HMCS Sans Peur: Second World War Armed Yacht

by John MacFarlane 2016

Sans Peur

H.M.C.S. Sans Peur on the British Columbia coast 1940. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

In 1933 this luxury yacht was built as the Trenora by John I. Thorneycroft & Co. Ltd., Southampton UK for a British surgeon, Dr. Ernest G. Stanley. She was sold to the Duke of Sutherland, who renamed her as San Peur, was an investor in British Columbia owning Sutherland Canadian Lands Co. and he had been a Commander RNR during the First World War serving in Motor Launches. The yacht was cruising in California waters at the outbreak of the war. She was laid up temporarily when the Duke returned to the UK to assume wartime duties. The yacht was under the authority of the Admiralty, but was berthed in Esquimalt Harbour.

Sans Peur

HMCS San Peur on the Shipway at Yarrows Ltd. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

Sans Peur

HMCS San Peur Christmas Card 1941. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

She was commissioned for patrol service on March 5, 1940. She was the first of the armed yachts to be converted for wartime service and guns forward and aft, depth charge racks and ASDIC (submarine listening detection) gear was added. She carried 25 depth charges.

Sans Peur

H.M.C.S. Sans Peur (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

From May, 1942, Sans Peur served the dual function of patrol vessel and training vessel, but after November she was used for training alone. Originally chartered, the ship was purchased in 1943. She carried classes of trainees for radar, anti–submarine and anti–aircraft classes.

With the war in the Pacific being pushed westward away from the BC coast and following an extensive refit at Esquimalt, she left on January 24, 1944 for Halifax, in company with HMCS New Glasgow, arriving in February. In March she was sent to HMCS Cornwallis, where she she joined a small squadron of similar vessels that carried out A/S training in conjunction with RN submarines in the Bay of Fundy. After February, 1946, she was a training ship at Halifax. Paid off on January 31, 1947, she was sold to Maple Leaf Steamships of Montreal, but on resale the following year she reverted, under Panamanian flag, to her original name, Trenona. Later refitted by her builders at Southampton, she resumed her career as a yacht for her Italian owners, but by 1975 was in use as VIP accommodation at Okinawa, Japan.

Sans Peur

4 inch Quick Fire Gun (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

The main armament was a four inch quick fire (QF) gun which was mounted on the bow. The gun breech closed automatically with strong springs after a shell was inserted by the gun’s crew. It apparently came from one of the pre–war destroyers. If the gun had not been kept in stores it is highly likely that there would not have been a gun available to allocate to this vessel.

Sans Peur

40mm Anti–Aircraft Gun. (This anti–aircraft gun was known as a Pom–Pom from the sound it made when firing.) (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

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Gun Crew (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

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Dudley Rayborn Doing Maintenance on Depth Charges. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

Depth charge racks were constructed (probably by Yarrows Ltd.) When HMCS Wolf (another West Coast–based armed yacht) was only allowed one depth charge for trials. "It misfired", my father stated in a note, "due to the incompetence of whomever installed the primer."

Sans Peur

A/B George MacFarlane with Casualties From Depth Charges (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

Depth charges were in short supply at the start of the War and live firing exercises took place only a few times. The results were devastating for fish and wildlife.

My father, Able–Seaman (Seaman Torpedoman) RCNR served on board (under LCDR W.C. Halliday RCNR) from 23/01/1941 to 04/04/1941. He served in the Torpedo Party undertaking electrical operations and the maintenance of the depth charges.

Sans Peur

LT K.T. Chisholm (First Lieutenant) (Note the teak decks which are still being oiled on a regular basis.) (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

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Handling the Ranging Cable on A–Jetty (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

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The Torpedo Party (MacFarlane, Brooks, Tipton and Blockinger in HMCS Sans Peur) (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

Torpedo men operated and maintained the anti–submarine weapons, operated the main electrical switchboard in the engine room. They had to be qualified as electricians as well as in the knowledge of the operation and constructions of the weapons themselves. Later the electrical function became a specialty in its own right.

Sans Peur

Preparing to Lower the Cutter in the Boat&rsqhuo; Falls (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

Sans Peur

Lowering the ship’s Cutter in Sydney Inlet BC (Johnny Tipton, Gus Blockinger) (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

Many of the crew were experienced tug boat or fish boat crews and had first–hand knowledge of the skills required to operate a small vessel and were RCNR (rather than RCNVR which was composed of volunteers who had little or no experience in ships).)

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The Cutter Under Sail in Sydney Inlet BC (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

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HMCS Sans Peur with Vessels of the RCNR Fishermen’s Reserve Section in 1940. (Photo from the MacFarlane collection. )

HMCS Sans Peur was one of two non–US yachts to be commissioned into the RCN during the Second World War. In 1939 she was chartered as an armed Canadian naval yacht, as H.M.C.S. Sans Peur by the Royal Canadian Navy for service 1940–1943. The vessel was purchased in 1943. In 1944 she left for duty at Halifax NS. She joined HMCS Cornwallis for training with the Royal Navy in the Bay of Fundy. In 1946–1947 she was a training vessel at Halifax NS. In 1947 she was paid off and sold to Maple Leaf Steamship Co. Ltd., Montreal QC. In 1948 she was sold as the Trenora under Panamanian Registry. In 1975 she was in service as VIP accommodation in Okinawa Japan.

Commanding Officers: A/LCDR William Charles Halliday RCNR (23/10/1939–1942); LCDR Thomas MacDuff RCN (04/06/1942–(14/05/1943; LCDR Walter Redford RCNVR (15/05/1943–09/01/1944); LCDR Hugh Sinclair MacFarlane RCNR (10/01/1944–04/11/1945); Skipper LT Paul Perrault RCNR (26/02/1946–1946); LT David Llewellyn MacKnight RCN (22/07/1946–31/01/1947).

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2016) HMCS San Peur: Second World War Armed Yacht 2016.

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