Clarence Arsenault, circa 1943-1944.Clarence Arsenault
Crew of the HMCS Arrowhead.Clarence Arsenault
HMCS Meon.Clarence Arsenault
Clarence Arsenault, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, April 27, 2010.Historica Canada
"I think there was only six or eight ships and four of them just sunk just outside of the Halifax harbour for God’s sakes. They were blowing them up right there then."
I was on advance party on the HMCS Meon, an English frigate [formerly HMS Meon]. As time went on, the British seamen left and Canadians came onboard and we had eventually a full crew and we sailed.
Our first trip was actually from Halifax to Boston, to get a Canadian ship painted the Canadian colours. Had to go to the States to get the Canadian ship painted the Canadian colours. And in Boston. That was the first trip to Boston and then of course, after that, we started going back and forth, escorting convoys and a lot of our time was escorting convoys off the coast of France and waiting for the, the big day.
Being Navy, most of our scares were underwater, which we never did see. But every day or so, we’d get a warning, “action stations, action stations!” and you’d go and you can’t see a thing because it’s way down there. So you don’t know.
But there was one time there was Junkers 88s up there, dropping radio-controlled bombs at us. I’d seen a convoy leaving Halifax and it was just the start of a making up of a convoy, I think there was only six or eight ships and four of them just sunk just outside of the Halifax harbour for God’s sakes. They were blowing them up right there then. So you could see Halifax, you could see the, the roadway and the traffic.
The only time I ever really could think of [my] naval time is when I’m, oh, watching a show or something there’s a naval ship on or something. I could get interested in the thing but it doesn’t shake me up that much or anything. Although I have a tendency of crying but that goes with it. I never did get over it. Of course, I had a nervous breakdown over there in Ireland and I was sent to a rest camp for seven days back aboard ship and back to Canada and ended service unfit for naval duty.
I always did blame it on my age, leaving home at that age and going right over. And I just broke down, shaking. The experience of being aboard ship; and like you say, it was tense a lot of the times, it was “action stations, action stations” and … I don’t know anyway, the old nerves just went. But I came home and it was written on my discharge, this man is quite eligible for a war pension and I never got it for twenty-some years.