Veteran Stories:
Eric Gordon Jensen

Navy

  • Eric Jensen, 18 years old, February 29, 1944.

    Eric Jensen
  • HMCS Haida - ship's crew before going overseas.

    Eric Jensen
  • HMCS Haida.

    Eric Jensen
  • Eric Jensen's medals (Left to Right): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).

    Eric Jensen
  • Eric Jensen's Medals. At left: Arctic Star; At right: Soviet 60th Anniversary of Victory in the Second World War Medal.

    Eric Jensen
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"We were like a family, brothers in arms, you always say, but everyone looked after everyone else."

Transcript

Well, my motivation to join the navy was, what with the war on, I was concerned about, I didn’t want to be drafted by the army. So that’s why, at 17 and a half, I went down to HMCS York [Toronto], wanted to join the navy. I have marine life in my life because my father, when he was a young man in World War I, having lived in Denmark, like my mother, he joined the Danish merchant navy and had quite a time during that war.

York was strictly a recruiting office. I was there and I was asked lots of questions and I had a physical. I had an examination, I believe. There’s only three things we want people to do now when they join, is to be a sick bay attendant or a writer or a cook. Well, I loved to eat, so I signed up for being a cook.

Well, I got my cooking school down in Halifax after going to HMCS Hunter in Windsor [Ontario] for basic training. There was a very big demand for cooks for onboard ship. We had excellent instructors. They were chefs from Montreal, with many, many long years in the cooking experience. And they were wonderful instructors. It was very interesting and that was very enjoyable. I can’t remember how many hours a day we were doing this instruction, but anyway. Most of us were very sad when he’d say, well, that’s all for today, you know, we’ll do some more tomorrow, you know, and this went on every day. Then I got a draft for HMCS Haida. So that’s where I went.

What was there, 225 men, not counting the officers? And, of course, I just did what I was trained to do. The only thing I didn’t like or had to get used to was that if I was the first fellow on duty, the watchman would wake me up about 6:00 in the morning so I could get up and get up to the galley and get the stoves fired up, get them up to temperature, so that we could make the breakfast for the day. I got over that very quickly because I really was eager to cook. I was enjoying every minute of it. Three cooks and a baker, and a petty officer cook was in charge of us.

Well, if I was the first one, like I said before, when I got used to being woken up at 6:00, I was the one that got, I get the breakfast going. And then another cook would join me and there were two cooks every time there was a meal, whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yeah, I only came on as a helper for supper. It took two of us to clean up the galley afterwards. Because everything we’ve been using all had to be cleaned up spotless. We had a great big steam kettle, I can’t remember the capacity anymore, but the last thing that was done with this steam kettle was it was filled up and made hot chocolate for the crewmen that have to work outside.

We got compliments every day. We had the best of everything. All the meat was down in the frozen locker and it was all from Australia or New Zealand, and it was all deboned and that. It was the supply officer, he used to have to bring this meat up when it was needed and it had to be up a good day beforehand, so it could thaw out. No, everything was great. I mean, we had fresh potatoes, we had a lot of our own vegetables. I mean, eventually, they ran out and it was sometimes very hard to get something. Same with, we’d have eggs, lots of eggs and butter. Eventually, we can’t get a hold of that, so we go to powdered stuff, powdered eggs and powdered potatoes and so forth. I would think that, well, they were happy with it, the crew were happy with it. They always enjoyed it. We always got compliments. We were like a family, brothers in arms, you always say, but everyone looked after everyone else.

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