Naval ratings unloading a torpedo before the refit of an unidentified Town-class destroyer of the Royal Canadian Navy, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, March 1941.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-105202
"So he says in his log that there was no sense on wasting a torpedo killing more men when it’s the ship that I was after and not the men."
Our ship [HMCS Teme] was torpedoed on 30 March, 1945, so it was the second last ship to be torpedoed in the Canadian navy. It was 7:35 in the morning and we heard a loud bang, and all the lights went out. We had been told, they had had trouble with the lights before, so they said, well, if the lights go out again, something’s happened, boys.
So anyway, we made our way, of course, I was down below, made our way up to the top. We were just dressing at the time. I was supposed to be on duty at 8:00 on the quarterdeck where the ship was torpedoed and that’s where there were four guys that got killed there. And that was my, I was going to be a replacement for one of those guys, but 25 minutes later, you wouldn’t be talking to me today.
When the ship was torpedoed, of course, then they became a floating, like a cork. We were a fighter escort by the way, chasing subs in the English Channel. And instead of us getting the sub [U-315], they got us. But apparently, now, there’s a lot of stories about this thing here, but I looked up a fellow that’s very, very adept at the internet, looked it up. From his story that he told me and I never got that when I was in the navy, I got that 40 years later. The captain of that submarine had crippled that ship and to send another torpedo on that ship wasn’t his bag. He must have been kind of a, I don’t know what you would call this man, a man of values anyway. He said that this was the tail end of the war, they found that in a log apparently; and when his submarine gave up or docked in Ireland, when they gave themselves up to the enemy, which was us. So he says in his log that there was no sense on wasting a torpedo killing more men when it’s the ship that I was after and not the men. I thought that was quite … If it wasn’t for him, we would probably be dead. We would have probably got that, because that first torpedo usually just cripples us and then the second one just blasts, then they can get it broadside and then that’s the end of ship.
The amazing thing is that we were all on the, well, not on the quarterdeck, there was no more quarterdeck. We were on the rest of the ship. They were just floating and there was a calm there that I always thought of, you know, the guys would have been agitated and afraid, and what have you, but there was a calm that was unbelievable.
And then there’s another one of our escort ships came over and towed the ship in. But they took half the crew off, you know, and put them on, on these lifeboats. And we had to make our way to the shore.
What happened then is that the ship was towed in. The ship was a complete loss. They never refitted that ship at all. First of all, the war was just on the tail end. So that was quite the experience. I can remember it very well. It’s the one I said, well, I’m lucky to be here.
You’ve got to take the day, the time that I was living. French and English, well, they didn’t fight, but they didn’t exactly have fun together. We were separated. Like St. Boniface kind of separated from Winnipeg and we always looked down, well, the English are this, the English are that. But it was a great lesson to me because we found some wonderful people all over the place. In fact, the people that I liked the most was the English. You know, the people, all the people I met. It was a great education for me. And this was good. I thank, I don’t know if I should thank the navy or I should thank the war. But I shouldn’t thank that, that was a war, but the fact that there was a war and I came out with some emotional benefits out of it, yeah. Yeah, I had a different slant on the world after that.