Chart of the Convoy off Greenland from September 1941.George Manolescu
George Manolescu in Formal Mess Dress, 1965.George Manolescu
George Manolescu and Princess Elizabeth in Calgary, Alberta, 1950.George Manolescu
"I was on the scrambling net and two or three of us boys gave me a hand. We pulled this fellow onboard. He was gasping for air and covered with oil"
We went to this convoy, this SC [Slow Convoy] 42. I was on the [HMCS] Kenogami at that time. And Herr [Admiral Karl] Dönitz had ordered the submarines. It’s written up in many books and so on, that this convoy must not get through. And we had close to 70 ships in the convoy; we only had three escort vessels. So it’s ridiculous really when you look at it because the convoy was stretched about ten square miles. Well, corvette’s [convoy escort vessel] top speed was, which you could keep for three quarters of an hour, other than that, she’d use too much fuel for about three quarters of an hour. That’s all you could … So we couldn’t hardly cover anything, so we diverted up towards Greenland and went way around as high as we could go.
We got through, but we lost I believe in total 17 ships. And the part that I really, I’ve never met any other naval chap that had that happen, but I haven’t met them all, but we fished a chief engineer off that was on one of the freighters. And he was filled with oil that he was bringing up [vomiting] and everything; and there were dozens of them we had brought in, over 90 onboard, which almost doubled our crew. Survivors, their ships had been merchant ships that had been torpedoed. And I had got this one chap by the neck, they had stopped ship, which we weren’t supposed to do, and [I] went down. I was on the scrambling net and two or three of us boys gave me a hand. We pulled this fellow onboard. He was gasping for air and covered with oil and he was, I didn’t realize, but he was about 50, 55. Got the vittling assistant [galley assistant] to grab some rum and pour it down his throat; and he brought up about three or four times; and I just turned around, I felt he was gone, but he wasn’t.
And we eventually had him transferred to another ship and he went into Iceland, the hospital. He wound up home, I don’t know how much later, but two or three months later, he wound up at home. In the meantime, this letter was written by his son and it was about 15 years ago now. He wanted to find out who, what ship saved his father and this, that and the other. It got to a point where they, he went to Whitehall in England, Whitehall got somebody in Ottawa. Somebody, one McKee chap, sent me a letter and said, this chap’s looking for somebody that was on the Kenogami and so on. Well, it was the most heartening thing because it was a direct one-on-one. So I sent him a picture of the Kenogami, which he had asked and told him what I was involved with. And we corresponded half a dozen times; and he and his wife came over. He was a schoolteacher in England. I have the letter in here, the first letter and many to follow.
And they came out to Calgary. My wife and I took them up to Banff, and all that kind of stuff. And he still writes all the time and thanks me very much for helping his father. Of course, his dad is gone now, but he said he always had his pop go on these trips and he’d come home and he always had a little toy or something for him. And this time, instead of being home like say on the tenth, twentieth went by, and he knew something had gone wrong. And finally, about a few months later, someone knocked on the door and here was his dad with a little carry bag and stuff from the Red Cross. He’d been in the hospital in Iceland all that time; and they thought he was dead.
So every time he, he writes me three or four times a year. I usually send something over. Nice guy. But to have it go for a full circle was really something. Like most people forget, but he didn’t, he followed it right through.