Veteran Stories:
Albert Edward “Big Al” Revie

Navy

  • HMS Swift, a Royal Navy destroyer broken in two and sinking off Sword Beach, Normandy, June 24, 1944. Able Seaman Albert Revie was nearby in HMCS Algonquin when Swift went down.

    Albert Revie
  • Looking out from HMCS Algonquin, D-Day or shortly thereafter, June 1944.

    Albert Revie
  • Canadian naval veterans of the Murmansk Run, gathered together at the Canadian War Museum for the presentation of medals from the Soviet Ambassador to Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 1985.

    Albert Revie
  • The certificate Albert Revie received for crossing the Arctic Circle while serving in HMCS Algonquin, April 1, 1944.

    Albert Revie
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"The sky was full of airplanes and parachutes, and Lord knows what else, rockets. It was a sight to behold."

Transcript

I had basic training in Quebec City, and then went on to [HMCS] Cornwallis, Nova Scotia for advanced training. But after that, I went overseas on the [SS] Île de France [troop and war material transport] to join the [HMCS] Algonquin [a destroyer: large and heavily armed escort vessel], which was, at that time, based in Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland. We continued to be based there. We were part of a British destroyer flotilla and operated with them throughout.

At that time, a lot of people are familiar with the Bismarck, but maybe not so many people realize that the Bismarck had a sister ship called the Tirpitz. When the Bismarck was sunk, so the story is, it was such a blow to German morale that Hitler ordered the Tirpitz to be taken out of France, where it was, to save it from damage from the Royal Air Force. They were after it on a regular basis. And they moved into Alta Fjord, way in the north of Norway, where it constituted a threat to the Russian convoys because they passed right by it. And had it come out at any time, it could have decimated a convoy.

On several occasions, we escorted aircraft carriers to that area who flew off bombers, trying to damage the Tirpitz, which they did damage it, but they couldn’t sink it. Finally it was sunk by the Royal Air Force with bigger bombers.

On a couple of occasions, we escorted convoys to Russia, to Polyarny, which is where the escorts stayed and the merchant ships went onto Murmansk with war material. We came down south to Plymouth [England], when the [Normandy] invasion was being organized and it was our privilege to lead the Canadian contingent to the Normandy landing and take part in the bombardment prior to the landing.

The particular radar set that I was assigned to was one that operated with the main armament on the ship. In other words, it could be, the guns could be aimed at the target by radar, when the target was out of sight or indistinguishable for some weather reason. Yet it wasn’t terribly demanding on my part and during the invasion particularly, when we were firing at a target which was well within sight and there was no need to use radar to aim the guns, I was free to stand and watch the show, which I was able to do.

The sky was full of airplanes and parachutes, and Lord knows what else, rockets. It was a sight to behold.

The downside, of course, is that, you know, people were being killed and hurt. We were sort of remote from that because we were probably a mile and a half off the beach. But on one occasion, a landing craft, which had been carrying Royal Marines to the beach, was hit by a mortar bomb before they got to the beach. They simply turned around and came back to us as we were known to have a doctor onboard. We took some of their wounded onboard, a couple of whom died subsequently and were buried at sea in the [English] Channel. But that was the closest I came to the actual blood and guts of war.

It was frequently possible to see bodies floating in the Channel. The Germans had a habit of flying over at night and dropping mines, which damaged and sank many ships in the subsequent days.

Interview date: 8 November 2010

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