Veteran Stories:
J. Ross Singleton

Air Force

  • Ross Singleton and his wife (left) and sister-in-law in Ottawa.

  • J. Ross Singleton at the age of 21 in his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform.

  • HMCS St. Croix.

  • While working with coastal command on the Mediterranean, Ross Signleton (third from left) and crew stopped to refuel in Italian Somaliland, 1942.

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"All hands on board were lost – about a hundred and thirty Canadian sailors. No one could stop to try to help them, because we'd be sitting ducks, of course."

Transcript

I'm Dr. John Ross Singleton. I was working in Saskatchewan in Waskasoo when war was declared in 1939, and I was eighteen. I went to pre-med in Saskatoon, and ended up that winter joining the RCAF. I wanted to be a fighter pilot, like everybody else. It wasn't until the fall of '40 that I was called up, and I went by train from my home in a little village called Canwood, Saskatchewan, to Brandon, Manitoba, where we were housed in a barn. I did some guard duty, because the training programme hadn't got into full swing for Canada yet. I then went to flying school, and I flew in Tiger Moths, but I was washed out – I was kind of a discipline problem. Nobody was going to tell me what to do. From there, I went into navigation, but I also had training in bombing and gunnery, and astro-navigation. It was in January of 1942 that I went overseas, and there were two troop ships in my convoy, and we were escorted by two Destroyers. One of the them was four-funneled Destroyer – the Americans had given several of them to the Canadians. It was very rough sea, and most nights we heard depth charges going off, as the German submarines were trying to sink us. On the second night out, they succeeded in sinking the Destroyer I just described. All hands on board were lost – about a hundred and thirty Canadian sailors. No one could stop to try to help them, because we'd be sitting ducks, of course. When peace was declared and the war was over, the last job that we did was to go and look for submarines. The German Command had ordered submarine commanders to surface and fly a black flag, and we found one just off the Shetland Islands. We gave them direction to go into Dundee, and later we were allowed to board that submarine, and it was at a dock in Dundee. The crew was still on it, and they weren't too friendly, and we weren't too friendly, but we realized that they were just doing their job. They were just kids like us.
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