Veteran Stories:
Alex Mulgrove

Navy

  • Photo of Alex Mulgrove taken in Aurora, 2011.

    Historica Canada
  • Close-up of Alex Mulgrove's tattoo which he received shortly after joining the Navy.

    Alex Mulgrove
  • Photo of Alex Mulgrove's tattoo which he received shortly after joining the Navy.

    Alex Mulgrove
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"And they were paying the cable for the other way and they hit something big, we don’t know if they hit a torpedo or they hit something else but they hit something, blew the ship to smithereens."

Transcript

We were on a cable ship and that’s for a cable for when they phone from Dover [England] to America. They phoned from Dover to Timbuktu [Mali] and that way and that way and then most of them, that was fine but when the submarines were there, they would go and they would watch us in a few different places to bring these cables and as soon as we done that, the Germans submarines, they would come in close and drop mines, “Boom, boom, boom, boom,” and blow up everything, again, and do the same thing, things like that. We used to say, (singing) “I belong to Glasgow, dear old Glasgow town. There’s something the matter with Glasgow, for it’s going round and round. (stops) Because you were always drunk by that time. (singing) I’m only a common old working chap, as anyone here can see. But when I got a couple of drinks on a Saturday, Glasgow belongs to me. (stops) We broke down and we pulled in, we were, we were staying ashore for two days to get fixed and then we were going to go out. But they were away out in front, we were looking for grapnel [a central shank with four or more tines] in the water, it’s a big thing like that, it’s got all different hooks on it. And you lower your cable and you catch this cable and then they pull it up, comes on board and the officers, there were no officers, well, they are kind of officers, they’d come up and test it and they’d be listening, “Okay, this one’s clear that way, this one’s clear maybe a mile.” So we’d pull that cable up. And then a man would cut it and open it and then you would know that that was good to Dover, this one here was good to Glasgow. And then they would join a cable and join the two of them up, throw them out of sight and that was it. One of our sister ships, they were rolling about like that and they don’t know what happened but they rolled, they were getting closer and we were starting to pay cable out, that’s why. And they were paying the cable for the other way and they hit something big, we don’t know if they hit a torpedo or they hit something else but they hit something, blew the ship to smithereens so that was, they can’t wait to go back in again and pick them all up as best as we could pick up. And then they’d bring another ship in and we’d be away in Dover instead of here. The navy was a great place to work. , I mean, it was officers that did the main work, they’d tell you what to do and what not to do, you know. And then when you went to say a place like Dover, they would pull in there, drop the anchor, of course, they weren’t allowed to go to shore unless … And then their wee boat would take you ashore and you could go ashore for two years, three years, maybe five years. And the level, it was a kind of level.
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