Veteran Stories:
Tom Reginald Rappel

Navy

  • Certificate from The Netherlands National Committee Thank You to Canada and the Allied Forces awarding Tom Rappel the "Thank You Liberators" Medal of Remembrance.

    Tom Rappel
  • HMCS Haida.

    Tom Rappel
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"15 miles south of Murmansk and it was Christmas Day. And in the Navy, the youngest man on the ship becomes captain for a day."

Transcript

I joined in 1942, up on Donnacona barracks up on Mountain Street [in Montreal]. I was 17, but I put my age up a year. All my friends, some older and some younger than me, they were joining up, so I figured I’d take my kick at the can too. And so I’ve had a happy career with the service. I’ve been to sea but I got sick as hell. (laughs) That was just on the St. Lawrence River. But then I was drafted to a ship called the Niagara, HMCS Niagara. It was one of the first four stackers, that means four-funnel destroyers. I was on her for a time and was drafted off of her and overseas where I joined a crew again. There were four tribal class destroyers. There was the Haida, the Huron, the Iroquois and the Athabaskan. We were up in Russia [then part of the USSR], this time up there, 15 miles south of Murmansk and it was Christmas Day. And in the Navy, the youngest man on the ship becomes captain for a day. We’re talking about the seaman branch now. But then we come into the engine room branch…my leading stoker was a fellow by the name of Bob Scott. And he said, “We’ll make the young fellow here engineer officer for a day.” So this they did and that’s tradition too, eh, but they just changed it to suit themselves. But anyway, when I went on the Haida, we called it the Hay-da but since I come to Ottawa, it’s the High-da. But nevertheless, we were out with the Athabaskan the night she was sunk, in that action. My captain was Harry DeWolf. And he was one of the most famous people known in the service. So other than that, that’s as far as I can take you on that one. I left the Haida and went back to the railway, finished my apprenticeship, then I rejoined the Navy and was in for a term, in which it, it’s all there on my papers on my wall and so forth. And when I come here to the hospital, someone come up to me one day and said, “Congratulations.” I said, “For what?” It was a lady that said this. She said, “They just nominated you as vice president of the Veterans Council.” And that’s the job I’m doing now.
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