Kenneth Hilker on a day off in Sydney, Nova Scotia, 1945.Kenneth Hilker
A group photograph taken at HMCS Star in Hamilton, Ontario in June, 1944. Kenneth Hilker is on the bottom row, second from the right.Kenneth Hilker
A photograph of Kenneth Hilker taken at a Memory Project event on 15 August, 2012 in Waterloo, Ontario.Kenneth Hilker
Kenneth Hilker's medals (from left to right): Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, 1939-1945 War Medal, Atlantic Star.Kenneth Hilker
"You set them for different depths and the water pressure going in activates the pistol and blows 'em up. You set them at 50 feet and you see a mountain of water behind there with all kinds of small fish, thousands of them. That fascinated me and some of your lifeboats blew out on the ship."
But I remember one thing that really upset me was while you had to take courses in gunnery and so forth, what upset me one day was when we were all lined up standing behind this big gun and each person had to go up there and take charge. One fellow, one cadet was standing back there holding his ears every time it went off.
The instructor put him up right beside the gun and put his hands down—no ear protection. I really thought this was—he probably suffered some kind of damage because I heard that there was some people that did have hearing loss and they had to apply for a pension. But this was outright, you know, no protection whatsoever.
The torpedo men, they sort of helped the electrical end of the ship and they looked after the depth charges and the firing of the depth charges also. We had to maintain them. Then from there we went out to join a group, I forget the number or the name of the group, but sometimes there was three ships, sometimes we were alone, tracking down a German submarine. We knew what area they were in but with ASDIC [sonar], you could pick them out.
Actually I was glad I was out there in sea after 1943 because then they had better equipment. For anti-submarine, they had depth charges, they had a Squid—that's a big bomb that they send over the foc’sle and it had to zero in on the submarine and I don't know how many hedgehogs [anti-submarine bombs]. There was bombs that go off the same way in a rack.
Now I understand that they don't have the depth charges anymore from what I see. It looks like a great big bomb that's on a rack on the quarterdeck instead of all these 145 depth charges that we had below in the boat deck. You set them for different depths and the water pressure going in activates the pistol and blows 'em up. You set them at 50 feet and you see a mountain of water behind there with all kinds of small fish, thousands of them. That fascinated me and some of your lifeboats blew out on the ship.
We were sent out, our ship was ready to go, so we were sent out at the end of the war when all the submarines were supposed to surface and fly a black or a blue flag and they were ordered by Germany themselves as far as I know. So we were sent out. I thought they said 500 miles out but I don't think it was, it was 230 nautical miles off of Sable Island or something like that.
But anyway, [the submarine] surrendered to the [HMCS] Buckingham—it was another frigate—and ours. And they had to stay in between the two ships. We kept our eye on them all the time. But my impression, what I saw through my field glasses, was that they were up in the conning tower and they were a pretty happy bunch of people I thought.