Piecing It Together for HMS Harvester
In our PIT stop feature, we assemble additional pieces of the puzzle. Readers are able to learn more about the mill, its employees and the Hespeler community at large.
D.W.&W. News Vol. 2 | No. 11 (The story by Edgar Wilkins written in a letter home is in dispute. The published details of the timing and sinking of the HMS Harvester do not align with Edgar Wilkins’ version that was printed in the Dominion Woollens News. Furthermore, the ships manifest did not contain an entry for an Edgar Wilkins. More research is encouraged.)
HMS Harvester was commissioned in 1940. It played a pivotal role in removing troops from various locations, including Dunkirk.
In 1942, it was converted to an escort destroyer.
The ship was damaged when it rammed and sunk a German U-boat, March 1943. The very next day, it was torpedoed as it hobbled on the ocean with only one engine in operation.
HMS Harvester after torpedo strike. March 1943.
Historical recount by Johhny Claes:
“In the morning on 11 Mar, 1943, HMS HARVESTER (H 19) (Cdr A.A. Tait), flagship of the Escort Group B3, escorting convoy HX-228, picked up 51 survivors from the WILLIAM C. GORGAS, which had been sunk by U-757 (Deetz). The HARVESTER then returned to the convoy and sighted U-444 (Langfeld). The U-boat dived, but was forced to the surface by the following depth-charge attack and rammed by the destroyer at full speed. The HARVESTER was locked into the U-444 with a propeller shaft and both ships were unable to manoeuvre for a while. U-444 was able to creep away but was shortly afterwards sighted by FFL ACONIT (K 58), unable to dive, the U-boat was rammed for the second time and sunk. The badly damaged HMS HARVESTER managed to get one engine running and tried to catch up with the convoy, but around noon her machinery broke down again. In this helpless situation HARVESTER was hit by one torpedo from U-432 and a few minutes later by a second and sank almost immediately. The commander, seven officers, 136 ratings and 39 survivors were lost.”
Read more at wrecksite: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?11835