Published on October 28, 2013
Kira Henschel holds up a picture of her father, Ernst Henschel, who had two interactions with Glenn Martin, pictured to her left. The first time was through a German U-boat periscope during the Second World War, and the second was as a doctor at the Prince Albert Sanatorium 10 years later. Pictured in back, from left, is Jamie Benson, Perry Trimper, Barbara Ishler and Morley Harrison -- four individuals who have joined others in helping solve a U-boat mystery in Atlantic Canada.
Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Published on October 28, 2013
Second World War veteran Glenn Martin talks with fellow veteran George Greenfield during a conference call on Sunday. Both veterans were aboard the HMCS Arrowhead in 1945 -- a small corvette warship.
Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Published on October 28, 2013
A sonar image of what is believed to be a U-boat discovered about 60 miles inland of where local veteran Glenn Martin and fellow crewmembers of the HMCS Arrowhead were believed to be spotted through a U-boat periscope during the Second World War, in Labrador.
When he first told people about Nazis spying on him from a U-boat stationed in Labrador during the Second World War, Glenn Martin’s story was called a tall tale.
More than a half-century later, he’s found an audience of people who believe him -- a base of supporters that continues to expand as new information collaborates with Martin’s story.
“That’s wonderful information to have,” he said on Sunday after talking with a fellow veteran over the phone -- one of a handful of people who shared information that backed the local man’s story.
“Too bad we hadn’t of had it a number of years ago, but then there was never a reason.”
Martin said that he first shared his story to a crowd of local veterans at either the Royal Canadian Legion or the ANAVETS, as soon as he got back from the Second World War.
“They poo-pooed it so much that I never told it again,” he said. “They wouldn’t believe that there was a war in the St. Lawrence River, but (Germans) always had two or three subs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, every summer.”
Martin’s story dates back to October of 1944, when Martin served as chief petty officer aboard the HMCS Arrowhead -- a small corvette warship of about 75 men, though he notes it was only built for about 55.
At the ship’s helm was Capt. Lester Hickey -- “a pretty good captain, except he liked to go into St. John’s full speed ahead through that little gap,” Martin recalled, adding that this was a great stressor on the engine crew, who had to respond to Lester’s calls at a breakneck pace in order spare the ship from running aground.
A quirky fellow, Hickey was a big fan of codfish head soup.
An isolated area near Rigolet -- a small Inuit community in Labrador -- proved the ideal place to go fishing, so Hickey detonated charges overboard, resulting in fish floating to the surface.
Their heads were cut off and boiled into the soup -- “a wonderful feed after you’ve had an extra tot of rum,” Martin said.
This would have been the end to his story, if not for an amazing coincidence at the Prince Albert Sanatorium about a decade later.
A Czechoslovakian doctor informed Martin that he’d peered on the HMCS Arrowhead’s unique fishing expedition through a U-boat periscope -- a shock to Martin, since the crew was sworn to secrecy because the local fishing community would have been less than enthused by their fishing practices.
“He described it perfectly, so I knew he was there,” Martin said of the doctor.
With Martin’s story relegated as a tall tale, he kept this amazing coincidence to himself until last November, when the Daily Herald spoke with Martin in advance of a presentation he was planning to give at the Prince Albert Historical Museum in recognition of Remembrance Day.
Newfoundlander Perry Trimper caught wind of the article, with Martin’s story validating his own story that some people found unbelievable -- that a sunken U-boat had been found about 60 miles inland of where Martin claimed that the HMCS Arrowhead was seen by a Czechoslovakian doctor through a U-boat periscope.
Aided by the Prince Albert Historical Society, Trimper made his second information-gathering trip to Prince Albert this week, bringing with him a key piece to the puzzle -- the Czechoslovakian doctor’s daughter, Kira Henschel.
“It’s been quite exciting since Perry called me back in May,” Henschel said on Sunday, prior to taking part in a fact-finding conference call in Prince Albert with veterans and historical buffs from across Canada and the United States.
Her father, Kriegsmarine medical officer Ernst Henschel, was born in 1921, and was forced into the Nazi youth after the country’s German invasion.
