"The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest naval battle in the history of the world, and we did our job"
My name is William Taylor, Able Seaman of the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteers. I joined up in Hamilton, Ontario late '41, and we were on stand-by. We didn't get to join as uniform, because only uniforms were issued to people who were thumbing their way home. In early '42, the draft went out and they needed more, so we were drafted and joined the Navy.
We arrived at Halifax. Halifax was a very busy city because it was full of nothing but armed forces – Navy, Army, and Merchant Navy. We did some more training there and we were called, in those days, 'Jeeps.' We had white hats and had to wear lanyards. All the rest of the Able Seamen wore black hats, and they kind of looked down on us, but nevertheless. We had a training officer – I can't remember his name – he was very high on athletics. He kept us in good shape, and he entered us into the whaler and rowing championships in Halifax Harbour. Believe it or not, we won the whalers and the cutters crews championships. In doing that, he gave us a free night in the pub.
We were now Able Seamen, and the white hats went and we were the Jacks of the street. Everything was going along fine, until one evening I was writing a letter home when they were screaming over the PA, "Able Seamen Taylor, report to the drafting office right away." I went up there and they said, "Pack your bags, and the truck will be ready to pick you up." They took me down to the docks. The Corvette [HMCS] Chicoutimi had a small engine repair and they were pulling in the dockyard. Men jumped off, and they threw my bags on and I became an Able Seaman of the HMCS Chicoutimi, K156. You walked into the mess deck and we had thirty-five men living in a mess deck. Very cramped quarters and only sixteen places to sling a hammock.
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest naval battle in the history of the world, and we did our job. We went from New York City, picking up convoys galore. We'd pick up fifty ships at a time, bring them out of New York, pick up ammunition ships and high octane gasoline ships coming all the way from Uruguay, and they'd join our convoy and we would scoot them off up the coast of America, all the way up the coast of Newfoundland, and then the relief ships came out from there and they continued on with the convoy overseas.
My life aboard the Corvette was good, rough, and we were paid extra money – twenty-five cents a day and they called it 'hard lying,' which actually means cramped quarters. We had more ammunition on board, and we more guns detailed to us. We had Oerlikons, and the more guns you had aboard, the more crew you had, so we ended up with about a hundred and five crew.
I put three and half years on the Corvette. It was sent down to be a training ship. They didn't want to spend any more money on it, so we were all drafted off. I was drafted to a frigate called the [HMCS] Inch Arran. We went to Bermuda, and on my way home I had appendicitis, and when I got to Halifax I was drafted off. Recovered, sent home on leave, came back. I was sent back to Halifax after the operation, and I was called to be drafted to Owen Sound to pick up a tug called HMCS Glendyne. The crew and I took the tug through the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence, arrived at Montreal, and the war was over.