Veteran Stories:
Manning Wright

Navy

  • Portrait of S.B.A. Manning Wright, 1944, who was the "Doc" on the HMCS Lanark and the HMCS Arrowhead.

  • Crew members of the HMCS Lanark, 1944/45. Photo taken by LS Harold Golmer, RCN Ship's Photographer.

  • Crew members of the HMCS Lanark, 1944/45. Photo taken by LS Harold Golmer, RCN Ship's Photographer.

  • Crew members in a lifeboat off of the HMCS Lanark, 1944/45. Photo taken by LS Harold Golmer, RCN Ship's Photographer.

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"As one of my compatriots said that there was 99% boredom and 1% unmitigated hell."

Transcript

My name is Manning Wright. I was a sick berth attendant on board small ships in the Royal Canadian Navy. I got into the navy when I was 17 years old and nine months.

My first service at sea was on a Corvette. We'd meet convoys which were coming back from overseas and we'd take them to Boston and New York and the Bay of Fundy. And then we'd... some were convoys and then we would take those convoys out and meet the mid-ocean escort, which started in Newfoundland, and took it across to Britain. My second ship was a Frigate which was actually on the mid-ocean escort and so we'd now carry forth that part of the convoy duty.

Most of the time our job was not to go out and chase submarines, our job was to protect the convoy. It was very, very monotonous because very often there was just nothing there except a lot of water. Ourselves and other ships in the convoy would, on occasion, hit contacts and we didn't know whether they were submarines but you had to attack them anyway. As one of my compatriots said that there was 99% boredom and 1% unmitigated hell.

It was the 18th of April, 1945, just a couple of weeks before the war actually ended. It was a beautiful, beautiful April day. Sun was shining and it was right at noon and I had just got my lunch from the galley and had sat down to eat it, I heard an explosion and then a few seconds later, I heard another explosion and I recognized it immediately as torpedoes. I immediately went to my sick bay, turned on the sterilizer and headed for the upper deck. When I got there, I saw our ship heading for a burning tanker. We passed a whole bunch of sailors who were in the water and they were yelling and waving and hoping we'd stop and pick them up. But we weren't supposed to pick up survivors. Our job was to protect the convoy. Two ships had been torpedoed. The merchant ship had gone down in less than five minutes, fortunately there was no loss of life. But the tanker was something different. It had aviation gasoline on it. The ship continued to chug around in a circle seeping burning gasoline. And, of course, most of the people on board ship succumbed in the fire. We picked up one chap who had been treading water there, not too far from the edge of the fire as a matter of fact. I took him down to the sick bay and checked him over for any injuries. Tried to calm him. A few minutes after he got in to the bed, we actually threw over a depth charge and, of course, he was lying within about 18 inches of the side of the ship. It didn't take long for him to pop out of bed. I assured him that, that was us who had caused that particular explosion, got him back into bed and arranged to put on some ear phones that let him hear what the captain was telling the people with the depth charges, and this made him feel a lot better because he could hear what was going on.

I lost my best friend on HMCS St. Croix. And he was the nicest person I ever met in my life. And he had three months on board the St. Croix and he went down. And... you know, that's just the way it goes. There's no picking and choosing, the officers and the men on board ship were all in the same boat.

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