In 1995, Stanislas Déry donated a large part of his naval history collection to the Québec Naval Museum. The collection consists of monographs, photos, artifacts and archival documents. The collection placed in the museum was to be enriched by subsequent additions.
Since the Déry collection is the largest in the Québec Naval Museum, the museum has been named in his honour: the Québec Naval Museum is also known as the Stanislas Déry Naval Museum.
III Stanislas: the soul of a sailor
IV His experience in the Navy
Pre-war reservist, 1932-1939
Active war-time service, 1939-1945
Inspection station at Saint-Jean, Île d'Orléans
HMCS Prince Henry
Excerpts from letters written aboard HMCS Prince Henry
Boarding the HERMONTHIS
Excerpts from letters relating the boarding of the HERMONTHIS
Marriage of Stanislas Déry
Counter-espionage service, Ottawa
Excerpt from an interview with Stanislas Déry in January 1992
Signals School, St-Hyacinthe
HMCS Prince Rupert
HMCS St. Thomas
Excerpts from letters aboard HMCS St. Thomas
Torpedoing of U-877
Excerpt from La belle histoire d'une sale guerre
Excerpts from an interview with Peter Heisig in Québec
Excerpts from an interview with Jules Blais in Québec
Excerpts from letters written aboard HMCS St. Thomas
Stanislas Déry was born in Québec on 17 July 1912. After obtaining his B.A. at the Séminaire de Québec in 1932, he enrolled in the Faculty of Law of Laval University, and in July 1935, he was admitted to the Quebec Bar.
While a student, in 1932, Mr Déry joined the Royal Canadian Navy as an officer cadet. In 1934, he was promoted to the rank of sub-lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. From September 1935 until the summer of 1936, he sailed as an officer on training cruises aboard Canadian and British naval ships.
Before the war broke out, Mr Déry practiced his profession as a lawyer in Québec for two years.
When the Second World War began, Mr Déry took up active service in the Royal Canadian Navy for the duration of hostilities. As a member of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, he held various posts during the war, both aboard warships and in naval establishments. In July 1945 he was released with the rank of lieutenant-commander.
On returning to civilian life, Mr Déry carried on a general law practice for twenty years, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and in Québec. In 1965, he joined the Quebec Public Service as a legal advisor to the Department of Justice. In 1970, he became a Crown prosecutor for a period of six years. Then in June 1976, by Order in Council, he was appointed Quebec's permanent coroner. Since his jurisdiction extended to all the judicial districts of Quebec, he presided over numerous investigations in all parts of the province.
Throughout his life, Mr Stanislas Déry has been involved in his community, both socially and professionally. For that reason, both his career and his social involvement have been honoured and rewarded on many occasions by honorary titles and medals symbolizing the services rendered.
While still a child, Stanislas Déry was introduced to the rudiments of navigation by his father, who had his own yacht. His interest in the sea increased over the years as he continued sailing with his father and worked at the St. Lawrence Biological Station. Even the, the young Stanislas was already dreaming of becoming a ship's captain.
Excerpts from an interview with Stanislas Déry in January 1992, expressing his love for the sea and his desire to sail. Initiative of the Naval Reserve of Canada. Interviewer: Rémi D'Anjou.
"I remember, for example, we had a yacht and we would take off to spend the summer in Trois-Pistoles. We'd go aboard the yacht, my father, my mother, they would take along a sailor, my two brothers, myself, the two dogs, the cat, and sometimes the canary and the goldfish. We would close up the house. [...]
Goodness, it seems to me I came into the world with it. I've always been crazy about boats. Sometimes I realize they've been my life."
"I was fascinated by everything that had to do with sailing, with boats."
"But in the bottom of my heart I also hoped I'd be able to make this dream come true, and I've succeeded, but not as well as I'd have liked. [...]
What I loved was the unexpected, which happened with five minutes' notice, so I had to act."
