Veteran Stories:
Ralph Rosser

Navy

  • Ralph Rosser in Hamilton, Ontario, June 2012

    Historica Canada
  • Ralph Rosser's medals, from left to right: 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, War Medal (1939-1945).

    Ralph Rosser
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"We went out every night and swept mines and then we’d just get finished, figured you’re heading into shore for a couple of hours, be another convoy come around and we’d go down, lead them up into Portsmouth or Plymouth wherever they were heading. Cut the mines ahead of them. And then submarines would be out there that night redoing them and E-boats were out shooting at us all the time when we were sweeping mines at night. But we survived."

Transcript

And four of us got four birth certificates down at the north end of the city of Hamilton [Ontario] and we joined the navy. That was on Friday we first seen them [recruiting officers] and they told us to be back there Monday. Well, we figure we’d start doing training or something but oh no, they started a whole bunch of them, but took the four of us, because we were Sea Cadets and I had a chief petty officer’s badge, they give us our whole outfit, kit bags, uniforms, hats, you name it. And then they handed us our ticket, they said, “You got to be at the train station. You’re leaving at 2:00 o’clock for Halifax [Nova Scotia].” Went in there and we used to fool around a little bit. I can remember going ashore one time and I brought back a hot plate to put in our area and hooked it up to the electricity and the guys were having hot stuff at night. Except the captain come in one night and he sniffed, “Somebody’s cooking steak and onions around here and if one isn’t in my cabin as fast as it can be, you’re all in trouble!” Every night from then on we had to cook his first! We had to sneak into the kitchen and cut it off the beef. We didn’t get to shore very often. The only time we got to shore was when I didn’t sink the mine that was coming at us. I told them, “It’s coming and I’d hit it with everything and it’s not blowing up, I’m getting out of here.” And I went around behind the ship and we lost 20 feet of the ship and they had to take it into port and the guys are all happy. I said, “What are you so happy about?” I’d never experienced it. They said, “Well now we’re going to get 20 days leave while they fix the ship.” Because you didn’t get out of there. We went out every night and swept mines and then we’d just get finished, figured you’re heading into shore for a couple of hours, be another convoy come around and we’d go down, lead them up into Portsmouth [Hampshire, England] or Plymouth [Devon, England], wherever they were heading. Cut the mines ahead of them. And then submarines would be out there that night redoing them and E-boats [also known as an S-boat (Schnellboot), German fast attack vessel] were out shooting at us all the time when we were sweeping mines at night. But we survived. We had a leave. We went into the YMCA for the night. He [a friend] went to the far end and left his clothes there and he was going to sleep there. We all went out to have a little bit of fun. But an air raid hit. He had no clothes because they blew all up. We took him to the Salvation Army, got him outfitted with clothes. What a mess. One day we’re travelling down, not sweeping, and the first fellow on the bridge hollered, “Torpedo coming at our starboard bow!” And then the other one hollered out, “Torpedo coming at the stern of the ship!” And I happened to be on the bridge on watch that day and the captain, instead of racing away, he turned the ship right into them and we went in-between the torpedoes. And as soon as we got in-between them, we dropped maybe 20 depth charges [anti-submarine weapon, denoted near a submarine crippling or destroying it] on them. The mines just went – because they come one each side of us. We never seen the submarine again so maybe we sunk them. We didn’t care at all. We just kept on going, got out of there. It was on a convoy, first trip across. But I reached down to pull one guy out. It was a ship that had airplane fuel on it. I couldn’t tell you the name of it or nothing. And I reached down, he said, “Grab anybody you can grab.” Well I reached down, I grabbed a hand, never got him up. All I got was the skin, he went under. We never saved anybody off that ship. We were lucky, that was the only ship we lost going across.
Follow us