Jules Blais served on HMCS Sea Cliff to accompany merchant ships during the Second World War. He was present at the sinking of the U-877 in December 1944. Blais rescued survivors from the freezing waters before dressing them and stowing them away aboard the ship. Listen to Blais describe his naval service and his interactions with German POWs.
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Mr. Jules Blais in Quebec City, Quebec on June 3, 2010.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project/Jules Blais)
"We sank a German submarine, U-877."
I was sent to Quebec City to take up a new ship called HMCS Sea Cliff. On that ship, we were assigned to C-3 escort group to accompany the merchant ships overseas. We made several trips at the end of 1944. We sank a German submarine, U-877 [this sinking is officially credited to HMCS St. Thomas].
What happened is that the day before, we had attacked the submarine with our depth charges. Those depth charges contained about 300 pounds of TNT. When they blew up underwater, it made enough commotion to attack the submarine. We woke up in the morning - we were always on duty, but by morning the German submarine was rising to the surface. I was told to go up to the crow's nest to assess what was happening; I would be higher up there. At one point, I saw the German submariners abandoning ship. So when I saw that they were abandoning, I advised the bridge. I had to report to the bridge, to the captain, and to the officers who were on the bridge. We had started firing at the ship. We had five-inch cannons; the shells weighed about 90 pounds and caused a lot of damage when they hit. So we fired a few times but we didn't hit them. When we saw that the Germans were abandoning their ship, we stopped firing. This happened in December, either the 25thor 26th [the 27th] of December. The water was cold.
So we approached slowly. When we saw that there was no longer any danger for us, we lowered row boats into the water to pick up the survivors. Some of them came aboard and they were pretty frozen. So we took care of them. We had a physician aboard at the time and he examined them. We gave them clothing from the Red Cross. The Red Cross provided us with clothing for the survivors we took on: a wool jacket, wool pants and wool socks so that they would be comfortable.
Some of them spoke French. The contact we had with them was that we had to guard them. First we put them in a place from which they couldn't escape. We gave them food, cigarettes; whatever they needed. One thing that happened was, on our ship, our cook often made us raisin pie for dessert. We liked it. At one point, we served it to the Germans. I came by afterwards to see that everything was cleaned up and that they had cleared away their dishes and I noticed that they hadn't eaten their raisin pie. So I sat down and ate a piece. The next time - because we got raisin pie every two days - they made a place for me to eat my raisin pie. Anyway, it's just a small detail but I thought it was precious at the time.
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