Veteran Stories:
Norman Ross Young

Navy

  • Photograph of Canadian hydrographic survey ship CSS Acadia, in her armed wartime configuration as HMCS Acadia.
    Credit: Canadian Navy Heritage website. Image Negative Number H-558a.

    Mr. Young served in HMCS Acadia during the war.

    Canadian Navy Heritage website. Image Negative Number H-558a.
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"I don’t think Canadians realize how close Eastern Canada was, how they were involved in the war effort."

Transcript

The 31st of August I picked up a ship, 1944, the old HMCS Acadia [a hydrographic survey ship commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy as a training vessel]. That was, for me, it was very interesting. I was part of the regular crew and I was just as young as a lot of the new entries. We were on training. We were tied up with HMCS Cornwallis [Royal Canadian Navy training base in Deep Brook, Nova Scotia] and we used to take draftees out on training, ten days, two weeks at a time.

Everything from maintenance to scrubbing decks, to lowering life rafts, to turns at the helm, on watch, at night and daytime, whatever. They paired you off with a new entry and that’s, and gunnery practices, general seamanship.

The navy was different. There was a danger all the time, but I don’t know. You had your crew that you depended on, all your shipmates. You’re all young and aggressive, and it was exciting, very exciting.

No, I would have liked to have picked up, when I was drafted aboard ship, I would have liked to have picked up a newer, more modern ship and got over there. But you know, you don’t have a choice, you go where they tell you. That’s, you know, some of the fellows I enlisted with ended up in the Pacific, but by the time they got there, they, it was pretty well over because that was late 1944. So you go wherever they send you, you go, that’s it.

There’s always a lot of laughs and a lot of friendship. You make a lot of friends when you’re onboard ship. You’re all brothers in arms is what you are.

You know, I don’t think Canadians realize how close Eastern Canada was, how they were involved in the war effort. The Germans’ U-190 [Unterseeboot-190: German submarine] sank the [HMCS] Esquimalt minesweeper, right over the Halifax Harbour, three weeks before the war ended [Esquimalt was lost on April 16, 1945; the war with Germany ended on May 8, 1945]. We were in Halifax at that time. That was an eye opener. They were there. And I had spent about six weeks up, before I picked up the ship, up in Sydney, Nova Scotia. They had a flotilla of motor torpedo boats there; and every evening, they would leave and go out up into the St. Lawrence and cruise at night, looking for subs. And then they’d come in in the morning; and we would, I wasn’t involved onboard the ships, but we had to close everything down and clean everything up and get ready for the next night, fuel them up; and that was part of my training at that time. It was close. The St. Lawrence, there were a lot of ships in 1944. I can’t remember how many ships were lost, mostly freighters. But the war was right here.

When they sunk the Esquimalt there right outside of Halifax Harbour, it was 39 that perished [44 of Esquimalt's 70 crewmembers were lost]. The U-190 sunk her just after daybreak and she didn’t get an SOS out. They perished. The cold water, they got wet and cold and 39 men off of that ship. That was very sad, when you figure the war was just about over.

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