HMCS OTTER -Animal class armed yacht, was lost on 26 March 1941 from an on board fire and sank, off Halifax. At the time of the tragedy, she had a ship’s company of forty-one, nineteen sailors were killed.
OTTER was one of fourteen large private yachts acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy to act as interim escort ships until warships could be built. Designed to civilian standards, her wiring was prone to shorts and small fires while operating on the North Atlantic.
On 26 March, OTTER was dispatched to rendezvous with HMSubmarine TALISMAN off Sambro Light vessel and escort the submarine into Halifax. The waves were ten feet at a Force 6 with intermittent rain. At 0845, FIRE, FIRE FIRE sounded throughout the ship. Her ship’s company sprang into action and despite their efforts the fire burst through Otter’s deck above the engine room.
Without her pumps to fight the fire, her skipper, Lt. Mossman ordered the magazine flooded followed by Abandon Ship. All of OTTER’s ship’s company escaped their burning ship, crowding into boats and rafts.
The heavy seas swept the men from the rafts, killing many in the near freezing water. TALISMAN arrived on scene and attempted rescue, she was joined by a Polish merchant ship, Wisla. The last of OTTER’s survivors was pulled from the water almost two and a half hours after they had abandoned their ship, by then nineteen of their ship mates had died of exposure.
Photo courtesy of the Naval Museum of Manitoba.