Veteran Stories:
John Gellatly

Navy

  • John Gellatly (far left), with his wife at a party in Nova Scotia in 1945.

    John Gellatly
  • John Gellatly's electricians's class in Hamilton, March 1944. He is in the top row, third from the left.

    John Gellatly
  • John Gellatly (right) with his wife at a dance in Nova Scotia, 1945.

    John Gellatly
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"When these depth charges went off, it was just like you were in an oil drum and somebody was hitting it with a sledgehammer."

Transcript

We went to Sydney [Nova Scotia]. [Empire] Protector (II) they called it. And we done maintenance on ships that came into port. That was my first, it was a brand new base, it had new laundry, everything was brand new, good experience. I spent about a year and a half there. I went on the [HMCS] Burlington for a short time. Then I went on the [HMCS] Wallaceburg, on the Triangle Run, doing escort duty. It was from Halifax to Newfoundland to New York, back to Halifax. A couple of violent storms, kind of scared me a bit. Dropping depth charges. My action station was in the engine room and it was kind of scary when those depth charges went off. That’s why I wear hearing aids. It was kind of scary. I had to stand at the switchboard because when they dropped the depth charges, they were liable to kick the breakers out and because the gyro and compass had to be kept going, I had to be there to shut the breakers back in again. And when these depth charges went off, it was just like you were in an oil drum and somebody was hitting it with a sledgehammer. That’s what it was like. There was one time, somebody spotted some stuff in the, in the water and they couldn’t tell what it was, it was moving. And they circled it. This is really funny. They circled it and they went closer and closer and closer. And when they got to it, it was a mattress with fish making it move and that’s all it was. It turned out to be quite a joke on the ship. This big ship going around and around this thing, mattress with fish. We had a lot of fun on the ship. There was one fellow on our ship, he’d been in quite a while and he’d been in some action and he had damage to his head somehow or other. When we’d go into port, we used to have a lot of rum saved up and he’d drink it all. He’d get all dressed up and drink his rum and go back to the bunk. He was so drunk, he couldn’t get back up. Every time. Yeah, there was a lot of characters. I remember one fellow, his girlfriend sent him a beautiful sweater for Christmas. And he took it down and put it in the washing machine and when he took it out, it would have fit a doll. When we landed in New York, they arranged a place at a, Hotel Pierre. And when they, when we arrived there, we walked in, they had all the tables set up with a large jug of beer on the centre and two girls at every table. And we were assigned to a table. You were allowed to sit with the girls, dance with them, but you weren’t allowed to take them home. That made some guys sick but that was part of the deal. It had a big orchestra, beautiful meal after. That was one of my memories of New York. The second time I went there, I took a leave, I went home [to London, Ontario]. I jumped on the train and it landed in Saint Thomas and I just, nobody knew I was coming, I just walked in and oh, here I am. They just about fell over.
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