Veteran Stories:
Basil Winter Charman

Merchant Navy

  • Basil Charman in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1943. He had graduated from St. Margaret's Sea Training, and was awaiting posting to his first ship.

    Basil Charman
  • 16-year-old cadet Basil Charman, left, with his mother and 21-year-old-brother Lionel, on the right, 1942.

    Basil Charman
  • Photo published in the Vancouver Daily Province, February 3, 1947, reporting on the SS Tecumseh's surviving the storm. The caption read:
    "SS Tecumseh Park's deckplates cracked 800 miles off Halifax. Here, standing behind heavy cable which held the ship together for days are, from left: G. Santowski, Haney; E.M. Wademan, Abbotsford; D Radbourne, New Westminister; S. Tokaruk, 1165 Davie (holding ship's maskcot Patsy); N. Poole, Vancouver; J. Hearn, Victoria; radio operator Ben Spaner, 749 East Fourteenth, and third engineer Gordon Calderwood, Blamoral Hotel."

    Vancouver Daily Province
  • Canada Merchant Marine Identification card for issued by the Department of Transportation, 1947.

    Basil Charman
  • Certificate of Training issued in June 1943.

    Basil Charman
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"Then we ran into some bad weather, real bad weather. And we were running short of fuel because it was taking us so long to get there. Instead of two weeks, we ended up in Bermuda 26 days later."

Transcript

I stayed with the merchant navy until 1947. Then we were sailing back and forth between England and Vancouver and after my time onboard the [SS] Tecumseh Park, that’s when we ran into bad weather. That was quite a trip. We left Cherbourg in France and were supposed to just go back to Halifax and get another cargo, I guess. And fuel in France at that time was quite scarce, so they just loaded enough fuel onboard the, it was supposed to be a two week trip to get back to Halifax. Then we ran into some bad weather, real bad weather. And we were running short of fuel because it was taking us so long to get there. Instead of two weeks, we ended up in Bermuda 26 days later. And in the process of the storm, the ship started to have some trouble [a crack appeared on the deck and it was feared that the ship] might break in half. And anyway, they shipped us to Bermuda for repairs and we had a wonderful time; we had about a month I think in Bermuda while the ship was being repaired. And we were sitting there collecting our pay and enjoying a holiday. At that time, all of the merchant ships had guns on them; they were built with them on. And they’d have a crew of usually 10 or 12 navy men who - they were to look after the guns, service them and so on. And teach the crew how to use them. We had a four-inch gun on the stern that could be used as anti-aircraft or surface. And we had 50-calibre machine guns and Oerlikon 20-caliber [cannons] for aircraft defense. But in the South Atlantic, we had very little reason to use them. As far as the actual war service goes, I never really saw any armed action. You know, not that I was in on it. Although it was a little bit disappointing when you think about it, [for a] young fellow that age. Not really disappointed, I guess; maybe thank the Lord that we didn’t get anything worse. But it would have been nice if we’d had a little more to talk about afterwards.
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