Veteran Stories:
John “Kevin” Power

Navy

  • The officers of the HMCS Victoriaville on commissioning, fall of 1944.From left to right: Peter Stanger (Navigator); name unknown (Communications); Arnold Webb (Gunnary); Parkinson, first name unknown (Equipment Operator); Les Hickey (Commanding Officer); Kevin Power (Paymaster); Name unknown (Assistant Equpiment Operator); Fred Bud Burbidge (Executive Officer). This indicates the number and roles of the officers on a frigate at that time, and the obvious young age of all - I was 22 ; Kevin Power.

    Royal Canadian Navy
  • Rod Johntson and Kevin Power aboard German U-Boat U-190 before being sunk off of Halifax in a gunnery excercise in the fall of 1947.

    Kevin Power
  • The commissioning of HMCS Victoriaville in Quebec City, fall of 1944.

    Kevin Power
  • John Nicol (left) and Gunnary Officer Arnold Webb on watch aboard HMCS Victoriaville, 1944 or 1945.

    Kevin Power
  • Kevin Power at the voice-pipe aboard HMCS Victoriaville, April, 1945.
    "Port 20 degrees!" (salty, eh, what?!)

    Kevin Power
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"You realize that this is sort of fraternity of the sea, if I can call it that..."

Transcript

The war ended on the 8th of May [1945] and we were in the midst of coming back from Londonderry, [Northern] Ireland, to Newfoundland as an escort. And of course, one of the exciting parts on the 8th of May was listening to the radio of what was going on in Halifax [the Halifax V-E Day riots of May 7-8] every day, that was staggering. But anyway, after the two or three days, I guess it was about the 11th of May, the ship [HMCS Victoriaville] received a message saying to rendezvous at a certain spot to receive the surrender of a German U-boat [­U-190]. We were then about 500 miles off Newfoundland when this occurred.

So I guess it was a day or so later, and this German submarine did appear, we caught up with them, and there was a corvette called [HMCS] Thorlock who was with us as well. We were the senior officer, we were in the frigate the Victoriaville as I mentioned to you. I was on the bridge as a sort of second officer of the watch, although I was supply officer, I didn’t have to keep any watches on the bridge but I did.

When we caught up to the German U-boat, we had a group ready to go aboard the U-boat. At that point, they decided to send the German prisoners to our ship or the Thorlock and leave us a few Germans of course to run the engines. And we had a miniature size crew there as well, to go from there back to Bay Bulls, Newfoundland, which had been established.

We got most of the officers in the ship initially and a mixture of senior men and other ranks of people in the ship. We were all a bit nervous naturally and wondering what it would all be like. But once things settled down, you realized that the naval officers, most of them that we dealt with of course were naval officers. The fellow that was the first officer in the U-190, he reminded me of Errol Flynn, if you ever heard of him, he was a great Hollywood actor at that time. He was a typical what you would think Errol Flynn was. You know, going on how wonderful he was and how when they got back to Germany, how all the girls were standing by for him.

And by the next morning, well of course, that day, the German CO [commanding officer, Oberleutnant zur See Hans-Erwin Reith] surrendered to our captain [Skr. Lt. Lester Alton Hickey, RCNR] and it was interesting that he surrendered unconditionally “my crew and my boat,” was the way he called it. But the word unconditionally was interesting because that’s what [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill had stipulated very clearly at V-E Day, that it would only be unconditional surrender.

The next day, they decided that there were too many people in Thorlock, too many German people in Thorlock and that the better distribution of the German crew would be for the officers and the lower ranks to be on our ship and the POs [Petty Officers] to be in the Thorlock. So they had to transfer people, mostly from Thorlock to our ship.

Well, when that happened, that was the staggering thing happened, because I was on the upper deck immediately where the Germans were to come up and instead of transferring them by boat, the two captains decided, oh, they’re not the same class of ship, to just come up alongside and have these people jump from one ship to the other. And that was a rather precarious situation.

Anyway, as they jumped, one German fellow just caught the last guardrail on the side and be on the ship standing next to me was this very young German officer. He must have been about early 20s and about six foot two and a very robust fellow. He reached down and just grabbed this young sailor and just pulled him up and, fortunately, saved his life because the two ships were bobbing up together, causing minor damage as a matter of fact. But anyway, the result of that was, the next day, the German captain, which has the authority to award a Third Class Iron Cross, awarded this German officer - in our wardroom - the Third Class Iron Cross, which was a fascinating experience.

They had sunk ships in the Battle of the Atlantic and we thought they were terrible people, there’s no doubt about that in our mind. But you realize that it’s, the individuals are doing their job. You realize that this is sort of fraternity of the sea, if I can call it that, that all these guys who were in the German submarine, I mean, they were naval officers or sailors or whatever, the same as we are. And I wasn’t excusing what they did, in fact, they sunk the Esquimalt, you know, HMCS Esquimalt about two or three weeks just before the war ended [on April 16, 1945], right off Nova Scotia. I didn’t like them in that terms but we realized, or I did anyway, that it was the German government against the Allies, fundamentally.

Follow us