"We put on a party for the Russian officers at the end of our stay but, while we were there, we had a hockey game with the Russians."
I wanted to join the services and I actually wanted to join the navy because most of my friends, classmates in medicine, had joined the navy as medical doctors. I was posted to Scapa Flow [Scotland], to the Algonquin. I was posted to replace a doctor who was the doctor aboard the [HMCS] Algonquin, who had been charged with [being] homosexual. So the pattern was, as far as I understand, he was just changed from that ship to another ship. But I replaced him on it.
I arrived in Scapa Flow one or two days before Christmas of 1944. We set sail with the convoy for Murmansk [Russia] New Year’s Day or Eve or something. New Year’s Day I think it was. On our route up to Murmansk, we encountered a number of reconnaissance German planes coming out from Norway, but no submarines. We realized that they were sizing up our flotilla, so that nine days later, when we would appear at the same place, they would send out the subs and the planes.
Well, we got to Russia, and two interesting little things happened in Russia, in Murmansk. One, the captain gave orders, no trading with the Russians. We tied up next door to a submarine and immediately, the matelots [slang term for sailors] lwere trading rum for vodka. And the vodka was pink-coloured. I don’t know why, but it was pinkish. Another very interesting thing, while we were in there, we put on a party for the Russian officers at the end of our stay but, while we were there, we had a hockey game with the Russians. They had an outdoor rink with sideboards on the rink of only about a foot high or less. And we used hockey sticks of theirs and their skates. But their hockey sticks looked like field hockey sticks, like what they’d use on a field. We had them three-nothing at the end of the first period and the British liaison officer said, you can’t beat them now, so they beat us four-three in three periods. I remember because I played.
So on our way back, we ran into a Force 11 gale. And that was just under hurricane. Under those circumstances, subs could not operate. And planes didn’t come over either. So the captain afloat, the commander in chief, an admiral, full admiral aboard either a battleship or an aircraft carrier, he said, every ship for themselves. So you can go into either Iceland or into the Faroe Islands. Now, most of them went to Iceland. Two ships - ourselves and the [HMS] Zambesi, a British Z-class destroyer - went in to the Faroe Islands. And I was injured there but being the doctor, I didn’t… I’d have to take care of myself. I was walking along a stanchion and I got hit by one of these waves going back to sick bay and it crossed me right in the middle like that, like a leg of a chair, right this way. And I was boarded out of the navy with two hernias but I never made claim for this, I never had written it down, because being the doctor, I just said, well, I’ve got to take care of myself and I never thought of putting it down in the sick list.
See, I’m pensioned for other things; I’m pensioned for two or three things, pensioned for sinus disease because I was hospitalized. I’m pensioned for hernias because I came out of the war with the two hernias. And then everybody got ear pensioning, because I was right above... I mean, that first ship had, each of those destroyers have 36,000 horsepower, you know. And you’re right, and the pom-poms [naval guns] and the workups and everything else; you’re always subjected to noise trauma.