Veteran Stories:
Edgar “Pat/Scribe” Pennefather

Navy

  • HMCS St. Croix, 1942, rescuing Merchant Ship Crew after 7 days at sea.

    Edgar Pat" Pennefather"
  • HMCS St. Croix, North Atlantic, 1942.

    Edgar Pat" Pennefather"
  • HMCS St. Croix, sunny day, high sea, 1942.

    Edgar Pat" Pennefather"
  • Leading Writer Pennefather, R.C.N.V.R Halifax, 1940.

    Edgar Pat" Pennefather"
  • H.M.C.S St. Croix - Rescue of a shipwrecked crew.

    Edgar Pat" Pennefather"
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"The war is not over us, we’ve got to keep on patrol, you can never trust the U-boats."

Transcript

My name is Edgar Stuart Pennefather. I was known as Patty or Pat. My rating [enlisted job] in the navy was a writer. I did office work. I could typewrite and do secretarial work. For the first year, I was in Halifax in the office of the Canadian Office of the Atlantic Coast Relation, abbreviation COAC [Commanding Officer, Atlantic Coast]. That office building had windows overlooking the harbour. I could see the convoys of merchant ships steaming by. Every time one had been formed, there would be a convoy of about 50 ships cruising past my window, escorted by warships. I would like to go there too. So I put in a request to go on a seagoing ship and I was drafted to HMCS St. Croix, that’s spelled C-R-O-I-X. This was an old American naval ship which had been built in 1918 in the United States. It had been kept by the Americans until the war came. At that time, Canada bought several of those ships. They had four smokestacks. Well, they’re ancient looking. But, anyway, it was a warship and it was going across the ocean. That’s what I had been looking for. We would drop depth charges any time there was an attack by submarines on the convoy. On this trip, we had the chance to drop a depth charge [anti-submarine weapon] close enough to find that U-boat [German submarine]. We knew it had been damaged severely and about 15 minutes after the attack, debris started floating to the surface. There was anything that would float – bits of wood, clothes and bedding, and all kinds of junk. On the stern of our ship, to protect our two propellers, there was a back bumper sort of structure. We saw something white floating on the ocean close by. Somebody climbed out on that structure and managed to hook a piece of white, which turned out to be real meat, fresh meat, according to the guy that managed to get it out of the water. It was a piece of blubber from a human according to our medical officer aboard, so he should know, he did. That earned us a one-week holiday at the rest camp which had been set up near St. John’s, Newfoundland. We enjoyed it very much. After a year or so ashore, I qualified for petty officer writer and was drafted to another ship called HMCS Gatineau. It was a much more modern ship. I say modern: she’d been built in 1938 for the Royal Navy and transferred to the Canadian navy for patrolling the English Channel. This was a routine 12-day patrol, checking for U-boats, then a two-day break for refuel. We were on a patrol when the radio message came – "Peace, the war is over." Our captain’s retort was, the war is not over for us. We’ve got to keep on patrol. You can never trust the U-boats. They might not get the signal. We’ve got to stay out here. We did get back to shore about 10 days later when all the fun was over.
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