"The captain come over on the loud hailer and he said, “The submarine that we were dropping charges on is coming up.”"
I was sworn in as a naval personnel in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve [RCNVR]. My serial number was V82458. I got a week’s leave before we were drafted. A friend of mine, I always remember his name, kind of took me under his wing because I was pretty green when it comes to big cities. The name was Tom Anderson. So we spent a week in Montreal because there wasn’t really enough time to go all the way home to Alberta and back again. We were billeted in actually an army barracks, across the [St. Lawrence] river from Montreal, it seemed a river to me, and that’s where we lived until further orders. Then we were again shipped away to Quebec City.
Here at Quebec City, they were just actually finishing up welding on this brand new frigate and it was named the HMCS Glace Bay. And we were kind of a skeleton crew and we went aboard and just waited until further drafts come aboard to make the full ship’s complement. When the ship finally was complete and munitioned up and provisioned up, we went down the St. Lawrence and that’s when I first got seasick, I knew what it was like to be seasick. Awful feeling, terrible. And I didn’t want anybody to see me sick like that, so I headed for what we in the navy called the heads, which were the toilets. And as I was running down there, I see a whole bunch of ratings leaning over the rail upchucking into the St. Lawrence. So I didn’t feel so bad.
We continued down the St. Lawrence and into the town or city of Glace Bay [Nova Scotia] itself. And the town, they put on a big party for us because of course we were named after their town. And they wined and dined us and bid us a good luck, a good hunting and all that stuff. And we were just there for the overnight and from there, we went around into the port of Halifax.
Well, when it come time to leave Halifax, the ship was bow into the jetty there and of course, they were tied up two or three deep. So there’s spring lines and there’s bow lines tying them up to a jetty. And the spring lines, they go from the stern of the ship forward and the bow line goes from the bow of the ship to the stern and it’s sort of a scissors like thing so that the ship won’t go back and forth. And then there’s the bow lines, the short ones from the bow to the jetty and from the stern to the jetty that keeps it from going out. When it come time for the ship to move the propellers, we were twin propellers on the Glace Bay, they sent myself and another rating out on the jetty, down the gang plank, to go forward to get the rear spring line, and it was a big heavy cable probably inch and a quarter, inch and a half. And it took two men to carry it back. It had a big eye and would fit around a bollard.
So we were carrying it back and there was two ratings on the quarterdeck and they were cranking it in on a drum, there was a crank on each side of this drum, so you knew how heavy it was. And they were cranking this in as we walked it back. And I said to this other rating, I said, “I wonder what would happen if we dropped this in the water right between the ship and the jetty, if we dropped it here, about halfway back.” He said, “Well, let’s find out.” So we dropped this big cable, and of course the propeller right away picked it up and it wound it round and round the propeller shaft. And of course, the drum went backwards, these ratings, if they had ever got their arm in there, it would have broke them right off, it just really whipped it back. And of course the next day, they had to haul the ship out with a tug, turn it around and pull it back in and berth it again and then that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a diver cutting cable underwater. So we got midnight leave that night to explore a little bit of Halifax because of our stupidity. We got aboard ship real quick so they never found out who actually did this.
But anyway, the next day, we set sail with a sister ship. That’s when we began our convoy runs with one other frigate and three corvettes, where we would escort them and the eastern terminus was Londonderry in Ireland. So that’s where we’d end in Ireland after the convoy dispersed. And while war was still winding down, the submarine menace was pretty well passed, it was pretty well passed I think in 1943, but we were called out almost every night just to scare off the subs that did get close. They tell me that all the experienced German skippers had been sunk by then and some of these new skippers, they were a little more protective of their skins I think. And there were fewer subs too I suppose.
But we did go out and I think four round trips, I guess, we made across the Atlantic. It was interesting and it’s a big, happy family and I liked it. We did it one time, I think this was in the Irish Sea, and the ASDIC [Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee, early sonar system] operator, he detected submarine in the Irish Sea and we decided to attack, so we did and we dropped charges on it. These are ten charge patterns, three each off the stern rails and two throwers off each side that made it sort of a square when they hit the water and sank. And they exploded where they were set. The settings I think were from about 50 feet to about 700, you could set these depth charge to explode.
We run in, I think about three runs dropping these charges and then we were senior ship of our group. And we were called away to form up a convoy going back to Halifax, New York, Boston, wherever they dispersed. And so we had to leave. And after we had gone not really very far, and the captain come over on the loud hailer and he said, “The submarine that we were dropping charges on is coming up.” And the sub did come up and there was four other smaller ships there, they took off 57 survivors off of this submarine and then it went down. Whether we damaged it enough to go down or whether they just brought it up and scuttled it and they took these 57 survivors, German survivors, aboard their ship.
Kind of felt not too bad about that. I would dread to be on a submarine.