Veteran Stories:
John Hare

Navy

  • The HMCS Chebogue after it was struck by a torpedo in 1944.

    John Hare
  • John Hare stands next to the grave of a friend who was killed during the war.

    John Hare
  • John Hare (middle) marches with his Legion on Remembrance Day.

    John Hare
  • The HMCS Chebogue after it was struck by a torpedo in 1944.

    John Hare
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"We saw him, made him submerge, but we lost him. I mean, when you’re in something like that, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Transcript

We’d made two or three trips across and back, escorting convoys. And we left Londonderry on 30 September 1944, with our escort. We were the senior ship. On October 4, our Huff-Duff [High Frequency Direction Finder] picked up a sub sending back where our convoy was. We went after him with three other ships. We saw him, made him submerge, but we lost him. I mean, when you’re in something like that, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. [laughs]

We picked up the sub that night. It was heading back towards our convoy. Our radar picked him up, picked him up at 7:00 in the evening. We chased him until 8:00. He submerged and when he submerged, he sent back an acoustic torpedo [G7es or Zaunkönig T-5, found targets using sonar], which was heading for our CAT [Canadian Anti-acoustic Torpedo] gear, which was to prevent acoustic torpedoes [called German Navy Acoustic Torpedoes or GNATs by the Allies], but, unfortunately, when the torpedo came close to us, it blew up under our stern and took off 35 feet of it.

I was up forward. I was just getting ready to come back aft when it happened. Fortunately, we were at “service alert stations,” so that there was not too many men on the quarterdeck. That’s where they were all killed. There was seven fellows killed and seven wounded. It was just quick action of all the ship’s company, they shored up the after bulkheads and they held; and that’s why we were able to bring her back home.

You know, George Fish was the cook. He was in our mess deck [where crew would eat, sleep and relax when not on duty] and we had just finished eating supper like, and we cleaned up dishes and that; and I was sitting at the mess table, reading a Reader’s Digest and George come along and he grabbed me in a bear hug because he was a big fellow. And that was just at 7:00. We were fooling around and the alarm bells went. He went aft and I went forward; and George was, just looked like he’d laid down and went to sleep. I don’t know, he was right in the core deck when the torpedo blew up underneath, so I don’t know if it’s, if it was the concussion that killed him or what. But the one fellow went right over the mast and landed on the winch up forward and there was just nothing left of him.

We buried three. One fellow had been blown out in the water. The [HMCS] Giffard picked him up, but, unfortunately, he was dead and they buried him. Two fellows, we never did find, they were missing; and one fellow was still trapped in the wreckage. When they got her in to Swansea, his body was removed and he’s buried in the cemetery over in England.

If you were killed at sea, your casket or whatever you want to call it, they take your hammock and they sew you up in your hammock with two star shells [used for illumination and signaling]. The captain has a short service. We fire off a volley of shots, then the rating is slid over the side and he’s buried at sea.

My brother, Alan, like he went in as a seaman and he commissioned through the ranks. He was a lieutenant when he was discharged. And when I was on the Giffard, he was on the Brantford, an old corvette, she was built in Midland. And he was on her for a few trips. He was on the Triangle Run which was New York, Boston, Halifax, Sydney. Then his commission came through, so he went to King’s College and then after he commissioned as a sub-lieutenant, he was sent overseas. Well, he went to the west coast first and then he was sent overseas, trained as combined ops [combined or joint operations]and that’s when he went over and took up as a first lieutenant on the LCI [Landing Craft, Infantry].

He was on her for like D-Day and all that and then, Cyril, my other brother, like Al was the oldest, then Cyril and myself. See, he was the first one in. [laughs] He, he sort of did a fib about his age and he joined in October 1939. He was only 17 and a half, but Al and me were, are just about 5’5” or so, Cyril was over six foot. When Al and Cyril were in England and Alan was on his landing craft and they were down in Liverpool, Cyril was in the Highland [Light] Infantry of Canada. They were just stationed over, so they were able to get together and see each other. And I got a letter from Cyril, he said, you know that navy rum’s potent stuff. [laughs]

Alan said when they went in, like, their flotilla took the HLI [Highland Light Infantry of Canada] in, about 11:00 on D-Day morning. And Alan was up in the bridge and I don’t know which LCI Cyril was on, but, anyways, it burnished some airs when they took them in, going up to the [Falaise] Gap and Cyril turned and waved to him as he went, that was the last … Alan’s ship was an [HMC] LCI 263 and he knew which one she was because they all went across the Channel together. When your mail comes and I remember a couple of fellows got letters from home that they’d lost a brother, and you know, you think, oh geez, I hope that never happens to me, but we were down in Bermuda when I got the letter from dad telling me that Cyril had been killed; and it sort of takes the wind out of your sails. One of those things you, you just never know, so.

Actually what happened was that he was a sergeant. They’d been in the line for about three weeks. They were in the last big push going into Germany. They were supposed to come out and have some rest; then they had a green officer come up and Cyril said, well, I’ll take him back in and show him the ropes. And the next morning, a German threw a grenade and it got Cyril up one side. They couldn’t get him out of the line and when they did, unfortunately, he’d lost so much blood, he died.

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