Veteran Stories:
Julian J. van Audenhove

Merchant Navy

  • Mr. Julian Van Audenhove in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, on September 26, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"So we went there and all of a sudden, coming out, there was a big blast of sand and everything, a big boom. Wondered what it was."

Transcript

Well, my father was in charge of the food section of the Green Lantern Hotel in Halifax. I was working at one of the stores there and they said, you know, we could give you a job. Oh, okay. So I took a job, I was short order cook, you know, they teach you. Then the chef that came aboard, came aboard the [HMCS] Lady Nelson and he in turn wanted me to be under him. So, that’s how it ended up to be on that. So I went with him on the Nelson, I was partly trained in meat cutting and everything else. They taught me the rest and I was on the Lady Nelson as a chief butcher. The Lady Nelson was sunk in the south in the U.S. It was re-lifted and made into a hospital ship. The only one that Canada ever had [sic]. And from there, I evolved into that. We went over to Algiers [French North Africa; present-day Algeria] then [in 1943]. And Algiers, we were loading wounded soldiers and taking them back to England, the transfer. The worst ones were kept in the hospital and the ones that, well, you know, that could be ambulatory, they were alright there. So we got to Algiers and we went ashore, like everybody, the chef, cook and myself. See, he took me under his wing. So we went there and all of a sudden, coming out, there was a big blast of sand and everything, a big boom. Wondered what it was. He threw me on the floor and laid on top of me. You know, I knew, I was just a kid, ammunition ship blew up in the port, it cleaned the whole docks off. The ship that we were on took off right away to sea. And what do we do then? We’re stuck. But anyway, ship blowing up like that, was an ammunition ship. And it wiped out all the docks. Guys were running around with no heads, no arms. It was really, and on the ship itself, we had a 500 ton piece of steel that missed the wheelhouse:500 tons. So finally they came back and we got there and we got into drydock somewheres to get that out. And that as the end of that particular trip. And when we left from Algiers, we made a few runs there and then we went a little further as the war progressed.
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