"One thing about sailors, they just, you know, you just get along, everybody does their job and, whether it’s in the wheelhouse…"
And the [HMCS] Waskesiu was the first Canadian frigate built on the West Coast. And the first one from the West Coast going to the East Coast, at the start of the war. And it was the first Canadian frigate to sink a submarine.
I was what they called a bare-assed (ordinary) seaman. Everything was filled up: gunnery, ASDIC, Radar, DEMS gunners and all that, that was all filled up in Cornwallis, [the largest wartime training base of the Royal Canadian Navy] you couldn’t get in those classes so I just went to bare-ass seaman and I worked on the upper deck doing seamanship, you know, whatever needed to be done, painting and standing watches and the maintenance of the upper deck, whatever.
We were in the mess, the port after mess on the ship and it was about eight feet wide and about maybe sixteen feet long. And there was twelve of us lived there, in that mess deck. And the stokers, they had a mess deck up forward and ASIDC and Radar, that were opposite on the other side of the ship, on the after part. But we got along great.
One thing about sailors, they just, you know, you just get along, everybody does their job and, whether it’s in the wheelhouse… I was on that wheelhouse for a while and then was lookout. And I was Chief and PO’s [Petty Officer’s] messman for a time and yeah, we got along real well. We had crib tournaments and hearts tournaments and different things like that when we were at sea.
When I joined the Waskesiu, it was in Shelburne [Nova Scotia], she was in refit then. That’s after she came back from sinking the U-257 [on February 24, 1944]. And she was in refit and of course, I was onboard her and we did a lot of painting, upper deck painting and this sort of thing and maintenance. And there was dockyard workers there doing things. And then we went up to Halifax and stored, took on ammunition and stores and water and fuel and whatever. And from there, we went to Bermuda, to take evolutions [advanced training]. That’s when the ship’s company all works together on the guns; I was on the four-inch gun aft and I was on depth charges aft. And we had our twin 4.7 [guns] on the fo’c’sle [forecastle] and we had Hedgehog [an anti-submarine weapon] on the fo’c’sle.
We had four mountings of rockets and four mountings of twin Oerlikon guns. And the whole crew got to work together. Once we had done that, we went back to Halifax and stored up again and then we escorted a convoy - I think it was the largest convoy that ever went overseas, about 80 ships - across the Atlantic. And I think we lost three ships on the way over. I know we lost an oil tanker, we saw her blow up and we went into the convoy and tried to pick up a sounding on the sub but we didn’t find her, so came back out.
On convoy duty, you sweep on the outside of the convoy back and forth and then you have one or two ships at the stern of the convoy, going back and forth to pick up any survivors, if you’ve lost somebody or a ship.
But you know, we went over there and then we went from there to the Azores. And that’s when the German submarines and Americans and the Canadian ships all went in there and everybody was buddy-buddy. We went ashore one time, rowed the captain ashore in a whaler. And there was German sailors sitting in a pub, having a beer. And we were sitting in the same pub. It was kind of strange.
When we left, we got contact on a submarine and we dropped 30 charges, three patterns of it but nothing came up or they didn’t surface anyway. And then we had to take on depth charges from a destroyer at sea, which was kind of scary. Had strung a cable across, from one ship to the other and then they sent these depth charges across on the cable on a sling and the ships would grow apart and the cable would go tight and then they’d come together and the cable would go down in the water, and ugh. And then we had to fuel up at sea as well. We just pulled in behind a tanker and they fueled us up at sea.
Since the war, I’ve had a real good life. I got out in 1946, got married in 1947 and we had five children and my wife and I are still together. It’s our sixty-third wedding anniversary this spring and we’ve had a very good life.