Veteran Stories:
Bruce Alexander Findlay

Navy

  • Bruce Findlay, November 4th, 2009, at Whitby, Ontario.

    Historica Canada
  • Portrait of Bruce Findlay in uniform, 1944.

    Bruce Findlay
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"I suspect that that submarine surrendered to us deliberately there because they didn’t want to go back to Germany. So that was the most dramatic part of my career in the Atlantic."

Transcript

I enlisted when I was first a student at the University of Toronto. I wanted to enlist to serve my country. It had nothing to do with my being a student. The service that I did at the university was simply training and that was done a couple of afternoons a week and, or a couple of evenings a week after studies. And then Saturday mornings at York naval base [HMCS York Naval Reserve]. Oh, I always wanted to be a sailor. Once my school year was finished, I was posted to the naval training base at Cornwallis I think it was. And I got some training there, that’s how it wounded up. And then was posted to Halifax and assigned to minesweeper crew ships. My ship was the [HMCS] Comox, HMCS Comox, out of Dartmouth, which is across the bay from Halifax itself. On [HMCS] Comox, it was not a very big crew. The most important part of that crew were the people who operated the engines. I think we may have had 15 crew. We bunked with hammocks, which were a wonderful thing. All the basic crew had a hammock. Unlike the U.S. navy, they didn’t sleep in bunks. We slept in a hammock and so each one had its own hammock, a place for it when you’re off duty. Then otherwise, then, you took it out and you tied it up, end-to-end and crawled onboard, there was a mattress in there and you slept in your hammock. Now, this of course you can do at sea because you go up and down and you swing to-and-fro with it and it’s really like being rocked to sleep. It was a very good thing. Whereas if they’re in a bunker, you bounce around, which is a much more difficult way to try to sleep. It took a little getting used to, sleeping in those hammocks, but once you learned how to do it, it was best sleep ever. It took a while afterwards when you’re onshore to get dis-unused to sleeping in your hammock. Oh, I was an ordinary seaman, I did whatever I was told. And I had no particular skills for any of this. I could read a compass and a few things like that. The principle defense that these sweepers had was depth charges [anti-submarine weapon]. We had a three inch gun on the forward deck. The biggest event there was the ending of the war in Europe and a German submarine came up and surrendered to us. I suspect that that submarine surrendered to us deliberately there because they didn’t want to go back to Germany. So that was the most dramatic part of my career in the Atlantic. You had to volunteer in those days, again, if you wanted to go to any other part of the world where Canada was at war. Now, we were at war on the Pacific coast but you had to volunteer separately for that. So I did and I was put onboard a Castle class corvette [ships used as Atlantic convoy escorts]. And sailed with it from the naval base at the [Bay of] Fundy [CFB Cornwallis] to Jamaica where we refueled and then through the Panama Canal, up the west coast of North America, to San Diego, refueled again there and then headed for [HMCS] Givenchy [naval establishment at Esquimalt], which is a port just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. And we got there the day after the Americans had dropped the bomb on Japan and the war there was over. So my Pacific career wasn’t very eventful. Then I went back to university and I didn’t miss a year. So I went back to university and I continued in the navy for another year and a half.
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