Reversing the engines on the chasers didn't involve disengaging a clutch, shifting into reverse, and re-engaging, as one might expect. The engines had to be stopped, the reverse lever thrown, and the engines re-started. This resulted in a lot of crashes. Many shots of chasers show repaired or splintered bows. But the story for this month is a personal account of a chaser crash that's a bit different than most:
Personal Log of Ward Weller, crewman, aboard U.S. SC 36 in European Waters
Tuesday, July 15, 2018
Called all hands at 5:30 this A.M. to get underway at 7:05. No one knew or even imagined that this was to be the most eventful day to date for the SC 36.
[Executive Officer] Hill didn’t get back in time to take the trip. Our duty was essentially of a consort nature as a big bunch of freighters & transports lay to back of the breakwater waiting to get underway. Our division of 36, 321 & 98 steamed out ahead and took a course eastward up the channel. The port watch was on duty so I turned in below till noon when the star. watch was to go on. I was thrown out of my sleep and incidentally by a big head-on crash that threw everybody to the deck. Hurried up on the top side in time to find us backing away from the 321 who wobbled along with a big hole amidships on her starboard side.
Our bow was literally caved in, the Bo’ swain locker turned inside out. At first view it looked as tho’ the S.C. 36 was going by the deep nine either before or after the 321 so most of the fellows turned to and stowed their clothes in the old sea bags. I got mine packed & on the top side ready to transfer to the 98 that was standing by – a cause of much kidding afterwards. By the time the bag incident was over we found that the first bulkhead was keeping the water from the bilges.
Three of us rigged up the dinkey boat cover as a collision mat over the bow and wedged a bale of balsum in the breech to take the force of the seas & save the bulwark. When the smash occurred we were eight miles from land and in a fog. Sparks sent out S.O.S. and in less than 20 min. an English destroyer was on the job. By that time we were able to go ahead without much danger unless a storm arose. Our mast was snapped off above the crow’s nest and a [ ? ] spilled out feet first causing the most danger and it hung ready to fall any minute on someone’s head.
S.C 321 on the other hand was faring badly with her bilge pumps & handy billy both at work on the bilges as every sea that struck her broadside helped fill the engine room. 98 took her in tow and with one of Wild Bill’s boats – who came to our assistance at order of the destroyer – as a standby we pulled for Victoria wharf about 20 miles away. It was a long slow run against a heavy swell that threatened to fill us anytime we rolled or pitched.
Got to the breakwater at 2:30 and were soon tied up at the dock. At General Quarters we were all instructed to “keep mum” on the accident. Q crew from the barracks immediately went to work on the holes and put on temporary patches so we can make the dry docks at Devonport tomorrow. No liberty was given tonite so all hands wrote letters, [ ? ], and turned in early.
Queer yesterday I said “I wish I was in the army so I could see more excitement.” But I don’t care for much more excitement than the feeling that the planks under ones feet are going to disappear and leave nothing but a few fathoms of wet salt water to walk on. The first thing Jonfield [sp?] said when we struck and what most of the fellows said was “Hey! Weller here’s something for your diary” and here it is.
Thanks to Jayne Rankin, granddaughter of SC 36 crewman Ward Weller, for submitting the photo scans (mentioned below) and this diary entry transcription to The Subchaser Archives.
--Todd Woofenden, editor
The captions on the photos tell some good stories as well. The crew apparently called the three boats in Unit 4 "Sand," "Clay," and "Mud," I suspect an unofficial set of call signs.
One of the photos is an excellent crew shot taken on the bridge; and there are several more good ones, including the winning shot of SC 36 after the crash, with five sailors posing below decks, looking out from the gigantic hole.
Also added to the SC 36 page is a shot of the chaser at Base 27, from the same collection.