"I will never forget the massive ships and planes, etc., in the English Channel and the action taking place at Normandy with landing craft hitting the beaches with soldiers."
On approximately January 1944, I was drafted to a ship, a corvette in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, the HMCS Kitchener, K225, which was in refit after duties in the Mediterranean and the Torch Invasion [Operation Torch, British invasion of North Africa]. Most of the crew were new to the ship and because of this refit work done on the ship. After leaving Liverpool, we sailed on a shakedown cruise [testing the ship’s performance] to Bermuda, which was an extremely rough trip as to the weather and so lost many Carley floats [life rafts], etc., during the storms. Another set of repairs had to be carried out.
After returning from Bermuda, we were assigned to duties on the North Atlantic as convoy protection against German subs. Corvettes were not a big ship, with a complement of 100 to 125 men. They were designed for anti-submarine offenses because they were very seaworthy and maneuverable. They had two depth charge [anti-submarine weapon] throwers on each side of the ship and cages of depth charges on the quarterdeck, where they would roll off the stern when required.
The idea of these depth charges was to drop them on a sub, both on top and side of the submarines, submerged sub, causing a concussion effect on the hull and damaging it in many ways, so it would either sink or resurface. Other armaments they carried was six Oerlikon 20 millimeter guns [anti-aircraft weapon], one on each side of the bridge and two each side of the aft parts of the ship. One four inch gun on the forecastle, one set of Hedgehogs [anti-submarine weapon] also on the forecastle and one, two inch pom-pom [Quick Firing 2 pounder anti-aircraft] guns at mid-ship. Corvettes were used very effectively for north Atlantic convoy protection of 10 to 20 ships.
From our duties of escort work, in the Atlantic, we were sent to the United Kingdom and arrived at Scotland in the Clyde River area. From this area, we sailed to Scapa Flow where we were put through very extensive exercises regarding ships, planes, PT [Patrol Torpedo] boats and subs, etc., along with hundreds of other navy ships. Unbeknownst to us, this was exercises to fix ships for the Normandy landings in France. After completing these exercises, we were sent into the English Channel and arrived at Plymouth Harbour approximately 1 June 1944 and tied up alongside the USS Augusta, an American cruiser, which was [General] Omar Bradley’s flagship. At this time, our captain, Lieutenant John Moles, talked to us regarding the invasion plans for June 5th and gave us a document from the supreme commander, [General Dwight] Ike Eisenhower, as to what to expect at this time. We were directed to escort two World War I French battleships to Normandy, filled with cement and to be sunk for breakwater on the beaches. This did not sit very well with our captain or crew, to be going into this kind of battle with these two old ships. So our captain had our duties changed to join in the U.S. navy escort group, protecting troop landing craft and ships at Omaha Beach. D-Day was changed to June 6th, due to weather conditions.
On D-Day, we sailed with an American convoy of ships carrying soldiers for landing at Omaha Beach. I will never forget the massive ships and planes, etc., in the English Channel and the action taking place at Normandy with landing craft hitting the beaches with soldiers. Our job at the beachhead was to rescue men in the water or assist anything, or anybody while standing off at Normandy. We were with the second flotilla to land at Omaha Beach. We sailed back to the English Channel and landed at Milford Haven, Wales, where we ran from there to the end of the war. Our job was convoy protection for all ships going to Normandy and Omaha Beach.
During our service, there were many ships sailing from Milford Haven. Some were not fortunate to survive the English Channel theatre of war. The corvette, [HMCS] Regina, [HMCS] Trentonian and the [HMCS] Alberni were torpedoed and lost a great many men during this period. I believe our safe return was mostly due to the credit of our captain, Jack Moles, of London, Ontario.
We were the first Canadian sailors the town of Milford Haven had ever seen and from the start of operations out of Milford Haven to the end of the war, the town treated us extremely well.