Veteran Stories:
Robert John Crothers

Navy

  • Unidentified Canadian infantrymen taking part in a Combined Operations training exercise, Inveraray, Scotland, 27 August 1943. Credit: Sgt.George A. Game / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-132778

    Credit: Sgt.George A. Game / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-132778
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"The next landing was North Africa, November 8th 1942. Then Sicily after going around all of Africa to get to Suez, where we trained with the 8th Army."

Transcript

My name is Robert J. Crothers from Kingston. I joined the Navy… a couple of times, as a matter of fact. My first commission was in June 1940, after having gone to a militia unit, to POWR on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then to HMCS Cataraqui Tuesdays and Thursdays, studying. So by June 1940, I was commissioned as a provisional Lieutenant in the Army, and a probationary Sub-Lieutenant in the Navy. By this time I had made up my mind that I thought I'd like to spend the war in the Navy. So in June 1940, there wasn't much happening in the Navy at all. There were no ships yet, so I resigned that commission and was to go overseas with a draft unit, where after serving in the RN on the lower deck, you were commissioned and went through a course over there. However, when I got to Halifax, it was found that I was colour blind by the Ishihara Test.

I had myself discharged and came back to Kingston, and a year later when they found that I could pass a colour test, I got back a commission. In summer of 1941, I spent it at HMCS Cataraqui, and then went to Royal Rhodes in the third class, September 1941. After four months we were accepted as Sub-Lieutenants, and sent to Halifax to wait for ships coming down off the Lakes. It was pretty slow work, so a number of us from the same class went to the RN in March '42, joining Combined Operations, which was basically navy personnel landing people on the shores during invasions. After training in the UK – not myself, but many of the others in the group – we landed the Canadians at Dieppe.

The next landing was North Africa, November 8th 1942. Then Sicily after going around all of Africa to get to Suez, where we trained with the 8th Army. We landed them in Sicily on July 10th 1943. Then into Italy after Sicily was over, and then back to the UK. By this time we had graduated into larger landing craft – LCILs. We carried two hundred troops over a few days and landed them in Normandy. After Neptune, which was the code name for transporting of troops in any sort of ship, and also supplies… Neptune lasted the month of June, and by that time the Allies had captured the port of Cherbourg as well as Le Havre, so they didn't need to cross the beaches anymore.

After that, I joined HMCS Humberstone, which was a new Castle Class being built in the UK, and twelve of them were given to the RN. They were fine ships.

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