Veteran Stories:
Jim Hawley

Navy

  • Re-launch of HMCS Regina HMCS Regina (FFH 334) in Victoria, B.C. with all veterans who had served on the old vessel circa 1992-1994.

    Jim Hawley
  • HMCS Regina. On the 8th of August 1944, HMCS Regina was sunk while escorting American tankers to the Trevose Head

    Jim Hawley
  • Jim Hawley in his Navy uniform, circa 1944.
    In a recent conversation, Mr. Hawley remarked that "everyday is remembrance day for him."

    Jim Hawley
  • Photograph of HMCS Regina

    Jim Hawley
  • Portrait of young Mr. Hawley in 1942 at Esquimault, B.C.

    Jim Hawley
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"I was just heading up to see George and wham-mo, we got her. Just all hell. All I remember is being in the water and looking up and see the forecastle of the ship, where she split right in half when we got hit."

Transcript

When I went out, I missed the draft of regulation trainees and I did my training with officers. I got put in with a bunch of officers that were being basic trained. They were merchant navy officers and that had joined the regular navy.

Food was good. Yeah, we had, when you were able to get it, you know. Over on this side [North American side of the Atlantic Ocean], it was pretty good. Especially when we were running near the American ports, we used to pick up American foods. They always had good. When we were overseas, all you got was mutton. That was, everybody got that. But I didn’t mind it, didn’t bother me.

Some got really seasick. I felt sorry for the poor bastards, it was terrible I guess. The only thing I ever had was a headache and that was the first time going out Halifax harbour. And we were just going out, starting to go out where the big rocks are before you go out into the open sea. And we were just closing the portholes and scuttles, getting ready for sea. And I looked out and you could see the ground going up and down and I got a hell of a headache. And I remember an old Chief, he was sitting on the mess deck with me and I guess I looked pretty tepid and he said, “you’re not feeling very good.” He says, “go into the heads [toilet], put your finger down your throat and bring her up” and he said, you’ll be fine. So I went into the heads and brought everything up and I never was seasick after that.

Yeah, we went along and it was just getting dusk, which I think was about 11:00 at night over there [8 August 1944]. It used to be daylight quite later than here. And I just come off duty and walked up to the bridge, chum of mine, George Dick, he was on the signal lamp on the bridge and I was just heading up to see George and wham-mo, we got her. Just all hell. All I remember is being in the water and looking up and see the forecastle of the ship, where she split right in half when we got hit. And the forecastle went up and I could see the forecastle. I was scared because I thought it was going to come over on us because we were in the water. Oh, it got torpedoed, it split right in half.

Boy, I was lucky, I was above deck. All the guys below deck were killed. Everybody that was below deck, all the engine room, boiler room. The only guy below deck that got off was the guy that was on the wheel and he got washed out. Everybody else got killed.

We were floating around in the oil, that was the hardest part, the water was covered with oil. I forget how long it was we were in the water before we got picked up. An American landing craft picked us up. They were good, they scooped us out of the water and put their coats over us and then they took us in someplace on the south coast. I remember when we went to the small dock, like the boats, the smaller boats come out and picked us up and took us in and we had to walk up the sides of these cliffs, there were stairways going up. And there was a base, an air force base there, fighter base, where Spitfires and Hurricanes and that were based. And they had a hospital on the upper section of the hangar. And they had everything all lined up waiting for us. And pumped our stomachs out. I think you were in shock for a long time, never realized it. Of course, they didn’t understand that back in those days, the same. It was hard to remember different things, you know. Like the shock of everything hit you, and you lost your memory temporarily for a couple months. You couldn’t recall things that were going on. But that’s about all I can remember on that.

I was in Victoria when the first boatload came back, prisoner, ex-prisoners [Canadian prisoners of war from Hong Kong]. And they asked us to take them ashore in Victoria to get them acclimatized to North America before they shipped them home. And I remember the guy, his eyes were sunk in the back of his head, he was fattened up a bit because he’d had food for a while but he wouldn’t say anything against the Japanese. Of course, he’d been a prisoner for so long that he was indoctrinated to keep his mouth shut. But they were really treated bad.

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