HMCS ESQUIMALT, Bangor class minesweeper, was torpedoed by U190 off Halifax on 16 April 1945. Forty-four sailors of her ship’s company of seventy-one were killed when she was lost.
Late in the day of 15 April, ESQUIMALT left Halifax to perform and anti-submarine sweep of the approaches to the harbour in advance of a convoy leaving for St. John’s, NL. She was to be joined the next morning by another Bangor, HMCS SARNIA. U190 was patrolling off the Halifax approaches and had taken a position near the East Halifax Light Vessel. The submarines CO thought he had been detected and made an emergency dive and fired a single GNAT from her sterntubes, as he turned his submarine away from the approaching minesweeper.
At 0630 the torpedo exploded in ESQUIMALT’s starboard side in the engine room. The minesweeper immediately began to sink and was gone in four minutes. The ship’s whaler was already under water, still secured to the davits before it could be launched. Several of the Carley floats could not be launched and the auto-release mechanisms did not work.
Many of ESQUIMALT’s survivors took to the frigid North Atlantic water. SARNIA arrived at the rendezvous location alone and was distracted hunting a submarine contact. She did not return to the rendezvous location until almost 1000, it was then that ESQUIMALT was reported as missing and a search began.
The light ship nearby did not see ESQUIMALT sink and later search aircraft mistook the Carley floats for fishermen. It was six hours after the attack that SARNIA located the survivors, many of ESQUIMALT’s sailors died of exhaustion and hypothermia while waiting for rescue.
Despite an exhaustive search, U190 escaped the area. The loss of ESQUIMALT is particularly sad as the war was over two weeks later. U190 was still at sea when Germany surrendered and she was captured by HMCShips THORLOCK and VICTORIAVILLE off Newfoundland and taken to St. John’s. The submarine was later moved to Halifax and commissioned into the RCN to be studied.
U190 was paid-off and used by RCN ships and aircraft as a target, sinking her near the location of ESQUIMALT’s final resting place on 21 October 1947.