Veteran Stories:
Gordon Edwards

Navy

  • Gordon Edwards at a Memory Project event in Ottawa, Ontario. August, 2012.

    Gordon Edwards
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"The captain was held responsible because they say if you’re the captain, you take the can."

Transcript

George Guertin, and he was one of the radar people and he was on watch during the middle. I had the first watch that evening and that’s from 8:00 until 12:00 and I got off at 12:00 and went and had a cup of hot chocolate and a piece of bread and jam, then I climbed into bed. And not long after I got in bed, we grounded. We grounded about 20 minutes to 1:00 I think it was, somewhere around there. When we grounded the ship went up in the air and then settled down. A couple of days previous we had watched the American mine sweeper detonate one of the mines, not with the sweep but with the ship. And that’s what they did, they went up and then down and sunk. And boy when we hit, there was lots of noise. I got out of my hammock. I sleep directly above my locker. I got out of my hammock, dropped down, started to put my clothes on and try to put my dungarees on while standing up, couldn’t do it. My knees were knocking too hard. Don’t think I wasn’t scared. A lot of guys – we must have been about six people go out. There was electrician’s mess, quartermaster’s mess, radioman’s mess and signalman’s mess, all in the aft or lower. And about half a dozen guys went up that ladder with not a stitch of clothes on. I don’t know where they were going because it was cold out there, even if it was July. It was cold. Anyway I finally got my clothes on and got up on the upper deck and – actually I didn’t go in the upper deck, I went back down to the electrical workshop and then had to go inspect the spaces – my ASDIC [sonar equipment] spaces. And man they were a real mess. My toolbox was in water about that deep. Well we were ripped open from the bow right back to what they called Frame 30. That’s 45 feet from the bow to the frame. And Frame 30 was the forward bulkhead of A Magazine. That’s where we had a lot of ammunition stored. And what they did then was empty all that ammunition and carry it aft and store it in one of the other magazines. And then they had to take out what they called the bottle racks, because all these shells used to go right into a big tube like a bottle. And we had to cut those all off the bulkhead and carry them aft as well and the thing was to get the weight away from the bow so we would come up a little. I don’t think we ever come up a bit. They dropped both anchors, slipped both anchors into the water and we used to have what they call ready-use lockers for the ammunition on the forecastle for A Gun. They cut those loose and put those over the side and they took as much weight off the forecastle as they could possibly do, plus all the ammunition. And it was pitch black. And you walked back on the upper deck on the forecastle and you’d get to the break of the forecastle and there was a little catwalk about this wide I guess, maybe a foot and a half, and you’d go across that and then what’s called a Boffin gun deck and then back over the torpedo tubes, another cat walk and to another ammunition hoist which would lower this ammunition down into one of the other magazines. And you’d get to the break of the forecastle – there’s a big ladder going down – you didn’t want to go down there with the ammunition or the catwalk. And you’d hear clonk, clonk – that was the shells going in the water. They would not want to go across that catwalk; they’d throw the shells in the water. They had big court martial and they brought back all the officers that were involved which was – the captain wasn’t involved. He was in bed asleep, the same as we were but he ended up taking all the blame. Richard Chenoweth was his name. He was a Navy Commander. And we had three Officers of the Watch. We had Lieutenant Commander Thomas who was the First Officer of the Watch. We had Lieutenant Emerson in the Ops Room who was the Second Officer of the Watch. He’s the guy who put us aground. And we had a Sub-Lieutenant on the bridge with the First Officer of the Watch, Sub-Lieutenant Webb. And they all had to go back for the court martial plus the navigator. He had to go back because he had to tell them how well he had instructed these people on how to do navigation in the dark or in the light. And as I say, the captain was held responsible because they say if you’re the captain, you take the can. And he never came back to the ship.
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