This passion was given definite shape by his experience in the Canadian Navy. A few years after his release at the end of the war, Stanislas purchased a small yacht, La Dérision. Later, he sailed on two other yachts: U-877 and La Vision.
Stanislas Déry's military experience, spread out over a period of more than ten years, was a significant part of his life. First engaged as a reserve officer in the Royal Canadian Navy in peacetime, Mr Déry saw active service for the whole duration of the Second World War.
Stanislas Déry enrolled in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1932, and was promoted to the rank of sub-lieutenant in 1934. From September 1935 until June 1936, he was on various training cruises ("winter cruises") aboard Royal Canadian Navy and British Navy ships such as HMS Dundee, HMCS Champlain, HMCS Saguenay, HMCS Vancouver and HMCS Skeena.
Enrolling as a volunteer in 1939, Stanislas Déry held various posts within the Royal Canadian Navy both on warships and in military establishments. He was released with the rank of lieutenant-commander in July 1945.
Stanislas Déry's first assignment was at the inspection station at Saint-Jean, Île d'Orléans. He held this position from the autumn of 1939 to the summer of 1940.
Stanislas Déry was assigned to HMCS Prince Henry from December 1940 to November 1941. The ship's task at that time was to conduct coastal patrols in waters off Callao, Peru, with the assistance of the cruiser HMS Diomede.
These excerpts from selected letters tell about Stanislas Déry's life aboard a warship and his general impressions of the duties to be performed.
21 February 1941 [...] Here are the jobs I have so far: I'm in charge of the forecastle, anchors, etc... in charge of the mail, in charge of beverage consumption in the Mess, a stock worth $2000.00, in charge of gun A, located at the bow of the boat. Also, my interpreter business is about to let up for good. Also, if we happen to seize an enemy merchant vessel it is understood that I'm to take charge of the first boarding party, which is a lot. In that case, Price will be captain of this boat, to bring it into port, and I will be his second-in-command. All this is because I have a watchkeeping certificate and because we are being left more and more to act on our own personal initiative. [...]
21 March 1941 [...] In the daytime, we remain at sea, nearly stopped, far enough from land to avoid being seen and, as soon as the sun goes down, we make for land as fast as we can, to begin the daily patrol; the few times we go at full speed, each evening, are just about the only times when we can cool off. [...]
10 January 1941 [...] I'm in the fact the one who does most of the censoring on the boat, about 100 letters a day which I review in less than 20 minutes; in other words, I've become an expert on the subject. In some cases, I have ? the advantage of learning about the complaints of some guys who [take] their ? in writing. Of course, we don't bother about these things, which are of no use to the enemy. [...]
30 January 1941 [...] Have you received my letters? The airmail service is completely disorganized with the bad weather, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of my letters are still here... It makes you wonder whether the boat isn't faster. The postal service for us is very poorly organized. Two boats have arrived in the past few days from Halifax, but the people there didn't see see fit to give them the mail for us. Also, upon their arrival here, we were told us that we could send post cards. [But] we then hurried and, for my part, I sent some to all my friends. This afternoon, we heard that all the cards were destroyed when they arrived. You should have seen how outraged the crew was when they heard that, and having seen two ships arrive without mail. You just have to make such a mistake twice, and the morale of our men is finished; I know what I'm talking about. For my part, I think this conduct by the people sitting comfortably in Halifax is an outrage. [...]
25 December 1940 [...] We had a great deal of pleasure here today, unpacking the bags received from the Navy League. Everyone on the boat, officers and men, received a bag the size of a small laundry bag, filled with various useful things. For my part, I got a good one, with the following items in it: a towel, a cake of soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, writing paper, books, parlour games, cigarettes, and a pipe with pipe tobacco; also, a piece of cake with a note from the lady in question, insisting that everything was clean, and that there was no danger [with] the cake.
The funny thing was that other packages were less well assorted than mine; there were even some preserves. With all this, we still had items for hunting trips when the war is over. [...]
