Outrageous claim about WW2: please verify

My girlfriend and I had dinner with her sister and husband last night. Her husband’s granddad was a British sailor during WW2. He claims he was stationed off the Eastern coast of America on a British battleship. Apparently, the British government feared an American attack against Canada when British forces were tied up in Europe. Their orders (as claimed, there were two or three other ships so stationed) were to flatten major cities on the Eastern seaboard (Boston and New York were mentioned), if such an attack occurred. Apparently my girlfriend’s sister has seen some sort of paperwork that he has to confirm that he was stationed off the East coast.

I have never heard of this before. In particular, I cannot find any sort of mention of this on the Internet. I know British ships were stationed off the East Coast to prevent U-Boat attacks (or as is claimed), and I know sailors are prone to making shit up. I’m also dubious that three battleships would be enough (how long would it take a Battleship to flatten a city?). He claims that it was all hushed up by both governments after the war, as it was an embarrassment to both parties.

Is there any sort of corroborating evidence for this claim?

I think England had their hands full with Germany and would not have any spare ships to place on the US east coast.

Do you have a year for when he was supposedly stationed there for this? (Would three or four ships really be able to do that much anyway?)

Sounds like bollocks, lend-lease and unofficial US assistance had been provided to Britain for quite some time before Pearl Harbour, making any efforts against the Americans a total waste of time and resources (both of which were in short supply).

Might be a confused retelling of Defence Scheme No. 1, a Canadian counterpoint to the American War Plan Red which outlined a hypothetical war with Britain. Both were knocked on the head years before WWII kicked off, though.

I wrote a staff report on War Plan Red. (The plan was never seriously intended to be implemented and was withdrawn in 1939.) I don’t recall coming across anything like your story during my research. Perhaps there’s something in Floyd W. Rudmin’s book Bordering on Aggression. I looked for the book at the time but was unable to find a copy at any nearby library and I didn’t want to pay $30 for a used copy, sight unseen.

I agree with Mr. Kobayashi. This is most likely a retelling of a plan that got out of hand.

The USA has plans to invade Canada right now. But so what? It has plans to invade every country on Earth. This is just how it’s done. One can’t always assume a country friendly today will be friendly tomorrow. So you make plans and hope that you’ll never have to use them.

For example the WWII post may be an exaggeration of a plan by the USA to invade Canada, IF, Great Britian fell and the Germans looked like they were coming into the New World.

But you just “conveniently” leave off the last part and you get, the US is planning to invade Canada.

Doesn’t pass the smell test.

A WWII or just before- era battleship has a weapons range of at most 20-ish miles. Even in the late 1930s, US coastal defense aircraft had ranges more like 50 miles, if not 200.

The battleships might have been able to start a shore bombardment, but they would not have lasted very long doing so.

And then what? A few buildings down in Boston or NYC, 3 sunken battleships, and an enraged US populace. We saw how well that worked out for Japan.

I expect the Brits understood us rather better than the Japanese did and would not have made that unforced error.

US did invade Canada during the War of 1812, they thought it would be a cakewalk but they were way off , they got beaten pretty easily.

I strongly suspect bollocks. The Royal Navy had only 15 battleships and battlecruisers (9 in home waters or the Atlantic) in September 1939 so it is not that hard a job to track them. As far as I know there is no suggestion of three of them being positioned to deal with some dubious treat to Canada. (Actually, of all groups in WW2, Capt. Ridley’s Shooting Party would be in a position to know :smiley: ) Look at the problems the Royal Navy had in assembling a force to deal with the Bismarck in May 1941 - ships had to be diverted from all over.

It also does not make sense as the United States under Roosevelt was no treat to Canada and the UK government knew it. American concentration was on Japan and Germany in that order - why on earth would they start a land war in North America?

He could also have been on a picket shop helping to guard the US against german subs … America, Britain, Canada all had picket ships in the Atlantic Ocean.

I know we gave [lend lease program] a bunch of destroyer escorts, and captain class frigates to the royal navy for coastal protection/sub hunting and convoy escort duties.

