"...I was posted to DEMS, which is the Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships, and I was with them for about eighteen months."
My name is Bob Bracken, and I joined the Navy when I was eighteen in 1941. I joined as an Ordnance Artificer, 5th Class, and I had to supposedly remain as a 5th Class until I turned twenty-one, at which time I would become an Acting Petty Officer. However, because of the war and all, the promotion was somewhat faster than that.
I went on a troop train after about five weeks of basic training, and I went to Halifax. I was introduced to the east coast Navy, of course, and into the gunnery school, where I spent about five months in training, learning the ins and outs of ordnance, of all kinds. Underwater weapons, small arms, machine guns. My first job was on HMCS Annapolis in the spring of '42. Annapolis was on the mid-ocean escort at that time. After so many months (I forget how long it was now, but later on in the year anyway), I was posted to DEMS, which is the Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships, and I was with them for about eighteen months. Following that, I got posted back into general service. I was the inspector of small arms at the Royal Canadian Armament Depot in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, but I also had to go out on different ships that came out of refit and do gun trials.
I did that until… September '44 I was posted to the west coast to replace a person. Out there, I started off in the gun battery of the gunnery school, working on the guns there. In possibly November of '44, I went on the staff of the Equipment and Trials Officer, Gunnery, and what we did was work in the yards where they were building ships for the Royal Navy, and we went to sea every time they completed a ship. We would go to sea and fire the guns, and I did that until the end of the war.
I was demobilized in Toronto at HMCS York in November of '45. In 1946, I joined up with the Navy again. This time, I had quite a low number. My number was three digits – R243. I stayed there until '57, when I was granted a commission, and in '59, I had the opportunity to go regular force, which I did, and I stayed in the regular force until my fiftieth birthday.