"I was I would say very lucky because other ships were sunk and we had no trouble at all."
I am Edwin Robert Gibbon, former, in this case, radio operator on Canadian [merchant] ships sailing in the Atlantic and the Pacific from 1942 to 1945.
Well, first of all, on convoy, we went out of Halifax [Nova Scotia] in a convoy and we were on a 5,000 ton ship, the [SS] Victoria Park. And it couldn’t keep up with the United States ships. We were run by coal fire; United States Navy were oil burners. So they didn’t have to stop for coal and stuff like that.
We were at the tail end of the convoy because these American ships could go much faster and the convoy admiral said we couldn’t keep up, but he was on the tail end, he said, well, we couldn’t continue that way. So we were told to go back to Halifax, which we did. And into the Bedford Basin and got it all rearranged. And from then until – that was in 1942 – from then until the end of the war, we were a ship all by ourselves, we didn’t have any destroyers or anything guarding us, we just went on our own down the Atlantic coast in to the Caribbean, down the Caribbean into a couple of ports in the north of South America. But the Port of Spain in Trinidad was where we hung out mostly.
I was chief radio operator and purser. I had a list of all the people on the ship and asked them, as we came to a new country and we were going into port there, they could get up to $50 Canadian dollars worth of the new currency in the country we were landing in. So everybody, I made a list, all the seamen came in and I asked how much could they have. Some wanted $25, some wanted $50, so I listed it all. And when I got through all that, for all the crew, then I had to add it all up and when we got to the total, then I filled in a thing to show how much money we had to get out of the bank to get the new country’s currency.
We wondered in the beginning, going down from Halifax to New York, because all on the Atlantic coast, that’s where a lot of the torpedoes [were]. So we were too small to be bothered by them, by the German Navy. We weren’t allowed to transmit because the transmit, the submarines could take a bearing on us and that would, this way we just received messages.
And the result was – I must have to say, it was the same as peacetime. We were never bothered by any enemy. The only bother we had, having to go into the port and load up with ammunition or things like that, wartime items that we transferred from this port to that port. And I was I would say very lucky because other ships were sunk and we had no trouble at all.