Veteran Stories:
John Joseph “Joe” Currie

Navy

  • John Currie with his eldest son in the garden of their home in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 1941-42.

    John Currie
  • John Currie with his medals at home in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the 1990s.

    John Currie
  • John Currie, Royal Canadian Navy, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), 1960s.

    John Currie
  • John Currie in Royal Canadian Navy officer's uniform in Europe on a "Show the Flag Tour" in 1950.

    John Currie
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"I knew we were hit, but I didn’t know where. So I put on my lifejacket, dressed as quick as I could, went up on deck and I saw the stern of the ship was completely gone."

Transcript

I went to sea in 1935 with a hydrographic survey ship [research vessel]. And as war was declared on 10 September, 1939, my ship come into, I was on a ship, come into Halifax [Nova Scotia] and the ship paid off. So the [Royal Canadian] Navy was recruiting at the time, so I went into the recruitment centre, filled in an application, a couple of tests and a medical, and seven days later, I joined the navy for seven years -and that lasted for 28 years.

I was the chief stoker. I was in charge of the engine room, the stokers and the petty officers, and that. My duties were to water our ship, fuel the ship, look after the damage control. If something happened to any part of the ship, such as, I was on the HMCS Teme when it was torpedoed [by U-315 off Land's End, England on March 29, 1945] and we lost about 60 feet of damage to our compartments. Since I was the chief petty officer in charge of damage control, the compartment next to the sea, we had to go in and there was, the ship always carried two by fours or four by fours for shoring, go in there and shore up the bulkhead, and try and prevent any seawater from entering.

It happened about 7:00 in the morning; and I had just got out of my bunk. I knew we were hit, but I didn’t know where. So I put on my lifejacket, dressed as quick as I could, went up on deck and I saw the stern of the ship was completely gone. So everybody was at action stations.

We realized that the ship was reasonably safe for the time being, provided we could get the bulkhead shored up. This was in the morning, some time about 11:00 or 12:00 that day, a corvette [lightly armoured escort vessel], I think it was the Moose, I forget the name of the, [HMCS] Moose Jaw I think, put a line on us and tried to tow us into harbour. The line broke; and then in the afternoon, a tug come out from Falmouth, I guess, England, and got a line on us and towed us into harbour. Some time in the afternoon, a frigate [anti-submarine escort vessel] or a corvette come alongside and took off, I think it was 57 of our crew and left just a skeleton crew.

We escorted a convoy [SC-48] of I don’t know how many ships. Say, there was 50 ships in a convoy, they would put them in a line of ten ships each, five lines of ten ships. Well, the favourite trick of a pack of submarines was to torpedo a ship on the outside line and then slip into that area to get in amongst the convoy. And that made them very hard to detect and running around between the ships. It was very difficult in the darkness ̶ at night, you were in as much danger getting rammed or ramming a merchant ship as you were from being torpedoed.

On that occasion, we lost 11 merchant ships. We lost an American destroyer [large multi-purpose escort vessel] and we lost a British corvette. The destroyer’s name was USS Kearny [torpedoed by U-568 southwest of Iceland on October 17, 1941 - before the United States had entered the war - killing 11 men; she was repaired and returned to service] and the British corvette was [HMS] Gladiolus [sunk southwest of Iceland on October 17, 1941, most likely by U-553, with the loss of all hands].

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