Veteran Stories:
Donovan Ralph Woelfle

Navy

  • Donovan Woelfle in Uniform, 1943.

    D. Woelfle
  • Donovan Woelfle's Statement of Service, 2004.

    D. Woelfle
  • Donovan Woelfle and his Crew on Ship Alder Park.

    D. Woelfle
  • Donovan Woelfle's Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; Burma Star; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).

    D. Woelfle
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"And then you go across the Atlantic, it’s pretty cold and windy and wavy and to repeat, you had no fear when you’re that young. Or at least I didn’t. It was a grand adventure."

Transcript

Yeah, I belonged to the 24th Field Ambulance. A bunch of us guys all joined it. But I went from there to the navy. And I, I just had a good feeling about water all the time. In fact, when I came out of the navy, my wife and I owned a sailboat for about four or five years. When you’re 18 years old, you’ve got no fear and I enjoyed it. Now when we first went out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the fog was so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, which is hard to believe, but it was true. And I was standing on the bow and I heard this deep voice asking me how the buoy lied. And being just the first time I was ever at sea, it kind of scared me, but I could hear the buoy, so I just took a guess at it and said, “Ten degrees to the port side.” And I heard the big voice again, “Thank you very much.” Within a minute, we were passing that buoy and it was on the right side. So that was my first experience at sea. And then you go across the Atlantic, it’s pretty cold and windy and wavy and to repeat, you had no fear when you’re that young. Or at least I didn’t. It was a grand adventure. And, you know, we were in convoy, that was our famous work, eh. We went from Montreal to Liverpool [England]. I crossed three times, twice from Montreal, once from St. John [New Brunswick], not St. Jean [sur-Richelieu, Quebec], St. John. The third time we were in England, we were taken over by the British Admiralty and loaded with ammunition, and that’s when we went to Bombay [India], and we went through the Suez Canal [in Egypt]. We stopped along ports all along the Suez. We were in the Bay of Biscay, that’s off Spain, and we had a storm. And the waves, the captain estimated them at 60 foot waves, that went right over our boom, tore of all our deck cargo, beside the ammunition, we had a deck cargo, which was jeeps and trucks and life rafts. The storm tore them all off. Everything was gone. So that was kind of scary. Anyways, we arrived in Bombay, India, safe and sound. Well, we came back and we, we hit Colombo, which is what, Sri Lanka now? And then from there, we went back up through the Suez. And when we got the mouth of the Suez, by the Atlantic, we got thrown out of the convoy because we were too slow, we could only go about six knots. So we had to cross the Atlantic on our own. There again, it didn’t bother us, but I guess it, it was dangerous enough. But it was very rare that something would attack us because they, you know, they were in wolf packs and they went after the convoys. But anyways, that’s when you’re young, you don’t think of them things. We were French West Africa. And we broke our propeller. Actually, the shaft broke and the propeller went down deep six. So we anchored outside Point NAWA [North Africa-West Asia] and the French authorities wouldn’t let us ashore. So we sat there five weeks. And when the war ended, a captain never even send us a drink down or nothing, he just, he never even blew his horn. We just found out from some of the officers that the war had ended. So that’s how we found the war ended. So then we got a message that we were to throw ammunition overboard and decommission our guns. We went from there to Philadelphia and then from Philadelphia up to Halifax and got discharged there. Then you go to your, where you joined and you get discharged again. We aren’t very well recognized, the DEMS [Defensively Equiped Merchant Ships] eh? I don’t know, for some reason, I’ve talked to navy guys, never heard of us, you know..
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