Veteran Stories:
Don James

Air Force

  • Mr. Donald James, September 2011.

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"So he grabbed the wheel and by that time, the captain came rushing down and wanted to know what was going on and he said: ‘Well, there’s a submarine over there.'"

Transcript

I was too young to join, tried to join the [Royal Canadian] Navy and of course, I was too young so I ended up in the spring of 1942 and joined, there was a ship tied up down here at the Dartmouth [Nova Scotia] wharf at the time and they were looking for crew, so I signed on there. That was a ship, coastal ship really called the Maid of Sterling, and they were just hauling […] ore from Walton, Nova Scotia. And we hauled quite a bit of ore down to the main Rochester from the Bay of Fundy up in Walton, in the Linus Basin that is. And on the trip, I can confirm the dates on the trip that we went out and usually for some reason or other, I usually ended up at the wheel or […] when the chief mate was on. The captain of course went to sleep. So sometime we’d take her out and bring her back in. And this night is one of those nights that there’s, well it would be 12:00 that the tide, turn of the tide to go down the Bay of Fundy. And when we came out of Walton, I saw something on the horizon and of course, when I saw it, to me it was a submarine right away. So I swung the wheel over and tensioned the ram and it didn’t work out because the chief mate grabbed the wheel, he felt the shift going so you know when you’re going out with the tide at the Bay of Fundy, you’re doing almost double your speed. So he grabbed the wheel and by that time, the captain came rushing down and wanted to know what was going on and he said: ‘Well, there’s a submarine over there. He said: 'You didn’t see a submarine?’ I said: ‘Yes, we saw a submarine. I said, I did anyway.’ It was a funny configuration, it looked like a bunch of boxes or trees on the back deck of it and I didn’t know until afterwards when I found at […] that it was a new type of mine that they were getting ready to lay and there was, I think there was five submarines built that way that they were to lay a different type of mine and it looked like they were, instead of throwing, as they did before, they boxes them in, they’d slide them over in a certain area. But anyway, that I had to keep my thoughts to myself, what I knew or what I saw or what I tried to do, so when we got down in the [United] States, I wrote a letter to the naval dockyard, stating what I saw. Well, which was stupid at that time because the communication time to get a letter back from the States back here on the dockyard would be almost impossible. But anyway, they did get the letter and of course, the captain’s called down or the naval authorities over there wanted to know why that submarine wasn’t reported. He said, they didn’t see any sub. But anyway, he kept me aboard and he fired the chief mate for siding in with me. That’s, that’s the … But anyway, what happened before when I got involved in the submarine, I was bound and determined that I’d find out more about, as much as I could find out about it and the route to the German embassy or the war office over there later on in later years, and they referred me back to the Brits, one of the chaps that used to write for submarine warfare. And unfortunately, the submarine that I was trying to get to hold which was U-213 [sunk by depth charges on July 31st 1942 east of the Azores], to confirm when she had been up in the Linus Basin and if they had seen anything as a ship or whatever while they were there. But anyway, it was sunk shortly after we had seen, I think it was sunk in June or latter part of July, when we had seen that.
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