For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
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** WARNING ** - Please keep in mind that some of the stories here are humourous and some of them are of a more serious nature where shipmates have lost a life. Some of the stories below may contain profanity. Those who may be offended or upset by this should not read these stories.
HAIRCUTS OR CHASTITY BELTS - Submitted by Steve Hlasny
HMCS Crusader - During HMCS Crusader's deployment to Korea we were out on patrol and then back into harbour for some recreational leave. Three of our stalwartly seamen thought they needed a hair cut and decided on an a Iroquois hair cut - much to the displeasure of our XO. The next morning it was clear lower decks to the fo'c's'le and he began by giving the three a dressing down and 30 days stoppage of leave till their hair grew in. In reality this was no big deal as we were leaving next day back on patrol for another 30 days. The XO finished his comment by saying that we are not a Tribal class destroyer - with the ships name and badge "Crusader" - they should wear chastity belts when going ashore.
ONLY IN ENGLAND!! Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Magnificent - 1953 Coronation, RCN on parade. In London on 72 hr, leave. Weather Friday to Sunday sunny & warm, day of Coronation, rain. City over flowing with visitors, Pubs filled to capacity. Warm afternoon we stopped at a Pub, patrons lined out the door, passed a Pound note through crowd for two beers, it made its way to the bar - two beers for Canadian sailors - beers passed back out to us with change. Only in England!!
"RCN at the Queen's Coronation"
BEER STORES SECURE - Submitted by Steve Hlasny
HMCS Jonquiere - Harry Reynolds and (Ike) John Templeton were my running mates. We were all standing QM watches in harbour. One occasion when I was doing my hourly rounds going through the Mortar well, I noticed that while the space where the ships beer was stored was bolted and had the best of locks, the small hatch that the mortar bombs came though with butterfly nuts, had no locks. I couldn't wait for those two to get back from ashore. Neither Harry nor myself could get through the hatch, but our stalwart Ike, the skinny little bugger, fit through there like a glove. Problem solved, and we had cases of 24 to our liking for a few months. This came to an abrupt end when a muster was done - one of the engineers left a "residue" carton in the engineers ready use locker and of course it was picked up on rounds - and they found a big vacant spot in the rear of the beer stores. We were lucky and never accused in the incident. It was a shame though as we had to throw two full cases overboard.
THE UNSINKABLE PICKLE - Submitted by John D. Donaldson
CNAV Pickle - In 1965 the Pickle was at Shearwater and a group of us lived onboard before the start of our Communications Course in Ops Div. At that time her CO was LCdr Poole-Warren who was a NAMS officer noted for looking like the guy in the Gilbey's Gin commercials and driving a Rolls Royce to drag around his 12 kids (two marriages). The Pickle was unsinkable at that time as her bilges were completely filled with beer cans.
SARNIA SAILS WITH WRENS ... AND A WIFE - Submitted by Lou Howard, MID, RCNVR
HMCS Sarnia - During the first week of July, 1945, Sarnia was the third ship off from the jetty, and Sackville was the fourth and another corvette was fifth. That was the manner in which ships were tethered, in between convoys, during the war, it being easier to re-provision even if gangway over other ships had to be arranged, rather than being at anchor in the harbour.
The war was over. I had survived two harrowing experiences. My wife had come to Halifax for a holiday. We had been married December 24, 1944,in Montreal. We had to plan on starting our life together and getting me back to second year Engineering at the University of Manitoba after a two years absence while serving in the RCNVR.
I had arranged ten days leave and booked a hotel in downtown Halifax.
We had access to the Waegwaltic Club, so had a canoe and enjoyed the Northwest Arm, where we climbed the Dingle. Another time went out to Point Pleasant Park and climbed the Martel Tower. Life was magical for us. We had lunch on board Sarnia and she met the captain and other officers of the wardroom. They took a picture of us on the boat deck, and Sackville can be seen tied up right next to us. I presented this picture to Sackville in the wardroom on July 7, 2008. BUT, I did not tell them the story that I am about to tell you now.
Lt. Bob Douty, captain of Sarnia, wanted to see a girl friend in St. Margaret's Bay, and had arranged a picnic for the seamen (so we could sail, of course).
He knew where I was in Halifax and came to me, ordering me to come on board the next morning, as we were to sail. He said we would be back by 20:00, but he needed me on the bridge because he was short of bridge officers, and I was navigating officer.
I protested as best I could, using all the arguments a junior officer could to his captain. I said my brand new wife had just arrived for a week, that we were counting on being together after 6 months of being apart....etc...etc. He said he didn't care about that, and that he needed me on board at 07:00 for sailing at 08:00 the next morning, and he did not care what I did with Marjorie. He then left.
This is the first time the story has been told.
I was in a dilemma. I left Marjorie and went down to the ship to find someone to talk to and found S/Lt Pat Salter, Engineering officer. His advice was: he had heard that Douty had arranged for some WRENS to come on board; it was a day cruise; yes, I was needed; and why not bring Marjorie on board and he would look after her until we got out past the gates. Besides, other captains were doing the same thing to keep the crews happy until the Japanese draft thing was finalized.
So I got her on board, handed her off to Pat Salter, who put her in his cabin, while I arranged things to get us out of harbour. The departure time was delayed because the WRENS were late arriving. We had difficulty then getting the harbour tugs to warp the outside corvette into the harbour and move it elsewhere, then move Sackville so that we could sail. Eventually by mid morning we were off.
Pat brought Marjorie up to the bridge, as planned, while I was still on duty there, and Douty laughed, and welcomed her on board.
Douty had arranged a picnic, and we anchored in the bay and used the sea boats to ferry the selected crew members and the WRENS to shore. There were lots of saved tots, and coke and lots of food. Douty set them up and disappeared. He sent word back with the Bosun's Mate, who shepparded the group, that he was not able to return until morning. So we had ladies on board in the messes, or maybe in the Captain's cabin overnight.
I was part of the skeleton crew that remained on Sarnia so I did not attend the picnic. Marjorie stayed with me in my cabin that night.
A unique story of ladies on board overnight on a commissioned Canadian Naval ship!
CREW MEMBER PURRFECTED DIRECTION FINDING - Submitted by Lou Howard, MID, RCNVR
HMCS Sarnia - Sarnia had a cat nicknamed Huff Duff (or HF/DF for High Frequency Direction Finding). When we returned to Halifax harbour from convoy escort at the end of February 1945, Huff Duff jumped ship and two days later we had to sail again without him.
Well, there was a lot of rumbling from the crew - usually a superstitious lot - as they wondered whether the cat knew something bad about this trip and they were not aware. Five days later we returned and had to tie up three ships out from a jetty completely different from the one that we had sailed from.
At about 2000, the duty quartermaster rapped on the wardroom door to report that an AWOL crew member had returned and asked what should be done.
The duty officer went to the quarter deck and there was Huff Duff. To get to our ship, the cat had to pass over two other ships, as we were the outside ship, but also we were at a different jetty.
Huff Duff was brought into the wardroom, reprimanded by the duty officer for being AWOL, and immediately brought up to the captain's cabin, where Lieutenant Bob Douty solemnly conducted a hearing with the four of us from the wardroom as witnesses. When the order came to "off caps" the cap removed from Huff Duff's head was a rum tot measuring cap. Huff Duff was found guilty and the punishment was 30 days stoppage of leave.
On our next convoy escort, the whole ship was more at ease because Huff Duff was on board and at his post as usual.
THE PICNIC - Submitted by Liam D. Dwyer, ERA, PO, HMCS Sarnia 1945 (Liam D. Dwyer, All rights reserved)
HMCS Sarnia - The signal was received that all hostilities were to cease in the European theatre of War. The message read at 2:41 PM Central European Time, (8:41 AM Eastern Daylight Time in Canada). In Reims, France General Dwight D. Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of the German Armed Forces May 8th 1945. The Captain of our ship ordered, "Splice the main brace," (double ration of rum). That night we could see the fireworks on the distant horizon - Halifax was celebrating V.E. Day.
There was jubilation on board, but not as much as expected. The usual men who would use any excuse to "tie one on" did just that. The mood on board was surprising. It was like the locker room after the final hockey game of the season. The adrenalin, dedication and camaraderie of the team had come to an abrupt end. The war had been the only thing that any of us had allowed into our lives. In a moment, the tension on the ship turned to a relaxed atmosphere.
In the Chiefs and Petty Officer's Mess most men sat quietly trying to digest the reality that the war was finally over. The men sitting around the table had seen a lot of war, most didn't want to talk. Some nervously blathered on about the great job that was waiting for them when they were discharged. In the back of every one's mind a silent prayer was being repeated, thanking God they had made it alive.
For weeks prior to the end of the war there had been an uneasy feeling on our ship. On April 16th we rescued the survivors of our sister ship HMCS Esquimalt, torpedoed at the mouth of Halifax Harbour. Forty four of its crew went down with their ship. We had attacked the U Boat dropping 21 depth chargers without success. This action had put our ship on high alert. The German submarines were still in our area, putting up a gallant effort to continue the war.
On this, what would be our final patrol, we had several action stations - no depth charges were dropped. Although no one spoke openly, it was always there, "God, I hope I don't get it before this damned thing is over." We all knew from reports that it was only days, perhaps hours, when Germany would unconditionally surrender. We knew that we still could be torpedoed. There is always the last ship sunk, the last soldier killed, the last airplane shot down. We prayed we would not be that statistic.
It was May 15th we were finally permitted to enter harbour. We tied up fourth ship out at pier five. This is when we learned the reason we lay off shore for so long. The civilians and armed service personnel had rioted when it was announced the war was over in Europe. Halifax had been trashed. The liquor stores were emptied; all the business establishments on the main street had been looted. Martial Law was in force. The stupidity of the decision to shut the city down tight when hostilities were declared over was inconceivable. Of all the cities in Canada, Halifax had experienced more of the war than any other place. The convoys that supplied the allies in Europe were assembled in the greatest natural harbour in the world, Bedford Basin. The war ships of the Allied Navies who fought the Battle of the Atlantic sailed from this port. The hundred of thousand of armed service personnel who fought the war to final victory were transported on troop ships that left from Halifax. The wounded soldiers sailors and airmen were now returning on hospital ships.
When V. E. Day had finally come, Halifax wanted to celebrate, but, an order to close everything down enraged the civilian and armed service personnel. When the first liquor store was broken into, it set off a grass fire that scorched the city.
All of us on our ship had been chomping at the bit to go into Halifax, have a decent meal and just enjoy the end of the war on dry land. Because of the riots we were confined to ship.
Lieutenant Schonfield, second in command of the ship, had a relative who owned a small farm near Chester, just a few miles south of Halifax. He convinced the Navy Brass that the ship's company was not about to cause any further damage to Halifax. He pleaded our case to the Port Commander if he would give the okay for the crew to be transported to the farm by truck, the ship's company could let off some steam and enjoy a well-deserved victory party.
A skeleton crew was left on board. The rest of us piled into trucks with the rum, beer and food the cooks had prepared. There was a feeling of euphoria in everyone from the officers to the lower ranks. It was a beautiful spring day; the farmer's field had trees along one side where the cooks set up shop. One officer was in charge of doling out the rum and beer. He soon gave up and we helped ourselves.
A navy fighting ship is a well oiled machine when action stations are sounded. Every component of the ship knows exactly what has to be done to engage the enemy. Each area of the ship the - engine room, the seamen, the signal and telegraph operators and the officers - has a loyalty to each other within their responsibilities. When in action they all come together as one to form a fighting unit. With hostilities ceased, this would be the last time these individual components would be together as a single unit.
We played (soft ball) those that could stand. We sang, we cried, we laughed and repeated stories over and over of, "remember when", this action or that action took place. There were times when each of us could recall vividly the gut-wrenching fear that gripped us at action stations. Each person had their version of the events, proving beyond doubt that reality is no more than perception.
About mid- afternoon when most of us were feeling no pain we were visited by three people - two elderly men and a grey-haired woman. They were from the town of Chester just down the road. One of the elderly men, the Mayor, asked to speak to the officer in charge. The Captain was in no shape to talk to anyone, so Lieutenant Schonfield came forward. The Mayor said hesitantly, if we would not go into town and wreck it like the riots that happened in Halifax, they would put on a dance in the town hall for us.
Trashing that little village was the furthest thing from our minds. Lieutenant Schonfield, agreed those who wanted to accept the town's hospitality would present themselves at the town hall at six o'clock.
There were about 25 or 30 half inebriated officers and men in dungarees, boiler suits, and out of dress uniform. The town hall had a small room which was probably used for meetings. The chairs had been pushed to the wall. When this motley crew entered the room, the 15 or 20 women of all ages and sizes, stood along one wall eyes-as wide as saucers. It was a comical scene. These poor frightened people had more compassion and good sense than the powers in Halifax, decided to help us celebrate the end of the war. They quickly discovered we were not Attila the Hun's Army here to rape their maidens and plunder there village.
Some of the women made vain attempts to dance with the men to a fiddler and an out-of-tune banging piano. We all soon decided it was not only embarrassing, but futile. The sun was setting, it was time to go back to the field and wait for the trucks to return us to the ship. There was great relief on the faces of the few brave ones who saw us out. The hilarity of these frightened women trying to dance with half loaded sailors was enough to keep us laughing for days. This little village in their wisdom had tried to show consideration for servicemen who had fought a war. The memory of that humorous occasion is a day never to be forgotten.
The laughter at Chester gave way to an eerie silence as the trucks rumbled back to the ship. It was then that we all knew it would be the last time we, who had survived a war as a unit, would never be together again.
If there can be an ending to anything, that picnic, (if you can call it that), was the end of the Canadian War Ship H.M.C.S. Sarnia and its crew. She had served her country well, in the Battle of the Atlantic, sweeping mines off the coasts of Halifax, and Newfoundland, convoy duty in the North Atlantic and rescuing men whose ships were torpedoed. A navy ship, without purpose and without brave men to give it life, becomes a rusting relic. The men of Sarnia would scatter to all corners of Canada and like their ship, become relics of war.
DON'T BEND THE BOLLARDS - Submitted by Andy Hoskins
HMCS La Hulloise - My recollection of sailing on La Hulloise in 63 as an OSSN was that other than standing our watches, working for the Buffer, eating and sleeping, there wasn't much time left in the day. We were still many years away from personal physical fitness at sea.
At that time onboard there was an exception. We had a Leading Seaman Shipwright who was a "body builder". He was built as one would expect huge chest, and arms. He had his work dress tailored to fit his body and at least one of his shirts were shortened so we all could marvel at his biceps. With this came a little "attitude". His nickname was" Charles Atlast" When not on watch he was always "working out' with springs; small weights and such.
Our Buffer was a great guy, jovial, hard working and drinking and a great sense of humor. As one would expect those days of Cape Bretoners. He was also short and heavyset.
After morning cleaning stations at sea, all the Bos'ns and the rest of us that worked "deck force" mustered on the Ax to be detailed off for jobs by the Buffer.
As the tasks were being given out, from below decks comes Charles Atlast. He started with a couple of flexes, then running on the spot and a few warm up drills. The Buffer didn't seem to amused. He them moved close to where we were fallen in, where there was a set of twin Bollards used for securing alongside. He lowers himself between them and starts doing pushups. After a minute the Buffer had enough of the distraction.
"Leading Seaman" (Charles stops and stands up)
"I don't want you to do pushups on my bollards anymore"
"Yes Buffer but why?"
"Because you will bend them."
TARGET PRACTICE GONE WRONG - Submitted by Robert Ferrar
HMCS Gatineau - Well we were 15 miles away when that helo went off the bow of the Bonnie; we were suppose to be standing by her side while she had aircraft coming and going but the Captain decided he wanted to use his SMG and the trash over side for some target practice. He was in a bit of a pickle when call for help came in and we headed full steam to help. All we rescued was the life boat that I got a close look at fully inflated, you know the ones that are in those drums on all ships. As for the Helo crew the Bonnie rescued all 3 men and one I think lost a leg. this was in early 69.
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE CANADIAN NAVY - Submitted by Robert Ferrar
HMCS Gatineau - We were heading for home and in a NATO convoy when a storm hit. All other Navies headed for ports like Boston and New York, BUT not the mighty Canadian Navy. No sir we rode it out. As a curious lad of 18, I went up to the bridge to look out the windows. I asked the officer on duty for permission to come onto the bridge and he said yes but stay off to the side out of the way. Now as I looked out I was told that the waves were 40 foot and the swell was 40 foot, That means if both hit at peak it was 80 feet. I was scare to death but I held on. As I looked off to port I could see something that my brain could not relate too. It looked like a huge ball bobbing in the waves, coming towards us. I pointed and asked the officer what that was? He said shit and yelled hard to starboard!, Later he said to me glad you saw that because that was the sonar ball on the bottom of the Bonnie and she or us were a BIT OFF COURSE,.????.....YUP just another day in the Canadian navy...
SLOW AHEAD ON PORT, SIR - Submitted by Nigel Whiteley
HMCS New Waterford - During Exercise Yeoman in late Fall 1964, I was SSD OOW for the approach to Argentia USN Naval Base, when we were trying to park PROVIDER and nine frigates in a howling off shore wind. It seemed like hours to get the tanker alongside and she took all the tugs available. The first frigate alongside was in the dubious position of being about 60 feet off the jetty at the end of her berthing lines, wrestling herself alongside a few hard earned feet at a time.
