Veteran Stories:
Harry Payne

Navy

  • Harry Payne, aged 16, and mate on guard duty, 1941.

    Harry Payne
  • Harry Payne, 17, in sailor's uniform, is ready to ship out, 1941.
    He was an anti-aircraft gunner on his first ship, the H.M.C.S. Malpeque.

    Harry Payne
  • H.M.C.S. Cornwallis. "Young men waiting for their ship, September 1941. I am in the second row from the top. " Harry Payne.

    Harry Payne
  • Early drill practice at naval base H.M.C.S Niobe, in Greenock, Scotland, 1941.

    Harry Payne
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"And then we had, about two days later, we had to go with our ship, pick up the bodies floating in the water."

Transcript

My name is Harry Payne. I was born 12 October 1924 in Toronto. Minesweeping is two cables off the stern of the ship, the back of the ship, and it’s two long cables on an angle and we would drag them across with clips on the end of the cables, so that the cables on the mines floating in the water would catch on these cables and slide along; and they’d be cut off at the end and float to the top, so we could shoot at them and explode them. I had to do sweeping and kept these mines off underwater in the English Channel and all around, all up the coast of France and Spain, and even in the Mediterranean. I was an anti-aircraft gunner, shooting at enemy planes. Now, in the daytime, I had to be sitting on my guns with four machine guns on the face of it; and I just sat there, looking for enemy planes. If they came, I shoot at them. On D-Day, landing in France, we had to sweep, I was on [HMCS Mulgrave] a minesweeper. We had to sweep the mines and get rid of them, so the troops could land. And when we finished, actually we did this about two weeks before the landing in France, in Normandy; and then we came back, we did that at night so they wouldn’t see us. We came back a few days later for the troops landing, which they did. And then we had, about two days later, we had to go with our ship, pick up the bodies floating in the water. You pick them up, take off their identification, anything in their pockets, put it in a bag and throw them back in again. We had no choice because there was no room for them on the ship, all those people. I guess that’s all. That was the worst of my time in the navy. And then they got us with the shore batteries [artillery] on our ship and blew it all apart with cannon power and [we] didn’t sink at that time, but they, another ship pulled us to England, Plymouth, England, and the ship sank in the harbour, Plymouth, England. We were very lucky to get there safely.
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