Gerald W. Lewis at the age of 20 when he enlisted in the Canadian Navy. 1943.
Mr. Lewis with a three month beard after a trip out on a Navy ship. Mr. Lewis served on the HMCS Brantford, a corvette, and the HMCS Nipigon, a minesweeper.
Pocket guides that Mr. Lewis carried with him while he was in the Navy: (left) the Naval pocket manual and a pocket Bible.
VE-Day in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Gerald and Ruth Lewis on their wedding day: March 26, 1945.
"We were in Halifax on V-E Day, which was an experience"
I joined up as a stoker in Kingston, Ontario. I had been working in defence work, building anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank guns in Peterborough for two years. After I graduated from a machine shop course, they just automatically sent us up there. They said, "You can't go in the service." It kind of delayed getting into the service, but when I did join up I carried on and I ended up being in the ERA when I got out.
I served on the Corvette, the [HMCS] Brantford, and the minesweeper, the [HMCS] Nipigon, and I was slated to go on the [HMCS] Ontario, which was a Cruiser that was coming over from England. By the time they discharged me, the Ontario hadn't arrived here yet, but it's probably just as well.
I was granted the Atlantic Star for the Battle of the Atlantic. We were just out there and back, and we went out to pick up survivors from a big merchant ship that burned. By the time we got there, there were no survivors, but it was quite an experience. Most of my time was spent around Halifax. I don't even know my way around Halifax anymore because of the expansion and the building. During the war, it was all pretty well wooden structures down the main street.
We were in Halifax on V-E Day, which was an experience. I was actually on leave on V-E Day, but we were called back to the ship that night, and of course didn't get out for another couple of days. I didn't really know what was going on downtown, but it was a terrible mess, the day of V-E Day. They upset a tram car and set fire to it. The fire department came along to put it out and they chopped the hoses. Then all the break-ins and stuff on V-E Day itself. The plate glass… it's a wonder there weren't more people injured or killed. The looting went on, but the Navy of course wasn't involved in the looting. You couldn't steal something and take it back aboard the ship. It was a big celebration. Out of control.
I was doing discharge routine when V-J Day came along. We got browned off for shore patrol that day, but everything was fine. There were no problems on V-J Day.