9 February 1941 [...] I was listening carefully to the Ford program last week, to enjoy the violin; I was wondering whether you were listening as well. My radio is on every evening and is responsible for the long evenings I spend on the boat instead of going ashore; I take advantage of it, because it is understood that we will be forbidden to listen to it when the boat goes out to sea. Sometimes I even have a chance to listen to Francoeur and some programs from Montreal. No need to add that I'm anxious to read Francoeur's pamphlets. [...]
In April 1941, four German ships had been tied up for 18 months near Callao, Peru, in South America. The crews tried to escape, but seeing that they would fail in the attempt, they decided to set fire to their ships, hoping to keep them from falling into Allied hands. The crew of HMCS Prince Henry then attempted to extinguish the fire on the HERMONTHIS, but ended up having to sink the ship because of the extent of the damage. The crew of the HERMONTHIS was rescued by HMCS Prince Henry and taken to Esquimalt, British Columbia, in May 1941, where the men were made prisoners of war.
May 1941 [...] We will be arriving at Esquimault [sic] at noon Saturday, and be going into drydock immediately [...], to make the repairs that have become necessary in the circumstances I will relate below; we expect that this will take a minimum of six weeks, and hope they will take advantage of this to make the changes whose necessity has been demonstrated at our expense.
[...] Perhaps you know, but we took part in the "sinking" of four German ships, which were heading back out to sea after 18 months of internment. It would take too long to tell you all about it in detail, and I will let it wait until my visit to Québec, when there will be more time. We have had 53 prisoners since 1 April, and will be glad to get rid of them, because their presence has made endless precautions necessary and increased the rationing.
[...] Now you will be receiving two parcels from Victoria as soon as we arrive: two sextants, one of which is of great value, a spy-glass and a magnificent barograph, which I took from the HERMONTHIS as it was about to sink. Also, the boat's flag, and a fine little model of the boat, taken from the cabin of one of the officers. [...] But it will be better if all this does not reach the ears of some people connected with the naval service, for what I did - and I still don't regret it - was not supposed to happen and the boat should normally have gone to the bottom with all its equipment.
11 May 1941 [...] By mail and express, I will be sending certain parcels which are you to guard jealously, containing souvenirs of the HERMONTHIS and the Munchen [sic], such as the German flag from the former, a model of the ship, etc. As the HERMONTHIS headed for the bottom, after we had fired on it 35 times, I went to grab two sextants, a barograph and a spy-glass. Unfortunately, I was forced to turn in these items, to be sent to Ottawa; I don't object to that. But I don't intend to allow those who have taken these items from me to keep them for themselves, and I've firmly decided to not lose sight of them. [...]
Stanislas Déry took advantage of leave, while HMCS Prince Henry was in dry dock, to marry Cécile Brassard. The marriage was celebrated at Roberval, Lac-Saint-Jean, on 31 May 1941.
For a period of about six months, from February 1942 to September 1942, Stanislas Déry was assigned to the Routing & Convoy Section in Ottawa. His work consisted in monitoring and guiding ship convoys to ensure their maximum safety.
This excerpt tells about Stanislas Déry's work in Ottawa.
"I spent six months in Ottawa on counter-espionage service. It was the best job I ever had. It was perfect luck that they sent me there. I was a watchkeeper for the routing and convoy section, so we were on watch. We worked four hours, four hours, one day and then eight hours. There were three of us listening in Ottawa. A convoy would leave, for example, or a boat would set out on its own from Halifax, sailing for a given place. We knew where it was, and we were the ones to tell it instead of going to one place, to go to such-and-such another place. [...] We had the feeling of being in command, and these were big decisions."
Stanislas Déry was assigned to HMCS Chambly for a few months in the autumn of 1942. Starting in September 1942, the corvette's task was limited to escorting convoys of ships as far as the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. On 26 November 1942, the ship was put in for refit at Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and remained there until 1943.
