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Okanagan Military Museum

MILITARY BIOGRAPHIES

CAPTAIN CLARENCE A. KING, RCNR

Captain Clarence A. King, DSO,DSC, Legion of Merit (US).

 

Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)(Navy)and Bar
Legion of merit (US)

Captain Clarence A. King, RCNR was a highly decorated naval officer who served in bothe WWI and II. Born in England he served in the British merchant service before settling in Canada prior to WWI. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1916 and served in "Q" ships during the war . These ships were disguised armed merchant ships that decoyed U- boats to the surface and then engaged them with the now uncovered guns. It was while in command of one of these vessels that he was awarded to Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).

With the end of hostilities he returned to Canada and settled near Oliver where he operated a fruit farm. With the outbreak of WWII he immediately rejoined the naval service and was sent to Panama and Bermuda as a Naval Control of Shipping Officer. In 1942 he transfered to the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve (RCNR) in the rank of Lieutenant-Commander and was given command of the Bangor Class Minesweeper HMCS NIPIGON.

BANGOR CLASS MINESWEEPER. Displacement: 672 tonnes .Length: 180 ft. Spd: 16 kts. Armament: 1 x 12 pdr, 2 x 20 mm. The Bangors became the mainstay of the RCN minesweeper force protecting coastal waters and escorting convoys. Canadian Bangor minesweepers also cleared the way for the D-Day invasion force in June 1944.

He then assumed command of the RCN Corvette HMCS OAKVILLE. It was while in command of this warship that he engaged a U-boat (U-94)in the Caribbean in a battle that involved depth charging, gunfire on the surface and ramming it three times. A two man boarding party made up of Sub-Lieutenant Hal Lawrence, RCNVR, and Petty Officer A.J. Powell jumped to the deck of the crippled submarine as Oakville came alongside and after some firing captured the scuttling U-boat which sank despite Lawrence's attempts to prevent it.

WWII Corvette in service with the Royal Canadian Navy

King received the DSO for this action while Lawrence was awarded the DSC and Powell the DSM. Captain King was also awarded the US Legion of Merit for this action in which a US aircraft had been involved. This was the first US decoration awarded to a Canadian during the Second World War.

FLOWER CLASS CORVETTE - Displacement: 950 tonnes. Length: 205.1 ft. Spd: 16 kts. Crew: 79 (6 officers). Armament: 1 x 4" , 1 x 2 pdr, 2 x 20 mm, depth charges. The corvette was based on the basic design of a trawler. Built in large numbers and equipped with light guns and anti-submarine depth charges it was quick to build and filled the gap in escort vessels faced by the RN and RCN in the early stages of the Battle of the Atlantic. The corvette more than any other ship came to symbolize the RCN in WWII.

In 1943 Captain King was given command of the frigate HMCS SWANSEA. In 1944 the Swansea working in conjunction with the River Class Destroyer, HMCS St.LAURENT sank a U-boat while on the ship's first convoy escort duty. A month later, this time teamed with HMS PELICAN, U-448 was sunk. He then took command of the firgates Prince Rupert and Runnymeade. Promoted to the rank of Captain in 1946 he served as Staff Officer (Operations) to the Commanding Officer Pacific Coast based in Esquimalt, BC.

WWII wartime poster on exploits of HMCS Oakville's crew in boarding of U 94

Upon leaving the naval service he returned to the interior of BC and became active in community affairs, church work and served as chairman of St. Martin's Hospital board in Oliver. He died at 77 in Osoyoos Lake, BC

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