NEW WATERFORD was told off to get alongside ASAP. Our approach was tricky in that we had to come through the lee of PROVIDER and then into the full blast of the offshore wind as we made our final approach. The Captain said he would do a fast approach and go full astern on the port engine to quickly swing the stern into the wind and take off the headway at the same time. Everybody in the chain of command from the wheelhouse to the engine room were briefed.
All parts of ship were standing by, fenders, heaving lines, hawsers passed outboard for rapid deployment to shore. In we came, eight knots, I think which is about four knots faster that the alongsides were normally done this close to the jetty. At the right time the “full” order was passed down the voice pipe. In all the wind and tension etc., not made any easier by the presence of FOAC and CANCOMFLT Admiral O’Brien on the jetty watching intently. The phrase “Slow ahead port on, Sir” came up the pipe. We ran out of time and distance at the same time. NEW WATERFORD touched the jetty with alacrity.
I remember spending an awfully long time producing CNS "Report of Collisions and Groundings." Six copies, all had to be identical, no photocopiers, no mod cons at all. Perhaps that is why my application to transfer to Supply Branch was so quickly managed, since the Captain had become my career manager after leaving NEW WATERFORD.
"A Lady waiting for a nose job"
LOST AT SEA - LSWU OLAN - Submitted by Nigel Whiteley
HMCS Assiniboine - En route to the customary exercises off San Juan PR we encountered a particularly nasty patch of weather, the uppers were piped in and out of bounds over a period of a day and a half. At one juncture, a group of hands gathered near the funnel, starboard side for a bit of fresh air. A larger wave than the rest struck the ship starboard side forward and, aided by a strong wind, curled over the upper deck, and picked the four or five hands and washed them aft and outboard as the water drained away.
All managed to grab guardrails, superstructure, torpedo tubes and whatever to save themselves. They soon realized that LS Olan, a WU and Ship’s Diver, was not there with them. The Man Overboard was sounded and the ship was brought around with great difficulty due to the storm. Several sightings were thought to have been made but nothing certain. Emergency stations confirmed that LS Olan was not on board.
We continued to search for almost five hours, but as the storm was causing damage to the ship, and as it was known that he was not wearing a life jacket, prospects of finding him were remote at best, the search was called off.
On our return to Halifax a week or so later, the squadron sailed through the area where LS Olan had last been seen. CDR Gordon L Edwards, the CO, asked that the squadron stop for 15 minutes to allow the ship’s company to mark the loss. These pictures show the sequence of events. As we had no opportunity to acquire a wreath or floral tribute ashore, the wreath was constructed by members of the ship’s company by materials available onboard.
(1) Ship's company musters aft (2) 2 - Cdr Edwards waits for ships in company to stop
(3) Cdr Edwards conducts a memorial service for LSWU Wayne John Olan (4) 4 - Wreath made by ship's company for LS Olan
THE PICKLE'S C.O. - Submitted by John D. Donaldson
CNAV Pickle - LCdr Poole-Warren was one of the memorable characters from my early years in the RCN. He was an Aeronautical Engineer at NAMS (Naval Air Maintenance School) and had a second marriage combining six and six into twelve kids, most of them going to Hampton Gray School on the base. He drove them around in a large square vehicle like a London Taxicab. I remember him keeping us in stitches when the half dozen or so of us lived on Pickle awaiting accommodation in Stadacona Wardroom for our long Communications course. While we never left the jetty it was one of the most entertaining week of my Naval career. LCdr Poole-Warren stood out as a unique character for one more reason - his striking resemblance to Commander Edward Whitehead who starred in the Schweppes commercials. Photo #1 is of LCdr Poole-Warren. Photos # 2 and # 3 are of Cdr Edward Whitehead.
photo 1 photo 2 photo 3
THE GROUNDING OF HMCS JOLIETTE K418 - (The wartime memories of James Priel passed down to his family) - Submitted by Joan Hampaul
HMCS Joliette - James Daniel Priel - Able Seaman, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, Apr 1943 - Feb 1946 Just shy of his 18th birthday with his dad's permission, our James Daniel Priel enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserves. After basic training in Cornwallis, on 06 Jul 1943 he was called to active service. First on HMCS Orillia (K119), then transferred to HMCS Joliette (K418). On 12 Nov deployed to the North Atlantic at the height of the Battle of the Atlantic.
A farm boy from Saskatchewan likely never travelled further than a barn dance a few towns over. Dad was stationed on the ship as a gunner until the ship was caught in a hurricane off the coast of Moville in Lough Foyle, Ireland and tossed aground in the storm.
This is Dads recollection of the events that took place:
On 22 Nov 1944 in the North Atlantic 2001 at 3 minutes after 9:00 am the ship was tossed aground, the NVR at the time was Captain George Downey. The crew had had yet to be called to general stations when the ship ran aground; Dad was off duty and sleeping in his hammock below deck. The sealed door was opened and the water rushed into the mess deck and crew quarters. The force of the impact made Dad slide down into the ropes of his hammock and was trapped. The lights went out and all was dark... the Leading Seamen (a giant of a man), flashlight in hand took charge of the crew quarters; detangled Dad from the ropes and cleared the deck in order. The hatch was sealed and bolted, and furthered shored up with 2X4s. Once the deck was sealed the crew was sent topside, and in dads' case, with nothing on but his skivvies. It was brutally cold. Fortunately dad had his coveralls and wallet at his station and that was all he was able to salvage.
The Captain ordered the crew not to abandon ship, as they would drown, freeze to death or be crushed against the rocks with the force of the waves. Once the ship was secure, the crew rode out the storm for two days. The ship was then towed to Londonderry and later to Belfast for repairs. The Stern was badly damaged on impact, and while in tow, the ship's bow was low in the water and the screws where out of the water. The crew was loaded up and sent to Belfast to wait deployment. While in Belfast, they were put up in an old house that was without water, heat or blankets for two days......
I asked him about this recollection of exact moment the crash occurred, he said "There are some things you just never forget' I asked how could they possibly sleep through such a harrowing storm, his response was 'storms and rough seas were the norm you got the sleep when you could.' I asked him if he was terrified…he said there was no time…you just did what you had to do. He was nineteen years old at the time and served until his discharge 11 Feb 1946.
A GOOD DEED REMEMBERED - (The wartime memories of James Priel passed down to his family) - Submitted by Joan Hampaul
HMCS Joliette - Another story dad told us was when he was on leave in Ireland he befriended a young man and his family. He met this young man and his friends in a pub and ended up staying with his family for 3 days sharing stories. This family welcomed him into their home with typical kindness, although they had little by way to share. Dad said they only had lanterns, little food , no coal, and meager possessions. Everything they possessed was given to the war effort.
On the third day dad went back to the ship and with the help of his ship mates loaded up a ‘taxi’ with bags of flour, sugar, coffee, tea bacon, vegetables and what ever else the ships cook and dads mates could get their hands on. Dad said the car was stacked to exploding at the seams, with barely enough room for him. He took the supplies back to the family; said after his good-byes amongst tears and gratitude.
Forty odd years later Dad received a letter from the estate of this man who had passed away. The young man and his family had never forgotten the generosity of Dad and his ship mates, for these provisions allowed the family to eek out a living by selling foodstuffs made with these provisions. Although they never spoke in all these years, each one in their way never forgot the 'cost' and ravages of war and that there are good people no matter where you come from.
THREE SHIPMATES REMEMBERED - Submitted by Edward Balkwill
HMCS Nipigon operating off Bermuda. On 07 Nov 1971, while working off Bermuda, HMCS Nipigon 's Sea King lost power to her engines and crashed into the sea at about 2200 hrs. The seas were heavy with no moon and a strong wind. There was a loss of three crew who were never recovered - Lt(N), Allan Edward Dick, Cpl John Osborne Ross McCrea, Lt Lawrence Michael Ostaficiuk. Only the navigator, Owen (Bud) McLean was found and rescued.
I was in the rescue boat when we pulled him (Owen McLean) out of the water. He was not in the best condition but recovered quickly. I think he was very fortunate to get out of the chopper when he did get out. He was at a depth that damaged his ears and was bleeding from ears, eyes and nose slightly. It's nice to know that he went on to a good career. He was aircrew so we didn't really get to know one another but I remember he seemed to be nice person. (by Edward Balkwill)
I was the diver that went out with the rescue whaler, a sad day indeed. The weather was fine when we launched from Nipigon and shortly there after it changed for the worst. We picked Bud up, returned him to Nipigon and continued our search. Our whaler engine and tiller broke down while we were doing our search away from Nipigon R.I.P. my Brothers (by Leo MacMullin)
I remember Jack MacRae, Air Observer, lived in 8 Mess. He was planning on retiring after that trip...very sad, great shipmate. (by Merrill Gillis)
A hellish night to remember. I was about to be relieved at the wheel, but the OOW said, "Negative! Revolutions 232 (I think); Full Speed Ahead both engines. Starboard...". And off we went. Christ, what a night! I was relieved at the wheel when we arrived at the crash site. We started recovering pieces of the fuselage right away, so it was obvious something horrific had happened. The hardest thing for me was recovering a flight helmet with the straps attached to each other. We knew at least it was a spare, but it still gave me the willies. Nipigon recovered the one survivor. To the rest of the crew who were lost: RIP, guys. (by Lou Dawson)
I was the Cox'n of the rescue whaler that went out that night in November 1971 night and remember the long night searching the waters for survivors. Although it was a somber night I remember that the cooks had hot soup ready for us when we returned to the Nipigon. (by Chester Kingston)
HANDS TO DINNER - Submitted by Robert (Bob) Wallington
HMCS Kokanee sometime during WW II - I do recall that each day someone was designated to draw our supper from the galley. Keep in mind the galley on a frigate was on the top deck and the Stokers' mess was two decks below; also the galley was mid-ship while our mess was forward (close under the twin 4” gun turret). Well, this day the sea was running fairly heavily making our footing 'touchy' and it was my turn to draw supper which unfortunately was good old red lead and bacon! I was ok down to the second deck and along the companion-way around the Officers' Mess then the ship lurched and I coloured the deck-head and bulk-heads a 'nice' shade of red!! Cleaning the mess up wasn't the problem (that was bad enough) but as you can realize we had limited provisions aboard so it took some persuading to draw a second supper for 20 hungry mouths! Thank goodness stokers and cooks got along well! That helped!
I also remember the 'bread' that used to come aboard in 'Derry'; the first day you could wring water out of it! And the next day it was harder than a rock! As I recall some of the crew were allergic to it and broke out in hives! (I didn't, something to be thankful for!)
FIRST BREAKFAST AT SEA by Bill McKibbon, submitted by Gordon Longmuir
HMCS Ontario - Lately, I have found myself remembering events from my brief Canadian naval past in vivid detail. Last night, I found myself thinking about my first morning aboard the cruiser, HMCS Ontario.
I was 18 and had never before in my life been to sea, or, for that matter, seen an ocean. So, on a damp evening in January, 1956, along with my fellow officer cadets (Venture Classes of ’56 and ’57) boarded the cruiser HMCS Ontario in Esquimalt Harbour. As we steamed westward up the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we were directed below to a huge 60-person sleeping compartment. Next morning, after a surreal night sleeping in a hammock strung from the deckhead (another first), and after being awakened abruptly at dawn and directed to the upper deck, we were told to line up outside a metal box for breakfast which turned out to be our dining mess for the remainder of the voyage). The ship was rolling, rather disturbingly, from side to side as we began to encounter the massive Pacific ground swells.
Inside that metal box ‘mess’, we were issued a tray. Then we filed past a galley window where most of us, quite optimistically, piled on a substantial breakfast. I can recall that my tray included juice, oatmeal, milk, bacon, eggs, toast, pork and beans and coffee.
Three long tables, which were parallel to the ship’s fore and aft line, were bolted to the deck. There were ten metal-legged chairs on each side which were not fixed to anything, sixty in all. With some difficulty, I carried my loaded tray to the centre table and sat down midway along its length. After a short time, all sixty cadets were seated and digging in.
The ship’s degree of roll seemed to be increasing dramatically. I was having difficulty keeping the many items on my tray from sliding back and forth, toward and away from me. Peripherally, I could see that many of our guys, if not all, were having similar problems. To make matters worse, the trays themselves were also sliding toward and away from us. [Later in the trip, in similar circumstances, the tray-sliding difficulties would be mitigated by long damp cloth towels. We would also learn to keep our trays level by tipping them to and fro with one hand and eating with the other. But that bit of experience would come later: much too late for this fateful morning.
Suddenly the ship took a massive roll to port (away from me). My first thought was that this huge ship was actually going to capsize. As I pushed on the edge of the table to prevent myself from falling forward, my tray slid away from me and off the table on the far side. As did the trays of each and every other cadet on the ‘high’ side (s). Thirty trays, each laden with food, went over. Simultaneously, every cadet on the ‘low’ side (s) fell over backwards in their chairs, followed by their own trays (also laden with food). Then, as we on the ‘high’ side (s) of the table tried to push ourselves away, the ship rolled back again to starboard — and thirty more of us fell over backward.
It was all but unbelievable. There we were: sixty guys, sixty chairs, sixty trays, sixty breakfasts, all sliding back and forth under and around the tables.
It was chaos: slithery, slimy, chaos. Someone shouted “All out”.
We all scrambled, crawled, staggered, out. I don’t, even now, know where most of us went in the immediate aftermath, but I ended up clinging to a stanchion on the open deck about twenty feet from the mess, along with a few others, slightly nauseas and unexplainably, simultaneously hungry.
Fifteen minutes later, a kindly seaman emerged from the mess with a juice jug full of oranges, presumably for us. As I was admiring his ‘sea legs’, those same legs flew out from under him and he fell full out onto the deck on his back, his jug of oranges projected high into the air. He retreated quickly back into the mess and we saw him no more.
For the next hour, the dozen oranges rolled back and forth across the full width of the ship, only stopped from going into the sea by the deck lip.
That is how I learned why, in the navy, a dining hall is called a “mess”.
FOND MEMORIES - Submitted by Ray Paquette, LCdr, RCN
HMCS Saguenay - In mid August 1967 I was appointed directly off the Supply Officer’s Sub Specialty Course in HMCS HOCHELAGA to SAGUENAY as the Supply Officer, relieving LT Ian Clarke. The ship was alongside Expo 67 in Bickerdike Basin Montreal . The ship’s company was in the midst of the posting season at the end of the operational phase of the cycle. The CO, CDR D. Avery was replaced by the Executive Officer, LCDR L.A. Dzioba, for the return to Halifax at the end of August. On arrival in Halifax the ship was awaiting the announcement of the “out of port” refit for the First Escort Squadron (SAGUENAY, NIPIGON, KOOTENAY) which we were told was tied to the awarding of the refit contract for BONAVENTURE. When that decision was made, our squadron was awarded to Saint John Shipbuilding and Dry Dock. Shortly after that announcement, a new CO, Captain D.H.P. Ryan was appointed as CO and Squadron Commander. I served in SAGUENAY until December 1968 when I was relieved by Lt G. McKearney (sic). Despite the seniority in the CO’s rank and mine (I was a Sub Lieutenant) the professional relationship was one that I look back on with fondness when I remember my service.
THE LOSS OF HMCS SKEENA - Submitted by Brian Braun (from the memoirs of the late Bill Braun)
HMCS Skeena - I was the Upper Deck Stoker aboard the Skeena that fateful 24th day of October, 1944 and being the Upper Deck Stoker it was my duty to lower the anchor or anchors as instructed by the Officer of the Day that stormy night. I was order to lower only one anchor that night. I did not go down to my quarters after lowering the anchor as ordered, but slept on a life-jacket on top of a steam box until someone came over and yelled “Abandon Ship”. I looked and there was seawater on the upper deck. The two seaward life boats we shattered, to the best of my memory, by the high gale. As we lost three members from our float, we came back to the ship soaked in oil and seawater and almost frozen. We then got rescued by a Boson’s Chair form ship to shore and taken to Icelandic fishing homes. I remember being put in a round zinc tub of warm water beside a cast iron heater with my shoulders covered by a blanket. From there I was taken to a U.S. Naval hospital and then to their base until the balance of our ships took us to Glasgow, Scotland. From there we left on the Q.E. II for New York and Montreal where we were debriefed and sent home on Survivor’s Leave for 180 days, plus 60 days accumulated leave. We then went back to Halifax and more Navy duty. That fateful night still stands out very clearly in my memory as does the funeral for my lost shipmates as they had to help me from the hospital to the cemetery and back.
A WHALE'S TAIL - Submitted by Gerald Sullivan
HMCS Ontario - September of 1950 we were operating in North Pacific vicinity of the Queen Charlotte Islands. On this particular day it was extremely foggy, viability down to yards, moderate sea, just the large Pacific swells, we found ourselves surrounded by a group of migrating Gray whales. Apparently these whales grow up to 50 feet and a weight of 40 tons, running over one of them could cause damage to the ships rudder. Duty watch lookouts were detailed to the fo'c's'le with a hand powered phone to the bridge. I had the detail during the afternoon watch, 2nd & 4th hour, as far forward as a Hand could go, nose literally pressed against the Jackstaff. Ship surrounded by these large whales, we were proceeding dead slow. As the fo'c's'le deck was considerably lower, lookouts could see a little farther than those on the bridge. We could see them on both sides as they breached and breathed through their spouts, occasionally one of them would slap the surface with their tail. It is believed this may be a means of communication between the whales. Do not recall how long we were amongst them, but it certainly was interesting.
