At the heart … of the action – Léon-Paul Fortin

HMCS Charlottetown

[N.D.L.R. The text extracts are taken from an interview that Mr. Léon-Paul Fortin granted in September 1998 to Julie Fournier of the Naval Museum of Quebec.]

HMCS Charlottetown was sunk on September 11, 1942, at 8:30 a.m., near Cap-Chat. During its torpedoing, HMCS Charlottetown was assigned to escort Quebec-Sydney convoys in the Gulf of St. Lawrence sector. Returning from the escort of convoy SQ-35, the corvette returned to its home base in Gaspé. The corvette was advancing slowly, not making the required zigzag movements. As it was the shift change, there was a lot of activity on the ship.

HMCS Charlottetown was hit by two torpedoes and sank in approximately four minutes. Léon-Paul Fortin, survivor of the HMCS Charlottetown torpedo, tells us how he experienced this enemy attack.

“[…] I was in the water for four hours with an arm and a broken leg. I was there, surely there. It’s because my time hadn’t arrived because I had a blow that could have been fatal to me. Because the torpedo hit just below where I was. So I flew through the air, I did a pirouette and I fell back on the part of the boat that was left. […] I went on my abandon ship station there. […] And I was going on the boat on the left side. […] But the boat, we were not able to put it in the water because the boat had been hit on the right side and it was tilting like that. […] But the more we lifted it to push it outside, the more it came inside. When the water was returned to us, the captain said, “The hell with it, everybody in the water. ”

“[…] I was in the water at least two and a half hours, three hours in the mist and in the oil because the boat had been hit in the oil tanks. […] At one point the fog rose, but there was a boat which they had managed to put in the water; it was the boat on the right side. They managed to put it in the water. But there were already 29 of them. […] When they saw me, they tried to come towards me, but I swam towards them. There they said, “Stand after the edge. “I stood after the edge a little, but not long because I was at the end. When I got to the end of it, I said to them: “If you don’t let me board, I let myself go. “So I have two friends, I don’t know which ones there, who sacrificed themselves because they had had nothing. […] They took me in and they laid me down in the bottom of the boat. I haven’t lost consciousness […]. I didn’t want to know anything anymore. “