Veteran Stories:
Laurence Jesse William Morgan

Navy

  • Laurence Morgan, 1939.

    Laurence Morgan
  • Laurence Morgan (in middle) in Durban, South Africa, 1943.

    Laurence Morgan
  • Laurence Morgan (in middle) in Alexandria, Egypt, 1941.

    Laurence Morgan
  • Laurence Morgan speaking at a Church in Remembrance and appreciation of the veterans, November 2009.

    Laurence Morgan
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"It’s a terrible thing, war. I hope the young people today don’t have to go through what I went through."

Transcript

Lawrence Morgan, born 24th of the 11th, 1920. I was born in Seal Cove, Conception Bay, near St. John’s. There was no work in Newfoundland, so the young people joined the navy or the air force or the army. And they had to join the British because Newfoundland was a British colony, at that time. And there’s no reason why I joined, I wanted just to get away because there’s no work in Newfoundland at that time. I was working on a farm making $7 a month. That’s all the pay we were getting.

So there wasn’t much to it, there wasn’t much to life. So I just joined up, that’s all. Landed over in England, and I was seven years in the navy, after the war was over, 1939-45, I joined the merchant navy and I was two years in the merchant navy. And the ship I was on went down so I, I left the navy then. I was a gunner so I’d be on the anti-aircraft and the six 4.5 they called it. It was about five feet long and four inches in diameter.

For me, I kept the guns clean after action. We were all ready for, well, I tell you, they would call from the bridge, “aircraft in sight, bearing green 9-0, stand by to open fire.” They say “open fire,” so you open fired. So you don’t see what you’re firing at because you’re below deck, and it’s 4.5 gun, that I was on, and then we had four 16 inch-gun. And one shell was a thousand pounds, beside the cordite, behind the shell. And we would sink a ship 20 mile away. It was all done by radar, by firing these. And you had to fire straight behind or straight ahead because if you fired broadside, the ship would tip over.

We were in battle one time and this man was preparing to put his lifejacket on and a piece of shrapnel hit him and while he was running, as he was in a hurry, he cut his head right off and his head rolled across the deck and so I often wonder why it wasn’t me, but I’m still around here.

Well, just before the war ended there were magnetic bombs and a German submarine came into the harbour [Alexandria Harbour, Egypt]. Two-man sub, Italian and a German man, they got them after, and they dropped these magnetic bombs in the water and steel drew these bombs that stuck onto the ship. And so they were timed bombs, they were timed to explode. [HMS] Queen Elizabeth, she had blowed up in Alexandria. We got one off of the ship before it went off, but one of them exploded and made a big hole in the side of the ship and not far from the magazine. If you’d hit with the magazine, the ship would have blowed up because that’s where they kept all the ammunition.

It’s hard to explain what it felt like. It’s so long ago, I don’t know, I can’t remember what it felt like. But you just lived from day to day. You, that’s the way you live. And the British, they, they had a tot of rum every day, we had a tot of rum. It was bad because a lot of men got addicted to it. And every day, they give you a tot, what they called a tot, a little half or quarter pint [142 ml] of rum. It’s very strong stuff, and that would make you feel happy, you know, you don’t care for nothing. When you’re happy, you drink it, you feel like, you forget everything and if you need battle, you just go along with it and … But you lived from day to day really.

It’s a terrible thing, war. I hope the young people today don’t have to go through what I went through. And the last year of the war, 1945, I was stationed in Philadelphia, repairing torpedoes. As the submarines come in, we used to repair torpedoes and go out and check them.

And then when the war ended, 1945, I, they made me a military police. I used to go all over the States and pick up deserters, that deserted during the war. And you hid away in some buildings. And we handcuffed them and take them all back to the station. After that, they were free to go whatever, the service took over from there.

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