Veteran Stories:
Leslie Garayt

Navy

  • Leslie Garayt in Halifax Harbour, 1942, awaiting convoy escort duty. The reverse side of this photograph bears the maritime censor's stamp.

  • The HMCS Scatari, an RCMP patrol boat, seized from rum runners off of the Nova Scotia Coast. Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada #PA104451.

  • A torpedoed vessel being towed back to Halifax Harbour. Canadian convoy ships were always on guard for German U-boats and mines.

  • Another torpedoed Canadian ship on its way back to Halifax.

  • Canadian Veteran Leslie Garayt, 2001. This photo appeared in the Vancouver Sun, accompanying Garayt's comments after the World Trade Center disaster of September 11, 2001.

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"Our group were called the hunter-killer group … Sub-hunting we'll say."

Transcript

My name is Leslie Garayt. I joined the Navy in 1941 in Montreal and the thing in French I wanted to say was: Mon nom est Leslie Garayt. J'étais dans la Marine Royale du Canada, l'année 1941 jusqu'à la fin de la guerre 1945. That's basically what I wanted to say.

I ended up aboard three ships, the HMCS Dawson. I was transferred to Ontario to take a course and from there I went to Halifax. Then I was about two years aboard a harbour craft there called the HMCS Scaterie.

The beginning of 1944, we took an American destroyer being given to the Royal Navy overseas to England, and from there I was transferred to HMCS Loch Morlich which was a frigate, and I served the rest of the war aboard her, escorting, submarine hunting, and things like that. Our group were called the hunter-killer group. And though that was our job, patrolling the Atlantic and the English Channel and the Irish Sea and all those places. Sub-hunting we'll say.

As people know, there was a lot of ships torpedoed during the war and one Christmas we pulled into Londonderry - that was our base there - and of course there was mail. And I received a Christmas cake from my mother, and of course, it didn't last long once I opened it at the deck. But the thing is, I thought of this: I said, here we are escorting the merchantmen across the ocean and my mother's Christmas cake survived, is the funny thing.

We were in the North Atlantic, mainly. It was cold, but of course the summer was nice, and also. But it might have been a boring thing because when you weren't escorting some freighter or something like that you were on patrol for sub-hunting. We did an awful lot of attacks, and they turned out to be either what they call a wreck or a rock, so it was up to the captain to decide if it was a U-boat or not. We were at action stations... because we had a very good contact that there was a U-boat down there, and when I was at action stations, I was on what they called a squid, which fires the depth charges. And we were at action station I'm sure about six hours, so that was definitely a contact. Once we had a contact, the rest of the other ships and aircraft circle and find out, because if you got a contact, you don't want the sub to escape. However, the captain said secure action stations, and when I went back to the wheelhouse [the coxswain] was out of his tree, really, because he said it was a submarine there, and the skipper said it was a rock. But in the wheelhouse, there is an echo sounder, or a depth sounder if you want to call it that, and there was the outline of a U-boat and it had twenty-four feet of water below it. So how could it be a rock? Now the coxswain was ready to overtake the ship, which would've meant mutiny, of course. But it just didn't happen that way. So a few days later we were reading in the newspaper how the Royal Canadian Air Force had sunk a U-boat near the coast of France on the surface and it was believed that this U-boat was damaged by some previous action by the Royal Canadian Navy. Over the years, which are flying by, I always wanted to check that situation closer. I did a lot of research on my time in the Navy, going down to Ottawa and getting into the archives there, so a few years ago it seemed they changed their routine. I couldn't get the information that I used to. What I don't want is to find proof that one got away from us, because, you know, I'd be mad as hell.

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