Veteran Stories:
Gordon Edwin Lyle

Navy

  • Newspaper article clipped from the Vancouver Sun by Gordon Lyle's mother announcing that Gordon Lyle would be serving in HMCS Iroquois, 1942.

    Gordon Lyle
  • Nova Scotia Liquor Permits from March 1943 and July 1944. The permit from 1943 was obtained when HMCS Iroquois was brought to Nova Scotia to show the Canadian Government their new purchase. The permit from 1944 was when the HMCS Hespeler visited Nova Scotia.

    Gordon Lyle
  • Inside back cover of Gordon Lyle's wartime diary, kept while aboard the HMCS Hespeler, a corvette that escorted convoys across the Atlantic, 1945.

    Gordon Lyle
  • Page dated from V-E Day [May 8, 1945] taken from Gordon Lyle's wartime diary while aboard the HMCS Hespeler, a corvette that escorted convoys across the Atlantic, 1945.

    Gordon Lyle
  • Gordon Lyle onboard the HMCS Hespeler while on convoy patrol in the North Atlantic, 1944.

    Gordon Lyle
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"We had quite a ways to go and, by that time, we could hear shrapnel hitting the trees."

Transcript

A bunch of us were drafted to Halifax as the commissioning crew for our first tribal class destroyer, the [HMCS] Iroquois. Then we were sent overseas to Greenock [Scotland], which was our base over there, more training, firefighting, etc., etc., and then we were sent to, as a commissioning crew, to pick up the Iroquois.

On completing that, we went out, we were doing escort on these battle wagons because every time they’d put to sea, they had a destroyer escort to protect them from torpedoes and submarines, etc. And that was a kind of a shaky trip when you’re supposed to intercept the torpedoes coming in. But that’s what we were there for. And then we’d done quite a few trips like that, that were around the British Isles and then we done some, heading up the coast off of Norway where the German battleships were taking shelter in the fjords. We were trying to coax them out by sending dummy convoys up there with our battleships laying just over the horizon, waiting to attack them. But that never come about either.

And then from there, we were sent to Halifax to show the Iroquois off to the Canadian government, so they could see what they were buying. We returned to the British Isles and then we were down in the south of England at Plymouth and they were using us for, with a Polish destroyer, the Orchid [likely ORP Blyskawica]. And we were patrolling the Bay of Biscay because the submarines down there were attacking our convoys of troops heading to the Mediterranean. So that we done that for quite a while.

And then while doing that, I come down with diphtheria. They were treating me as a strep throat, which it turned out to be a little more than that but by the time we got back into port, they diagnosed it as diphtheria and I was shipped ashore to the naval hospital. I was probably out of commission three months because that really knocks you down.

But when I was in the convalescent home, it was like living on a golf course, huge grounds. It was an old estate from some count or duke or something that had been taken over for the troops. And by the time I was ready to get out of bed or they would let me out of bed, I had no legs left, my legs were like spaghetti. And it took me weeks just to be able to walk. And then as soon as I could walk enough, they would send me out onto this, just like out on a golf course, with a nurse holding my arm because I was shuffling along like George Burns [American comedian who died, aged 100, in 1996], if you know who George Burns was, in his 90s. And that’s about as fast as I can walk. And way out at the end of this big grass field And beautiful day, the sun was shining and they were very pleasant, they were really good to us. And way out there and the air raid sirens go. I said, oh boy, we’d better get back. We had quite a ways to go and, by that time, we could hear shrapnel hitting the trees. Now, I have an idea it was the shrapnel from the anti-aircraft shell, it wasn’t them firing at us, but you could hear it, (noise), through the air. And so I says, well look, let’s go over to the side there, we’ll get in the timber there and walk inside the timber, that’ll give us a lot of protection. And even walking through the trail in there, heading back to the home , you could hear this stuff hitting the trees, just plunk right into the trees.

Then when we got closer to home, I come out and into the open again and the head nurse is up at the doorway signalling the nurse, come on, get in here, hurry up, get in. And I says, look, you go, I can’t go any faster, you get in there. There’s no use both of us being out here. And she says, no, I’m staying with you and she did. I think, I said, that old girl should have got a medal. In my memoirs, I’m saying, I wonder if she got hell for disobeying the head nurse. But she stuck right with me. And in my memoirs, I say jokingly, I said, I was not surprised that she said no when I told her to go. I says, all the way through the bush back there, everything I suggested, she said no to.

Interview date: 19 May 2010

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