We sank the sub and rescued 19 German seamen, one of whom was a chap called Waldimar Nicol who later, at a reunion that we held in Picton, was invited as a guest of honour from Germany.
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I was in the barracks in [HMCS] Toronto for most of the summer, doing what I considered kind of useless guard duty around the barracks. And then I was sent to Halifax where I entered the gunnery training school [RCN Gunnery School Halifax] in November. And at the end of that stint in the gunnery school, I was drafted to the minesweeper, [HMCS] Nootka.
It had a single four inch gun on the forecastle and, of course, because I was a gunnery rating, I was attached to that gun. But I didn’t do anything with the gun at all. I was mainly, along with the other able seamen aboard, attached to put out the sweep and withdrawing it, correcting broken sweep cables and things like that.
You went out at 4:00 in the morning in the port of Halifax with three other sweepers, each one of us taking turns at being the lead sweeper. And we would sweep the shipping channels entering Halifax Harbour and come in and quite frequently, on the way into Halifax Harbour, we would have to stop at the coaling jetty and take on coal, which was a dirty job. And the whole ship was covered with coal dust, which had to be cleaned, of course.
So I didn’t really enjoy my life on the minesweeper Nootka. One of the lieutenants on the minesweeper, he was a very nice chap, and he was responsible for myself and my friend, Tiny Raymond, to be drafted off the Nootka and become part of [Fairmile ML] Q-055 [small motor launches], of which he had just become commanding officer. And we served in the [Gulf of] St. Lawrence and on the approaches to Sydney, Nova Scotia and eventually, we were sent to New York with 11 other Fairmiles to help the Americans in their protection of the east coast. And when we returned to Halifax, I found instructions that I was being drafted off. The [HMCS] Waskesiu was the first Canadian frigate that was built in Esquimalt, British Columbia. That was in June 1943. And we sailed the Waskesiu down the west coast of the United States, through the Panama Canal, stopped in Cuba for fuel and then proceeded to Bermuda where we underwent evolutions and training.
Then from there, we proceeded on up to Halifax. And from Halifax, we took off for Newfoundland. From there, we crossed the Atlantic to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and became originally a vessel of EG5, Escort Group No. 5, which consisted of two frigates and four corvettes and later became Escort Group No. 6. We were fortunate enough to get a contact in the mid-Atlantic which turned out to be a submarine. And after attacking it twice with a 10-charge pattern, we were approached by our senior ship, HMS Nene, and told to withhold any further attacks until they had confirmed our target.
And when they arrived on the scene, they immediately classified our target as non-sub and told us to disregard and rejoin the convoy, which we were supporting. But our skipper was so sure that we had a good contact that he asked permission to make one further attack, which was granted. And on that one further attack, the submarine, U257 surfaced and, of course, we immediately engaged it with gunfire and we sank the sub and rescued 19 German seamen, one of whom was a chap called Waldimar Nicol who later, at a reunion that we held in Picton, was invited as a guest of honour from Germany. He and his wife attended and all told, we had a wonderful time. Ex-enemy.
I certainly missed the comradeship and the good friends I made, and some of them I lost. A very good friend of mine on the Nootka, Russell “Tiny” Raymond from Montreal, was drafted with me to the Q-055; and from the Q-055, I was drafted to Waskesiu and later on, Tiny Raymond was drafted to HMCS Valleyfield, the only Canadian frigate that was lost in the war. And he was unfortunately one of the people that was lost. We heard the news that Valleyfield had been torpedoed, but, of course, no one knew who the survivors were. I think there were only about 35 or 37 people picked up out of a crew of 165. So no one knew exactly who had gone down and who had survived. And it wasn’t until much later that I learned that Tiny Raymond was one of the people that had been lost.