MALASPINA MEMORIES - Submitted by Jim Silvester
HMCS Malaspina - My time aboard the Malaspina was fairly short. The Mal was an old coal burner and was my first ship. She was used to check anyone coming into Esquimalt Harbour. Quite often we would stop a fisherman and check him out and they were always able to throw us a few salmon, which the cook would love, and we would have a good feast of salmon. When our coal supply got low we would head up to get loaded and our coaling party looked a lot like Al Jolson when we were finished.
A SURVIVOR'S MEMORIES - Submitted by Rick Beresford
CPO Alfred Lapsley was the Ordnance Chief on HMCS Magog when she was torpedoed. Alf said he was in his workshop when they were torpedoed. It immediately flooded and the deck opened up above him. He swam up and climbed onto the deck cutting his hands. The stern section came back up and closed the deck where he had just got through. He had oil in his eyes. They took him to Sick Bay where the Doctor was working on another fellow. The Doctor treated him immediately and Alf said that he said "what about that guy ?" and the Doc said he wasn't going to make it. After the torpedoing he received some rehab leave. (Alfred Lapsley was a family friend of Rick Beresford's parents and Rick was fortunate to hear some of Alf's wartime stories.)
A SEA KING AND A KIWI - Submitted by Andy Hoskins
The South Pacific, early 1978 - HMCS Restigouche, HMCS Kootenay, HMCS Provider and HMNZS Waikato. I was on Restigouche for a pre-RIMPAC exercise. Ships that were part of this exercise included Kootenay, Provider, and a Leander Class Frigate from New Zealand, Waikato. The Squadron Commander was flying his pennant on Restigouche. Provider was sailing with an American Air Det at this time.
During FLY OPS with Provider's Sea King there was confusion in course direction by the participants resulted in the aircraft left without enough fuel to return to Provider. They jettisoned equipment to lighten the load and were preparing to ditch. Waikato was racing a full speed toward the Sea King. Their CO CDR Ian Bradley offered the much smaller flight deck for the sea king to land on. Whether the aircraft was given permission is unknown. In marginal weather the aircraft landed safely diagonally on Waikato's flight deck with only seconds of fuel left. It was lashed down and craned off at the next port.
CDR Bradley was first commended for saving the aircraft, but then became severely criticized for endangering his crew and the ship. Investigations took place upon their return and I believe "disciplinary" action was taken. CDR Bradley was a highly skilled officer. Most crews revered his actions and leadership. On a prior ship during the night at sea he went and informed only one officer and then slid over the side to test the LBS actions. He was released a year after the incident at sea under mysterious conditions. During the Falklands war another Sea King made an emergency landing on RNZN Minerva also a Leander class.
- Submitted by Lorne Benjamin
I remember it well, Wilf Baur directed the helo to the Kiwi ship. He received accolades for his assistance. I still remember that Kiwi ship coming alongside with the Sea King athwartships. We listened to TG Tac while they made their decision. They jettisoned everything they could. A supply officer wanted an accounting for it all. The aircraft CO asked the supply officer, "How much do you weigh?" Good times.
MAN OVERBOARD!! - Submitted by Bernie Quigley
HMCS Restigouche, HMNZS Waikato, HMCS Provider - a night RAS - I was on Restigouche in lifeguard station for the RAS and had just finished my watch in OPS. I went up the port bridge wing to get some fresh air. I was talking to the lookout looking out over the moonlit ocean when we noticed, passing down the port side, only about 10 feet away, a person waving his arms yelling "HELP ME"! We both screamed MAN OVERBOARD at the same time. I had chills down my spine for an hour! We picked up one of them and the Sea King from the Provider picked up the other. Both apparently we're on the bow of the NZ ship and got taken off by a rogue wave and no one knew. It was a very scary time! Made me wonder "What if that were me?"
PORT 10 - Submitted by Bernie Quigley
HMCS Saskatchewan - On the steamers one of the best things about OPS was not only did you have communication with the bridge but you could also hear in OPS the communication between the bridge and wheelhouse!
On Saskatchewan we had a brand new OS Bos'n fresh from training whose English was very poor from the back woods of Quebec. We'd sailed for a 3 month triangle trip (Esquimalt, San Diego, Pearl Harbour and back home). Young OS Portin went to the wheelhouse for his first watch. The Quartermaster ran thru the commands and answers to and from the Wheelhouse until he felt the OS had it down. He asked the bridge for the OS to take the Helm. Permission was granted and OS Portin stepped up to the helm.
In his broken English made his report "Bridge Wheelouse Houdinary Seamens Portin hon the elm, steering course 220 by forward Gyro, 150 revolutions on de counter, Master Seamens Todd his de QM." The bridge gave the standard "Very good"
After a while the said "Starboard 15" The Helmsman repeat the command as per normal
Bridge then said "Midships " And again the command was repeated back.
The bridge then said "Port 10" And the Helmsman answered "Yes Sir" but did nothing, Again the bridge said "Port 10" this time more forceful! Again the Helmsman answered "Yes Sir" This happened twice more each time the bridge more frantic and each time the Helmsman more upset as well.
We in Ops were listening and wondering what was going on. Finally the OOW screamed into the mike "PORT TEN!!!" With equal force the Helmsman screamed back "YES SIR GOD DAM IT DIS HIS HOUDINARY SEAMENS PORTIN HON DE HELM!!!!"
We were pissing ourselves in OPS! The next command from the bridge was "Quartermaster take the Helm!"
It was a few weeks before Ordinary Seamen PORT 10 got to take the Helm again!
The ship was divided into three watches the Red, White and Blue watch. Each watch had two Radar ratings, two Asdic operators, a Wireless operator, Stokers, etc. The watches were: the First Watch 8 pm to 12 midnight; the Middle Watch midnight to 4 am; the Morning Watch from 4 am till 8am; the Forenoon Watch from 8 am till 12 noon; the Afternoon Watch from 12 noon till 4 pm; The First Dog Watch from 4 pm to 6 pm; and the Second Dog Watch from 6 pm to 8 pm - they swung the dog watches so each watch did not get the same duty time each day. We all hated the middle watch - didn’t get much sleep in your hammock if it was rough and you had the middle watch. The Asdic and Radar operators were lucky, we were in a warm hut but the poor seaman lookouts froze their balls off standing beside the Oerlikon gun trying to stay warm. My buddies name was Anton Fuch. He had chronic sea sickness. He was a lookout - I would bring him a crust of bread to eat when he was freezing on watch; he would spew it up on deck. He never ate till we were in harbor, he was a westerner one of the good guys. On a frigate stokers had their own mess separated by a watertight door on the lower flats forward to the seaman's mess. I always remember the bread, it came aboard in sagenet sacks and was stowed in the seaman's mess. After so many days at sea it would turn moldy so we would cut the mold off and toast the square. It was common to see some gannet toasting a 2 inch square of bread for breakfast (a gannet is a bird that is always eating and was part of navy slang – that and “dogs body’ were popular) Cigarettes were 10 cents a package . We always kept a couple of cartons in our attaché case when going on leave as they made good barter for anything! Especially in London, the civilian population had nothing in those days.
A SURVIVOR'S MEMORIES - Submitted by Stephen Bailey (on behalf of his father Barney Bailey, CPO, HSD)
Dad never talked much about the war. What I do know is that he joined sea cadets at Royal Roads, near Victoria in 1935 or 36 and immediately went RCN when he turned 18. He was below decks down near the keel working on the "sword" or the "transducer" (whatever that means) of the ASDIC antenna pod when the torpedo struck. Apparently safety protocols required that all water tight hatches had to be sealed until the ship was safely anchored and inspected. He was trapped below decks for an extended period. Mom said he had nightmares for a very long time afterward. After recovery leave, he was sent for officer training which he completed just as the war ended. He elected to retire as a CPO because the benefits were better - or so he was told. He was never sure about that. (As of 24 Apr 2016, Barney Bailey is alive and well, living in BC)
MY CHINA PLATE - A tribute to Gilles Doutre - Submitted by Jim "Lucky" Gordon
On the passing of my dear friend Gilles Doutre, his daughter Angela an I exchanged personal messages to share our sorrow. In one message I wrote “Forever my old China Plate” to which Angela replies, “I don’t even want to know. LOL”.
I responded, “I’ll explain it some time, it’s good” There are still a few of us old timers around who understand the term. Most don’t. I wrote this to Angela:
Dear Angela, A small tribute to my old China Plate.
I know you said, light-heartedly that you didn’t “even want to know, lol," however, I want to tell you.
I first met your Dad early June 1965. I was just arriving from Canada, at HMS Dolphin Two, the tiny training annex to the larger submarine base, HMS Dolphin, in Gosport England for my basic submarine course. Your Dad had already been there on course for a few weeks. He was on watch at the main gate. I was only 20 years old and somewhat anxious about my entry into the ominous world of the submarine service in such unfamiliar surroundings.
He was genuinely pleased to welcome a fellow Canadian. That huge contagious smile, which I have enjoyed very much for over half a century, lit up the entire area and gave me confidence that I had at least one friend in that mysterious new world.
He introduced himself as Gilles but told me the Kippers, (Royal Navy sailors), had dubbed him ‘Pierre’. He took particular pride in that nickname. We exchanged pleasantries and ‘Pierre’ pointed out some of the buildings in Dolphin two and gave me some advice on how to survive being a colonial in the ruthless Royal Navy submarine service.
He told me that the senior rates called us “Canada” and friendlier junior rates called us “Oppo”, which he pronounced “Hoppo” with his strong French accent. He went on to inform me that it was short for “(H)opposite number” which meant friend. He went on to say that they also called him “China”, that also seemed to mean friend but he wasn’t sure how that translated.
As it happens, I was born a Cockney in The Bow, in London England during WWII. As I was growing up in Canada, far from The Bow, my Mom educated me on my roots and the rhyming slang of Cockneys. For example, Apples and Pears means Stairs, “a Butchers” or “Butcher’s Hook” means a Look, “Cock and Hen” means Ten, “Titfer” or “Tit for Tat” means Hat. I’m sure you get the gist. So I explained to Pierre that, in Cockney slanguage, China was short for China Plate that meant Mate, a common naval term for friend.
Pierre was thrilled with the language lesson and from then on I, and many others, would be greeted by Pierre, with that Cheshire grin and charming French accent, as either Hoppo or China.
Not long after meeting Pierre, he and I were posted to HMCS Ojibwa that was about to be commissioned as the first Canadian O Class Submarine. He very quickly became known as China for his constant use of that very British term of friendship.
Although there are still a few of us old timers who call him China, many of those who warmly knew him by that nickname have passed on. I can vividly see the revelry of China being greeted at the Pearly Gates by those old shipmates, messmates and brothers in boats.
And one day, when I arrive at that gate, China will be on watch, grinning from ear to ear, he will give me that familiar bear hug and say, “Jimmy, me old Hoppo, good to see you”, and I will know I still have that special bond with a true friend.
Forever, my China Plate.
HOW I MET MY WIFE - Submitted by Eric Ruff
Sailing Vessel Tuna, 1968 - LCdr. "Bill" Walker was the skipper of HMCS Pickle. He was also in charge of the Royal Canadian Navy Sailing Association (which looked after the former war prizes). As no one was looking after the Tuna, and as some of the Pickle's crew would be in Halifax for the next few months (on our Pre-Fleet Course), he let three of us (Chris Haines, John Jamieson and Eric Ruff) take over the Tuna. As we didn't know any girls in Halifax at that time, I called a friend, invited him out for a sail and asked him to bring along three ladies. My wife was one of those ladies - and I met her, literally, aboard the Tuna.
WARTIME MEMORIES - HMCS PRINCE RUPERT K324 - From the memoirs of George (Red) McNair, published with permission of his daughter Sandra Lansing
After my training, I got drafted, the whole crew of a new ship about to be launched in BC, at Esquimalt; and we were shipped out seven days and eight nights by train. I’ve since been back by air. But the ship was delayed, so instead of being the second frigate [anti-submarine escort vessel] launched, we ended up being the third. We spent May, June and July and part of August  on the west coast. Dropped into Prince Rupert for a kind of a dedication ceremony. One guy composed a song about “they gave us cigarettes, a washing machine and guitar, but that’s all they gave to the ‘Fighting PR’."
From there, we came through the Panama Canal, up to Halifax, some more training off of Pictou, and then onto Newfoundland and Escort Group C3, mid-Atlantic, Newfie - Derry Run. Four days in, turn around, and back. In March of 1944, we got assigned to go help the Yankee escort group; and we took part in the sinking of a German sub U-575 on March 13, 1944. We picked up 14 survivors: two officers, 12 men. I was a sentry looking after them a few days. Most of them could speak English, and we got quite friendly. You know, they had the common enemy, the sea, the same as us. So we had lots in common to talk about. I found a very intriguing thing that I never forgot. Two of them were Lutherans. I’m a Presbyterian by birth, and they had praying mothers at home just like I had. (Originally published in The Memory Project)
WARTIME MEMORIES - HMCS STRATHADAM K682 - From the memoirs of George (Red) McNair, published with permission of his daughter Sandra Lansing
I got a rude awakening. We used to do supposedly 30 days out and four days in. But this time, we had gone 42 and we were due in that night in Londonderry [Northern Ireland]. We were coming up the Irish Sea, picked up a sub on the ASDIC, and carried out two or three attacks, when all of a sudden, one of our Hedgehogs [anti-submarine mortar], turned out in the inquiry that it was sabotaged. It exploded when it left the mount, put the paint locker and the forward mess on fire; killed six guys and wounded 12.
We went into Belfast, but they wouldn’t let us unload the dead and the wounded. They wouldn’t allow us to have permanent berth on account of the dripping explosives. Some of the bombs had shrapnel all through them. I got involved with going into clean up the mess. I grew up in the country; and I butchered beef and pigs, and chickens, but I wasn’t really prepared for something like that.
I was gathering up body parts in a dustpan and spewing in the other one. Could hardly stand up on that linoleum-covered deck for blood. I still wake up with nightmares; and smell that horrible stench of death and dismembered bodies. It leaves an awful imprint on you. (Originally published in The Memory Project)
MY TIME ON THE VICKY - Submitted by Nelson Winterburn, ABVS1
HMCS Victoriaville - I served on the Victoriaville (the Vicky) from October 9, 1961 until September 19, 1963. The ship had recently been re-commissioned and was in the workup process. Ship’s captain was LCDR Rikely, the XO Lt. Oxley, and the Supply Officer was Lt. F.J Graves. Once ready for sea, the Vicky sailed all the way to St. Margaret’s Bay to practice action stations, and related drills. Most of our trips involved sea exercises between Halifax and the West Indies: Puerto Rico, Antigua, Virgin Islands, and repeated visits in and out of Bermuda. Other Atlantic ports of call were Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and New York (but never got past Halifax harbour entrance due to a mechanical breakdown). NYC came but 50 years later!
The longest trip from home port in both time and distance was the trip up the St. Lawrence River to present day Thunder Bay, four months and about 3,000 nautical miles each way. This was an incredible experience to travel the St. Lawrence Seaway, go through the Welland Canal, and the lock at Sault Saint Marie. Many towns and cities were visited in between: Port Alfred, PQ, Prescott, Toronto, Hamilton Windsor, Sarnia, Green Bay, Michigan, and Fort William/Port Arthur. (Now known as Thunder Bay). The main purpose of this trip was to escort the late Queen Mother Elizabeth on an official tour of the Seaway and secondly to provide sea training to Naval Reservists based in Hamilton. And in keeping with Royal tradition, the Queen Mother sent a signal to our ship that read: Well done, Ship’s company. Splice the Mainbrace.
Back in Halifax, the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 resulted in a general recall for all personnel stationed aboard a ship were ordered to return to their vessel immediately and rig for sailing by 0800 the next morning. Victoriaville's assignment was to relieve a sister frigate already on station in the North Atlantic that was shadowing a Russian trawler. During our period of observation a Russian mother ship arrived on scene to re-provision the trawler. After about five days we were stood down and sailed back to Halifax.
SAVED BY A CUPPA COFFEE - Submitted by Garry Weir
HMCS Margaree 230 - I was the RPO on HMCS Margaree in her final few months before she was paid off. We went on a trip down to Bermuda with CFAV Quest to take part in sonar trials with her. Our job in these trails was to drop SUS charges on scheduled intervals and Quest would be listening and recording to the results. There are probably much more technical terms but that was the just of it. Well, we got down to Bermuda and after a couple days alongside we were scheduled to sail in the morning to do the trials. When I woke the next morning the ship was bouncing about and I thought we were at sea. I got dressed and went straight up to the shack ... and found it was only 5 am ... we were still alongside the wall in the midst of a hurricane. (click here to view a photo of Margaree alongside in Bermuda that morning). Sailing was delayed but we managed to get off the jetty about noon and sailed into the storm to do the trials. Needless to say it was rather uncomfortable in that weather, especially once they stopped the engines for the trials. The ship was being tossed every which way and those not required on watch were in their carts. At one point, the steam line let go and crashed across the galley - luckily no one was hurt. During this, I was working in the Cox'n's office - and each day I would put out Routine Orders. I had my chair lashed to the bulkheads so it would not move and I could type. At one point I decided to go down to the Chief's and PO's cafeteria and get a coffee. I closed the door to the office and when I came back a few minutes later, I could not get back in. The door was jammed. It took some work (and a few rolls of the ship to loosen things up) and I finally got back in. The "Captain's Table" - the podium used for defaulters, which had been lashed in the trunking above my chair in the Cox'n's office had broke loose and crash down on the back of my then vacant chair. Had I not gone for the coffee when I did, it would have come down on my head. From that day forth I have believed in the health benefits of drinking coffee.
