Veteran Stories:
Robert Francis “Frank” Power

Merchant Navy

  • Merchant Navy badge worn on the jacket during parade.

    Frank Power
  • Photo of Joe Power, Frank's father.

    Frank Power
  • The John W. MacKay.

    Robert Frank Power
  • Frank Power, August, 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • Frank Power's Service Medals: Atlantic Star; Canadian Voluntary Service Medal with clasp; War Medal (1939-45).

    Frank Power
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"Everybody was taking whatever they wanted. There was not one store in Halifax that wasn’t demolished of all its goods. It was the bad behaviour out of the Halifax people."

Transcript

Well, I want to talk about one of the instances was VE [Victory in Europe] Day [8 May 1945]. Now, I was on the [SS] Lord Kelvin on VE Day and we were doing a job off… I was up on the wheel. I was a wheelsman, I was like an AB [able seaman]. I went from a fireman, coal burning fireman on another ship, and coal burning fireman is an inhuman job, you could hardly believe it. But it’s like, you go in scrawny , you come out like Popeye, you know. I still have muscles today.

Some years at the start, when I was going there, the merchant navy was losing more than the army, air force and other [branches]... The men and women who were in the merchant navy lost more people. Now, this is what we quoted around, started a good few rackets in Halifax to get all full of beer and Hollis Street would be just ganged out with all the people at Halifax had ringside seats to merchant navy fellows fighting with army, air force, all branches, wood cutters, everything. They all were common enemies of us guys; we were maw-mouths [braggarts] when we started to drink.

So anyhow, when the news came in, we were the first to get it because there was a few false alarms. And off of Newfoundland, oh no, Halifax, we were off of Halifax, and we got the first alert and then there was false alarm. I think we got another alert, false alarm. We got another alert, this is the real job, the war is over.

Now, the people of Halifax gave us a kind of a real weird greeting. So okay, we were tied up in our ship, which came in that day, and whistles and horns and everything going; there was gunshots and whistles and everything. We got right into the start of it, myself and another guy. I’m not going to mention the other guy’s name, but he was a character, and I was a character because we used to drink a lot. Here’s what happened. The Union Jack [flag of the United Kingdom] was there, hanging down on the flagstaff, we’ll say, from the Seaman’s Club. We tried several places, to get into different places, they wouldn’t admit us. So we were getting meaner, like some guys passed us out a bottle from this club or that club, and booze was getting supplied a bit. So anyhow, we went down to the Seaman’s Club; they wouldn’t give us any beer. So we all were pissed right off about it. And the war is over and they wouldn’t give us a case of beer or a bottle of rum, or anything. They didn’t, wouldn’t, and that’s true.

Aside from that fellow, we call him Gizz, he was called that. We went up there and they didn’t have any beer, they closed it off. So we came upstairs and here’s these three flags; and I was like a monkey, I could go all over the ship and ropes. So anyhow, Gizz was there and we managed to sort of lasso, throw a loop and get a few knots on it, and I climbed up that, tied a double bowline, the double one we used, not a bowline in this case. So we took down the flags and Gizz rolled up his pants, like up about here someplace, and he took the flag and wrapped it around [like a skirt], and he started going down Hollis Street, or Market Street, or Water Street in St. John’s [Halifax].

We traipsed down with the flags, doing a jig. Now, meanwhile, after having a good few jigs out of the booze. Once we’d gone from many place, because the odd fellow from the club would pass somebody like me a nut case with a bottle, but it ended up, once that was happened, that we and all of the people that were involved in this, had access to all the liquor stores and beer stores. Everybody was taking whatever they wanted. There was not one store in Halifax that wasn’t demolished of all its goods. It was the bad behaviour out of the Halifax people. I say that openly, I felt that then, we were there giving them all kinds of business and everything else. They gave us no respect, no respect to the merchant navy. On the other hand, merchant navy were no different, but air force or wood cutters or anything, wouldn’t have the same thing as merchant navy. We had a big, big beef in Halifax about how the dealers, the store owners, I won’t include any other, but all kinds of business people and law, and everything, just, we didn’t get along that good because we were a pretty rowdy bunch.

Interview date: 10 August 2010

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