"My dad was upset [with his decision to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy] because the religion we were in [Christadelphinism], we were conscientious objectors."
My dad was upset [with his decision to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy] because the religion we were in [Christadelphinism], we were conscientious objectors. And he was real upset when I joined up. He also was upset when I started smoking (laughs). My job was on radar [as a radar operator in the Royal Canadian Navy V Class Destroyer HMCS Sioux]; watching that screen. I sat in a cabin and watched a screen. It told me the surface ships all around us.
Subs [German U-boats] that would come up, you could pick off their conning tower. On a calm day, you could pick off their scope in the water, but in rough water you wouldn’t see it.
Well, we had a rig that we could throw at them and get them to answer. You just sort of interrogate to see what the hell it was. Echo bearing: I think it’s a submarine.
The guys on the rails and on the [depth charge] throwers, that was, the Americans called them ash cans but they were depth charges [anti-submarine weapons]. All the depth charges were preset, so if you got sunk, get the hell away from there buddy because they’re going to blow up.
We were ferrying big stuff to Russia [on the Murmansk Run, escorting supplies to the Soviet Union’s Arctic ports], big guns and some tanks and some aircraft, because she threatened to pull out of the war if she didn’t get some help. Well, they’re supposed to be our allies, but that was questionable. But we used to swap them cigarettes and their cigarettes were that much tobacco [gestures] and the rest was just a tube. Of course, we were only paying 10 cents a deck for them. Ten cents a deck at the canteen.
Oh yeah, there was a sorrow island on the west coast of Norway and four destroyers went in there and the other three British destroyers had cleared their after messdeck. And they took civilian kids and moms and dads and kids onboard. But we weren’t prepared [for that], we were just in at the last. So our after messdeck was not cleared. But we went in to help them. They took nearly the whole town off, took them to Kola Inlet, put them on freighters to take them in the convoy back to Britain.
My birthday, May 28th and D-Day [the Allied Normandy landings] was June the 6th . And going across the [English] Channel, I know I cried. And we were there 20 some odd days bombing inland. You couldn’t get away from the big guns going off because you’re onboard. We’d get a target from an army guy inland. But those guns going off, boy, you couldn’t get away from them. The gunners had special gear over their faces and over their ears but we didn’t.
But we operated out of Scapa Flow [the Royal Navy’s principal base, in the Scottish Orkney Islands], so we go back up to Scapa Flow and continue whatever they gave us to do with the [Murmansk Run] convoys. Well, we lost two guys on convoy. They used to have tow planes towing what they called drogues but they were just the frames of aircraft. And the anti-aircraft guys were supposed to shoot at them, well, they clipped the cables once and this thing went into a glide and crashed on our flagdeck and hit two of the flagmen. One of them died that night. No burial at sea. No, they’re buried in Scapa Flow.