REMEMBERING JOE URIE, LSBN - submitted by Gord Senebald
HMCS Provider - This is what they thought happened after the inquiry in Joe's death was completed. Quitting time came along and we still had a forklift on the upper deck. Joe told all us young ODs and ABs to go below and shower and get ready to go to the Seaway Tavern (one of our favorite places to imbibe). Anyway, there was a 2 ton hatch cover amidships that housed a cargo elevator which we used to store most of the ship's non perishables in the decks below. They figured Joe opened that hatch and brought the elevator up to upper deck, put the forklift on the lift and proceeded to the lower decks to stow the elevator. When the lift gets down to a certain position it trips a switch that lowers the hatch cover and you can dog the hatch that would make it flush with deck. They figure that when Joe took the lift down, the hatch didn't come down all the way and stayed open about 2 feet. It appears Joe stood on the forklift and tried to crawl between the door and the deck instead of taking the long way around through the ship. The hatch closed, cutting Joe in half. We tried to rescue him but there was no hope. We were in the Halifax dry dock at the time. This is the saddest days of my 5 year term. That was over 50 years ago and I'll never forget that day. I think about Joe every day.
GOING ASHORE, D-DAY PLUS 7 - submitted by Mike Briggs-Lawrance (son of Graham Henry Briggs-Lawrance)
HMCS Georgian J144 - My dad used to tell us an interesting story (he has passed), at approximately D Day plus 7 a number of the officers went ashore to Omaha Beach where they had provided supporting fire. They went to check accuracy, and during exploring some of the bunkers they found a supply of standard issue German infantry mauser rifles. In addition, there was a great deal of ammunition, and to their shock they found that while the casings were metal, the bullets were wooden! Explanation from intelligence was that Germany was running out of metal, and that at the muzzle velocity of a mauser, hitting a man may not kill him, but would certainly disable him.
SURRENDER OF U-190 TO HMCS THORLOCK - by James D. Haigh, CPO ERA 3c submitted by Maureen Ellison
HMCS Thorlock K394 - The German submarine, U-190, had signalled its position to RCN Shore Authorities in Newfoundland. Just before noon on May 11, 1945, the frigate HMCS Victoriaville and the corvette HMCS Thorlock received orders to detach from our convoy (ON 300) and proceed to the given position to search for and accept the surrender of the U-190.
Aboard the Thorlock we prepared for the possible capture of the sub. The stokers’ mess was cleared for prisoners, a boarding party was organized, and an armed upper deck party was detailed to cover the sub’s deck and receive prisoners. Being faster, Victoriaville drew away from us and was out of sight when Emile Houde, a stoker on our corvette, saw the riding lights of the sub at 1957 hours. A signal was sent to the Victoriaville and we approached the U-190, illuminating their deck with our searchlight at 2017 hours. Our guns were trained on her as our boarding party of 11 men boarded the sub without meeting any resistance. The Commander of the U-190 surrendered at 2033 hours, May 11, 1945, to Lieut. R. O. Blachford, Exec. Officer, HMCS Thorlock. (note: James Haigh was part of the armed group which covered the U-boat's deck from the bow of the Thorlock during the boarding)
At 2059 hours radar reported contact 020 range 15,000 yards, as Victoriaville soon arrived on the scene and the transfer of prisoners began. Thorlock had approximately five German officers and 20-25 ratings on board from the sub. The original boarding party was augmented by three officers and 10 ratings from Victoriaville as nine German engine room ratings, three seamen and the sub’s Engineering Officer were left aboard U-190 to operate the sub. We then got under way with Lieut. Blachford in command of the submarine.
Aboard our ship, excitement ran high as we confined the German crew to the stokers’ mess and their officers to the quarters of our officers. The next morning we were ordered to transfer the German officers to Victoriaville. The Germans were ordered to step across from Thorlock’s forecastle to that of Victoriaville while the ships were under way at 5 knots. The transfer scared us, to say nothing of how the Germans felt, because the sea was fairly rough. Fortunately, the only damage was to our starboard Carley float which was crushed against the side of the Victoriaville.
The trip to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland was routine. We traded old sea boots, streetcar tickets, pictures and coins to the Germans for German money, buttons, badges, etc. The Germans were very seasick at first, however were appreciative of hot water, which was not available aboard the submarine.
As we entered Bay Bulls at 0600 we were met by two Fairmiles carrying Captain (D) and loaded with a naval shore party. They provided an additional escort as the U-190 was moored alongside the jetty. Thorlock tied up beside HMCS Prestonian and disembarked the prisoners in the care of the Naval Guard. The U-Boat was turned over to Lieut. Jack Sweeney’s shore party as Captain (D) took over command of the U-190 from Lieut. R.O. Blachford.
When our boarding party returned, our ship left Bay Bulls to rejoin our escort group in St. John’s. The Victoriaville had gone ahead of us and we reached St John’s later that day to read in the papers that Victoriaville had received the lion’s share of the credit for the U-boat surrender. Those of our crew who got leave that night got into some scraps ashore as they told our version of events.
The following morning, our ship was under guard as the ship was searched for souvenirs such as the U-boat’s battle flag and firearms, however nothing was found. Further shore leave was cancelled and we went back to sea to escort the last convoy to the United Kingdom, finally getting a chance in Londonderry to celebrate the end of the war and the surrender of the U-190 to HMCS Thorlock.
REMEMBRANCE - submitted by Fraser McKee, Cdr, RCN(R)
Remembrance Day Evokes Thoughts Of A Life Lost In One Blinding Flash On A Dark Sea
HMCS Vison, HMCS Shawinigan - On Remembrance Day or, for a naval veteran, Battle of the Atlantic Sunday in May, I am called upon to recall those fellow Canadians who gave their lives for us. At naval events the ships that were lost are frequently read out, but I have this vaguely detached feeling. I was never in a ship that was torpedoed, or even at risk, as far as I know. Nor did I serve in a ship and get to know her and her idiosyncrasies—one I could call “my ship”—that was subsequently lost. Assuredly, I appreciate the price paid, in lives, in ships, in aircraft, during the struggles. After all, we were in the same service, faced potentially the same dangers. But to some extent it’s a bit distant. It doesn’t affect me on a personal level, in my heart or gut. And this is probably true enough for many Canadians unless a family member was lost.
Then I remember one person, a young man about five years older than myself, with whom I spent a quiet but memorable afternoon 62 years ago. Nine months later he lost his life in the sinking of His Majesty’s Canadian Ship Shawinigan. Sub-Lieutenant Donald French was with me on board the armed yacht HMCS Vison. That’s who I remember on these occasions. memoir-remembrance.
In February 1944, Vison was at sea in the Bay of Fundy with a class of anti-submarine students, hunting a tame loaned-in Dutch submarine as part of their training. While it was cold, just above freezing, it was a lovely, clear, mostly calm afternoon. The drill was that the sub would submerge, then alter course. The class on the asdic equipment was in a small hut on top of the ship’s bridge, with concealing curtains drawn around its windows (not portholes! This was an ex-civilian 135-foot motor yacht!). They would try and locate the sub and set up a theoretical attack. The sub towed a “buff,” a small buoy, so we didn’t run into her. The exercise was without any kind of danger.
I was an ordinary seaman helmsman, about to turn 19. Don French, the officer of the watch, was 24. In a small ship like Vison we were alone on the bridge. The trainees above us simply passed orders for courses and speed down a voicepipe to the officer of the watch and he directed me what to do. Being both Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve members, and both from Ontario—Don from London, me from Toronto—and with similar civilian upbringing and schools, we chatted casually about our lives as we went about our uncomplicated tasks. No big deal, not memorable at the time. Just two sailors enjoying the pleasant afternoon. But in retrospect, a fond memory.
A few months later, Don, now an acting lieutenant, was appointed to the corvette Shawinigan of the Western Local Escort Force, patrolling and on convoy escort around Cape Breton. I went for a commission and after a brief familiarization month in the Reserve Division in Charlottetown began my sub’s courses. Then in November 1944, we were all shocked to hear Shawinigan had been torpedoed while travelling between Sydney, N.S., and Port aux Basques, N.L. There were no survivors. The U-boat—U-1228—had been sent into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but was having snorkel problems that her commanding officer was unable to repair. Without it in those restricted waters, he resolved to return to Germany for repairs, and on the dark night by sheer chance encountered Shawinigan heading back to Sydney alone. He sank the corvette with a single acoustic torpedo. All 91 aboard were lost, before even the briefest message could be sent.
Then, and since, I remember that quiet, pleasant afternoon I spent with Don French in the small wheelhouse of Vison. Now he’d have no future, no return to the University of Western Ontario, no marriage to his fiancée Marion back in London. No life at all. His parents, William and Lily French, desolated at the loss of their son, with only his sister Frances left to them. I went on to serve for 32 years in the reserves, had jobs, a family, homes. But Don’s whole future, whatever it could have been, was lost in one blinding flash during a dark night at sea.
And that is what I remember. Not a distant thought of people I never knew, ships in which I’d never served. But a nice guy with whom I spent but an afternoon all those years ago.
Left: Armed Yacht, HMCS VISON was a former civilian motor yacht. Right: Corvette HMCS SHAWINIGAN lost in the Cabot Strait 25 Nov 1944
HOW TO LOSE TRACK OF AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER - Submitted by Richard Larcheveque
HMCS Skeena - During a surface operations exercise in the North Atlantic we were tasked with shadowing HMS Ark Royal (R09) Task Force. I was a Signalman in those days and prior to go on watch (Last Dog 18:00 - 20:00 hrs) I decided to go up to the flag deck early enough to watch Ark Royal launching its F4G Phantoms and Buccaneers. We were approximately 4NM on Ark Royal starboard side and I had a great view of the ongoing flying operations with help of binoculars. We were also blessed with a very nice and sunny day. At times we got kind of too close to the Ark Royal that she warned us via flashing light to maintain a safer distance. We were standing 1 in 3 and my next watch was the morning watch (04:00 - 08:00 hrs). Around 03:30 hrs I went to the main cafeteria got myself a cup of java and proceeded to the bridge. It happened to be a moonless night and you couldn't see more than a few feet around on the flag deck. I asked the guy I was relieving if we were still shadowing the Carrier Task Force. His answer was "yes". I got a full turnover and the plotting sheet showed that the Ark Royal was on our port side at 6NM. We were to maintain position and we were also still under radio silence. Once the turnover was completed I sat down and got on with business. After a while, I decided to get up to stretch my legs and looked out through the window and noticed something not quite correct. Indeed, I could see navigations lights but not those associated with an aircraft carrier. I grabbed the binoculars and I couldn't see anything other than a single masthead, stern light and starboard navigation light. There were no visual signs of flight deck operations. The FLEX indicated that Ark Royal was to conduct night operations and safe distances applied. I had operated with carriers in the past and those ships are easy to distinguish from other surface combatants at night. I asked the watch officer to confirm that the Ark Royal was indeed on our port side at 6NM. He checked on the radar and said: "Affirmative". The watch officer was a competent officer and easy to work with. I told him that something didn't jibe. I stepped out to the flag deck and looked around to see if all the navigation lights corresponded with what I had on my plotting sheet and it did. I went back inside the bridge and told the watch officer that the contact on our port side didn't appear to be the Ark Royal. He grabbed his binoculars proceeded to the flag deck for a few moments came back in and said: "Gosh I think you're right!" He notified the Ops Room reported the discrepancy to see if they concur with the bridge. This is when the chaos started. The CO who had been in the Ops Room most of the night supervising barged into the bridge and questioned me and the watch officer about how we came up with such an erroneous observation. This guy had displayed an arrogant and abrasive personality from the time he took command of the ship. He was not a happy camper with me and the watch officer for sure. He didn't hesitate to let us know how he felt and even questioned our professional knowledge loud enough for all to hear. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for him the sun was soon to rise. As the sun rose the identity of the ship on our port side began to materialize. This ship was the fleet oil tanker RFA Olwen (A122) and the Ark Royal was nowhere to be seen. Somehow we had lost the Ark Royal and ended up chasing after the wrong ship for hours. I didn't know what caused this mess to happen nor did I care. But, I sure can tell you that I lost my faith in that CO that morning. Well, I guess this is the way things were in the Canadian Navy in those days.
MEMOIRS OF A BOY SEAMAN by John Clarke, CPO GI, BEM - Submitted by Eric Clarke
I was accepted into and joined the RCN on 1 March, 1937 at the age of 17 years and 4 months. Because I was under the age of 18 I was enlisted as a Boy Seaman and paid $.50 per day (for a 24 hour day). On entry we had to pass a written exam of English grammar and arithmetic. If we failed either we were not allowed to enlist and became rejects. Our exams were given by Mr. Hughes, the school master.
Once in we were issued uniforms, hammocks and blankets and allocated our barracks block, D2 in HMCS Naden. Our initial training was six months of seamanship, field training, gun drill and boat work. Our instructors for field training and gunnery were two Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Gunner's Mates, CPO "Wiggy" Bennet and CPO "Jimmy" Green, both hard as nails and harsh disciplinarians.
For seamanship and boat work our instructors were Leading Seamen Bert Barker and Roy Bodger, they also acted as our "den mothers". I also forgot, our physical training instructor, Petty Officer Arnott and our torpedo instructor, CPO Cryderman.
Our day started at 6 am, wake up and wash, shave and make up hammocks until 6:30. From 6:30 to 7 am boat pulling in a 27 foot whaler or a 32 foot cutter, or physical training.
At 7 to 7:30 am breakfast and 7:30 to 8 clean quarters. At 8 am until noon either seamanship lectures or field training (parade ground bashing). At noon until 1 pm lunch, clean up dishes and relax.
From 1 pm to 4 pm more of the same; at 4 pm we had Evening Quarters when we were mustered in the parade ground inspected and then dismissed to await supper at 5 pm, then more clean up. Our hammocks had to be up and ready by 7 pm and at 9 pm "lights out".
After about two months our field training was increased to include rifle drill and bayonet fighting. Also we were introduced to gunnery practice 6" and 4" gun drill.
I forgot, each day at 9 am we "fell in" on the parade ground for morning divisions and "colours". During which the White Ensign was hoisted to the yard arm with appropriate bugle call and salute by the colour guard with rifles and fixed bayonets - very impressive!!
Of my salary of $.50 a day, $15 a month I was only allowed to keep $5, the other $10 had to be sent to my parents monthly or banked for me by the Navy.
We were not allowed leave except on Wednesday from 1 pm to 7 pm and on Saturday from noon to midnight. Once a month were allowed overnight leave but only if we had parents living in Victoria.
On completion of 6 months training and passing all exams were drafted to either HMCS Skeena or HMCS Fraser for sea duty. These two destroyers consisted of the bulk of the West Coast navy plus a couple of minesweepers.
I joined HMCS Skeena in September 1937 and shortly after set sail on Northern Cruise from Esquimalt to Powell River, Ocean Falls and Skidegate in Queen Charlotte Islands, (now Haida Gwaii). The trip through the Inside Passage was easy - calm water, sunshine, etc. but the trip to Skidegate was rough - heavy seas, fog, and rain. I was very seasick - at that stage not a very good sailor and completely useless!
We also sailed between Graham and Moresby Islands and anchored near Queen Charlotte City which turned out to be nothing but a few native Indian huts. I had a chance to buy some beautifully carved argillite boxes and totem poles for tins of cigarettes (my cost $.20) but felt the cigarettes were of more value to me! Fool that I was - today the argillite carvings would be worth hundreds of dollars.
After Queen Charlotte City we steamed down the west coast of Vancouver Island in very heavy seas and fog. The seas were so large that the ship sagged in the middle which tightened the wire between the funnels and used to sound the siren. Naturally each time the ship sagged on one of the huge waves the siren sounded. This went on for over 24 hours while I brought up everything I had eaten! The old salts said that you were OK 'til you felt hair in your mouth then you knew that you had brought up your rectum!
After our arrival in Esquimalt we spent a few days cleaning ship then off to Nanoose Bay for night gunnery exercises (4.7" full charge firings) and daytime depth charge and torpedo firing. Because money was tight we were allowed to fire only one live depth charge and two cement filled torpedoes.
The torpedoes had practice heads which caused the torpedo to come to the surface and give off smoke to enable recovery. Following our exercises at Nanoose, back to Esquimalt to make ready for the Southern Cruise in January. Our skipper was Commander "Scotty" Brodeur (a French Canadian), our first Lieutenant was Lt. Cdr. W.B. Holmes, a sadistic SOB who during WW2 as Captain of HMCS Iroquis had a mutiny and was relieved of command. We also had Torpedo Officer, Lt. H. Rayner who later became an Admiral and ended his career as Chief of Naval Service. He resigned during the Paul Hellyer Unification shambles.
