Windows to another time

The corvette was torpedoed by U-1004 and sunk in February 1945. One of two recently recovered mangled portholes show the power of the attack.

Legion Magazine 

A pair of portholes are grim reminders of destruction during the Battle of the Atlantic.

The mangled portholes, bronze bent from the force of the explosion, “are the real story of the sinking of the Trentonian,” said Roger Litwiller, a Canadian naval historian and author, in an interview with Legion Magazine. He donated the two artifacts from the ship to a pair of Canadian museums in late 2021.

The Royal Canadian Navy modified Flower-class ship was the last corvette sunk during the Second World War’s Battle of the Atlantic. On Feb. 22, 1945, it was escorting a convoy in the English Channel when it was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-1004 just 20 kilometres from Falmouth on England’s southern coast.   

“The torpedo struck us aft with a terrific explosion and the corvette went down in 10 minutes,” said Lieutenant Ralph Abbott, Navigating Officer, in a newspaper account at the time. After destroying the charts, he abandoned the ship. “Some of the men sang while awaiting rescue,” but Abbott had to swim for about 45 minutes before rescuers arrived. 

The survivors, including several wounded, were picked up by motor launches. Six of the 101 crew members died.

The wreck lay scattered over the sea floor some 50-plus-metres deep, undisturbed for decades, providing habitat for fish and marine plants. But recently, it has attracted recreational divers. 

In May 2021, Litwiller, author of White Ensign Flying: Corvette HMCS Trentonian, was contacted by the president of a British diving club. Although the club’s members had been warned of the British law protecting undersea wreckage of Second World War ships and aircraft, many of which are considered gravesites, two of the club’s divers had retrieved portholes from Trentonian.  

The club could not safely return the artifacts to the wreck site, so the president searched for a home for the historical items and offered them to Litwiller. He accepted them.  

After receiving the portholes in the mail, Litwiller donated them to two museums—one to the Naval Museum of Halifax, as Trentonian had sailed from the city’s port early in its service, and the second to the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston, Ont. It was here at this former shipyard on Lake Ontario (now a national historic site) that shipwrights crafted the corvette. 

Said Litwiller: “Artifacts like these are of such huge historic significance.”


Painter Marc Magee depicts HMCS Trentonian. The corvette was torpedoed by U-1004 and sunk in February 1945.



Crew of Trentonian circa 1944. Six of 101 on board died when it was sunk a year later. Photos: Windows to another time – Legion Magazine.

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