By Margaret Houben
D-Day, or the invasion of Normandy, may have been the turning point of the war, but it wasn’t the end of the war. That was a year away. Vern Wilson had just joined the Canadian Navy.
His first ship was the Sans Peur Z52, an armed yacht. The Sans Peur was chartered in 1943, then was refit for war at Esquimalt. It left on Jan. 24, 1944, for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and arrived in late February the same year. In March of 1944 it started anti-sub training.
Vern spent the first part of his military career on this ship, learning what he needed to do and getting used to ship life.
“This was easy for me,” Vern explained, “I was one of those lucky individuals who didn’t get seasick.”
Vern’s next ship, and his ship for the remainder of the war, was the river class frigate, the Victoriaville 320. This ship was commissioned in Nov. 11, 1944, in Quebec City. From there she went to Halifax on Dec. 3, 1944.
On Feb. 27, 1945, it was assigned to escort group C9, traveling to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, with Vern on board.
Victoriaville spent the remainder of the war escorting convoys back and forth across the North Atlantic, watching for subs and ready to deal with any it might find.
She left Barry, Wales, on May 2, 1945, to pick up convoy ON.300 on her way home to Canada.
“We spent a lot of time hunting for subs,” Vern remembers, “And near the end of the war we did find one. We were headed to Canada when we spotted it. We chased it for awhile, then lost it. A few days later, we found out that it had surrendered to the Canadians.”
The U-boat met the Canadian frigate 500 miles off Cape Race, Newfoundland, on May 11. The U-boat captain, Reith, signed a document of unconditional surrender, and was taken prisoner with his crew aboard Victoriaville, which then escorted the submarine to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, arriving on May 14.