In January 1938 we (Skeena and Fraser) set off on the Southern Cruise joining HMCS Saguenay and HMCS St. Laurent from Halifax. We sailed down the West Coast stopping at San Pedro, San Diego, Panama, Nicaragua, crossed the Equator on 4 February 1938 on route to the Galapagos Islands thereby becoming a "shellback". Leaving the Galapagos Islands the 4 Canadian destroyers proceeded to Callao, the seaport for Lima Peru.
While in Callao Peru some of us were sponsored by the English community in Lima to a trip by train up from Lima to Rosario in the Andes Mountains. The railroad ran parallel to the Rio Blanco River over suspension bridges with drops of hundreds of feet.
The journey through the Andes to Rosario lasted about 4 hours. A keg of beer had thoughtfully been provided but unfortunately because of the altitude we could not get it out of the keg - we drank it when we got back to Lima. We were in Callao/Lima for 4 or 5 days then up anchor and steamed back north for home with stops at Paita and Talara, Peru, Panama, San Diego, Vancouver and finally Esquimalt. We had been cruising for 3 months and arrival at our home port was welcome.
In Esquimalt the crew of Skeena was exchanged with that of St. Laurent so the East Coast destroyers were Skeena and Saguenay (same class of ship) and the West Coast destroyers became HMCS Fraser and HMCS St. Laurent (also same class of ship).
In 1938 it was fairly obvious that there would be war with Germany and new destroyers HMCS Ottawa, HMCS Restigouche and HMCS Assiniboine were being acquired from Great Britain.
Training was increased and more new entries to the Navy were authorized. To accommodate the sea training many of us left our ships and became land lubbers in HMCS Naden while new entries took our places in HMCS Fraser and HMCS St. Laurent.
HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth paid a state visit to Victoria in early 1939 and I was a member of the Royal Guard of 100 men! The presentation of the King's Colours was held in Beacon Hill Park following which we marched back to Naden through the streets of Victoria with colours flying and bayonets fixed.
Shortly after the Royal visit I was selected to go to England for advanced Gunnery Training in HMS Excellent in Portsmouth. The Gunnery School was known as Whale Island and was reputed to be the "hot bed of British Naval discipline" - it was!
My gunnery course started in June 1939 and was to be completed in September. On September 3rd war with Germany was declared. My first war time duty was in HMS Wishart commanded by Commander Louis Mountbatten escorting British troops across the English Channel to France.
Later I also served as a member of the Royal Guard to greet the Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson (his wife) back to England from France. Canada meanwhile had acquired a new destroyer, HMS Kempenfelt (renamed HMCS Assinibone) and our Gunnery School classes were drafted to her to bring her back to Canada. One of our first tasks on joining was to load boxes of gold bullion from the Bank of England for transfer for safe keeping to Canada. The skipper of Assiniboine was Commander Rollo Mainguy (later also an Admiral), the first Lieutenant was Lt. Commander Jimmy Hibbert. We sailed from Plymouth and ran into a horrendous North Atlantic storm. A British battleship, the Royal Sovereign came into port with her steel guardrails bent and small boats smashed. At the height of the storm we made just over 70 miles in a full day of steaming.
Our mess decks were flooded and hot food was impossible. All our cups, saucers and plates had been smashed so life was no picnic. To add to our discomfort there was no heat in the ship, it was winter, and we lived in soaking wet clothing. Eventually we did make it to Halifax where the gold was unloaded under armed guards and we settled down in the hope of rest.
Rest? If I remember we had one day in port then sailed to escort a convoy - the first of many. On return to Halifax most of us were drafted to other ships. I went as a Seaman Gunner, Able Seaman, to HMCS Ottawa. My friend Fred Potts when to HMCS Restigouche and we did not meet again 'til long after the war. We spent early 1940 escorting convoys from Halifax out beyond Newfoundland.
For most of the trips the weather was brutal and the ship became heavily coated with ice. I was a member of B gun crew while at sea in Defense Stations, 4 hours on and 4 hours off. During our time "on watch" we spent most of the four hours on huddled inside the gun shield in soaking wet clothing trying to keep warm and dreaming of return to Halifax and warmth.
Spring finally came and our trips became a little more pleasant. Our Captain, GC Jones, later Chief of Naval Staff in Ottawa left and was replaced by Lieutenant Commander Rollo Mainguy who brought Assiniboine back from England. He was a fine officer, thoughtful of his crew but firm in discipline.
Our first Lieutenant was Phil Haddon, an amiable drunk, our Gunnery Officer was Lt. M. Medland, and the Navigation Officer a Naval Reserve Officer, Lieutenant Gus Boulton and our Torpedo Officer was Gunner Mr. Budge who in post war years became an Admiral.
In April 1940 we sailed to escort another convoy and while steaming down the harbor we collided with a tug, the "Surf", that crossed our bows and stove them in and we had to be dry docked for repairs. During our time undergoing repair to the Ottawa, I passed professional examinations for Leading Seaman.
The exams included "Power of Command"; Seamanship, Boat work powered and under oars and sail; knots and splices; Naval history; and Signals (semaphore, Morse code and flags). I was promoted to Leading Seaman with good conduct badge (single strip).
My duties on board ship were changed. The Captain insisted that the four Quartermasters be Leading Seamen so that if they fouled up he could dis-rate them to Able Seaman, a loss of prestige and pay.
Each day two Quartermasters were on duty, 4 hours on and 4 hours off except for Dog Watch, 4 - 6 and 6 - 8, two hour shifts. In harbor the Quartermaster was responsible to the First Lieutenant and/or the Duty Officer to use the Bosn's pipe to pipe the ship routine, to keep gangway watch, to mark time of day by ringing the ship's bell and to take messages. At sea again we were 4 on 4 off etc. and were responsible to be helmsman, i.e. steer the ship as directed by the Officer of the Watch. In harbor our routine was day on and day off which suited me fine. At sea we went into 4 watches, obviously with no time off.
In the fall of 1940, HMCS Ottawa sailed for duty in England as she was short of convoy escorts. We ended up stationed at Greenock, down the River Clyde from Glasgow. We were part of an escort group of 2 Polish destroyers ORP Garland and ORP B?yskawica, two Australian destroyers, HMAS Napier and HMAS Nizam and HMCS Ottawa, the Canadian contribution.
The war in the Atlantic was heating up, German U Boats were aggressively attacking convoys, and Italy also joined in the battle on the side of Germany so we were constantly at sea escorting convoys.
On November 6th, 1940 we attacked and sank the Italian submarine Faa di Bruno 120 miles west of Ireland. Our convoys were under attack not only by submarine but also by German Focke Wolfe long range 4 engine bombers operating from captured French airfields, this plus terrific winter storms certainly made life interesting.
In port there was little rest as Germany was mounting air raids on British ports. During one heavy air raid an oil tanker was hit, set on fire and threatened to sink thereby blocking the River Clyde so HMCS Ottawa was dispatched to go alongside the ship and push it out of the channel all while the air raid was going full blast - scary!
The port city of Greenock was also heavily bombed and we had to help in firefighting. To increase the horror of war the German bombers had hit several of the whiskey distilleries - the barbarians!!
After one trip I was posted from the Ottawa to HMS Drake (Royal Navy barracks) in Plymouth for advanced gunnery training. Canada had acquired a building in Devonport and named it HMCS Niobe ( stone frigate) and it was to there I was sent to await the start of gunnery classes.
It was in April 1941 and I arrived in Plymouth/Devonport just in time to be caught in the Blitz of the city which was virtually destroyed by German air raids. We spent our nights firefighting under air attack and our days cleaning up the damage from the previous night's bombing. I was blown through the plate glass window of a shop on Tavistock Terrace by detonation of a near miss bomb but apart from some hearing loss suffered no damage.
One night I was posted to the lookout post on the roof of the two story building to spot and report location of falling incendiary and high explosive bombs, not a pleasant experience! The bomb damage to Devonport was so severe that HMCS Niobe was to be closed and all personnel returned to Canada. By then I had completed my gunnery course in HMCS Drake so off to London to Canada House for travel back to Halifax.
I returned to Halifax in SS Ascania in July 1941 and was not sent to sea but on another Gunnery Course (3 months) in HMCS Stadacona. On successful completion of the course I was drafted to HMCS Hamilton, an ex-US Navy 4 stack destroyer of 1917 vintage. My duty on board was as Gunners Mate. My actual rank, as I had been promoted to Acting Petty Officer was A/PO QR1. We were employed escorting convoys between Halifax, Boston and St. Johns, Newfoundland.
I served aboard her 'til August 1942 at which time I received a posting to HMCS Athabaskan, a Tribal Class destroyer being built in the United Kingdom. I received 30 days embarkation leave and was about halfway through when I received a call from another Petty Officer, also a QR1 who wanted to exchange places with me as he wanted to go back to his fiancée in England. I was quite happy to change places and stay in Canada with my wife.
I was lucky - his name was Latimer and he was killed, as I would have been, when a flying bomb struck Athabaskan on the port side, travelled through the ship and detonated outside the starboard side. This was my third lucky escape, first when I was nearly killed by a bomb during the Blitz of Plymouth; secondly when I took a boat way from HMCS Hamilton to pick up survivors while under submarine attack and finally when Athabaskan was hit. My Guardian Angel certainly looked after me!
I was sent to barracks in Halifax to train new entries after I had been confirmed as Petty Officer and changed into "square rig" uniform. Shortly thereafter I was again selected for gunnery course in HMCS Stadacona this time a six month course to get to the top of the heap - Gunners Mate. I started as an Able Seaman/Seaman Gunner 3, then Leading Seaman/Layer Rating 2, then Petty Officer/Quarters Rating 1 and finally if I passed, which I did, to Petty Officer Gunners Mate. I had entered the Navy in 1937 as a Boy Seaman and by 1943, 6 years later I was a Petty Officer Gunners Mate. I am certain that my rapid promotion was result of the war for in the peace time Navy promotion was very, very slow.
I was posted as a Staff Instructor in the new Gunnery School in HMCS Cornwallis at Digby, Nova Scotia near Annapolis.
Cornwallis was a vast training base, at one time it was believed to have in excess of 10,000 sailors and WRENS on the base.
In 1943 I was selected to go to the Air Force Station at Rockcliffe, Ottawa to learn aircraft recognition and return to Cornwallis Gunnery School to set up a similar training and ship recognition for the Royal Canadian Navy.
While at Rockcliffe I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer/Gunnery Instructor. I think my pay including marriage allowance was about $120.00 a month, a big jump from the $.50 a day when I joined!
It was fairly obvious in late 1944, early 1945 that the war was winding down. Training had slowed down and there were very few opportunities for sea duty so all our thoughts and planning was toward the war's end and peace. I had decided that on release I would apply for a job in the Federal Civil Service using my Veteran's Preference which meant that any job in Government went to a veteran provided they pass the entry exam.
In the New Year's King's Honour List of 1944 I was awarded the British Empire Medal for Meritorious Service and became entitled to use the letters BEM after my name - I never did!
In August 1945 the war with Japan ended and Germany surrendered in May 1945 so in September 1945 I left Cornwallis and headed for Victoria to become a "civvy".
My release date was October 10, 1945. I was given 30 days leave to get established. During this time I heard that jobs were becoming available in the HMC Dockyard Esquimalt so away I went to see what was happening. Fortunately when I went to the Dockyard Civilian Personnel Office I was told that I could be interviewed for a job in the Ammunition Depot at Colwood. I was interviewed by Lt. H.S. MacDougall who had also been a Gunners Mate. I was hired as an Ammunition Checker (AMW 3) at $.70 per hour. Later, as people retired, I competed for and won the position of Foreman of Stores.
The post war building boom in View Royal, opposite the Ammunition Depot caused the Federal Government some concern in light of the explosion of the Halifax Ammo Depot in 1945 and damage to civilian housing so the Government acquired Rocky Point in Metchosin and built a brand new Depot - the largest in the British Empire - at a cost of 5 million. It opened on 5 June 1955, included were 17 married quarters. In 1955 we moved from Colwood to Residence No 1 at Rocky Point and lived there until I retired in 1984.
Mr. H.S. MacDougall the Superintendent died of cancer in early 1956 and I was appointed as acting Superintendent until a new Superintendent, Mr. C.J. "Tony" Smith was appointed in 1957. I became the Armament Supply Officer, 2nd in command of the Depot. In 1973 Smith retired and I was made Superintendent and served as such until my retirement in June 1984.
Counting my Naval Service and service with the Department of National Defense I served for 48 years 4 months and 27 days and they told me the job was permanent!!! In 1977 I was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal for Meritorious Service.
SALVAGING THE SS IMPERIAL TRANSPORT - By Jack Tice, Lt, RCN. Submitted by Dave Chamberlain
HMCS Mayflower - It was a convoy (Convoy ON.77) - like hundreds of others. We aboard the HMCS Mayflower were westbound with 50-60 merchant ships of every nature. Our speed was officially 9 knots. We were making a good passage with remarkably good weather - for March. We were sliding down the great circle route with Newfie about 350 miles ahead and Cape Farewell - well astern. Mayflower was stationed on the port quarter by day and on a stern sweep by night. The Free French corvette Aconit shared the stern sweep with us.
During the 2nd Dog watch, we took up our position astern. It was at that time the Imperial Transport signalled that they were having engine trouble and they dropped out of position. By 2100 he was at least 4 miles astern of the convoy.
My watch was called 2330 (for the middle) and we gathered in the mess for the usual tea, bread and jam. Suddenly there was a thump! Thump! - torpedoes! We were on our way to action stations before the alarm bells rang. As I mounted the 4" gun deck there were two snowflakes streaking skyward. Our ship had made a 180 degree turn and we were heading back toward the tanker. We carried out an ASDIC sweep while the Aconite went in for survivors. The weather was still in our favour - calm seas - clear sky and no moon. We could actually read the name board on the Aconite as she came alongside to report that all survivors were recovered and there were no casualties.
Aconite proceeded to rejoin the convoy while we were instructed to stand by until daybreak and sink the derelict by gun fire. We gunners enjoyed the prospect of having a free and unlimited shoot.
At daybreak we circled the stricken ship several times. It was obvious that it had taken two hits on the port side. One hit before - and one hit aft of the bridge. Only the fact that it was westbound in ballast (empty) saved it from sinking immediately. No starboard tanks had ruptured. The bow was down and her foredeck was awash. The propeller was more than half out of the water. It had about a 20 degree list to port. Our skipper decided to put a boarding party over to assess the situation. The party consisted of 1 officer, 1 ERA, 1 Stoker, 1 signalman and five seamen.
We literally beached our seaboat on the foredeck and stepped aboard with dry footing. Within the hour the ERA figured we could counter flood (the starboard tanks) and trim the vessel from the port list. We began to open valves by hand on the starboard after tanks. In a matter of a few hours we had brought the bow up by 5-6 feet and settled the stern.
We had to get power to the pumping systems. This could not be done until we could start the main engine (diesel). Since it required 850 P.S.I. of air - to turn over the main engine we were in another fix. The big air cylinders were all flat. We had to fire up a small donkey boiler (in the engine room) to start the steam piston air pumps - to charge the air cylinders.
Lack of fuel - such as coal - we broke up anything that would burn. Chairs, benches, oars out of their remaining life boat and so on. We raided the crew's quarters and ransacked cabins for such items as drawers - which were a thin veneer and would make a good blaze. It was at this time that I came across 137 English pounds from one drawer (which translated to $608.00 Cdn.). Late in the afternoon the ERA had enough air built up to throw a charge into the main engine. This gave us auxiliary power to all the pumping systems. By midnight we were satisfied that we could get under way. All pumps worked on the port tanks to keep the flood level in check and the vessel was in good trim. We were drawing about 25' fore and aft. By the next morning (24 hrs. after boarding) we were cranked up to 11 knots and heading for Newfie.
We had to steer from the after steering position which was not aided by a steering engine (like no power steering). It was a large double wheel about 5' in diameter. It took 2 seamen to handle it. We stood 2 on and 2 off for the remaining time aboard. We took our course by hand signals from the bridge by day and by night we lined up the foremast and main on a given star. This proved awkward as the foremast had been damaged from the forward hit and it twisted out of line with the rise and fall of the ship in the seaway. Fortunately, the weather continued to hold in our favour.
During all this time the Mayflower was running around giving us a screen. There were dozens of signals back and forth between us and Mayflower. Our signalman (Bob Laceby) did not leave the tanker's bridge from the moment of boarding until we entered harbour. (5 days) Captain 'D' in Newfie was concerned about the Mayflower's fuel. They requested our position, course and speed in order to send a relief escort out to relieve the Mayflower. Our skipper proceeded to send in a position (about 25 miles off our true) and our course (about 2 degrees off our true) and our speed at 8 knots. (we were really doing 11 knots.). Since our reported track would require us to make landfall in about 48 hrs. at 8 knots. - it actually only took 32 hrs. at 11 knots.
Capt 'D' sent out a destroyer - who raced down the track we had given while we proceeded into Newfie - arriving a daybreak Apr.1/42. (50 years ago) The destroyer who had been thrashing about looking for us - was recalled. We were all very hungry and tired.
Additional data on Salvage, the HMCS Mayflower crew and life aboard the tanker.
