Veteran Stories:
Fred Fimio

Navy

  • Newspaper photo of all three Fimio brothers in uniform, circa 1944. From left to right: Stoker Fred, Pilot Officer Gordon, Aircraftman Phil.

    Fred Fimio
  • Fred Fimio's brothers, Gordon and Philip, both serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, circa 1944-1945.

    Fred Fimio
  • Stoker 1st Class Fred Fimio, Royal Canadian Navy.

    Fred Fimio
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"We stripped the bodies of all ID, which often included a wallet with photos of wives, sweethearts and of families."

Transcript

I volunteered and joined the navy at age 17 in 1942, went on active service in January of 1943. We were part of the [English] Channel striking force, patrolling up and down the English Channel; and at that particular time, there was almost a ship a week being struck by submarines because they were coming across from North America and going around to Russia by way of the Channel.

Anyways, the ship that I do remember was HMCS Mulgrave, which was my next ship. It was a minesweeper [vessel that detects and disposes of naval mines] and I went aboard it, and participated in the D-Day invasion [of June 6, 1944]. We swept for mines along the French coast. We were first in and first out. We spent a few weeks picking up floating bodies of servicemen who had been killed in the first assault; and at first, we stripped the bodies of all ID, which often included a wallet with photos of wives, sweethearts and of families. I should point out that when we picked up these bodies, we had a burial ceremony and then we buried them at sea. We took their ID and we then forwarded the IDs to the proper authorities.

Later, there was so many bodies that we picked up, that we just stripped them of their ID and then buried them. We didn’t want to be stationary because of the submarines. Anyways, on 8 October, 1944, we were patrolling the English Channel off Calais when we were struck by an explosive device. Whether it was a torpedo or an acoustic mine [mine that detects audio activity in its vicinity], I never did find out. Survivors were transferred, including me to another ship. That’s the last I saw of HMCS Mulgrave.

It was 1944, 66 years ago, although my memory is bit sketchy on dates and details, I will never forget the unexpected and surprising reunion I had with my two brothers in Portsmouth Harbour, England. I had not seen them, either of them, in over two years. Gordon was a flight officer and Philip, my younger brother, was a pilot officer, both in the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force]. Today, we marvel at how lucky we were to have survived the war, returning to Canada to live, raise our families and retire, all three of us still alive and enjoying health.

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