"And what we did, we hit the submarine, but it was so close to the surface that the explosion split the front of the bow of our ship and we started taking on water."
Christmas Eve, 1944, we were at sea. We was just coming back from mid-Atlantic and we were going to New York. And he called us and he said, he wanted to have a little Christmas party and sing some songs, you know, some Christmas songs. We were just above the engine room where it’s pretty warm; and all those that weren’t on duty could muster there, and I remember him telling us, he said, well, you’ll be in New York for New Years. And tomorrow, we’re going to have Christmas turkey and all the trimmings. I remember that and went to bed very happy. And 5:00 in the morning: “action stations” [prepare for combat]. When they called, you have to go to your station where you are wanted. And I had to go to the radar cabin. And that’s up on the bridge.
So you put your lifejackets on and everybody goes to their proper place and get on the deck, we were, the depth charges were thrown over the side, quite an exciting time. And the ASDIC [Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee] chap had spotted a submarine right close to our bow and the captain ordered the shooting of what they called a hedgehog [anti-submarine mortar]. They’re a pattern of shells that fire over the bow and on contact, they explode. There’s about five of them going over at a time and it exploded right in front of us and our ship just shuddered. And what we did, we hit the submarine, but it was so close to the surface that the explosion split the front of the bow of our ship and we started taking on water. But the ship is, they have segments in there; they have sea doors that lock. When you go into action station, you lock all those doors, so only the front of the ship would get the water; it wouldn’t go back any further. It would be probably 20 feet of the bow; the water would be coming in.
So it’s not that serious but it could be serious. And, of course, you don’t know whether you’re going to get another anyway. That was quite an exciting thing and war is the thing for me because I thought to myself, am I going to leave my wife and child. So it was kind of an emotional thing. Anyway, instead of going to New York, we started back to Halifax because that’s where our home base was, because we had to get out of the water and repair the ship.
Maybe about the 10 January, the doctor called me to his office; and he says, Nash, he told me once before, when we were in dock, he said, I think you should go ashore. And I said, no, I don’t want to go. Because I was always seasick, because he had to give me these pills all the time. Anyway, he says, I think you should go to shore; I’ve got you a good job in Halifax dockyards in radio engineering in Halifax. So I didn’t argue this time.
I had my wife come from Edmonton with the little one, when the boy was eight months old. And they came to Halifax; and we lived in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. And I’d catch a harbour craft every day to work and come home at night and that was nice that was able to be with my wife at night and the weekends. So it wasn’t so bad.