Salvage: By the laws of the sea - any abandoned vessel can be claimed by the first person to step aboard. In this case, it was the R.C.N. The boarding party was legally able to claim any removable article, while the ship became the property of the R.C.N. The value of the ship in no way was reflected in the 'salvage' money. Everyone of the Mayflower crew was treated equally with the boarding party. (Except we were able to keep the things we claimed) The split was as follows - the captain received 100 shares - 1st Lieutenant - 75 shares and so on down the line to 5 shares for A.B. We had no ordinary seamen. Each share was worth $1.65 and I received my cheque for $8.25 in Nov. 1947! This made my 137 English pounds look very good in addition to a tea service. I lost the cream and sugar, which I had stuffed inside my windbreaker - as I left the ship - via Jacob's ladder in Newfie. They slipped out and now repose at the bottom of St. John's harbour. The boarding officer and signalman did very well. They acquired chronometers, sextant, binoculars, signal lamps and many other goodies from the officer's quarters. The ERA and Stoker gathered a small fortune in tools, drill press, grinders, safety lamp and all manner of engineering equipment. We seamen ravaged the crew's quarters, mess and galley and discovered several cases of Johnny Walkers Scotch. This was later divided among everyone.
Life on board - It seemed that we never slept. The adrenalin was running pretty high. We were standing watch on an exposed afterdeck - 2 on 2 off. In the off time we spent pillaging - eating and having a quick 40 winks. The main refrigerator and food stores had been flooded out so our diet consisted of powdered eggs, powdered milk, bread, jam and tea.
Boarding Party - Lt. H. Titus - R.C.N.V.R.; ERA Batchildor - R.C.N.R.; Stoker Harnish - R.C.N.R.; Signalman Bob Laceby - R.C.N.V.R. (later lost at sea); AB's - Tinker, Butland, Clark, McGinnis and Tice. Tinker, Butland, and Clark were former merchant seaman.
The Mayflower Crew - I have fond memories of this ship. It was my home for nearly 3 years. I joined as an A.B. and left as a Buffer. The crew was unique inasmuch as we had L/CDR Stephens R.C.N.R. 0.5.0. and Bar as skipper and two other R.C.N.R. officers. The Buffer was an ex-merchant seaman and so was the Cox'n. Several A.B.'s and Stokers and ERA'S were also ex-merchant. We didn't use the seamanship manual very often. It was done 'their' way. Stephens was promoted to CDR and later drove the St. Laurent. He is written up in 'Far Distant Ships' for one of his many outstanding feats. Lt. Titus was the biggest man in the RCN. At 6'7" and 275 lbs. we naturally nicknamed him 'Tiny'.
Click on the thumbnails to view a larger image
(1) SS Imperial Transport 25 Mar 1942 - 2 days before being torpedoed.
(2 & 3) SS Imperial Transport after being torpedoed (4) The silver teapot salvaged by AB Tice, RCN
Who was Stoker Leyland? According to the government records, Stoker Leyland was HMCS Owen Sound's only casualty of World War II. Born on 16 Feb 1922 he was the son of Mrs. May Leyland of Vancouver, BC. Ernest joined the RCNVR on 18 Aug 1942 and went on active service on 16 Jun 1943. He died in hospital in Londonderry, Northern Ireland from peritonitis on 25 Aug 1944 and was buried in the Londonderry City Cemetery, C. of E. Plot, Sect F, Grave 43. This information is from the book "Ultimate Sacrifice" Vol 3, Part 2, by Robert P. D'Aoust
Is that it? Is this his story? A young sailor who died in hospital during the war - away from family - to be forgotten over time. Until I received an email from Alison Allen, that is what I would have thought. Her grandmother and great-grandmother both knew Stoker Ernest Albert Leyland and this is their story.
"My mother's uncle, William (Billy) Reid, had stomach problems all his life and was not ever fit all through life but had been taken on by the Derry Fire Service during war time because he had to ‘do his bit’. He was already in the hospital terminally ill when a young military man was brought in. The story we knew was that he was desperately ill, we thought wounded. My mum told me some years ago that this young man and William, known as Billy, hit it off straight away and that both were good singers apparently singing ‘you'll never walk alone’ the night before they both died. Over the years the name, country and date of death was lost to us younger ones and I knew that my family really wanted to find that out and remember both boys. My granny could never listen to the song, ever again. However, when I decided we needed to find out who this person was I had a couple of years searching. Through those searches ref Derry graves I found William and then looked for a war grave of someone dying the same day. I found Stoker Leyland of the Owen Sound. I know my great gran wrote to his mother and ensured he was buried and the grave cared for and I knew that she ensured he was buried where she could care for the grave.
My great granny and gran would have known how his mother felt, dying so far from home but he was not on his own they made sure of that. Through a veterans magazine I put an ad in to see if anyone recalled him, thought it was a long shot after so long. I was contacted by a wonderful lady who told me her friend had seen my ad. The PO Stoker who made contact is Hugh Main, he was Stoker Leyland’s boss on the Owen Sound and told me of being in an Atlantic convoy, I guess early Aug 1944. Stoker Leyland had peritonitis and as they could not leave the convoy it took around five days to get him to Derry. He must have been put in the bed next to my great uncle who was being nursed by my great gran Charlotte Reid and her daughter my granny (who is standing) Evelyn Moss, nee Reid. This photo was a very sad one, taken following the Irish tradition when in mourning, just after the death of Billy Reid. A search was carried out for Stoker Leyland’s family but it has not been successful sadly. I would love to know if my great gran’s letters are still with someone and let them know that their loved one is still in at least one family’s thoughts.
When I learned Stoker Leyland’s full name I think I knew why perhaps there was an immediate connection in the hospital.
In Feb 1943 Charlotte lost her older son when he took a patrol out in the Medjez el Bab region of Tunisia, he was a Sergeant in the Inniskilling Fusiliers, name of Ernest Albert Reid, same two names as Stoker Leyland. Yesterday, just, I discovered more about him by chance and it just hit me at the coincidence I read. He had been on patrol with a Canadian Lt Curphey who was taken prisoner and died later. I guess they were hit by machine gun fire. It was a relief in a way because we never knew how Ernie had died and it has confirmed he was not blown to bits. My grandfather Moss was also fighting in Medjez el Bab and a despatch rider and when he learned of Ernie’s death he tried to find out what had happened. He had witnessed the battle and come to the conclusion of being blown up. Whilst the Reids wrote to Mr. Churchill and had a response it was never established what happened. All these years on and there is available information, so sad they have all passed and didn’t know. But he is at peace in the grave over there.
Interestingly, both Curphey and Leyland are mentioned in the Lethbridge Herald newspaper of that time. I thought it a coincidence both Reids were in the company of well-respected Canadians when they passed - who appear to be from a similar area (newspaper wise maybe).
They were wonderful, kind ladies."
The photo to the right is of Alison Allen's grandmother and great-grandmother, Evelyn Moss (nee Reid) and Charlotte Reid, who cared for Stoker Ernest Albert Leyland in his final hours and ensured he was not forgotten.
If anyone has any further information or photos of Stoker Ernest Albert Leyland or contact information for someone from his family, they are requested to send me an EMAIL (Posted 17 Nov 2014)
MEMORIES OF MY TIME IN THE NAVY - By Ivan Chamberlain. Submitted by Dave Chamberlain
Written: 06 Dec 2000 - Times and dates may not be accurate but they are as I remember them and they will be close.
HMCS Lindsay, HMCS Swansea - I joined the naval reserve in May 1943 at H.M.C.S. STAR in Hamilton along with two other friends. They were Joe Valliere and Dick Purdy. Joe was drafted to Prince Rupert on the west coast after basic training in STAR and Dick joined what was called Combined Operations. I never saw Dick again until I got discharged but I met Joe on the street in Plymouth, England and we sat on the curb and cried. We were so glad to see each other, it overwhelmed us. We had hitch hiked a ride on the Queen Elizabeth Way which by the way, you cannot do these days and arrived at the Naval Base known as H.M.C.S. Star where we were given a medical examination. The medical officer in charge told me I had an enlarged heart and they said I could not join. About a month later, they called me on the phone and asked me to come in for another medical review and when this medical officer saw me, he said my heart was OK for the size of me and they allowed me to join. The building was an old vinegar works alongside the train tracks near the train station and close to James St. in Hamilton. It has since been torn down and replaced with a larger base with a drill hail on the waterfront. We did our basic training such as marching and rifle drill at the new facilities on the water front. While there, we were asked if anyone had experience with playing in a band. I, along with others, signified that we had been with various bands and we were asked to form a band so that the recruits had something to help them march and keep in step. I had played the base drum in the 2/10th Dragoons reserve army and was asked to take charge of the band. There were about 23 of us at the time and our instruments were borrowed from the local sea cadets. We would march up the streets to Dundurn Castle and practice all day there. It was a place we could play our instruments and march without disturbing anyone. That lasted about three months and finally my draft notice was posted and I left for the coast by railroad. We travelled in antique railroad cars with plush seats and no berths and very little food. We did stop in Montreal for a few hours where we were able to get food and drink. More of the latter than we needed. Some had to be carried back to the train and were put on report by the shore patrol. I was lucky not to be one of them because the penalty was a few days of what was called No.11. That was running (at the double) with a rifle over your head around the parade square until you either completed it or dropped with exhaustion. It was not fun and there were even worse penalties but I won't get into that. I might add that I joined the navy because I had been a sea cadet in our local corps and I always dreamed of going to sea. Even to this day, I think I made the best choice of all the services. I have never regretted being in the navy. That said, I was one of the lucky people who survived without a scratch because many of them did not.
My next posting was at H.M.C.S. CORNWALLIS where I took more basic training and a gunnery course. My course was about three weeks long and I had past it with 93% and was the top of the class. We had to disassemble and assemble our gun and also took aircraft recognition because I was going to be an anti-aircraft gunner on board a ship. On completion of my course I was drafted to H.M.C.S. LINDSAY. When I arrived at the ship, I could not believe my eyes. She was beautiful. She was all freshly painted in camouflage colours and she would be my home for the next year and a half. I was met by the gunnery officer, Sub/Lieut. Leonard Brockington. He showed me around the ship and to where I was going to sleep and eat, which was in the forward mess deck. I was introduced to the rest of the gunner's mess and told where to stow my gear and hammock.
After I settled in, I was taken up to the bridge where I was shown my gun position. The port bridge Oerlikon. It was right beside the door to the ASDIC (antisubmarine detection) shack, so that every time we went to action stations, I could hear the ASDIC pinging as we tracked something submerged. It could possibly be a school of fish or worse, a submarine. We did a number of workups around Halifax for a short while. We were mostly a green crew with no experience, but like fine wine, we improved with age. Work-ups are described as; testing of ship's operational performances. The Lindsay was an increased endurance class of corvette which simply meant that a water tank was replaced by a fuel tank. This was done in order that it could cross the ocean without refueling as most previous older corvettes could not. Her design was such that her bow had a sharper angle and flare. She was a completely different ship than the original short fo'c's'le corvettes and was the forerunner to the frigate which was originally called a twin screw corvette. Winston Churchill called our type of ships "Cheap & Nasty". They were a very seaworthy ship and someone described them as being able to roll on wet grass. In any event, my first trip across the ocean started from Halifax and ended up in Londonderry, Northern Ireland with a stop in St. John's, Newfoundland on the way.
I remember it like it was yesterday. We left Halifax in daylight and I was off duty at the time. We could still see the outline of Halifax in the distance when I started thinking about sea sickness. My stomach started to roll and I was determined not to be sick. The duty watch was on the upper decks painting and as I went out to get some fresh air, I decided to paint along with them to take my mind off my stomach. I think I painted most of the way to "Newfyjohn" but I overcame my sick feeling and have never been sea sick again in my life. You have never seen waves until you have sailed the North Atlantic. In a ship that was 206 feet long, 33 feet wide, a top speed of 16 knots and with a crew of 103 bodies, she would ride up and down those waves like a cork. You could not walk along the waist of the ship without holding on to the life line. The worst part for me was climbing up the rope ladder to the crow's nest. You could only go up one step at a time when the ship was perpendicular. The rest of the time you hung on for dear life. It was very scary. It was lucky that I only got that duty a few times. It was not too dangerous unless there was a heavy sea. There were many times when the ship was rolling that all you could see underneath you was water. In convoy work, you took up different stations around the convoy at eight hour intervals. You were always on the lookout for ships or submarines. During a convoy you would be assigned starboard or port sweep at night time and then move to stern sweep during the day. The senior officer's ship was usually a destroyer or a frigate leading the convoy. There would be three other corvettes, one on either side, and one astern. If you had a ship that had difficulty keeping up to the speed of the convoy, which was always the fastest speed of the slowest ship, you had to leave it to his own devices and hope for the best. Usually the speed of the convoy was about nine knots. There were some real old tubs out there as they used anything that could float. You hated to leave them but it had to be done for the sake of all the other ships.
Arriving in Londonderry, to me, was the most beautiful sight anyone could ever see. You had to wait at Moville at the mouth of the Foyle River to refuel and wait for high tide. While waiting, the bum boats (row boats) would come out from the Irish Free State, usually with a father and son in a boat loaded with Irish whiskey and silk stockings. The father would stay in the boat and send the young lad up onto the ship to barter and trade items. The young lads could sing like birds and would steal anything that was not nailed down. We would trade seven pound cans of corned beef from our survivor's rations for silk stockings or anything else we could give the ladies. As rationing was not in force in the Free State, they had these things that were not available because of the war. They always claimed that the Free State was refuelling German submarines but we never saw any.
When the tide was high, we would proceed up the Foyle River to Derry. You could see the river bottom through the brown water and it looked like we would scrape bottom, but we never did. As we passed the Wrens barracks, they would lean out the windows and wave bed sheets at us. Welcoming us to Derry we would give them a blast on our ship's siren in return. They could tell it was a Canadian ship by the maple leaf painted on the funnel. By this time, I had become good friends to Jim Coleman and Bob Leshien and when we returned home to Canada, I brought them home with me. I am still to this day, in touch with Jim who lives in Maple Ridge B.C. and Bob who lives in Kelowna B.C. I am also in touch with many other crew members or their widows as a result of holding a reunion in September 1990. While in port in Londonderry, the dock yard installed four more Oerlikons before we went to sea again. We had pre-invasion work-ups out at sea near Larne, although we had no idea at that time that an invasion was in the future. We fired at towed targets out at sea, had radar exercises, hedgehog shoots and night shoots with star shells, rockets and 20mm Oerlikons. These exercises were conducted in company with MTB's (motor torpedo boats) and other newly posted RCN corvettes like Alberni, Port Arthur and the Trentonian.
We sailed for Plymouth but had trouble entering port. We went to tie up but were sent out again because we were not in the rig of the day. We were in blue jeans as we attempted to tie up at the dock and Plymouth was a pusser (regulation) port. The British would not tolerate us colonials in other than proper rig. We didn't care what we looked like as long as we got the job done. Canadian ships tended to be more casual than the British.
Sailing back to Londonderry from Larne at 12 knots we were in line abreast with Port Arthur and the Trentonian, with Alberni as senior officer. The Lindsay was last in the column we were in a collision with a civilian fishing trawler named the ST Springwell. We hit the trawler amidships but the damage was not serious and the trawler was found in the wrong. We had a wrinkled bow and had it repaired in Falmouth on the South coast. We were then posted to Milford Haven, Wales which is one of the biggest natural harbours in the world. Later it was obvious that we were sent there along with the Kitchener, Ville de Quebec, Algoma, Regina, Trentonian, Moose Jaw, and the Louisburg (2nd) because of the build up of the invasion fleet from the Bristol Channel and the convoys that were to be part of the invasion.
On June 6/44 we departed the Bristol Channel. There were 19 Canadian corvettes involved in the Normandy invasion and we were one of them. Having received our orders from a Fairmile we sailed to join an escort group known as 138th. The senior officer of the group was a British destroyer called H.M.S. Watchman. So there was the Watchman, two trawlers, H.M.T. Scalpay and H.M.T. Ganilly, and the Lindsay. We were escorting a convoy consisting of nine merchant ships. Twelve miles southwest of St. Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight when at 17:55 hrs., a plane later found later to be a U.S. Thunderbolt, crashed in the English Channel about one mile off our port beam. We observed that the pilot had ejected and as we watched the pilot parachuted into the water. The order was given to launch our whaler (life boat). I don't remember if I was ordered into the boat but I ended up in the bow of the whaler. Lieut. Brockington our gunnery officer was in charge and as we approached the pilot, I could see that he was drowning. His face was under water. I had hold of the boat hook and extended it out the starboard side of the whaler in an attempt to catch hold of him. Just as I leaned over the side to grab him, a wave pushed him into the steel end of the boat hook. It hit him just below the left eye. I thought I had poked his eye out for sure but on getting him into the boat, we found this wasn't true. But I had hit him under the eye.
We found that he had only inflated one half of his life jacket and for some reason he had not inflated the other half. That is why he was submerged when we got to him. His life jacket had two separate sections and was inflated by two cylinders of compressed air but only one was pulled. We got him back aboard ship and into sick bay. He survived that incident. We learned that his fuel feed line had been severed in a dog fight and he was trying to make it back to England. Somehow in all this excitement his .45 automatic disappeared from his holster and it had been there when we picked him up. Captain Thomson learned of this and threatened a search of the ship. He gave instructions that the gun should be given back to the pilot and no questions would be asked. This was done and that was the end of that affair. The pilot was treated for shock and immersion by our sick bay tiffy and was later transferred to a U.S. hospital ship at Omaha Beach. He was U.S. Lieut. Robert M. Meade.