From December 1942 to the summer of 1943, Stanislas Déry was assigned to the Signals School, Saint-Hyacinthe, as an administration officer. The Signals School trained seamen in the basics of communication techniques such as Morse code, semaphores and flags.
Stanislas Déry was assigned to HMCS Prince Rupert from July 1943 to August 1944. For a few months, the ships carried out surveillance duties along the coast of Nova Scotia. In January 1944, it joined Escort Group C-3 as the Senior Officer's Ship.
Stanislas Déry's last assignment was on HMCS St. Thomas, from August 1944 to the spring of 1945. This Castle-class corvette was also assigned to Escort Group C-3.
10 November 1944 [...] Our last voyage was like the previous ones in every way, with no excitement of any kind; the first three days were miserable, with the ship rolling 35 to 40 degrees continually; but everything got back to rights, and we then had a week of hot weather.
[...] We now have a piano on the boat, so there's a sing-song every night in the mess; we also have a movie projector for the men, which [we] use three or four times on each crossing; we have even reached the point of exchanging films right at sea, from one boat to another. [...]
17 December 1944 [...] No change for Christmas, which we will be spending elsewhere than in the last few years; we'll be having our celebration on the 21st, so that everyone can recover before our departure. It will be in keeping with naval customs; the youngest seaman on board will become captain for a few hours, the second youngest will become the first lieutenant; then there's the captain's round by the temporary captain, with our commanding officer acting as coxswain etc.; as for me, I am inheriting, for the occasion, the position of quartermaster on the bridge to present arms. Obviously, we exchange uniforms for this occasion. I am saving for you a portrait of me as a seaman. Everything winds up with a round for everyone, at our expense, in the Mess.
When he was aboard the corvette HMCS St. Thomas, Stanislas Déry and the whole crew were involved in torpedoing German submarine U-877. With the assistance of another Canadian ship, the frigate HMCS Sea Cliff, they managed to sink the submarine. They also picked up the survivors, landing them a few days later in Greenock, Scotland. The German crewmen were made prisoners of war. This event occurred south of Greenland on 27 December 1944.
Pages 446 - 447 "Suddenly, in the splashing of the waves and eddies, we saw men's heads emerge like corks on the black, icy Greenland sea. They were all quite close to us and were paddling desperately. We heard them shouting. We sensed their distress. One never forgets such moments. In the face of imminent death, one no longer sees the enemy. One only thinks about the man who is there before one, who is desperate and whose fate has been providentially left in one's hands. At that precise moment, the fury of war had to give way to compassion, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Forgetting about the war, we attempted at once to save as many survivors as possible...."
"The crew of the German submarine had left Norway eight weeks before it was attacked by the St. Thomas, at dawn on 27 December 1944. Peter Heisig indicates that the valve in the submarine's snorkel system was not working properly. When the submarine was submerged, it was receiving green seas in the exhaust, which interfered with the working of the diesel engine. Because of these problems, they had to surface several times, and that held them back on their itinerary; they were heading for the American coast. The meeting with the St. Thomas shouldn't have happened, because the two vessels were on completely different courses."
"It was the Sea Cliff that send a radio message to the St. Thomas to say it had detected something. As the St. Thomas was just nearby, it immediately detected U-877, at a depth of 80 meters. It made its first attack on the submarine, and after five minutes, as it was right over U-877, it dropped depth charges."
"It is difficult to say how things went for each of the members of the submarine's crew. The conception of the attack and the way of experiencing it vary with each member, depending on his task and his position in the submarine."
"When the submarine was struck by the first depth charge, on the port side, all the equipment, like the instrument panel, began to burn, and a leak developed in the torpedo room."
