Veteran Stories:
Fred Wilmot Hubbard

Navy

  • A Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun crew on the destroyer HMCS Algonquin at action stations in Arctic waters, April 20, 1944.
    Credit: Lt John D. Mahoney / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-204655.

    Mahoney, John Daniel., Photographer Mikan Number: 3577106
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"All the ships in the Canadian Navy, a lot of them, were made overseas and they had DC, direct current electricity, in them, which Canada wasn’t really geared for DC because they had all the electricity was AC."

Transcript

Well, I think I have to say, what made me a success in the [Royal Canadian] Navy was the experience I had before the war. I didn’t go to university after; I had five years of working in machine shops and engineering works, and various things. That’s why I think they appointed me to the [HMCS] Prince Robert because I was in Halifax; and it was a pretty grim place there with all the convoys going out and ships coming back, and some of them damaged. We were in an electrical shop; and I was assistant to the man there, and we had 80 men working for us. We had to go down on ships and fix them; and I got called to go down, and a lot of people couldn’t get to find out what was wrong. I had studied diesel engines before I ever went to university and I knew something about electricity; and a British ship came in and they couldn’t get the voltage down on it. I went down; and I said, there’s something wrong with the engine. Oh no, we’ve checked, everything’s perfect. So they finally found that the governor [speed limiter] on the engine was wrong and they fixed that, and everything was fine… But we had real problems because all the ships in the Canadian Navy, a lot of them, were made overseas and they had DC, direct current electricity, in them, which Canada wasn’t really geared for DC because they had all the electricity was AC [alternating current], all the motors and everything, so these special DC motors that were built to British standards, a lot of them didn’t work out. The Canadians just couldn’t seem to build them as well. There used to be a lot of the frigates [anti-submarine escort vessel] and corvettes [lightly armoured convoy escort vessel] were built up on the Great Lakes; and they’d get reassigned to go to sea; and by the time they got to Halifax, there’d be about 10 motors burned out on them because of the manufacturing of the motors wasn’t up to scratch like the British were experts at DC motors, where the Canadians weren’t because they never had to be. So I had a lot of experience working on them; and I got along well with the crew. I had worked with a bunch of men and a lot of the young officers didn’t have that experience; and I got along with the men. I had 80 men working under me. I was assistant to the manager of the plant, and that helped me a lot. I could get along with all those people, but we did a lot of good work in Halifax; and I think that’s what happened when they called for men to go overseas to join the Prince Robert, which was a west coast ship. They couldn’t bring a man in down from Esquimalt, the naval base in B.C. in Victoria. By then, you had to travel across Canada by train; so they said, well, we’ll have to send a person from Halifax, so I went over and I joined the west coast ship; and there was only three people from New Brunswick who were on the ship. There was 500 on it, but a large number were from the prairies and some from B.C. So I found that very interesting. I found the people in the west, the western men, the people there who were on the ship were very congenial. I found the western people, at that time, I guess, everybody’s the same in Canada now, but at that time, the western people, the people on the prairies were, nothing bothered them. They were used to hardships. I guess a lot of them came off farms; and they were used to hardships, and they fitted in very well in the Navy. Although they hadn’t been born on the sea, they fitted in well because they had the hardships of the prairies.
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