"We felt that were getting a bit of a raw deal, but don’t forget that it was the Canadian navy that kept the lifeline open from Canada to the old countries, France, England, and up even as far as Russia,"
Norman N. Silver. I was born on the 25th day of October, 1922, in the Montréal General Hospital in Montréal, Québec.
No, I was the only child. My father passed away in 1924 and I was raised by my mother and my grandparents. My mother didn’t like the idea too much, especially the navy. She was afraid of water and she asked me why I joined the navy. And I said, well, that’s what I’d like. So she understood there’s a war and I was very glad to, able to serve my country. And especially with the situation going on as it was those days. And I felt it was my duty also.
Well, we didn’t go as far as Japan because we would have got knocked out, especially with a corvette and the sweepers. We went up as far as the Queen Charlotte Strait and near the Aleutian Islands and that was our patrolling. We patrolled that area. We remained in that area all the time until the end of the war was over.
Oh, I liked the Pacific, yes, it’s a bigger ocean than the Atlantic. It’s much bigger, because it goes all the way to Japan. Of course, it gets pretty rough there in the Pacific also.
It was on the 24th of December, just before Christmas Eve. I went on watch aboard the HMCS Quatsino at approximately 10 minutes to 12 on the 24th of December. And was working in the engine room. I was told by the people that I was relieving, the shipmates, that they were a bit nervous because they had just heard of one of our other ships had been sunk on the east coast that very same day, a few hours, because we’re a few hours difference between the east coast and the west coast. And they were supposed to sink a second Canadian ship on the west coast, to demoralize the navy. Now, about 10 minutes after I started my watch at 12 o’clock, I was working the engine room, we got the sound from the upper deck, from the captain’s quarters, where he stands, where there is a little bit of action going on. It was that we were given the full speed ahead; rendezvous where we don’t know when we’re down in the engine room. Because we can’t see nothing down there. And we got the full speed ahead and we went right through, we didn’t change shifts at 4 o’clock because people that, shipmates that would replace us at the hour of 4 o’clock were on action stations up above. And so we remained in the engine room and the ones which work in the boiler room until 8:00 am when they had the all clear signal.
And naturally, we were not torpedoed which was a good thing, with Christmas, with being in the water or dead. And I went up on top and looked around. There was many ships. They claimed that we sank a German submarine, but I do not personally believe that to be true, because I seen only an oil slick and I never heard of us sinking a U-boat after that date, whether it was kept secret or not. We never heard or we never had, I never had seen anything to make me believe that was true. However, it was maybe true. I’m not sure.
We kept track of everything. We knew exactly when the, the day of the invasion and we knew all the other events that took place. And we were well kept informed when the ships were sank on the coast, the west coast or the east coast, but most of them, all the ships that I know was sank by torpedoes was on the east coast going from Halifax across to England and up towards Russia.
There was 24 of our Canadian ships sank during World War II. And a lot of merchant navy ships and a lot of BPT [British motor torpedo] boats also. One of our shipmates, which was aboard one of them that exploded, he’s still alive today. We felt that were getting a bit of a raw deal, but don’t forget that it was the Canadian navy that kept the lifeline open from Canada to the old countries, France, England, and up even as far as Russia, the Meridian run; and if it had not been for our navy, we may not be free today. Because when we started in 1939, we only had half a dozen ships and we finished with the third largest navy in the world. We had over 400 fighting ships and that’s not counting the merchant ships. That’s about our ships.
I arrived in Montréal for my discharge on the 2nd of October, if I’m not mistaken, because I got my dis, was sent off on the 28th, took about four days to get to Montréal. And I landed at the Bonaventure Station in Montréal, that’s my hometown. And I got down and kissed the floor there and said I feel good, now I’m home and the war is over. And somebody there said, now what are you going to do? I said, first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to go have a nice bottle of Molson and then I’ll go home. [laughs] And that’s what I did. [laughs]