time German enemy U-boat. Here, in the heart of St John’s.

And it dated back to just three weeks before the end of the war in Europe, when a little Canadian minesweeper, the Esquimalt sailed out of Halifax on a routine patrol into the Atlantic Ocean.

But fatefully she was to encounter the German sub U-190, that fired off a single quick torpedo that sank the Esquimalt in just minutes, along with over half her 80 officers and crew.

When the war in Europe ended those three weeks later, the U-190 surrendered to a Canadian Navy vessel that escorted her back to Newfoundland, where members of the St John’s Crow’s Nest Officers Club decided the sub’s periscope would make an ideal trophy for their bar – particularly as the U-190 would be scuttled anyway.

And so that periscope protrudes today through the roof of the club on the top floor of a one-time warehouse.

The Club welcomes visitors, albeit with the need to clamber 59 steps up the outside of its building to get inside. And when it opened all those years ago, women were permitted to attend on Tuesday nights only… and more bizarrely with the proviso that “they do not clutter the bar.”

If you’d like to visit the Club when in Newfoundland, check out http://crowsnestnl.ca/

CONTROLS of the German WWII submarine U-190’s periscope, now in the St John’s Crow’s Nest Officers Club in Newfoundland, that back in the 1940s allowed women to attend on Tuesday nights only, and “on condition they do not clutter the bar.”

THE German submarine U-190 with White Ensign flying in surrender to the Canadian Navy three weeks before the end of the war in Europe.

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