At 2:25 hrs. a star shell was observed bursting above another convoy close ahead and our crew saw two vessels burst into flames. After being illuminated by a starshell high intensity parachute flare from H.M.S. Watchman (our senior officer) two German E-Boats were sighted by the Lindsay heading North East and making smoke to cover their retreat. The E-Boats were the equivalent to our Motor Torpedo Boats and capable of very high speed. They preyed upon shipping using quick torpedo attacks. During this engagement we were illuminated by an American cruiser by mistake and we were caught out in the open like a sitting duck. The skipper ordered full ahead in an attempt to save the ship and crew when our ASDIC operators heard the sound of torpedoes coming at us. The skipper gave a "hard to port" order and as he did, I noticed the track of a torpedo come down the port side of the ship. I hollered at Rocky Leonzio who was my counterpart on the starboard Oerlikon and told him what I had seen. He replied that he had seen the same kind of track on his side. It appeared that the E-boat had fired two torpedoes at us and one went down either side of us. The torpedoes wake was observed by both Leonzio and I and was also witnessed by Gordon Wright, our signalman. The ASDIC operators reported the two torpedoes were clear of the ship and had passed astern. The 4 inch gun crew and bridge Oerlikons kept up firing until the E-boats were too far distant. They were laying a smoke screen and had disappeared from sight. Lindsay resumed her station with the convoy after successfully repelling the enemy in this one and a half hour engagement. We arrived safely at the Omaha beachhead at 9:16 hrs. As a result of his quick thinking in this engagement, Lieut. Thomson was awarded a "Mentioned in Dispatches" for his role during the Normandy invasion. The citation for the award read as follows: This officer has handled his ship with considerable skill and shown unlimited zeal throughout operation "Neptune". As second Senior Officer, he has shown intelligent anticipation of the requirements, particularly during action with the five E-Boats in the early morning of June 9th, 1944. The ASDIC Operator that night, L/Seaman Alec Cameron was also awarded with the same medal by the French Government for his role in this engagement. For the next two days the Lindsay lay anchored and provided anti-aircraft fire against enemy air raids on Omaha Beach. At one time engaging three enemy aircraft during a large enemy air attack.
On June 11/44 the Lindsay returned to Milford Haven, Wales with the 138th Escort Group as chaperone for convoy EBC 1. This convoy encountered poor weather but arrived safely in Milford Haven on June 14/44. However there was to be no break for the crew of the Lindsay. We immediately left port and headed back toward the French coast with convoy EBC 12. The escort duties continued until June 20/44 when they were allowed to pipe liberty. For four days the ship was re-supplied with fuel and ammunition and underwent engine repairs.
On July 5/44 while escorting a convoy in the English Channel, Lindsay had been doing the starboard sweep (right side) during the night between midnight and 0800 hrs. and switched places with H.M.T. Ganilly. We had no sooner made the switch and Ganilly was taking up our former position when she struck a mine and broke in half. (This was later determined to be a torpedo sinking by U390).The bow and stem came up. The bow slid under and the stem showed that the screw (propeller) was still turning. She was only 200 yards away from us. She sank in 30 seconds. The other trawler Scalpay picked up the captain and three others from the water. There were no other survivors.
Lindsay was a lucky lady once again on Aug. 8/44. She was assigned duty with a convoy EBC66 but because of engine trouble she was replaced by the corvette HMCS Regina who was also based in Milford Haven, Wales. On this escort, one of the merchant ships was torpedoed off Trevose Head, Cornwall. However she appeared to be salvageable, so the Regina ordered a U.S. tank landing craft to take the merchant crew aboard and to prepare to tow the wounded vessel. The Regina was standing guard over the situation when suddenly a U-boat's torpedo struck her a fatal blow. The Regina went up in a terrible explosion and sank in seconds. Only sixty-six survivors were rescued, 10 of them seriously wounded. This could have been the fate of the Lindsay if the exchange with the Regina had not taken place.
In September to December of 1944, we ran convoys to Omaha Beach and then started taking convoys to Cherbourg to support the capture of this French port. Following that we were transferred operationally to Plymouth command running convoys from English ports along the confined space of the English Channel. Manoeuvring in such a restricted area we were prone to having a collision with other ships (we could show no running lights). So the obvious happened. On Jan.22/45 at 06:45 hrs. we were lead ship in a convoy HX 331 when our radar operator reported a ship bearing down on us from dead ahead at 5000 yards. It was dark but a clear night. As the oncoming ship was closing rapidly the officer of the watch gave the "Full ahead' order to the engine room. As the oncoming ship was on our port bow, it was their duty to give way. At 1200 yards our radar was blind and too close to give an echo. Our officer of the watch switched on our running lights and the other ship did likewise, showing her starboard steaming light on Lindsay's port bow. As the oncoming ship was still rapidly closing, Lieut. Casement, our 1st. Lieut. or known as "Jimmy the One" ordered "Hard to Starboard" and "Full Ahead". This was considered to be the only suitable avoiding action that could be taken. The Royal Navy destroyer "H.M.S. Brilliant" was steaming at 24 knots and apparently her radar failed to detect us. Before the siren could be sounded, Brilliants port bow struck the Lindsay on the port side about the bridge. Because of the Brilliants size, being much larger and higher than our corvette, her anchor was about flush with our deck and she tore a big hole in our superstructure. It took guard rails, Carley floats and guns off our port side doing considerable damage. The Brilliant was not too severely damaged but we had a ruptured steam line and lost way until it could be repaired. We received an order to abandon ship from our Commanding Officer but before it could be carried out, he rescinded that order as it was found that we were not taking on any water. All this time I had been sleeping in my hammock below and when Brilliant struck us, all the lights down below went out except the red exit lights. As I scrambled out of my hammock and hit the deck, I could only see red from the lights and I thought we were on fire, but that wasn't the case. I put on my life jacket and headed for the escape hatch which led to the 4 inch gun deck. It was a round hatch and with my jacket on, I was a tight fit until somebody gave me a shove from below and I managed to get through the hatch. I was running around with bare feet and received cuts to the bottom of my feet from broken glass. At 07:52 hrs. the steam was raised on one boiler and we set a course for Plymouth at 8 knots escorted by the French frigate La Decouverte. However, Lindsay was ordered to proceed to Portland, arriving at 1200 hrs. Luckily there no casualties on either vessel.
Four days later the Lindsay carried on to Plymouth under escort of a coastal minesweeper called the U.S.S Conqueror. We were to undergo sufficient temporary repairs to enable us to sail to Canada where major repairs would be made. Fortunately for us this collision happened in the English Channel and not the middle of the Atlantic because it would be questionable whether we could have made it to port in her damaged condition. The inquiry by the Admiralty concluded that HMCS Lindsay was not in any way to blame for the collision. The officer of the watch on board the Brilliant was court martialled or demoted and lost his seniority. There was about $75000.00 damage to the Lindsay and it would take ten weeks to repair her. Only minimal repairs were done in England. On Feb.20/45, Lindsay steamed to Londonderry on her own. From there we escorted a convoy back to Canada and Lindsay was sent to St. John N.B. to dry dock. I came home on a forty two day survivor's leave after which I returned to my ship. When I got there, I was told I was drafted to an old air force base called the "Y Depot" in Halifax. I was no longer part of the crew of the Lindsay. As it turned out, Victory in Europe was coming very soon and while in camp, I met a chap from Thorold whom I knew. He worked in what was called the drafting regulating office. He asked me if I would like to go to the Caribbean. I said I would enjoy that but first I had to sign up to go to the Pacific theatre of war. I did that and in a couple of days I was sent to join the crew of H.M.C.S. Swansea. She was a frigate and about half again as large as the Lindsay. She had been refitted and had air conditioning installed on board. She also had twin barreled hydraulic 20 mm. Oerlikons. She was twin screwed as compared to the single screw Lindsay, and faster. But I don't remember by how much. She had more sea boats and even a captain's cutter which was motorized. I was put in charge of it. With my sea time, I was a senior rating as opposed to most of the crew who had never been to sea before. We went to Bermuda for evolutions (time trials) and the weather was beautiful. We travelled southerly from there and visited the island of Dominica where I remember a party being put on for the crew members at a plantation. They even had girls brought in from somewhere for dancing. We had a great time. From there we went to Port of Spain, Trinidad, where we were given shore leave. During our days there we had to paint a new camouflage scheme on the ship. It was so hot, the guys on the gang planks that were hung over the sides to stand on feigned passing out and fell into the nice warm water. The only problem was that the paint cans and brushes also went into the drink. We lost more paint than we put on the sides of the ship. We left Trinidad and were heading for the Panama Canal when V.J. Day was declared and the war with Japan was finished. The skipper piped "Splice the Main Brace" which meant everyone got a double tot of rum. That was fine until we realized we were going in circles out in the ocean. When someone went to check, they found out the helmsman had gone for his tot and nobody was at the wheel. There was hell to pay for that indiscretion. We were ordered to return to Halifax where we were sent back to our home bases to be discharged. I returned to Hamilton and HMCS Star where I turned in most of my equipment. At that point me and the navy parted company.
A lot of corvettes were decommissioned and taken out of service and scrapped but the Lindsay had a future ahead of her. She was purchased from War Assets Corporation by the Clark Steamship Co. in Montreal and converted to a package and passenger ship and renamed S.S.North Shore. She then ran the North shore of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Natashguan, Quebec. She later was purchased by the Typaldos Brothers of Greece and renamed Limnos. She ran between the outer Greek islands in the Mediterranean until 1972 when she was also scrapped. Swansea survived the war and due to the fact that she had been refitted with air conditioning for the Pacific theatre of war, she was used as a training ship by the navy.
Addendum: A case study of corvette operations in the English Channel during Operation "Neptune" from November 1943 to July 1945 and specifically H.M.C.S. Lindsay was authored by Wahly Leung. He was a young Chinese lad writing his thesis at Wilfrid Laurier University in l990. He contacted some of the available crew members to interview us. He and his family, who ran a restaurant in that town, live in Lindsay, Ontario and that is why he picked the "LINDSAY" for his topic.
RUSTYGUTS - Submitted by Bryan Watson
HMCS Restigouche - We were in Halifax Shipyards for Restigouche's IRE conversion and part of that was to acid wash the steam turbines to clean them, then afterwards they were supposed to be flushed out with salt water. After coming out of the shipyards, we were scheduled to go to sea within a few days and did sail but broke down in mid harbour. We sat alongside for a long period of time and when the turbine casings were opened they were a rusty clump. I am sure this is where she was tagged with the name "Rustyguts".
HANDS TO BREAKFAST - Submitted by Peter Magwood
HMCS Algonquin - The rock ‘n’ roll issuing from a tinny, little transistor radio in HMCS ALGONQUIN’s crowded, steamy galley took on new meaning one long-ago morning in the Pacific Ocean.
The creaky, old destroyer was making its way north to San Francisco, en route to Esquimalt, B.C., together with CRESCENT and COLUMBIA, when they ran into some weather in the early spring of 1967. ALGONQUIN, with its Second World War hull and 1950s prototype superstructure, was no stranger to heavy seas and the three destroyers shouldered the swells, causing seasoned and green sailors alike to roll with the well-known momentum, known as “sea legs,” that would accompany us ashore days or weeks later.
ALGONQUIN’s cooks were no exception to the heaving decks and they continued to prepare breakfast with animation and dexterity. Lined up outside the galley, we could hear the chief cook and his duty hands struggling with clattering pans, trays, plates and utensils, muttering and cursing behind the shuttered servery. And the little radio continued to serenade us with some “hit of the ‘60s.”
Suddenly, the shutter went up with a zip and bang and we were presented a theatre of cookery that would amaze Danny Kaye: cooks struggled to keep their balance, with one hand on a stack of melmac plates that threatened to leap onto the deck while the other tonged out eggs, bacon and sausage from the steam-table trays. Another, clearly more agile than the rest, had his hands and spatulas full trying to keep dozens of frying eggs, bacon slices and sausages from sliding off the hot, black grill into a huge, untidy omelet on the deck. The chief cook supervised and assisted, bracing himself into a corner of the steam table as the destroyer continued to roll.
It appeared the serving was going to continue without undue difficulty and, soon, it was my turn. I presented myself, complete with appetite and smile, to the server, anxious to dig into the RCN “scran.” I was hungry, just coming off the middle watch, and the steamy smells were mouth-watering.
Suddenly, the ship rolled to starboard (No, it wasn’t “hands to breakfast, starboard 30”). In an instant, the stacks of plates toppled to the deck in a welter of broken pastel plastic; the tidy parade state of eggs, bacon and sausage slid quickly off the grill, by divisions, in a smart seamanlike manner; the cooks lurched into the nearest immovable object and we all struggled to regain our footing. Those seated at the cafeteria tables leaned and gripped their plates and cups as the ship rolled back again.
The chief cook, clearly annoyed, sprang into action.
“Zip, bang, click.” Down came the servery shutter in a chorus of oaths and maledictions from cooks and crew alike. “Cereal and coffee in the corner; we need some help in here,” yelled the chief cook, as he and his crew knelt down to pick up the mess of broken plates, cutlery and the newly-created omelet on the deck.
Only half of us got a hot breakfast that morning and even today, an innocent bowl of corn flakes reminds me of that funny morning meal in ALGONQUIN’s cafeteria so many years ago. Otherwise, the food was generally very good during the 6,900-nautical-mile journey, from Halifax to Esquimalt, in February - April 1967
ALGONQUIN’S LAST HURRAH - submitted by Peter Magwood
HMCS Algonquin - The famous, old destroyer looked forlorn, with rust-streaked sides and upper decks in disarray, as she lay in the icy Dosco drydock in north-end Halifax that February weekend in 1967. With no one about, except a cold quartermaster and bosn’s mate at the gangway, HMCS ALGONQUIN was high and dry for repairs to her port quarter after a mishap in Halifax harbor earlier that year. A large chunk of her hull had been cut neatly away, top to bottom, by dockyard workers and plates welded into place to make the ship ready for a final transit to the West Coast in February - April 1967. I joined her on a Saturday morning and we were to leave at 8 a.m., Monday, Feb. 27, with the destroyer escorts CRESCENT (DDE 226) and the newer COLUMBIA (DDE 260) for a 6,900-nautical-mile cruise to what was planned to be a new training future -- and lease on life -- for the three ships. I was a 22-year-old boatswain on continuous naval duty from HMCS CARLETON, Ottawa, and had only seen the RCN’s publicity pictures of the famous warship. But I was fascinated by her prototype, pre-205-class superstructure which contrasted sharply with her Second World War hull, with a twin, 3-in. 50-cal. gun forward and an older twin, 4-in. mount and two, triple-barrelled anti-submarine mortars aft. And there she was, in the shipyard, a special ship, unique, perhaps not as graceful-looking as the “Cadillacs” of the day, but she exuded power and history. I was proud to switch my CARLETON cap talley to that of HMCS ALGONQUIN. Looking back, it was like becoming part of history. I had joined more than 600 officers and men who had embarked in ALGONQUIN, under LCdr L. A. Dzioba; CRESCENT, LCdr R. G. Guy, and COLUMBIA, Cdr. R. D. Okros, along with some 163 other reservists and sea cadets from across Canada. Early Monday morning, and out of drydock, we freed the frozen manilla hawsers from the jetty and turned to form up in Bedford Basin, COLUMBIA leading, to salute the flag of the Commander Maritime Command on our way down the harbor.
Small groups of family and friends braved the chilly February morning air to wave farewell from the vantage point of Jetty 5. At 11 a.m., we were on our way south, at the stately speed of four knots allowed in Halifax harbor, for the kinder, gentler climes of the West Coast. The dartboard planners at MarCom had scheduled stops for us at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Balboa, Canal Zone; Manzanillo, Mexico, for fuel, and San Francisco, Calif. But there was an unplanned three-day call at the U.S. naval base at Norfolk, Va., for emergency repairs to some of Dosco’s welding work.
HMCS ALGONQUIN’S NOR’EASTER - Winter is always hard on ships in the North Atlantic and our trip down the eastern seaboard was no exception. Two days out of Halifax, we ran into a nor’easter that saw ALGONQUIN plunging into troughs and knifing through seas in the way her hull was designed to, throwing sheets of spray over the superstructure and soaking anyone caught on the open bridge. The upper decks were out of bounds and weather jackets, mitts, seaboots and long underwear were the order of the day for the deck watches. This was my first, real North Atlantic storm and I remember getting drenched one middle watch on lookout on the bridge. Standing on the port side, unable to see past the eyes of the ship in the pitch-black night off Boston, a large sea whumped into the port side of the destroyer and I tumbled hard into the bridge’s starboard side as the ship rolled and slid alarmingly in that direction. That was my first experience, in the open, with a “rogue,” or out-of-phase wave and I will never forget that hilly, black North Atlantic seascape and the dull shock of ice-cold seawater that soaked my parka, face, trousers and boots.
