Veteran Stories:
Kenneth “Ken” MacKay


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"I was thinking about joining the Air Force but then my dad had served in the British Navy during the First World War. So I naturally applied to the Navy. "


Most of my friends in high school joined the Air Force and I was thinking about joining the Air Force but then my dad had served in the British Navy during the First World War. So I naturally applied to the Navy. I just felt that it was my duty to serve. As a matter of fact, when I told my boss I was joining this service he said, “Well you don’t have to your job is so important. You don’t have to do join.” But I said, “No, I want to join.” Well I first tried to join in 1941 and I had chronic boils on my knees and neck. And of course the recruiting physician said, “Look, you’re no good to us. Go home and when you’re healthy come back.” Which I did in ten months and was accepted in ten months. I left in a matter of days, just three or four days. I was on a train to take my first course because they had recruited me for a special course to train recruits to be engine room artificers. They are the ones that run the engines on a ship, you know.

We were convoying ships back and forth across the Atlantic, you know, merchant ships. There were five vessels, [corvettes] that accompanied the merchant men across to keep the [view] boats away. And I enjoyed that very much. I really did. And of course we were trained well. We had two courses to train us to run the engines on the ship as well as all the ancillary equipment that went with it. When you are involved in any altercation with the enemy you have a special action station that you go to depending on the time of day. My action station at that time was in the front boiler room to assist the two stokers on watch there. Make sure that – in case of an emergency I was there to help them, you know. At that time when I was on action station in the front boiler room that’s a memorable moment for me because my friend who was in the engine room at the time called through and said, “The Captain has ordered full speed ahead to ram the submarine.”

Well in the front boiler room we were in the most vulnerable part of the ship. And I, being an engineer, I was concerned about the pipes in the boiler room. If we slammed into this submarine and stopped dead stop, I was worried that some of the lines in the boiler room might break off. Some of the less severe, you know, larger pipes might break. And the steam temperature in the boiler room at that time was 397 degrees Fahrenheit. We would have been cooked in about 15 seconds, you know. But fortunately when the Captain saw the men jumping out of the submarine he slowed down and we didn’t have to ram the submarine. I went overseas on a troop ship. There were about 2000 army and 2000 air force and there were 14 navy guys. We had a job of cleaning the decks every night after it got dark. I remember standing on the rail one day with an army fellow. He was sick and he was throwing up and he looked at me and he said, “Thank God I didn’t join the navy.”

On a typical day, say if I was on the ship from 12:00 to 4:00, well I got up in the morning and we had breakfast around 7:30. If there were any small things in the engine room that needed repair we had to replace a bracket or something or tighten up a valve I was required to do that. And then at 12:00 I would go on watch in the engine room and I would be in the engine room until 4:00. I got off watch at 4:00 but then at 6:00 I had to go down and relieve my friend who was on watch so he could come up and have his dinner. But then after supper I was also the disc jockey in our ship. Maybe three or four nights a week I would play popular songs at the time, you know, Big Band, Rec Recordings and it was broadcast throughout the ship. And then at 12:00 I’d go back on shift again in the engine room and I would be in the engine room until 4:00 in the morning. And that was the ships that I got very little sleep because of the timing. I was always falling asleep at the table in our mess or else even when I sat out on the [quarter] deck I would fall – and there’s a picture someone took of me half asleep on the quarter deck one day.

On the train home I was on the train and when we were going through Schreiber Ontario someone came through and announced that the war in Europe was over. But I had already agreed to go with the ship to the Pacific Theatre they asked for recruits for our ship which was destined to go to the Pacific because the war was still on there. And they had given us a month’s leave to go home before we went to the Pacific. So when I returned to the ship the ship was getting a minor reset for us going to the Pacific. And then we left Halifax in August and we were going around through the Panama Canal and when we got to the Canal we heard that they’d dropped a bomb on Japan. And of course the war was over. So our ship just continued on through the Canal and up the west coast to [unintelligible 00:06:20] where a month later we were discharged.

I wouldn’t want to do it over again. Let’s put it that way. But I did enjoy the time that I spent in the service. And I made quite a few friends. Everyone on our ship got along well together. I never knew of anyone having a quarrel on our ship. There was a real camaraderie built, you know, in the crew.


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