Veteran Stories:
Fernand Arthur Léveillée

Navy

  • The "Meet the Navy Show" in Halifax in the early 1940s. Fernand Léveillée is in the third row, the third from the left.

    Fernand Léveillée
  • Fernand Léveillée's official portrait while in the Navy, 1940s

    Fernand Léveillée
  • Fernand Léveillée in Uniform in front of a House in Europe.

    Fernand Léveillée
  • Picture of Neptune Gibraltar - Mourmansk - sur la St. John par Fernand Léveillée, May 1944.

    Fernand Léveillée
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"A submarine is underneath, in the water. We used to send at every second a sound [signal]: bong, bong, bong, bong. Oop! Bong! We hit something."

Transcript

Fernand Léveillée. J'approchais mes 21 ans et je voulais avoir le choix des armes [I was turning 21 and I wanted to choose my branch of service].… You understand what I mean by “the choice of the arms”: I chose the Navy. ... parce que j'aimais l'aventure [because I loved adventure]! Well, that was in Halifax, which was the main base of the Navy at the time in Nova Scotia. I was a singer from, not a trade, but my occupation was to sing at funerals in the morning in church, you see. I was playing in many shows. I was what you call an artist. And when I decided [on] the Navy, somebody knew me in the organization. They said, why don’t I transfer you for a while, for the entertainment? So that’s how I became part of that show. That was in Halifax but I went to sea after that; I got a ship and went to sea. And that was the ship I went on, a frigate, the [HMCS] Saint John. And this was the places we went: [Operation] ‘Neptune’ [the assault phase of the invasion of Normandy], Gibraltar, Murmansk is in Russia, Murmansk is in northern Russia. My ship sank two subs but that’s mostly secret. ... We used to throw bombs that would explode at a certain distance. A submarine is underneath, in the water. We used to send at every second a sound [signal]: bong, bong, bong, bong. Oop! Bong! We hit something. Now, we’re going to stay there, bong, bong, bong, bong. Then the bells would ring, we had an echo that [showed there] was something moving there, it was not a big, fish -it was a submarine, you see. So now we’d track them and send in depth bombs. We sank two of them. It was a glorious ship. But my job at sea - I had nothing much to do at sea. But it was that every time that they used to go into a port, that was when I had to do my work, to go and replenish the ship, you know. I was a supply man. At sea, I did not have much work to do but as soon as we went into a port, my job was to go and get the supplies in the stores where they were hidden- because they were not [kept] outside in England. Because if you had a ten-storey building [full of supplies], the Germans would bomb it and they would, we couldn’t supply anymore the city. So everything was dispersed in many hidden places. And my job was, they offered me a small truck to go around. I had to be prepared with all my list of what I wanted, because we went at sea sometimes for three weeks or a month without touching land. So I had to get the supplies for the ship to have the, we had dry powdered milk. Well, it’s better to put in your coffee than nothing. When we went into a port, the officer in charge received [would meet with] an officer from the port that was giving you all the indications [directions to where to find the supplies]. Now [checking the list]: this, not this, this, and this, and this. Then the captain used to tell me, well, here’s the list and they’ll offer you a small truck to go with you to show you where they are. Sometimes [the supplies were located in]caves because, not to be bombed by the Germans, you see. So it was a secret base. And things were not seen from the air. You couldn’t figure out that underneath there, that from here to about way over there, it was chambers; cold stores and everything like that.
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