Veteran Stories:
Harry Taylor

Navy

  • In this photograph by Harry Taylor the Atlantic Ocean sprays over the HMCS Kenogami

  • Harry Taylor captures the moment as a torpedoed American Liberty ship sinks into the ocean.

  • Thick sheets of ice forming on the HMSC Kenogami, on which Harry Taylor served

  • This photo by Harry Taylor shows a convoy forming up before heading to Europe

  • Thick ice covers much of the HMCS Kenogami, which Harry Taylor captured in this photograph while the ship was preparing to enter port

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"Submarines and the weather were our worst enemies"

Transcript

I'm Harry Taylor, I served in the Royal Canadian Navy. The Navy's job, during the war was escorting convoys over to Britain. A convoy consists of fifty, sixty, seventy ships carrying war supplies. The escort consisted of four Corvettes and a senior ship... was usually a destroyer. Our position all the way across was to search for submarines. Submarines and the weather were the worst enemies. If the weather was rough it was rough for the submarines, so it was safer for us then, too.

Usually in the centre of a convoy was an oil tanker that served as a gas station for refueling ships at sea. The Corvettes are really not meant to be going overseas and they were just little ships. About eighty men served on them. The living conditions were somewhat rotten. The [HMCS] Kenogami, which I served on was the old type. The waves came over, and by the time it hit another wave, the water would splash into the mess deck. So, it was always damp in there and the hammocks were wall to wall and they were about a foot from the deck head. Very cramped quarters. The size of the Corvette is so small it didn't have enough water supply or room for water tanks, so you weren't allow to shower at sea. And, by the time you... two or three weeks at sea, and all these men in close quarters, it was kind of rank. They would turn the water on three times a day at meal time. There was always one-third of the personnel on duty at any given time so, it was easier to get a Coke than a drink of water at sea.

The winter... you had no choice, you had to go with the convoy when you were told. It didn't matter the weather. You couldn't wait a day 'til the storm passes over, you just went with the flow. And during the winter, it's not unusual to ice up and, they would, on occasion, have to wake everybody up to go and chip the ice off the ship, especially on one side where the wind was blowing. It would get heavy and a little list to it. And because of rough weather the cook had an awful time trying to prepare a meal. I don't remember having a gourmet meal. Most meals you hold the plate with one hand and fork with the other and try and balance it while you put it down. Same with a cup of coffee. You could never get a full cup and you had to balance that so you could get a drink. The seamen's mess is right under the gun. Thirty or forty men must be in there and three tables. You live and eat and everything in that one mess deck. The hammocks are up out of the way so you could sit by the tables. But if you want to come out of your hammock you, pretty well, had to step on the table, excuse yourself, you put your blanket in somebody's soup. (laughing)

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