Veteran Stories:
William “Bill” Owen

Army

  • A shoulder patch for the rank of Leading Seaman.

    Bill Owen
  • A Royal Canadian Navy hat badge for the rank of Leading Seaman.

    Bill Owen
  • A photograph of Bill Owen taken during the Second World War.

    Bill Owen
  • A photo of Bill Owen (left) and his friend Jack Campbell taken in 1942.

    William Owen
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"All the shipmates aboard and we always seemed to be on the same level. There was never anything else. We were there for one job and we got along with each other and we shared our hardships, whatever they might be, it was always A1 together."

Transcript

I was in the VRs and I was getting, that’s the voluntary reserves, getting a draft to the HMS Revenge as the gunner and I was discharged as medically unfit. So, and being the way I am, I said, cripe, I can’t hang around, so I joined the reserve army that were for unfit men, the Home Guard like, you know. And I did that about a year and I kept fighting to go back in the navy and I managed to get back in. So I got back in the navy and I was in there for about a year or a year and a half, I had all the army outfit and everything and I just asked my dad to return it back to the armouries, which he tried to do and he did. But then I came home on leave one day and my mother answered the door and cripe, came back in, pale faced, two Mounties were there. And I went to the door and they grabbed each arm, had me up for a deserter from the army. In wartime, now this is quite serious. So anyhow, I got out my [identification] card and I explained it all to them, how I had been navy and the army, I wasn’t staying in the reserve army, I wanted to get in the action. So I got back in the navy again. And that was how we cleared it up. But I mean, it was quite a serious thing to be up as a deserter in the army at wartime. I was drafted to the [HMCS] Frontenac which was down St. John, Newfoundland and I boarded the Frontenac and when you go onboard, you automatically meet the coxswain and the coxswain tells you what watch you’re going to be on and what is going to happen, this, that and it’s all laid out for you. And get your battle station and my battle station was going to be depth charges. Practically every time we went over to a convoy over to Londonderry [Northern Ireland], we’d have a depth charge attack on a sub or something, we never did see it or no, always the sound would tell us. We were young, all 18-20, not hardly a married man aboard, they were all single. And 18-20 years old, and really, it was a hardship, she rolled and tossed, I mean that was the biggest part was living on the quarters. But as far as the fear and that, it never seems to enter the boys’ mind, they just want about their duty, did their job and that was it. Every time practically we went over, we would have a loss or two. But I mean, when you’re on a convoy, you change station and actually, you never knew what was going on. You only had one little job to do and that was it and everybody did their job and was all, when it was over, it was over. Myself and another fellow were going ashore this night and I was a PO and he was the OD and the laundry was just on the jetty, we went to the laundry and we stole two uniforms. I had a dental officer uniform and I forgot what he had, and we spent the time in the night as officers. Then we returned the uniforms in early morning. All the shipmates aboard and we always seemed to be on the same level. There was never anything else. We were there for one job and we got along with each other and we shared our hardships, whatever they might be, it was always A1 together. We all had a mess table, there were only so many mess tables, there was Williams from Toronto and a couple other names I’ve forgotten but we’d get along great. We’d sit there and discuss our life after and before and play cards or whatever.
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