"And thank goodness for two of my buddies, Ken Ostro and Burt Kindree, I don’t know whatever happened to them, they were from out west. They knew I couldn’t swim and they brought me over and saved me."
I served on the HMCS Runnymede until the end of the war. And on the convoy escorts from Newfoundland to Londonderry, [Northern Ireland]. It was called the Barber Pole Squadron. We had a barber pole emblem on the funnel and it was a G5 escort and we escorted convoys from Newfoundland to Londonderry.
The ship was one of the happiest ships I’ve sailed on. At the end of the war, I got out in 1946 but I went back in and I served until 1963. And it was one of my best experience in the Navy, of all my time in the Navy.
I will tell you about one experience when we took the [HMCS] Runnymede down to, we sailed her down to, up Bermuda but every ship, you have to have a workup before your ship goes into action, into the stream. And we were down off Bermuda and they had everybody overboard and I was running aft to get my life jacket. And I was knocked overboard and I went down twice. And thank goodness for two of my buddies, Ken Ostro and Burt Kindree, I don’t know whatever happened to them, they were from out west. They knew I couldn’t swim and they brought me over and saved me. Of course, when I got back onboard, I got reprimanded for not having, because at sea during the war, you’re supposed to have your Mae West [personal flotation device] as it’s called, was supposed to be right beside you. You eat and sleep with it. And I thank them for my life.
I was a quartermaster or a bosun [a ship’s officer in charge of equipment and the duties of the crew], which would be a wheelsman and then quarterdeck watches. Our main job was steering the ship. See, in most of the ships, the steering column would be down below and the officers on the bridge would relay the order by the engine telegraph to 30 degrees to port or 50, you know, so on. And we would turn the wheel. They were the eyes and we were the action downstairs, down below, just steering the ship.
My action station was on the depth charge throwers. On the stern of every frigate and destroyers and that, they had two racks and each rack would have, let’s see, there was four on either side, four depth charges and when they’d say, fire one, they’d roll off one off the stern of the ship, they’d go down in a pattern on the port and starboard side of the ship, they had depth charge throwers. There was two on either side so there was a pattern of eight.
You never really knew whether you got one until - I know that’s the way I figured it - until it was confirmed. Usually the admiralty would be able to confirm when there was different ships and different subs sunk and that. But you never really knew, I mean, unless some of them, well everything came right up. Like sometimes, the subs would sort of fool you. They’d put junk, and put it in the chutes and shoot it up to the surface and then you’d think you had it. But half the time you didn’t. That was sort of a gimmick they used.
I am proud of the Royal Navy, although as Canadians, some of us didn’t get along with the Royal Navy, there was, I don’t know whether [they felt] we were taking over their tradition or what. But I believe that the Royal Canadian Navy played a major part in the Second World War with the convoys and that. The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the longest battles of the war. And we worked as a team, the Canadian Navy and the British Navy. We knew we had a job to do; we were there to protect and bring supplies.
I’ve got to tell you this little story – in 1993, I was sent over by Ottawa for the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic and I met with the queen [Elizabeth II] at the Bootle [Town] hall in Liverpool, [England]. I was like in charge of the seven, there was seven of us in our group and she said, it’s so nice of the Canadian Navy to serve during the war and to work in conjunction with us ... And I said, well, Your Majesty, I said, we’re Canadians, we figure we had a duty to do and we were pleased to do it.