"But on May the 8th an order was sent out to all of our ships that we could put our lights on."
My name is Norman Jolly. V52992 in the RCNVR. That's the Royal Canadian Naval Voluntary Reserve. I joined in April, 1943 and took basic training at London, Ontario in a building named HMCS Prevole. And it was fixed up to look like a ship so that all of us young boys, aged 18, 19 and 20, were made to feel that we were already in the Navy. I had never been to sea. I had never even had a ride in a canoe. I went to St. Hyacinthe where I learned to be a coder and then to Halifax.
I was on the triangle run at first, on a ship, HMCS Kenogami, which ran from St. John's, Newfoundland to Halifax and New York, escorting ships from overseas. After that I was on what we called, the North Atlantic run to Britain. On April the 30th, 1945, the ship that I was on, HMCS Atholl, joined a convoy coming west. When we got out into about the middle of the Atlantic, VE-Day was proclaimed. We knew it was coming but we didn't know how soon and I think we all expected it to be a little later than May the 8th. But on May the 8th an order was sent out to all of our ships that we could put our lights on. And the U-Boats in the area were ordered to come to the surface. All through the war we had always had to darken ship. That was very important because U-Boats were in the area, so all ships were darkened. Except hospital ships.
I had been plotting our course on a map. I had done it on previous trips but always destroyed the map after I had done it. This time I kept the map. I plotted the positions of the U-Boats as they were signaled to us. And, as I plotted them, each day I could tell which way they were moving. There were quite a few of them right around where our convoy was sailing. When they were coming to the surface, different ships were ordered to escort them into the harbours. It could be Halifax, or Pictou, Nova Scotia or St. John's, Newfoundland. We were hoping that we would be ordered to escort a submarine but it didn't happen. We were given orders to proceed directly into St. John's, Newfoundland. The convoy was left to proceed to their different destinations independently. We were disappointed that we didn't get to see a U-Boat.
In all my two and a half years in the Navy, I had never seen a U-Boat. I was pretty well protected, but the next morning there was a U-boat right across the bay from us and we were able to go and walk on it. That very night, VE-Day, there were riots going on in Halifax. And the authorities closed down all the bars and places where the men could get something to drink. And that made them angry so they went along the main street of Halifax, which is Barrington Street, and started to smash the windows. Well, then the civilians came along and looted the stores. So it was quite a black mark on the Army and the Navy and the Air Force for quite awhile.
And about two weeks later I was in Halifax and I went into a little restaurant and a waitress there was really angry. She was going off about the riots that had taken place and I said to her, "Well, I was at sea that night." And she said, "That's what everybody says."