Veteran Stories:
John Gilbert Shaw


  • Canadian Navy Crest with Stoker Badge in centre. After two year course in Marine Engineering and six months at sea, John Shaw became an Artificer (Petty Officer).

    John Shaw
  • New recruits for Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) HMCS Prevost in London, Ontario, December, 1942. Pictured here from L-R: Bob Withrow, Jack West, Cam Stewart, John Shaw, Ray King, Glen Bain and Lou Campbell.

    John Shaw
  • John Shaw (top row on left) with other Naval students at the Aircraft School Naval Division #5 in Galt, Ontario, from December 1942 to August 1943.

    John Shaw
  • Portrait of John Shaw as Artificer Apprentice, 1942.

    John Shaw
  • Certificate of Mechanical Training certifying that John Shaw successfully completed his Engine Room Artificer Apprenticeship, October 6, 1944.

    John Shaw
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"We called them bumboats, they came out loaded with fruit and vegetables and wine particularly and alcoholic beverages and monkeys. We took on a monkey actually, which was a mistake."


We came out of Liverpool [England] and we sailed around to make sure that everything worked right. For instance, they flew an aircraft over, dragging a drogue, which is a big round sock, you know, it’s huge. And so we shot at that, we fired at it to make sure the guns were working and that the guys knew they could hit the thing. The Azores, the islands which are off of Spain, halfway across the ocean actually. So we parked there and anchored there and they had boats come out, we called them bumboats, they came out loaded with fruit and vegetables and wine particularly and alcoholic beverages and monkeys. We took on a monkey actually, which was a mistake. One of the boys bought it. So then we were there for a while and we sailed out of there, across the Atlantic and I was in the engine room part of the time and, and the boiler room part of the time. And at one time, it got very cool. And in the boiler room, it’s very, very hot. And so at the end of the watch, I went out on deck and we were in the middle of icebergs, which was quite a change. This is what I did a lot of. I was kind of interested in what was going on so I would go up on deck and look around and see what there was. And sometimes, the weather was beautiful, it was flat. I was on a frigate, which is about 300 feet long and one time, we were going up and down, the bow would raise about almost 45 degrees I would think. Then it would come down, it would drop, bang, and it would hit the water and you would think we had hit a huge log, it was just a wham. And then up it would go again, slowly, and it would come down and I went out and looked. The waves were, I would say 50-60 feet high. We dropped the charges and we were in the engine room and we would get a call from the bridge, “Standby for charges.” And so if you’re in the engine room, we’d phone through to the boiler room and told them, “Standby for charges,” and then they would drop the depth charges, which would explode and make an explosion and would reverberate and the ship would bounce. Half a dozen charges would be dropped and you’ve got to be ready for them. The ASDIC [Anti Submarine Detection Investigation Committee, the forerunner of sonar] would tell you whether there was a sub down below. That’s when they would drop the depth charges, because the ASDIC would send the signal down and go, bing-bing, bing-bing, bing-bing. And then it would come up, bing-bing, bing-bing, bing-bing, bing-bing, and told you that there was something there. Now, it might have been the bottom of the ocean. Hopefully, it was a sub. That was the indication that there was something there, then we presumed it was a sub if you’re out in the middle of the ocean. So that’s when we would drop the charges. And you’d set them for different depths and you could tell by the bing-bing, bing-bing, how far the sub was away, you know, how far down. And so you would set the charge so that it would explode at say 50 feet or 100 feet or 200 feet. They threw them off of each side. We had a thrower on each side, on the port side and the starboard side. The depth charge was a big barrel actually, if you can think of a, a big barrel of oil about a foot and a half round and two feet long. And it would throw this thing out about 50 feet, I would think. And it would sink and then you set the charge so that at a certain pressure, it would blow up. And the purpose of the charge was to create a tremendous pressure, which would blow in the side of the sub, or even the ship - it would punch a hole in your ship if it was too close.
Follow us