[...] but that triangle run I'm sure, leading up to the time I was in the service, must have been frightfully important, but from the point of view of merchant seamen that took guts to be on a merchant ship, because they were so slow and they were taking sometimes frequently very dangerous cargo, and whoever volunteered for the merchant navy, they're tops in my opinion.
Mr. Carl Bedal served in World War Two with the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve on different warships doing the “Triangle Run” consisting of navigating and protecting the merchant convoys between Halifax and the cities on the coast of New England.
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[Pre-war life in Ontario]
Basically I went to high school in Belleville. Our farm was 20 miles away and when I wasn’t in school I was farming with my father and my brother, but when I finished high school I went with these guys and we joined up down in Cataraqui, so it was almost an instantaneous transfer of whatever I was going to do from schooling to the navy [the Royal Canadian Navy]. In my own mind, I didn't mind leaving the farm. Fortunately, my father, although he was disappointed and probably fearful, as I'm sure my mother was, but my father was not the greatest farmer. He was more of an experimenter. He had a good education in those days from the agricultural school, so that he knew that there are all sorts of opportunities in farming and he wanted to try them all. He never really settled down to anything and it was a small farm, 100 acres; there was no way it would support two sons, even one son, and subsequently that was so true, because my brother left too and went elsewhere.
[Joining the Navy]
No, I can't recall being homesick. I had to leave and, sure, I went home on leave at least a couple of occasions before I went to Halifax and the parting I know was hard for the parents, for my parents, but I knew I had to do it, right. I wanted to do it, although I knew nothing about the navy, nothing whatsoever. When asked about, ‘why the navy?’ I recall saying, ‘well, in the navy at least you know where you're going to sleep at night; maybe not in the army and maybe not in the air force.’
[Patrolling in the Northeastern American coasts, 1943-1945]
I think it was difficult in the navy to be on a run like that, because when we got signals from sonar or whatever it was called, we couldn’t be sure that indeed we were chasing a sub, then of course we’d throw these depth charges overboard and hope we’d have a kill. A kill, of course, displayed itself with oil or the actual appearance of the sub, if it’s damaged, and we saw nothing of this on any of the occasions when we thought we were chasing a sub, so it was frustrating.
It was frustrating and, of course, action stations were frightening. It was instantaneous in terms of action where we’d jump out of our hammocks if we happened to be sleeping and our boots would be right below us. We’d jump into them and go to our station, in my case the depth charge store, and you really moved under those circumstances. I think it’s habit that I've maintained that to me is not such a bad habit after all, but they were frightening, because you never knew what was happening, what was likely to happen, and also there was a chance that something might go wrong, there'd be a mistake made.
Mistakes are part of war unfortunately and acting so quickly on the high seas when it could be quite rough, sometimes 70-foot waves, that sort of thing, one had to watch out for such things as being washed overboard and it meant that one had to look after oneself, but also follow instructions, because the training we had was for purpose and if we didn't follow those instructions, one could very easily have an error. Of course, we had one error I've already described where we spring a few seams, because we didn't get away from the depth charges fast enough.
As I said when I came in, I don't have any wartime episodes to one might call exciting. They were more routine, although none of these things were routine; when you have action stations just everything happens at once and it took three of us to man this depth charge store, no ear protectors and it takes a fair charge to fire 500 pounds of TNT or whatever it was called overboard, so it probably didn't help my hearing any.
In retrospect, I know how important that triangle run was [the escorting of Merchant Navy ships traveling along the Eastern Atlantic coasts]. At the time, probably not, although those merchant ships were carrying important cargo, how it might be used, and all that sort of thing, I didn't have a clue. We weren’t told too much on board ship. We would listen to the radio, of course, but it was usually tuned into music or something crazy, so weren’t following the War, what was going on there, and the same with the War effort, but that triangle run I'm sure, leading up to the time I was in the service, must have been frightfully important, but from the point of view of merchant seamen that took guts to be on a merchant ship, because they were so slow and they were taking sometimes frequently very dangerous cargo, and whoever volunteered for the merchant navy, they're tops in my opinion.
It was on lookout duty for me to look over and see all those ships, sometimes 50 or more, in pattern, that was an eye opener. I will never forget that and, of course, we zigzagged to keep the right speed, so we wouldn't get too far ahead of the convoy, and we’d be called upon to move away from our position when they thought something was heard underwater, but it was rather frustrating when we couldn’t see what our efforts had been, but that doesn’t mean to say that they weren’t effective. They at least kept our convoys, completed at least the run that we took them on and that was certainly a plus.