By Krista Slade
Great-niece of Walter Slade
My great uncle, Walter Slade, grew up in Kingwell, Placentia Bay and joined the Canadian Merchant Navy as a young Newfoundlander in 1939. He knew the danger of the U-Boat-infested North Atlantic as well as anyone as he sailed through those waters in 1940 during the opening phases of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Many merchant seamen would come ashore after the tension filled transatlantic journey to relax frayed nerves. Often they could not heal. My great uncle Walter came ashore to expand his training so that he could more effectively support the cause, knowing the struggle would be long and difficult. After a short time at navigation school, he received his third mate’s certificate, qualifying him as a watchstander and customarily the ship’s safety office and fourth-in-command. Very shortly after completing his training he received orders to embark on the British Steam Ship (SS) Grayburn travelling from Baltimore, Maryland, to Swansea, Wales.
In June 1941, convoy HX 133 left Halifax and was sighted by enemy U-boat 203, which sent the 4,400-ton Norwegian ship Soloy to the bottom of the ocean. Attacks continued unsuccessfully over the next few days, but the enemy was tracking the progress of the crossing. A battle involving Allied corvettes His Majesty’s Ships (HMS) Nasturtium, Celandine and Gladiolus and three German U-boats broke out on June 26. The Dutch ship Massadam and the British ship Malaya II sunk resulting in a…