Veteran Stories:
Peter McCaul Cornell

Navy

  • Peter Cornell at the Memory Project event held at the Perley Rideau Veteran Health Centre in Ottawa on June 9, 2011.

    Historica Canada
  • Peter Cornell after promotion to Lieutenant Commander in 1954.

    Peter Cornell
  • HMCS Uganda rounding Cape Horn [the southernmost point of South America] in 1946

    Peter Cornell
  • HMCS Digby under sail in Lake Ontario.

    Peter Cornell
  • Peter Cornell aboard HMCS Uganda [6th from left, front row].

    Peter Cornell
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"And that felt very war-like because I remember we were in Shelburne Harbour [Nova Scotia] and in came a U-boat [a German submarine], being towed in with the fleet."

Transcript

I was 16 years old when I joined the military. In 1943, my brother was sunk in a corvette [a small warship] too. My brother’s case has been written up in a couple books. He went down with the ship. And when the boilers blew up, he went up to the surface. My stint at HMCS Iroquois was not very brave really like that. But I was there for a purpose and then one morning, I was walking through the dockyard and met Chief Petty Officer Briggs, who was our chief at the naval college. He said, “what are you doing?” I said, “God, chief, not much.” “Would you like to get some sea time?” “Yeah.” “I’ll see to it.” God, and he did, within two hours or something, he had me appointed to an Algerine-class minesweeper the HMCS Border Cities. And so I started off back to the west coast, the long way around. And that felt very war-like because I remember we were in Shelburne Harbour [Nova Scotia] and in came a U-boat [a German submarine], being towed in with the fleet. But anyway, we spent six weeks or something we spent in that ship. Yeah. And even there we visited quite a number of places. We visited Kingston, Jamaica and Panama. Well, my memory was ridden with thoughts of hardships, a lot of hard hardships. I don’t think we thought much about it though. VE-Day [the day German surrender was formalized on May 8th, 1945] we were marched to the gym. Coming back from the gym, the church bells began to ring. And we were stopped and the leading seaman in charge of us said, about turn, quick march, don’t think you’re getting out that easily, lads.
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