In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar


Frank Grabowicki




Died: 19 Apr 2006, Canora, Saskatchewan


GRABOWICKI, Frank - Canora boy was a man of the sea. A sailor who grew up in Canora, Frank Grabowicki never liked to talk about his service during the Second World War, but he had a story to tell. When he died on April 19, much of the sailor's story was lost, but with the help of his brother, Joe, the crux of the story can be pieced together. Proud of his brother's service, Joe said he understood Frank's reluctance to talk about it. Frank liked the navy but hated the war. There were odd occasions when he spoke about several events, but those were few and far between. Grabowicki served with the Royal Canadian Navy aboard HMCS Montreal, a patrol frigate, which was credited with sinking at least two submarines. The corvette patrolled the Pacific coastline, paying special attention to the area around the Aleutian Islands, just south of Alaska. It also provided escort services for cargo and troop ships. Frank had spoken about constantly scanning the water through binoculars. A submarine would first appear as a white streak under the water, he said. If they were close enough, they could make out the periscope. As soon as a submarine was spotted, the captain would order the corvette in that direction. The submarines would submerge and the corvette's crew would use the technology of day to estimate its location. It was Grabowicki's job to prepare the depth charges. After one confirmed submarine kill, he and several other members of the crew had the job of retrieving bodies which floated to the service. Joe said that was an event that Frank desperately wanted to forget. Out in small boats, they pulled mangled bodies from the water. The scene was disturbing. After that event, when Frank was home on a 30-day leave, he was very happy to get out of his uniform and get into some casual clothes, Joe said. Grabowicki served aboard the HMCS Montreal until the end of the war. When the hostilities ended, he was reassigned to a minesweeper working the Halifax Harbour on the east coast. The Grabowickis grew up in Canora, but moved to Stenen in 1938 with their parents, Joe and Anne. They opened a general store. When the war started, Frank was eager to get involved, Joe recalled of his younger brother. Frank and a friend (the son of the Stenen station agent) traveled to Regina and enlisted in 1941. After 30 days of basic training, they were sent home on leave. When Frank returned, he was sent to Comox, B.C. for further training and assignment to HMCS Montreal. After the war, he and Joe became partners when they bought Grabowickis' Store from their parents. Frank used the $700 that he had coming in navy pay to pay for his share. He helped manage and operate the store for only a couple of years, and then went to work for the Canadian Nation Railroad. In 1950, he started work as a fireman (shovelling coal) on a steamer, but soon afterwards, the diesel engines were introduced. He trained to operate the new power plants and was a locomotive engineer for the rest of his 35-year career with the CNR. Frank worked out of several stations, but towards the end of his career, he worked mainly on the northern track that extended through Gillam. When he retired, he continued to live in Canora. Frank loved the north country," Joe said. "He liked hunting and fishing. Above everything else, he loved fishing and took every opportunity to go fishing. Service honoured Shortly after the war, while still living in Stenen, Frank joined the Royal Canadian Legion, but his association was short lived. The political mood of the area was shifting and the membership began to play politics, Joe said. Frank said he wanted no part of it and he left the Legion. He put his navy service behind him until 1994, when he and fellow crew members were invited to attend the commissioning of a new corvette named the HMCS Montreal at the Clock Tower Pier in Montreal. There he met his former captain, who was 93 at the time. Frank had to be talked into going, but was really glad he went," Joe said. Frank's house recently sold and when Joe was cleaning it out, he came across a framed certificate from the 1994 commissioning reception, stating that "Frank Grabowicki is forevermore an honourary member of HMCS Montreal". (Canora Courier, November 8, 2006 Page 9)


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