Veteran Stories:
Robert Shewan

Navy

  • HMCS Kootenay on which Mr. Robert Shewan served during the war.

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"A war is not fun. And when it happens it affects not just yourself; your families involved, and everything else. "

Transcript

[With the Royal Canadian Navy in the Atlantic] Well, the first one was a frigate, HMCS Meon, and the [HMCS] Kootenay and the last one was the [HMCS] Charlottetown. That’s that. And the [HMCS] Charlottetown was in refit when I joined it, and they were refitting the ship for the Pacific, so I didn’t go anywhere with that, other than just being part of the crew onboard in the harbour. That was that. The other ships were, the HMCS Meon was mostly in the Bay of Biscay [on the French Western coast] down in that neck of the woods. Before the invasion and after [the Normandy invasion of June 6th, 1944]. Then we came back to Canada and I got drafted to [HMCS] Kootenay, and we went back into the same area, up and down the English Channel and around that neck of the woods. [Life aboard the ships] I didn’t sleep very well there, at all. Not at all. And aboard the ship it’s.... I never adjusted to that part of it. And I’d go days without sleep sometimes. That’s what I found hard. And I was part of a gun crew. There was two main guns on the ship; the four inch guns, their main guns on the frigates. And I was part of one of their crews. It takes about, what is it, seven, to run that gun. That was on that particular ship. And again, on the next ship, on the [HMCS] Kootenay I was part of a gun crew again. The only thing, the gun was a little bigger and had different type of ammunition and I don’t know if they ever wrote that down. I actually got to change their way of firing the gun. When you’re loading a gun, they had three people. Two getting ammunition from ammunition racks or wherever, and they pass it to one who puts it into the magazine or whatever you want to call it, to be fired. But the way they did it they would pass it from here to here, and I looked at that and I said we’re wasting time here. Every time you try to get it into somebody’s arm if the ship’s rolling, if something’s happening, you’re trying to put ammunition in their arms, it’s a slow process. It slows it down. I said okay, on our crew we'll do it a little differently if we can. So I got the guns Captain to agree and what-not. I said we’re going to take the ammunition not like this, we’re going to get it this way, and put it into somebody’s hands who’s got them in the right position to put them into... So we changed the speed of the gun by a considerable amount. They were even going to get the press aboard. We formed our own way of doing it. Not the way it was written in their book or whatever they... A war is not fun. And when it happens it affects not just yourself; your families involved, and everything else.
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