Veteran Stories:
John Russell “Jack” Donnelly

Navy

  • HMCS Arnprior.

    John Russell Donnelly
  • HMCS Monnow.

    John Russell Donnelly
  • Off rear end of HMCS Monnow.

    John Russell Donnelly
  • Crew of HMCS Beaverton.

    John Russell Donnelly
  • John Donnelly during the war.

    John Russell Donnelly
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"My feet slipped out from under me and I headed on my back towards open water. But there’s a steel railing and a wire surrounding the ship and fortunately, I grabbed that before going over the side."

Transcript

We were stationed in Halifax for a while until we received a draft to a ship. And there was a minesweeper going over to England, I imagine to support their sweeping and so on over there. And so we, and it took part in the convoy, as an escort. And I was sick for seven days and learned quite a bit very quickly about sea duty and the ocean and ships. Our watches consisted of four hours on, pretty well. We could be starboard or port lookouts. Or we could be in the stern lookout. Or we could be on the wheel as helmsmen. Or we could be standing watch with a gun. Depending on the conditions, it was usually four off, four hours on, four hours off, except what they called the dog watches, which were from four to six and six to eight. And they were used to break up the system, so you wouldn’t be on the same watch the next day. Heading into heavy seas, the nose will drop, of the ship, and she’ll take on water over the bow and then she comes back up, that sea comes up over the open bridge where you are and anybody that isn’t prepared is going to get a face full of saltwater. There was one time that I, going over on the minesweeper, I was going out to, there’s an alley that leads down the back of the ship and a doorway on each side and as soon as you opened it - this is at night - as soon as you open the doors, a red light goes on and a white light goes off, so it can’t be seen. And it was kind of a rough night and I stepped out the door and at that time, the ship rolled toward where I was going. And my feet slipped out from under me and I headed on my back towards open water. But there’s a steel railing and a wire surrounding the ship and fortunately, I grabbed that before going over the side. That kind of stands out a little bit. But I got back and got on my watch okay. I was drafted to HMCS Arnprior, who was having a refit in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, at the time. And we immediately went onto convoy duty and made three or four crossings. Coming back, on one of those convoy duties [October 4, 1944], we got a strong ping and our senior [HMCS Chebogue] went after, we, actually, we all had a, had a crack at depth-charging this particular object, whatever it was; turned out to be a submarine. When depth charges go off, the whole ship shudders. It’s like being inside of a drum. In this case, it was a lot stronger explosion; we could feel it through the water. And evidently, our senior ship had been, was making an attack on this submarine and it torpedoed it and blew its stern off. And we happened to be nearby so we and another, I’ve just forgotten the name of the ship, drew up alongside, actually touched the ship and so the survivors could come across onto our ship. And the Chebogue, that was the other ship, didn’t sink but they hauled her back to Ireland or England [Port Talbot, Wales]. But it was a write-off anyway. We had half a ship extra of survivors which we took back to Newfoundland.
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