"After about an hour on that ship we were waving good-bye to the Statue of Liberty"
My name is Clayton Stones. I served in the... World War II in the Merchant Navy. I left the Merchant Navy as a machinist. I was with the Queen's Own Rifle Reserves. We were the... or they were put into active service and, of course, I was only sixteen, so they booted my butt out. When I left there I decided to go right over to Wellington Street in Toronto and I joined the Merchant Navy. And they immediately sent me to New York City that night. And I... I didn't have any money on me. I had to walk over to Broad Street, to where the Norwegian Consul was, because the Canadians didn't have enough ships at the time to put us on. And then they assigned me a ship. After about an hour on that ship we were waving good-bye to the Statue of Liberty. I guess it was a mix-up really because I... when I got on that ship, I was the only one that spoke English. And at sixteen years of age that's... (laughter) that's a kind of a terror in itself.
You must remember, none of us were trained for this. We weren't like the armed forces where they were trained to go into battle - we weren't. And at that time we were a civilian group. And we were strictly volunteers. And by that I mean that if you couldn't get in the armed forces, either you were too young or you were too old, that was the way you... way you got in the Merchant Navy. We took all the troops across, took all the aircraft across. Not all of them but mainly a lot of it. And of course, the oil and then the gas they needed and the ammunition they needed, we had to take all that with us. And if you're on a ship where there's say, you know, eight... eight thousand tons of ammunition on board. And you get hit by a torpedo, you're gone. You're history with it because there's just nothing left, you know, it just blew the whole ship up.
The first ship I was on didn't have a gun on it. When you're travelling the North Atlantic... the Battle of North Atlantic and you've got submarines there coming at you, with torpedoes and what not, it's kind of risky. All our cargo ships that were in the... like, carrying ammunition and oil, we... they tried to keep us in the corners of the convoy. So it... if we did get hit, we wouldn't sink half the convoy with us. It was in about 1946, I think it was, I went down to Christie Street to try and get some help for my... I had severe tingling in my ears all the time from the explosions and whatnot on the ship. So I went in there to ask them if I could get some help and they told me: "No, we... we only treat veterans here." And then we... we applied for to get stuff, like these gratuities that the army and that got: "No, you're not veterans. You guys are only... you're all civilians." And this is the way we were treated right up until about ten years ago, I guess I'd say, with it. Canada would not recognize us as veterans.
And then, I applied to the Norwegian government for... for something and they sent me two medals. One from the King of Norway and one from the Defence Minister of Norway, for my participation with the Free Norwegian Forces during the war. Three months later, the Canadian government sent me a bunch of medals that I... I got for the different areas I was in. And then in 1993, I guess it was, I... I started... they started recognizing me as a veteran and gave me a pension.
In 1950, the [Royal Canadian] Legion recognized me as a veteran. Then I... I.. I became very involved with the Legion.