The killick of my watch, LS Bill Big Canoe, a taciturn, three-badged Ojibwa from Brantford, Ont., took the storm in stride and he was a welcome sight the next night while I was on lifebuoy sentry (usually on the quarterdeck but because of the weather the post was moved to just aft of the 4-in. mount) when he provided me with a warm pair of lined hunter’s leather mittens. The relentless, pounding North Atlantic was taking a toll on ALGONQUIN’s recently-repaired port quarter. I was bunked on the starboard side of 10 mess, just above the screws, and the guys on the port side were commenting about how the bulkhead was flexing as the ship pitched and rolled.
It was not long before D/C parties had shored up part of the 10 mess bulkhead with 4 X 4 timbers and by the time we were off the state of Maryland, we had more than a few inches of cold seawater sloshing around the deck tiles and bootlockers. It was a struggle, before going on watch, to put boots on while lying in the bunk, then having to splash around the deck to finish getting dressed, hoping most of the water would stay on the port side for a few moments. This probably was as close to life on a Second World War corvette as I was going to get, I thought.
The damage to the hull worsened, apparently, and it was decided to divert to Norfolk for emergency repairs for three days. We were berthed outboard a large U.S. destroyer while the work was completed, underwater and in our mess, and I became chummy with the side-armed Americans on gangway duty during the middle and morning watches. The Vietnam war, comparative life in the USN and RCN and, of course, California’s “Flower Power” phenomenon, were hot topics of conversation between me and my American colleagues.
Our runs ashore consisted of trips to the EM Club in the huge base where American-style hamburgers and cold cans of Carling Black Label beer were consumed in quantity by crew from the three Canadian DDEs.
Repairs completed, we were at sea again and, before long, the sea changed from slate-grey to blue-grey then blue as the air and sea temperatures began to rise. Soon the blue weather jackets, with RCN stencilled in large white letters across the back, were being hung out to dry before being stowed for future use as we headed up the Pacific.
Our freshwater was rationed but, fortunately, Fort Lauderdale, with its crowded, white beaches, bars and abundant night life, was only days away.
It was sunny and hot the day we arrived and remained that way for our three-day port visit – a far cry from the cold, grey North Atlantic of a few days ago.
We berthed outboard of CRESCENT and as soon as part-ship hands were secured, we flocked to the coxswain’s office flats to look at routine orders. Duty first day in. Rats. Standing on the brow for four hours at a time, with no sunscreen, gave my neck and shoulders that familiar, red rectangle known to all who wore 2As in summer or down south, and I was in a whole lot of discomfort until the peeling set in a few days later.
FUNERAL AND FIRE - On the day of the funeral of the governor general, Georges Vanier, in Ottawa, we lowered the flag to half-mast and I made an entry in the gangway logbook to that effect. Moments later, a fire alarm rang out in CRESCENT followed by the heart-quickening “Emergency stations, emergency stations! Fire, fire, fire! Fire in the radio room!” The alarm was repeated on the ship’s upper-deck broadcast and controlled pandemonium broke out. Although the fire was brought under control quickly and without injury, it was a graphic reminder of the importance of those innumerable fire exercises held without fail at sea and in harbor.
Despite CRESCENT’s fire and our water rationing and lack of air conditioning, we had a pleasant stay in the tourist city and after four days were headed to the Panama Canal.
The sea and air temperatures rose as we steamed around the Bahamas, through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti and south past Jamaica towards the Canal Zone. The Caribbean days were constantly hot, bright and sunny and the nights, announced by spectacular sunsets, were of a black, starry quality I had never seen before.
The freshwater shortage became acute and every day at 4 p.m. we rigged fire hoses to receive 10 tons of fresh water from COLUMBIA. The chief ERA was puzzled at the loss of fresh water and tried to trace it with dye in the evaporator system. But the dye, injected at point A, did not emerge at point B and it wasn’t until a later investigation showed that an impeller, replaced backwards in the evap’s plumbing, was pumping the water overside.
Birdbaths were routine and every day, after topping up with freshwater, the pipe “hands to bathe” was made. The ship’s engines were stopped, the motor cutter was lowered with a crewman armed with a rifle as a dubious shark-protection measure, and we jumped or dove into the Caribbean from the low quarterdeck, usually while the ship still had way on.
We took about five days to cross the Caribbean and soon were at the northern entrance to the Panama Canal on a grey, overcast and very muggy March morning. The canal workers came aboard, with their trinkets and souvenirs, and did all the linehandling for us as we transited the huge locks and waterways, to emerge at the southern end of the canal, at Balboa - Panama City, about eight hours later. We stayed overnight at the U.S. naval facility and we were back at sea at 8 a.m. next day, heading north out of the Gulf of Panama to the Pacific Ocean and Manzanillo for fuel.
INTO THE PACIFIC We were joined by the destroyer escorts MACKENZIE and SASKATCHEWAN and the frigate BEACON HILL and the six ships made an impressive sight as we cleaved the blue-grey Pacific northwards to Mexico.
Six days later, we were alongside the fuelling jetty at Manzanillo, a well-known seaport with one ancient-looking Mexican gunboat that looked as if it had just emerged from the turn of the century. We topped up, slipped and were on our way to a gunnery shoot off the coast of California.
The day of the shoot, a few days out of Manzanillo, was windy, grey, wet and cool and I am sure the fates had tampered with the 3-in. 50-cal. mount. We banged off about two rounds before the gunners called it a day – a far cry from the old ship’s highly-accurate shore bombardment at Normandy 23 years before.
The sea and weather had turned noticeably cooler and the parkas reappeared as we made for San Francisco. We entered a dense fogbank outside the Golden Gate Bridge and a small flotilla of fishing vessels sailed past us as we steamed under the huge bridge. Moments later, the sun came out as part-ship hands were fallen in, wearing our No. 3 uniforms (“Dress for entering harbour: 3s”), and we neared the USN facility at Treasure Island.
Shore leave was granted and we all took advantage of the sights and fine night life of San Francisco of 1967. I wandered towards the Haight-Ashbury district to see the Flower Power people but I was not impressed with their scruffy appearance and, I am sure, they paid me little attention as I wandered about in uniform, cap and burberry.
I called my parents in Guelph, Ont., from a phone booth in downtown San Francisco to tell them where I was and that I was alright.
The day before we left was Sunday and we mustered for prayers on the jetty at 9 a.m. The navy blue congregation, from six HMC ships, must have numbered close to a 1,000 and the prayers and hymns that were offered up were powerful and moving. Indeed, I was thankful we had made it that far without major incident.
THE LAST RACE Soon, we were on our way again, on our final, four-day leg of the circumcontinental journey. The final parade, into Esquimalt harbor, was a day to be remembered.
The West Coast ships went ahead first and ALGONQUIN, CRESCENT and COLUMBIA, apparently not tired in the least after a 7,000-nautical-mile journey, gathered speed to race towards the harbor entrance with part-ship hands fallen in.
I was amazed, as a 22-year-old would be, at the intensely vibrating deckplates and the high rooster tail that whooshed above and away from our stern as we cranked on 31 knots, beating out the newer COLUMBIA and CRESCENT, to enter harbor for the last time as a commissioned ship.
Days and weeks later, the East Coast crew were drafted back to Nova Scotia; the West Coasters remained, reunited with family and friends, and I returned for six months of Centennial activities at CFB Cornwallis before returning to Ottawa and college.
On Sept. 23, 2001, I completed 30 years of regular and reserve service as a Lieutenant (N) in the Cadet Instructors’ Cadre. I was XO of 339 RCSCC IROQUOIS, Shearwater, N.S., for about two years but my fondest naval memories are as a young boatswain in the lower decks of such famous ships as ALGONQUIN and SWANSEA – the likes of which we shall never see again.
It was sad to learn that ALGONQUIN was paid off to the scrapyard and I still have pasted to the back of my framed ship’s portrait a clipping from Maritime Command (Pacific)’s Lookout, dated Thursday, May 13, 1971, entitled “Sayonara, Algonquin, Crescent.” The clipping’s yellowing photo shows the two DDEs being towed by “Daisy,” a Japanese deepsea tug, past H. M. Yacht BRITANNIA to a shipbreaking yard in Kaohsiung, Formosa. The last paragraph of the article says: “Now they are gone, and for those of us, who served on these forerunners of the 205 Class, in then unknown luxury, think it is a pitiful way for such ships to go.”
HMCS Algonquin departs Halifax
Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image
ALGONQUIN’S NAVIGATOR SPEAKS OUT Submitted by Peter Magwood
HMCS Algonquin - The dapper, distinguished-looking man, in his 80s, was the last to speak to a hushed, crowded room at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Monday, January 28, 2003, and he was unknown to many.
He was among an estimated 200 people who gathered at the museum on Water Street, Halifax, to hear journalist Stephen Kimber speak about his latest book, “Sailors, Slackers and Blind Pigs” (Anchor Canada edition, Random House of Canada Ltd. 2003. 342 pp.), a rich description of the VE-Day riots that rocked the Nova Scotia capital May 8 – 9, 1945.
Kimber had just given a one-hour presentation, complete with old National Film Board footage and black-and-white slides of wartime people, crowds and the damage of the end-of-war riots, and had opened the floor to questions. After about a half-hour of memories and queries, which ranged from an amusing anecdote of young, impecunious sailors assigned to guard the offloading of gold from a British battleship at Pier 21, to heartfelt pleas for people to record their families’ wartime memories, the crowd grew restive. It was 9:30 p.m., dark and cold outside, and after the obligatory book signings, we were thinking of getting the cars and trucks warmed up and on the way home.
But when this man stood to speak from the rear row, in a clear, confident and eloquent voice about his memories of May 1945, I turned to look at him and wonder which ship he was talking about. He spoke only for a minute but for me, they he had cast new light on the discipline and demeanour of the wartime ship’s company of HMCS Algonquin (R17).
“I wanted to add my few comments about our involvement on VE-Day in Halifax,” he began. “We were at D-Day, we spent countless months in the English Channel, we went to Russia and were across the North Atlantic countless times. After the war in Europe was over, we were told to get ready for the Pacific, which we did, and when we got to Halifax all the boys wanted was a drink – a cup of tea, a glass of milk, a ginger ale – and something to eat.
“But when we got ashore, everything was closed, including the restaurants, but there was a lot of beer and liquor flowing and a few (Algonquins) had some on an empty stomach. Well, you know that effect that would have.”
He did not identify the numbers involved but I chose to believe they were relatively few.
The speaker did not identify himself and as the crowd broke for home I went over to him, and inquired if he was talking about HMCS Algonquin. He said yes.
I thanked him and wandered away to get Mr. Kimber’s attention that, there, was a member of the ship’s company of one of Canada’s most famous wartime destroyers but he was busy autographing books.
I spotted this unknown man and his group again as the crowd began making its way out to Water Street and spoke again:
“Excuse me, sir, I just wanted you to know that Rear-Admiral Piers (Algonquin’s wartime captain) is one of my naval heroes,” I said, hoping he would identify himself.
“Really?” he replied with a smile. “I was his navigator.”
“You’re Steele; Commander Steele, I should say,” I replied.
“Yes, I am,” he responded, “and I see Admiral Piers every once in a while and, yes, he looks fine.” I told Cdr. Steele that I had served in Algonquin (DDE 224) in 1967, on her last trip from Halifax to Esquimalt. “She was a good ship,” he told me. I agreed, as a few scattered memories came to mind about my trip in Algonquin, 6,900 nautical miles form Halifax to Esquimalt, only a fraction of what the wartime destroyer would have steamed, and that my trip was exactly 36 years previously.
We shook hands and walked into the dark, starless night of the Halifax waterfront, cold and black as the North Atlantic in January. I was warmed by the thought, however, that I had just met the man who, equally and decisively, put HMCS Algonquin and her men in harm’s way – and brought them to safe haven again afterward. Godspeed, Commander Steele; it was a pleasure to have met you, sir.
Three outstanding naval officers, who served in Algonquin in 1944-45, live short distances from one another on the South Shore: They are: Rear Admiral Desmond Piers, captain, Chester; Commander L. B. Yenson, executive officer, and Lieutenant R./ M. Steele, Mahone Bay. All winners of the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC).
REMEMBERING MORELY HAYNES, Stoker 1c, RCNVR - Submitted by Dave MacLeod
HMCS Weyburn - Morley was a lodge-brother at Centennial Lodge in London, and in 1995 I was the Master. As that year marked the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II we held a special event, and I specifically asked Morley to speak about his experiences, which I will share with you now.
Morley joined the RCN in London, Ontario, and was on the original crew of the Weyburn when they picked the ship up in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay). He served with it in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in the Western Atlantic as part of the convoy escorts. He was serving on the HMCS Weyburn when it struck a German sea mine off of Gibraltar. Morley was initially un-injured in the first explosion that crippled and sank the ship, but was badly wounded when two of their own depth charges exploded as the wreckage of the Weyburn sank. As a result he was returned to the UK and then to Canada and released as a wounded veteran - all within approximately two years of joining up. He was 23 years old at the time.
Morley was told he wouldn't walk again - he said to heck with that, and learned to walk again. Then they told him he would always require a cane - he said to heck with that (and I'm not just being polite, Morley didn't swear, so "heck" would probably be about as strong as it got) and walked without a cane. He did have a bit of a limp.
A few years ago I happened to see a copy of the photo of the crew of HMCS Weyburn on e-Bay, which I bought for Morley, and my father and I spent a very good afternoon talking with him about his experiences. He was easy to recognize by his big bushy eyebrows and his smile - unchanged after all those years. Morley passed away in 2010 in his 90th year, and at his funeral the photo was proudly displayed. I will see if I can get a copy for you, I scanned it at the time but can't seem to locate it right now.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to know Morley Haynes, and a number of his comrades who served in the navy, in the air force, and in the army. We owe a great debt to them, and for their service I am forever grateful
(First posted: Sunday, June 01, 2014 04:10 PM EDT | Updated: Monday, June 02, 2014 08:01 AM EDT)
On June 6, 1944, Gene Weber was aboard the corvette HMS Louisburg, escorting one of Canada’s “Prince Ships” to a small beach near the Normandy village of Courseulles-sur-Mer.
The “Prince Ships” were three Canadian-National-Railway steamships converted to military use. The Prince David, Prince Henry and Prince Robert were all steaming toward Courseulles-sur-Mer that morning. Webber was helping to escort the David.
Four-hundred-and-eighteen Canadian soldiers were aboard the David and there are various ways to describe what happened when they reached Normandy. Various ways to remember what we have come to call D-Day.
Let’s start with straight statistics. Three-hundred-and-forty Canadian soldiers would die on what we now call Juno Beach. Another 574 would be wounded.
Juno Beach was the second deadliest of the five beaches the Allies would invade that morning. Only the Americans, on Omaha Beach, would pay a higher price.
“It was crazy, what was happening that day,” remembers Weber, who turns 88 this year. “There were all sort of mines in the water, and soldiers were jumping in to try and clear them.
“But what could you do with the mines? There are ships and troops everywhere. No place to throw them. So I watched soldiers hold those mines until they went off in their hands.”
He remembers that. Remembers it well. Even though it has been 70 years since he saw it happen.
I ask Weber what he remembers best about D-Day, and his answer is something an old sailor might give (Weber would serve in the Canadian Navy for 27 years.)
“The bow wake that day was nothing but bodies,” he says. “You couldn’t really see the water for all the bodies.”
I try to picture a thing like that. But I can’t. What happened on Juno Beach 70 years ago is almost unimaginable, even though in a few short years we will have no choice but to imagine it.
There will be no more witnesses.
Before that day happens, here is the rest of the story of Juno Beach.
Although the Third Canadian Infantry Division was the last to land on D-Day — and although it faced some of the fiercest fighting — by the end of the day the Canadians had advanced further inland than any other Allied division.
Military historians have wondered for years why the Canadians had more success than the Americans or the British and the only thing they have ever agreed upon is this:
The Canadians were damn ready to go that day.
They were well trained, determined and under good leadership. The same kind of soldiers the Germans had called “shock troops” in World War One because Canadians only arrived when an Allied offensive was about to begin.
Canadians were a sign of imminent attack. Vimy Ridge. Passchendaele. We went to places like that.
Historians have concluded there was success on Juno Beach — despite the late start, despite the fierce German opposition — for likely one reason only:
The soldiers were Canadians.
It is fair comment to say that. It is not Pollyanna patriotism. It is not the easy answer to a hard question.
Anyone who was there is a hero. That’s an overused word nowadays, so I want it clearly understood that the word has been carefully chosen and deliberately used.
That’s what Gene Weber is. Although he denies it. Just doing what thousands of others were doing that day. That’s the way he sees it.
Although he does agree with me about one thing. Juno Beach says something about Canada. About the kind of country we are.
He then tells me a quick story about Canada and D-Day, what both those things mean to him and how they came together on June 6, 1944. Came together to leave him forever aware of what we have shared as a country.
For on the Prince David that day, were soldiers from Le Regiment de la Chaudiere, an infantry reserve unit from Levis, Que. The Quebec soldiers were some of the first off the boat.
I’ll let Gene Weber finish this week’s column:
“I’m from Saskatchewan originally, so I knew nothing about Quebec. I was probably even a little anti-French, but that morning, when we pulled into Juno Beach, I saw French soldier after French soldier in the water.
“All of them were about my age. All of them were wearing an insignia from Quebec. All of them were dead.
“I’ve never been anti-Quebec since D-Day. I’ve loved every part of this country since D-Day. I hope we have a great future together. I think we’ve earned it.