Veteran Stories:
Douglas May

Navy

  • Wireless transmission sheets detailing how German U-Boats are to surrender at the end of the war.

    Douglas May
  • A German U-boat surrenders in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 1945.

    Douglas May
  • Douglas May poses with his neighbour's son David Boodle while on leave in Cultus Lake, British Columbia in 1943.

    Douglas May
  • Douglas May with his sister during his leave in Cultus Lake, British Columbia in 1943.

    Douglas May
  • Douglas May's "Kit List", which detailed all of the items which he was issued by the Royal Canadian Navy.

    Douglas May
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"Every day, the subs were required to send a message to their home base and, by triangulation, we could hone in and see just exactly where they were."

Transcript

We used to have what we called High Frequency Direction Finders [HF/DF aka Huff Duffs]. Every day, the subs were required to send a message to their home base and, by triangulation, we could hone in and see just exactly where they were. We got two or three reports from the high frequency direction finders, then we could hone in on the position of the sub. Well, we were right alongside Lisahally [a port near Londonderry, Northern Ireland], they call it, and on the Foyle River in Ireland [just as the war with Germany ended in May 1945]. These were subs [German u-boats] that obviously were directed to report to Londonderry [to surrender], so we didn’t have any direct contact with these people because I didn’t speak German and they mostly didn’t speak any English. However, it was interesting to see these things and I must say, I had a great deal of sympathy for anybody that travels by sub. I think it would be a very claustrophobic type of situation, but they were highly regarded in their own country if they were submariners. But fortunately, we didn’t have any torpedoes or anything of that sort. They [German submarine crews] were concerned, of course, that some of the crew might scuttle their subs and we didn’t come across that. But that was in part of the instructions. Depending on their current location, they were advised to report to certain areas for giving up their ship and that’s the end of the war for them. Every day, you had to change your codebook for the headings of the messages and we copied all the messages and these were in plain language of course, which made it easier to follow. But prior to that, all the signals were in cipher code, five digits. Of course, everybody in the navy said, oh, when the war is over, I’m going to get as far away from the sea as I can, [laughs] which a lot of them did because there was a tremendous number of fellows in the navy from the Prairies. Very high percentage. I guess they didn’t know what they were getting into. [laughs] Yeah.
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