Veteran Stories:
Arthur Hill

Navy

  • After qualifying as a Sub-Lieutenant, Arthur Hill was first posted at this signal station at Camperdown, Nova Scotia in March 1944.

    Arthur Hill
  • Celebrating Christmas on Staten Island, New York. 25 December 1944.

    Arthur Hill
  • The Royal Canadian Navy corvette HMCS Sherbrooke in moderate seas on the Western Atlantic Run. Spring, 1945.

    Arthur Hill
  • The 18 July 1945 explosion of an ammunition dump in Bedford Basin near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    Arthur Hill
  • Arthur Hill (left) back home with friends in August 1945.

    Arthur Hill
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"When we came into Halifax on one of the occasions, there were two merchant vessels that had been torpedoed and were up on the side of the entrance to the harbour to Halifax, put there by their captain so that they didn’t block the passageway for other vessels coming in and out of Halifax."

Transcript

1939, after being in England for 10 years, the last year of which I attended an agricultural school at Usk in Monmouthshire [Wales], I caught the [RMS] Empress of Britain at Southampton [England] the day before war was declared, and came back to Winnipeg, in Manitoba, to attend the agricultural school there, at the University of Manitoba.

I attended there and got my Bachelor’s degree.  In the last year, a Naval Board came across Canada, looking for officer cadets for the RCNVR.*   I was lucky enough to be one of 20 out of 200 in Manitoba to be selected to take training at Cornwallis, HMCS Cornwallis, and from there to Dalhousie, which was the university at Halifax where we took the three-month short officers training corps.  And, this was in 1943.

We never knowingly became involved with a submarine.  But it was very interesting.  On one trip from St. John’s, Newfoundland to New York, we encountered a shoal of cod.  And it's so easy to think - we pinged on that shoal, thinking that it was submarine, and of course, just as soon as word came from the ASDIC**[sonar] hut that there was a possible submarine, all the crew was called to action.  And you immediately dropped a group of depth charges, very shallow.  And, in consequence of that event, the HMCS Vancouver, following us, were able to put out a few fishnets and had a wonderful supper of cod.

Now, the other instances – you see, we were at sea – no, we were in New York Harbor when one of our escort vessels was sunk just off Halifax.  And, also when we came into Halifax on one of the occasions, there were two merchant vessels that had been torpedoed and were up on the side of the entrance to the harbour to Halifax, put there by their captain so that they didn’t block the passageway for other vessels coming in and out of Halifax.

Another occasion, we were at sea, and you see, the objective was – we were what was called as the Western Local [Escort Force].  That is, we travelled between Halifax, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and New York, escorting ships going across the Atlantic to Londonderry, Ireland, and intercepting off St. John’s, Newfoundland the mid-ocean vessels and their escorts coming west.  And we turned over our merchant vessels – and there would be 50 or 60 merchant vessels.  They were arranged in order of about five deep, following each other, and about 10 across.  So that a convoy would consist of 10 vessels leading their columns with five vessels behind, and the escort vessels tried to protect them from submarines - five of them, one would be up in the front, two on the wings, to the left you might say, and to the right, and then two vessels at the corners, at the back.  And those were stationed there, trying to intercept and prevent German submarines coming and attacking the convoys.

*Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve

**Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee

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