Hm, I show
* HMS Argyll
* HMS Aggressive
* HMS Beaver II,
* HMS Britannia III
* HMS Cicala
* HMS Claverhouse
* HMS Dartmouth II
* HMS Fervent
* HMS Forte IV
* HMS Forward II
* HMS Fox

to have other as their postings [as opposed to south coast, west coast, east coast or mediterranean bases] so it is possible that one of them could have been seconded to the US navy for coastal defense purposes. SO I suppose he could have been on one of them, off the eastern coast of the US and decided to pull peoples legs as to why they were there instead of ‘in the fray’ .

Contingency plan maybe. A Battleship is is on duty (I think the older Revenge class BB’s were used as convot escorts) and amongst their orders are to act (in the unlikely event the US forgets whose colony it started out as,) to secure the sea lines. Military and Naval forces often have contingency plans which supplement their actual tasks, in WWII for example the British forces in the Mid Easts job was to be i) a reserve for global operations, in Europe or the Far East and ii) act againt a german push into the region.

Could easily be something misremembered over time.

If the ship’s Captain had met American Admiral Ernest King, it might have just been wishful thinking.


King hated the English with a passion.

If the ships Captain had met Admiral King, he would have proceeded to shell the hell out of NY or Boston until sunk.

King was dangerous for good relations.

Once again, a throwaway remark on the Dope makes me somehow proud to be an American, in a twisted sort of way. :stuck_out_tongue:

Uh – wasn’t Canada independent of the UK in 1941? Why would Britain be concerned about their defense?

King was dangerous to Americans, as well. If he hadn’t been so opposed to coastal blackouts and convoys because they were urged by the British, many American ships and lives would have been saved.

I would just like to point out the difference between a sea story and a fairy tale is this:
A sea story starts out with “Now this is no bullshit.”
A fairy tale starts out with “Once upon a time.”
Other than that they are pretty much identical. :smiley:

Because prior to the entry of the US in the war, Britain was supplied from Canada. Supply convoys formed up at Halifax and other Canadian Atlantic ports starting in 1939, and made their way to Britain; escorted by destroyers and corvettes. If anything happened to Canada, Britain’s supplies would have been cut off in the early years of the war.

I’ll add my vote to the “never heard of the claim made in the OP,” by the way.

WW II British sailors are buried on the Outer Banks of NC, their ship was helping to protect convoys to Europe

Offbeat Travel

Well… by the standards of the U.S. or Argentina, where there’s a bright line between “colony of a European power” vs. “independent nation,” yeah. But the U.K. had a much more nuanced system – they actually learned something from George III’s screw-up in America. British Empire possessions evolved, over the years, from “colony governed by British officials” to “colony with responsible government” (“responsible” meaning “answering to the inhabitants, in elections”) to “self-governing colony” (sometimes with a “federation of self-governing provinces” inserted here) to “dominion” to “independent nation within the Commonwealth.”

“Canada” (i.e., Ontario and Quebec) achieved “self-governing province” status in 1848, but were still definitively a British possession. In 1864 delegates from Britain’s surviving North American possessions convened at Charlottestiwn, PEI, followed by the creation of “Her Majesty’s Dominion of Canada” by confederation in 1867. Defense and foreign affairs remained the province of Westminster and Whitehall; Ottawa handled internal government affairs alone. The statute that functioned as Canada’s constitution, though, was passed by the British Parliament as the British North America Act. And it could only be amended by the British Parliament (presumably on the request of the Canadian government). The 1931 Statute of Westminster gave additional authority to the Dominions, but they remained very much parts of the British Empire. It was W.L. Mackenzie King who really was the architect of full Canadian independence, though it was not fully realizwed until 32 years after his death. And it was a slow and gradual process, a concession here, an unilateral act there. The final step was “repatriation of the Constitution” in 1982, when the 1867 BNA Act was renamed the “Constitution Act 1867” and incorporated by reference into the “Constitution Act 1982”.