“Probably, just talking to Glenn and looking at some of the papers, I think he probably only was on the submarine this one time,” she recalled. “I don’t think he was on very much. He didn’t like it because he was claustrophobic. He didn’t like that, at all.”
After the war, the doctor met an American woman in Wales. Unable to immigrate to the United States due to his involvement with the Kriegsmarine, the couple moved to Canada in 1952, settling in Prince Albert and then Saskatoon before moving to Wisconsin.
Henschel died in 1979, leaving behind little information about his time with the Kriegsmarine -- something Kira expressed regret for during a presentation to students at St. Mary High School on Monday.
They wouldn’t believe that there was a war in the St. Lawrence River, but (Germans) always had two or three subs in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, every summer. Glenn Martin
During the presentation highlighting Martin’s story, she encouraged students to keep records of what happens to them, since their relatives might be interested in knowing, as she has been with her father.
“He never talked about the war, but I knew that he was on a submarine -- he had mentioned that somewhere when I was little,” she said.
During Sunday’s conference call, Martin connected with George Greenfield, a crewmember of the HMCS Arrowhead from 1943-45.
“I was the guy who caught the shark in Bermuda,” Martin said over the phone.
“Oh, I remember that, alright,” Greenfield answered to laughter from listeners.
A story the veterans connected with best was the one of their ship mascot, a Labrador husky named either Hamilton or Poopdeck, depending on who had to deal with him
“We had a little outboard motor in the engine room, and it was never used -- we didn’t have anything to put it on,” Martin recalled.
Shortly after their unique fishing trip in Labrador, Martin said that they spotted an aluminum boat on a dock, providing a prime excuse to test the motor.
“I figured if we got that little motor going we could have a little trip and see some of the scenery around,” Martin said.
On this trip, they met a man in a small house with Labrador husky puppies.
“I think we bartered rum for a little pup,” Martin said. “So, that’s how we bought the dog.
“I think we bottle fed it with some kind of a syringe or something, and then we taught him to drink out of a saucer, and some of the crew thought (the dog) should be drinking rum like a good sailor.”
The well-loved and constantly drunk dog was onboard for about three months, and was allotted free rein of the ship, until he disappeared one night in a storm, presumably washed off the deck.
“It’s been a real connection through all these stories, this Labrador pup,” Trimper said on Sunday, noting that the dog’s story is well known in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area, and that he’s even been able to track down the descendants of the dog’s original owner.
Trimper and a small group of Newfoundlanders remain committed to unearthing the true history of Nazis in Canada during the Second World War -- particularly with their 2010 discovery of what they believe is a U-boat near Muskrat Falls, about 60 miles inland of where the HMCS Arrowhead was believed to have been seen by a U-boat periscope.
Under a pile of sediment, early sonar images reveal what is believed to be a U-boat, though Trimper notes that they’ve yet to find hard evidence that is a U-boat, nor have they narrowed in on which missing U-boat it might be.
“We have three inquiries in Germany, now, trying to track them down,” Brian Corbin said during Sunday’s conference call.
A co-discoverer of the Muskrat Falls U-boat site, Corbin said that they’ve already been out to the site a couple times, and plan on revisiting it next week.
Although Trimper notes that they’re not 100 per cent sure that it’s a U-boat they’ve discovered, Martin’s story helps validate the idea, and vice-versa.
Since Sunday’s conference call, more headway has been made, with this project’s volunteer researchers narrowing in on what might prove to be the ship that Henschel served on.
Whatever happens, Barbara Ishler, whose father John “Jack” Wampler was chief gunnery officer on the HMCS Arrowhead, said that she’s been happy to have helped piece together some of the missing puzzle pieces.
“Hopefully we’ll see the fruits of all this labour and unearth a number on that U-boat ... and be able to prove that there is truth to this story.”
In addition to a presentation at St. Mary High School on Monday, a group of this story’s key players and enthusiasts presented to the Prince Albert Rotary Club in the evening.
The Daily Herald will remain in contact with the people involved in this story to report on what is anticipated to be more findings in the near future.