"Everything was in total darkness, everyone was using his flashlight to see what was going on. The man who looked after the depth gauge was trying to see whether there were any leaks or special breakage. The transmission shaft was jammed on the port side and the diving rudders weren't working. The submarine started to list 45 degrees and sink by the stern. The man went to close the compartment doors. He had to climb over the diesel engines to get to the centre, the angle was so steep. They couldn't pump out the water because the pressure was too great and was destroying all the watertight joints. Thanks to the engineer, they were saved, because he managed to stabilize the submarine's position at a depth of 230 metres. They had enough compressed air to drive the water out of the ballast tanks and get back up to the surface. However, they all had their eyes riveted to the depth gauge to see whether the submarine was going down or up. If it went down any farther, they would have trouble surfacing again, because the submarines were designed to go down only to a certain depth."
At one point, the captain felt the submarine was too badly damaged to hold on, so they decided to bring it to the surface. To do so, they used the only electric engine that was functioning. When they opened the hatch, four crew members were blown out of the submarine by the change in pressure. They threw themselves into the water with their life belts and inflatable boat. The injured were placed in the dinghies. They stayed together so they could be found, because it was dark.
"There was a Nazi officer in each German submarine. Such officers were spies charged with observing the activities of the officers, ensuring that the officers complied with the orders given by headquarters, keeping up motivation and maintaining a fighting spirit. Aboard U-877, Peter Heisig was a spy of this kind, but he had been chosen by the commanding officer because he knew Heisig wasn't a true spy. He even came close to getting arrested by the Gestapo, because he had written a letter saying that the German situation was truly desperate. This was an unforgivable mistake, a dramatic situation, because one was supposed to never say things like that. One wasn't supposed to weaken the fighting spirit, and fanaticism was not to be contradicted by anyone. One had to show that it was worthwhile to fight, that the Germans were going to win."
"Apparently, it was the St. Thomas's squid that sank the submarine. [...] There were five combat ships, but we (HMCS Sea Cliff) were with the St. Thomas for that operation; we assisted the St. Thomas with it. When U-877 surfaced, the crew of the Sea Cliff began firing. Seeing that the submarine was too heavily damaged, its crew abandoned ship.
The survivors were not picked up immediately, because the Allied ships didn't know what the German crew had done with the submarine. After about two hours, the Sea Cliff launched a lifeboat and threw rope ladders over the side of the ship so that the survivors could climb aboard. The Sea Cliff picked up 21 German submariners, accommodating them in the stoker mess at the bow of the ship. They all went to the sick bay for a medical examination and then were given clothing from the Red Cross: a sweater, underwear, trousers and tuque. Those who were covered with oil took a shower.
Aboard each submarine, there was a guy from the Gestapo, I suppose to make sure that the crew behaved well and properly. I had a rosary that my mother had given me, and I kept it in my coat. At one point, a young German asked me for my rosary. I left it to him and he took it. The political officer arrived, gestured to the young German and spoke to him in German. I presume that he told him to keep away from the Canadian crew members. After two or three days, this political officer was set apart from the other survivors. Apparently they were very pleased with this action.
I looked after the routine for the Germans; for example, organizing their meals and supervising the dish washing. They all had hammocks and slept on leather cushions we had on our lockers. They were given blankets and they slept on them. Some slept on the floor, but it was very, very clean.
When they went to the toilet, we had to escort them. At one point, during the night, a German wanted to go to the toilet. I don't know whether the hatch was closed or what, but we had a guard with a small [?] gun above, who was supposed to supervise the comings and goings of the survivors. As the guard was asleep, the German woke him up to go to the toilet. The guard was punished for negligence. When they went to the toilet there was a map that covered the porthole, but they could still see a bit through the map and tell where the ship was headed. At the beginning, they thought they were going to Canada and were very happy. But when they arrived in Scotland, they were not well received by the seamen of the British Royal Navy or by the civilian population."
13 March 1945[...] I have to go now, as I have to write to Cécile, and get back to my work, which is never lacking when we arrive in port. I have to prepare a list of repairs to be made, provisions to be picked up, leave to be granted, courses to be organized for our men, etc. [...]