Veteran Stories:
Giles “Doucie” Doucet

Merchant Navy

  • Giles Doucet, November 24, 2009.

    Historica Canada
  • Giles Doucet's service medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, War Medal (1939-45), Canadian Forces Decoration and Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.

    Giles Doucet
  • Giles Doucet's Canadian Merchant Navy Association Inc. Service 1939-1945 Medal.

    Giles Doucet
  • After the war, Giles Doucet wore this Merchant Navy badge on the pocket of his blazer. During the war, Mr. Doucet wore this Merchant Navy pin on his uniform.

    Giles Doucet
  • After the war, Giles Doucet wore this beret as part of the Merchant Navy Veterans' Association on Remembrance Day or at other commemorative events.

    Giles Doucet
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"He said, “Because I’ve got a cargo here that’ll blow you and your whole convoy apart.” So the Commodore hearing this, allowing them a submarine to lay down a smokescreen and we took off for ourselves."

Transcript

Well, first I joined the reserve army and my father was dead against it because he had served in the First World War. And when summer came of 1942, and they were sending us down to Aldershot [England] for summer camp, my father got a hold of them and told them, “That boy is only 15 years old, no way is he going to go to Aldershot.” So they released me and told me, come back in a couple of years. So I kind of hum and hawed around Bathurst [New Brunswick] and eventually took a freight to Halifax and went down to the waterfront and got myself a ship.

We took a full load of high explosives from Magazine and Bedford Basin [Nova Scotia]. And we sailed out of there I think it was early November if I’m not mistaken. And once we got outside the harbour, everything was great until about three days out and we run into a wolf pack of submarines. That was my first action. I can remember being very scared and the captain of that ship was Danish, the whole crew was Danish except for two Canadian, myself and an able seaman. And when the ship started being torpedoed, the captain asked permission from the commodore to leave the commodore on his own, because we were very fast and we could outrun any submarine. So, but the commodore denied him permission to do this and I could still remember him saying, “Fones te hell, in Danish, which means the devil’s in hell with you. “You give me a destroyer and a smokescreen, let me out of this predicament.” He said, “Because I’ve got a cargo here that’ll blow you and your whole convoy apart.” So the commodore hearing this, allowing them a submarine to lay down a smokescreen and we took off for ourselves.

And we landed in the port of Liverpool, England about five or six days later and discharged this cargo. But I can remember in the action, being very, very scared and there was an old boatswain in there and he noticed how scared I was and he told me, “You come up with me,” he said, “After this is over,” he said, “and I’ll give you something to straighten you out, to calm your nerves.” And he took me up to his cabin and he poured me out a tumbler full of this Saint Pierre and Miquelon rum.

I was cook, I started as galley boy and worked myself up of course to assistant cook, then second cook and eventually became a chief cook. Well, it was very interesting, but in them days, a lot of powdered eggs and dried potatoes and powdered milk of course. And in England, your stores weren’t very good because we only bought them the same thing, so we had good food when we were in Canada or sail out of Canadian or American ports.

The greatest part I found myself was just waiting for them to hit the button for, you know, action stations. But once you got into action stations, like the man said, you know, you didn’t have time to look. You went up there, especially for aircraft at us. I was on the, what you call Oerlikons, they’re anti-aircraft guns and we had a five millimeter Oerlikon gun. And my job was to put these shells in these cans and then hand it to the DEMS gunner, DEMS stand for Defend Every Merchant Ship [Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship]

. And he would handle the gun, but merchant seamen themselves didn’t have too much experience on the guns, although we did take the guns at times. And I can remember one time, I was with an inexperienced DEMS gunner and the minute the aircraft come over the horizon, he started firing away and I said, “For God’s sakes, man, you wait until he comes into your sights,” I said, “and let go then.” I said, “I can’t feed these cans as fast as you’re shooting them off.” I can remember that incident. I think I was on Hillcrest Park at the time.

But we were great buddies aboard ship. Everybody looked for everybody else. If you forgot your lifejacket, there was always somebody there to make sure he ran for your lifejacket in the galley or in your cabin, wherever you happened to have it. And he would always be watching your back.

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