Veteran Stories:
Simon Alexander “Alex” Kingston

Army

  • Simon Kingston, November 2009.

    Historica Canada
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"Anyway, one of the sailors gave me a butcher knife and there was three or four that would say their hair was frozen to the deck that I had to cut clear."

Transcript

When we started overseas, was a problem. We got on the boat, [HMCS] The Empress of Scotland, and we got off in Greenland. And the ship had to wait three days off Greenland for an escort to go to England. They were changing course every seven minutes, lying the boat right over in order to avoid the submarines. At one point, I was asked to take three hours in the crow’s nest as a lookout because the sailors were so tired and a lot of them sick; and the seas were so rough that we changed course so often that we were sure the boat would go right over in the water. After getting up there though, I found out it did come back every time that it went over. And in the morning, went up on deck, all the people was laying there very, very sick. And there was a kind of a green stuff running out of their mouths they were so sick. And their hair was frozen to the side of the deck. Anyway, one of the sailors gave me a butcher knife and there was three or four that would say their hair was frozen to the deck that I had to cut clear. Got them up and took them down and warmed them up. They were all full of ice because the spray all night, it was below zero, we had them all full of ice. You’d hardly know who they were with ice. And they was awful, awful sick. But, anyway, we cleaned them up and put them down. Then we got an escort after three days. When we got to England, there was a lot of ice, you couldn’t walk off it was so bad, so that’s how bad they were. We had an awful trip across the Atlantic. When we were coming back, it was just perfect, you know. Lovely day, but that was an awful storm we ran into that night. In fact, it’s the worst night I ever seen in my life. I didn’t think I’d ever get through it. Because the boat, when it rolled over, it went through the sky so far that I thought it was going to go right over. I mean, the sailor, oh, he said, it’ll be back, it’ll come back. But, I said, no, not this time. It’s not coming back. But the seas were running maybe 40 feet or more, you know. And down off of Greenland, it was an awful place. It was awful funny, the next morning, after I stayed all night, my daughter, Roberta was four, I think. And so they were in the kitchen and I was shaving or something in the bathroom, must have been inside of it. So I heard her saying, she said, that fellow that stayed here last night, are you going to keep him? And [my wife] Alma said, yeah, I guess we’re going to keep him. She says, is that right, I don’t know whether I like him or not. That’s what she said, eh. She said, are you going to keep him? And Alma said, well, I guess we will. I was pretty well a stranger to her then because I went over when she was very young.
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