Veteran Stories:
Margaret O'Connor

Navy

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"Two of us were called out to go out on a ship to pick up survivors from a torpedoing.When we got there, of course, the water was covered with oil, which had caught fire. The men were in the water... If they were dead, they just left them there. It was a very traumatic thing for both them and for us."

Transcript

At Halifax, one of my main duties was taking pictures of the ships that came through the gates.  Every ship had to be photographed and then a record was kept of it.  It was just so that they could keep track of who was coming through the gates.  We did have a couple of times when submarines tried to get through and we caught them on film.   I was in a harbour craft at the time, and we went out to the gates.  We had heard that there was a submarine in the area, so we just went out on the off chance that maybe it would try to get through when a ship came through.  So two of us went out together, and one of us took pictures of the ship while the other one took pictures of the submarine.  It didn’t get through. The gates closed too quickly.

There was one time I was called out. Two of us were called out to go out on a ship to pick up survivors from a torpedoing.  When we got there, of course, the water was covered with oil, which had caught fire.  The men were in the water.  They put down Carley floats,* which are big rafts.  They would put them down and two men would get in to them, and they’d go around and try to save as many men as they could.  If they were dead, they just left them there.  They brought the injured men back.  It was a very traumatic thing for both them and for us.

I came off duty one morning about six o’clock and was told to do my barracks routine.  I was going to [HMCS] Cornwallis.  I said, “Well, I don’t want to go to Cornwallis.”  They said, “Well, it came from headquarters, so you’ve got to go.  You have two hours to do your barracks routine and get on the train.”  When I got off the train at Cornwallis, my fiancé was standing on the platform waiting for me.  My father had arranged my transfer because he knew he was going to be there.  Eventually, we were married in Annapolis Royal [Nova Scotia].

 

*The Carley float was a light and sturdy life raft made of copper, cork and canvas.

Follow us