"While we were on our way to Archangel, it was completely iced over and we got stuck in the ice until an icebreaker came. And I can tell you, it is very nerve wracking to be stuck in ice, knowing that the German aircraft might attack at any time."
I was always happy with the navy because what an opportunity to move around. I’ve always had a hankering for serving at sea. Okay, after I completed basic training, I was posted to Portsmouth. So I was awaiting out of Portsmouth. And my first transfer was to an ack-ack [anti-aircraft] ship, HMS Alynbank. I had very good eyesight, 20/20 in both eyes, and because of my eyesight, I was sent to Whale Island for naval gunnery training.
I was on small guns, not large guns, being a small man, I guess. I was on what they call pom-poms [Quick Firing 2-pounder guns] and Bofors [40 mm anti-aircraft cannon] and 0.5s [Vickers machine gun], small arms in the event of air attack. I did two convoys to Russia. I’ll speak of the first convoy which was made with no aircraft. We had lots of destroyers and escort vehicles. It was a fairly large convoy, probably about 25 to 30 merchant ships and we had nearly as many escort vessels. And we also had one ship, it was called the rescue ship and that followed us astern and tried to pick up as many survivors as they could after they were bombed.
We had one ammunition ship bombed. It went up like a firecracker. It heaved stuff onto ships nearby and injured some of the seamen when the stuff crashed down from the air. There was constant attacks, both by aircraft and submarines. We were under attack for five days and we used up all our ammunition practically, so they had to send a destroyer at high speed back to England to bring us some, renew our ammunition. When you’re at action stations [prepared for battle], of course, you’re at action stations sometimes for nearly 24 hours and it was gradually wearing us down. And my action station was on a 4-barrel pom-pom, as it was known in those days. And, as I said, we used up nearly all of our ammunition.
We were particularly attacked by dive bombers. We were very fortunate. We had a near miss about 100 yards away but other than that, we came through pretty good. But, unfortunately, or I should say, maybe fortunately, we didn’t go to Murmansk [Soviet Union]. We went into Archangel [Soviet Union]. While we were on our way to Archangel, it was completely iced over and we got stuck in the ice until an icebreaker came. And I can tell you, it is very nerve wracking to be stuck in ice, knowing that the German aircraft might attack at any time.
And eventually, I was, had a ship named HMS Ameer, which is a small escort carrier. I was assigned to this carrier and we had to go to Vancouver in Canada to pick up the ship. And we stayed out there in the Far East until the end of the war. And when the war ended, we loaded up with some aircraft that were left behind, different varying types of aircraft that were on the mainland and we took the ship back to England. And when we arrived in England, I intended to stay on the ship because she was being decommissioned in the Americas, so we picked up 450 GIs and took them back to Norfolk, Virginia. And while I was in Norfolk, Virginia, I asked the admiralty permission to go to Vancouver to get married. And that’s exactly what we did.
I went to Vancouver and my wife met me at the station. Well, she wasn’t my wife, it was my girlfriend at that time and we had been writing for 18 months while I was away in the Far East. Anyway, we got married. I was there, I saw her six times before we got married. But the letters must have stood in good stead. Then it became my turn to be discharged. I was discharged in Canada. And we’ve lived in Canada ever since.