Veteran Stories:
Elwyn Elliott

Merchant Navy

  • Elwyn Elliott and his Merchant Navy crew.

    Elwyn Elliott
  • Submarine that attacked Elwyn Elliott's last convoy from England to Canada, 1945.

    Elwyn Elliott
  • Elwyn Elliott's continuous discharge certificate showing his service on a number of ships during his time in the Merchant Navy. He served with most of the ships for around two months at a time. 1944-1945.

    Elwyn Elliott
  • One of the ships on which Elwyn Elliott served.

    Elwyn Elliott
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"I was in the last convoy coming back when the war was over. The last ship that was sunk was in that convoy."

Transcript

My name is Elwyn Elliot, and I was born and raised in Caledonia, Ontario. I went to school in Caledonia. There was an ad in the paper that came out – I was sixteen at the time – for seamen to go to sea. We went into the Manning Pool up there in Halifax. Within about three days a convoy came in and I ended up on a ship as a coal trimmer. The idea was you fed the fireman the coal and you shot the ashes over the side. It was alright for about the first four days out, but from then on the coal got too far away from the chute so you had to use a wheelbarrow to wheelbarrow the coal to the chute. And the North Atlantic was something out of this world. I stayed on the ship and I was promoted to fireman, so from then on I was a fireman. Most of all the ships I was on were all loaded with grain on the bottom, ammunition in between decks, and on the decks themselves we had tanks, or big heavy trucks, or airplanes. What was on the ships was just us, sixteen year-olds. Guys that had been turned down by the Navy, Army and Air Force. Some were draft dodgers – they'd jump ship before we sailed, so we never ended up with them. And some were even drunks, but get two or three days out they'd dry out and some of them would even drink the shaving lotion. We never thought much about anybody. We never had uniforms. When we went ashore we always just had a pair of dungarees and a sweatshirt. We knew all knew one another exactly because we'd stay on one ship maybe for two trips, maybe for three trips at the very most if you got lucky. It was always the same bunch. You always ended up practically knowing everybody that went to sea. So when you heard a ship had gone down, you'd know a lot of the guys that went down with it. As far as ships going down, if we got torpedoed we could never stop to pick up the survivors. And we'd even pass some of them in the water, but we couldn't stop. That's the way it was – the cargo was more important than we were at that time. Some of them that got torpedoed ended up in lifeboats. Some of the German submarine captains – the young ones – would machine-gun them. But apparently the older ones would stop and give the boys directions. Some of the submarines, they'd pick them up and send them to concentration camps. They took them back with them. I was in the last convoy coming back when the war was over. The last ship that was sunk was in that convoy. The sub that sunk it followed us in and gave itself up. You either loved it or you didn't. I loved it when I went to sea, and I love the sea.
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