Veteran Stories:
Bill Miller

Navy

  • Mr. Miller's Statement of War Service Gratuity.

    Bill Miller
  • Photo of Mr Miller and Irene Miller taken in November 1944 - a few days prior to their wedding.

    Irene Girard
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"The captain got us all on deck and complimented the engine room division, which was Schultz and myself, and there was two engine rooms on the frigates, for the exemplary job we did in an instant like that."

Transcript

It would be monotonous because many, many times, you never had anything to, you never found anything [when hunting German U-boats]. And when you did, you got a sound and many times it turned out that you might have a sub, you never knew what you had under there. Many times we dropped depth charges [anti-submarine weapon] and nothing happened. And there were five ships in our group and we were EG [Escort Group] 27. Two of them were from the British navy, the [HMS] Meon and [HMS] Tyrian. The [HMCS] Lasalle, ourselves, the [HMCS] Levis (ii), was the one I was on, and two of the ships that were not always constant in there, the [HMCS] Kirkland Lake was with us for a while; and so it’s a kind of a monotonous deal. Only once can we say that we thought we had contact with a submarine, but you have to have absolute proof. So how do you pick up a slick of oil? It could be a false slick. We never picked up debris. So many times I think some subs were gotten by, not ourselves, but other ships and that. Never having proof of it, how can you claim? Well, there was excitement at times. I remember one very vivid one. We had been, this’ll give you an idea of the monotony, I came on watch with my buddy or partner, John Schultz, and there hadn’t been a movement. A movement is change in the speed of the propellers on the ship. They had been 80 rpm [revolutions per minute] all night long. We came on at midnight. Pretty close to 4:00 in the morning, the signal came down from the bridge, full astern. Well, we woke up in a hurry. We were sitting there and nothing to do for four hours. So the first thing we had to do was reverse those engines and they’re big reciprocating engines. Crankshafts are, I don’t know, 10, 12 feet high, and you have to get the lever that reverses the ship at top dead centre and then just yank for all you’re worth. And that reverses the propeller, right, going from one direction instantly, so, and full astern at the same time. So we kind of tilt it to one side and never. Anyway, that was the exciting part. The next morning, the captain got us all on deck and complimented the engine room division, which was Schultz and myself, and there was two engine rooms on the frigates [well-armed escort vessels], for the exemplary job we did in an instant like that. And he was going to recommend for a medal; he did, but I don’t think anything ever occurred or happened as a result of that. It just died. So that’s one exciting moment. We had our rum rations; and Lofty, who was our mess boy, he was a stoker, would go up and bring us, you got an ounce and a half, and that meant we got nine ounces ever day to share between the six of us. Well, we didn’t drink it, so we put it in a bottle and saved it for when we went ashore. Or when we landed in Halifax [Nova Scotia] particularly, Halifax was our home port. So in Halifax, I recall numerous times when we’d land. The first place we’d go, we’d put our rum into small bottles, 13 ounce mickeys as we called them. And if you told any of the dockyard maties, as we called them, that you had a mickey for sale, they’d give you $5 for it just like that. You could buy it in the liquor store if you could get it for about $1. And so we’d sell it and go out on the town with $10 between two fellows, and your buddy and you would have a ball with $10 in Halifax, or anywhere for that matter. We used to get into Boston quite frequently and do much the same thing there because liquor was rationed down there too.
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