Veteran Stories:
Bruce Cormack

Navy

  • Bruce Cormack pictured with a Royal Navy WREN in Trafalgar Square, London after visiting Westminster Abbey. This photo was taken on Cormack's first visit to London.

    Bruce Cormack pictured with a Royal Navy WREN in Trafalgar Square, London after visiting Westminster Abbey. This photo was taken on Cormack's first visit to London.
  • Bruce Cormack learned how to sling a hammock while on the HMCS Naden for new entry training. He sent this photograph taken in 1946 to the woman who would become his wife.

    Bruce Cormack learned how to sling a hammock while on the HMCS Naden for new entry training. He sent this photograph taken in 1946 to the woman who would become his wife.
  • Bruce Cormack is shown here in 1974 with a United States Naval attache; Cormack is receiving the US Legion of Merit.

    Bruce Cormack is shown here in 1974 with a United States Naval attache; Cormack is receiving the US Legion of Merit.
  • The HMCS Terra Nova during sea trials May 1959. Copyright DND E49069.

    The HMCS Terra Nova during sea trials May 1959. Copyright DND E49069.
  • Bruce Cormack pictured with "Percy the Penguin" on his last day aboard the HMCS Terra Nova, November 1964.

    Bruce Cormack pictured with "Percy the Penguin" on his last day aboard the HMCS Terra Nova, November 1964.
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"When it looks like there's a suspicion of something going to happen the Navy is always ready to go because their ships are ready."

Transcript

My name is Bruce Cormack, I served in the Royal Canadian Navy. I joined in November of 1946, which actually started the beginning of the Cold War, after the hot war of '39 to '45. During the Cold War I was in HMCS Magnificent, an aircraft carrier, in the Mediterranean, working with a Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Ocean, and we were in Istanbul at the time that King Farouk abdicated in Egypt. The British aircraft carrier immediately hauled up anchor and headed off toward the eastern Mediterranean where she could employ her aircraft, and we took on as much fuel as we could carry and took off for the enclave of Tobruk. We went to anchor, and because the Royal Navy did not have any Royal Fleet auxiliaries in the eastern Mediterranean at that time we fueled British destroyers which had left at Gibraltar and were heading again for the Suez. This time the British were quite worried about canal security, quite naturally, and they had dispatched regiments from Tripoli in Libya overland to Alexandria and they made a stop in Tobruk.

As soon as they arrived in Tobruk some of us went ashore to see the Brits and have a chat with them and it was interesting to note that the regiments that were there had not been back to the UK - sure, individuals had been - but the regiment as a group had not been back to the UK since Monty's desert war. What was interesting about that was that the Russians were starting to extend their sphere of influence into the eastern Mediterranean, and naturally, as I say, the Brits were quite worried. What was fascinating about the trip to Tobruk was that it still had something in the order of two and a half to three and a half million land mines that had still not been lifted. In the civilian population it was sorry to see, really, the number of people who lacked legs or arms from having strayed out of the safe zones. At night what we used to do was sit on our gun swanson and take bets as to when the next landmine would go off because as the desert cools down considerably at night this then released the land mine and we would place bets as to the time of the next one blowing up. The desert gets cold, almost down to frost, and the things will come up on the surface, you get a movement of the sand. \n\nThe next thing that I was in, we used to go up and sit in the Grand Banks with no radar, no lights, and eavesdrop on Soviet mother ships and trawlers that were working that area. The suspicion was that the Russians were refueling submarines, and we would just sit there and record what they were doing. The shock on their faces when the morning came and we said "thanks ever so much" and sailed off between them was something to behold, the chatter on the radio stopped immediately.\n\nThe other thing was the Cuban missile crisis.

This, to me, was a real eye-opener in that the Navy was supposed to function this way. We got the word that we were to go and we sailed for our war station at 4:30 that same afternoon. What we were doing was interdicting, or hoping to interdict, Russian submarines that had come down through the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap heading for Cuba. The Navy came through, and that's the one thing that I'm really proud of in the Navy is that when it looks like there's a suspicion of something going to happen the Navy is always ready to go because their ships are ready.

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