Veteran Stories:
George Devonshire

Navy

  • George Devonshire and his fellow shipmates from Toronto who served on the HMCS Waskesiu, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1944. Mr. Devonshire is the 2nd from the right in the first row.

    George Devonshire
  • George Devonshire is pictured here in 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"We had a lot of attacks to make. Mostly it’s to drive the submarines away, keep them down so the convoy can get through."

Transcript

In 1943, early, I became active and joined the navy in Toronto and was moved immediately to Quebec City. And then from there to Halifax for training. And then aboard [HMCS] Waskesiu, the first Canadian-built frigate. My job was a torpedoman, that was the rank but also a seaman. That was, seaman-torpedoman they called me. My job would be, go to the weapons. In the first instance, it was depth charges. We usually ran 10 depth charges on one attack and we had to set the depths on them before we pulled the lever to drop them off. And then I had a job on a new weapon - it was so new, nobody knew anything about it - called a Hedgehog. And it was 24 bombs on the bow of the boat and it was a weapon that didn’t prove itself. It was too late and the instruments that we had on the bridge and the detection instruments were not jived with it well enough. Point about them was we could approach the target at a very low speed. So you didn’t lose contact. Whereas if you ran over them with depth charges, tremendous explosion, with 10 depth charges going off, [3]00 pounds each, you lose contact. You have to come around and keep searching. And most often, most difficult to find it again because they go off in all directions or they go in different depths. A lot of attacks that way, that was why we were there. So this new weapon was supposed to have been solving that problem of blowing up everything and keeping contact with the submarine. But the instruments were still not right, everything was brand new. In fact, it was secret. The people onboard there didn’t know anything about it. Neither did I when I was first shown it. I never had it in torpedo school. It’s brand new. We had a lot of attacks to make. Mostly it’s to drive the submarines away, keep them down so the convoy can get through. And that’s all we did. You shot off in one direction and made some attacks and got back on the convoy again. There was not enough escort vessels. Now, later on in the year, when there was enough escort vessels available and trained, or pardon me, trained, nobody’s really trained, we had support groups. And our ship was in one of them to start. And they roamed. And when a convoy was under attack, they would come and assist the close escorts. And that’s what we did. So we saw more action than that group, EG5 [5th Royal Canadian Navy Escort Group; HMCS Waskesiu was part of EG6] . And they’re all frigates, all could stay at sea a long time. We’d been to sea at 30 days sometimes. That was unusual but three weeks at sea was normal.
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