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Remembering World War II
Percy Duval Forbes
S.S. Vancouver Island (Montreal)
Canadian Merchant Navy
Date of Birth:
September 6, 1891
Place of Birth:
Central Argyle, Yarmouth Co., NS
5 feet, 2 inches
Date of Death:
October 15, 1941
Age at Death:
50 (Official records list age as 45)
Halifax Memorial, Nova Scotia
The 42nd name on the WWII list of the Yarmouth War Memorial
Commemorated on page 136 of the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance
Displayed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower in Ottawa on March 20 and August 17
Percy Duval Forbes was the son of Captain Charles Hiram Forbes (1860 – 1927) and Laura Etta (Spinney) Forbes
(1861-1942), of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Percy was from a big family; he had nine siblings – Enola Vaughan (1886-1966), Charles Betram (1887-1965),
Otho Leeman (1888-1913), Howard Waldo (1892-1968), Arthur Hiram (1894-1967), Laura Beatrice
(1896–1968), Kenneth Lamont (1899–1959), Gladys Gertrude (1900–1973), Violet Mae (1903-1990).
Percy enlisted for service in the First World War and served with the 175th and 31st Battalions, Canadian
Expeditionary Force (Service No. 696686). He enlisted April 17, 1916 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, sailed from
Halifax on the SS Saxonia on October 3, 1916, serving in England and France. He was made acting Sergeant
May 1, 1916 but reverted to Private at his own request July 21, 1916. He suffered a gun shot wound to the
head June 2, 1917, was discharged June 1, 1919, and he was awarded the Military Medal July 3, 1919. At
enlistment he listed his trade as steward; religion - Baptist.
His brother Arthur Hiram Forbes served with the 29th Battery in Yarmouth from 1910-1912 and in WWI with
the Canadian Field Artillery (Service No. 85711). A second brother, Howard Waldo, also served Canada in WWI
as a Sapper with the Canadian Engineers, 1st Tramway Company (Service No. 3255785). A third brother,
Charles Bertram served as a Lieutenant as a Deck Officer, Marine in the US Navy (Reserve Force) in WWI, and
he also served in the US Navy in WWII
Percy Duval Forbes served in the Canadian Merchant Navy. In October of 1941 he was serving aboard the SS
The ship itself had an interesting history. In the 1931 the ship, originally build for a Norwegian company, was
sold to Germany and rename the Weser. At the outbreak of WWII, the Weser was interned at Manzanillo,
Mexico. On September 25 1940, the ship left loaded with 2630 tons of diesel oil, 600 drums of lubricating oil
and provisions to serve as supply ship for the German raider Orion (HSK 1) in the Pacific, but was intercepted
and captured by the Canadian HMCS Prince Robert (F 56) (Captained by C.T. Beard) waiting off the harbor and
brought to Esquimalt by a prize crew. On October 19, the ship was taken over by the Ministry of War
Transport and handed over to Merchant Marine Ltd, Ottawa.
Now part of the Canadian Merchant Navy, the unescorted SS Vancouver Island was sighted by German U-boat
U-558 at 9:54 pm on October 15, 1941, while searching for Allied convoy SC-48 west of Ireland. U-558
manoeuvred to an attack position and fired a spread of three torpedoes at 10:49 pm.
The ship was hit by two of the torpedoes in the fore part and amidships and stopped but did not sink. The U-
boat fired two more torpedoes hitting the ship and causing her to sink fast by the stern. The master, 64 crew
members, eight gunners, and 32 passengers were lost.
Because the Captain wanted to continue the search for the convoy, he fired two more torpedoes from more
than 1000 meters at 11:08 and 11:17 pm, hitting the ship fore and aft and causing her to sink fast by the
The Germans apparently observed how the crew abandoned ship in lifeboats after the first hits, but the British
HMS Dianthus (K 95) (Captained by Lieutenant Commander C.E. Bridgman, Royal Naval Reserve), sent to the
Vancouver Island’s assistance from the dispersed convoy ON-24 did not find any survivors. October 31, a
lifeboat with the bodies of two officers from the ship was found by a British warship in 56°08N/20°45W. The
master, 64 crew members, eight gunners and 32 passengers were lost.
Percy D. Forbes
SS Vancouver Island