Veteran Stories:
Ernest James Ferguson

Air Force

  • Ernest Ferguson, 1945.

    Ernest Ferguson
  • Fellow radar technicians share a lighter moment while stationed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

    Ernest Ferguson
  • Ernest Ferguson (center) and friends pose in front of their barracks on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

    Ernest Ferguson
  • Fellow radar technicians on the ferry to Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Ernest Ferguson
  • Ernest Ferguson (second from the left) and fellow radar technicians on Vancouver island, British Columbia.

    Ernest Ferguson
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"And I think there was [15] dead bodies in the boat. They all had died of hypothermia and there was one skinny 19-year old that lived I understand."

Transcript

The Ishihara chart is, it’s just a very thick book about the size of a Bible. And when you first joined up, they’d flip it open and they’d say, what do you see. Well, it’s all, like each page is like covered in fish scales, you know. That’s what it looks like - but if you stare at it awhile, all of a sudden you might see a six or an A or a B. Anyway, I couldn’t read this book very well and so they called me colour-blind and at that time, they wouldn’t allow me into an air crew so my second choice was the electronics business and so what we did at McGill University, we took electronics and that set us up for going to Clinton [Ontario]. And in Clinton, was a very high security place run by the RAF [Royal Air Force] and they would teach us all about, what they called then, RDF, Radio Direction and Finding. Well, we all graduated from Clinton and we were posted down to the Bay of Fundy where the convoys were assembled and so when we got to the embarkation place down there in the Bay of Fundy, it was empty. And oh, it was so slow that they were putting hooks in the ceilings and putting hammocks for the airmen to sleep in even. Well anyway, they called “Ferguson, out” and they shipped me to Vancouver Island, on Cape Scott. It was very very lonely; every day was exactly the same and I was there for a year or two, I don’t know exactly how long, it might have been two years. Once we had an easterly gale at Cape Scott. Now, an easterly gale was very very unusual and that was coming from the Rocky Mountains on the shore and no, you would say ninety-nine percent of the wind came from the west, over the Pacific. And this was an easterly gale. Anyway, [on January 16, 1943] we noticed the SS Northolm and we watched her coming up the coast to the shoreline. And then she came around the Cape Scott and went into the Queen Charlotte Sound and this is where the big big waves were, because there was an easterly gale. And she just went up and sunk and I think it was [15] lives were lost on that and of course, we were in communication with Command Post and so the air force knew that this ship went down instantly. They all got into a lifeboat and they all were saved as far as that was concerned but this easterly gale pushed them away out into the Pacific Ocean and there might have been 20 men on that boat. On the one I understand, they were blown away out in the Pacific and then the normal westerly winds came and pushed it into shore. And I think there was [15] dead bodies in the boat. They all had died of hypothermia and there was one skinny 19-year old that lived I understand.
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