Veteran Stories:
Edmund “Ted” Semmens

Navy

  • The Memory Project, Historica Canada
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"We spent the rest of the war with the Newfoundland Escort Force, doing convoy duties and at one stage of the game, we were taken off convoy duties for about three weeks when they found a minefield had been put down by the German submarines just outside the harbour in St. John’s, Newfoundland."

Transcript

I was drafted to [a] new construction in Toronto and I was drafted to HMCS Stratford, a brand new Bangor-class minesweeper with modern anti-submarine gear. So off we went to Toronto and we were housed initially at, well, I guess we were put in HMCS York for a while, while she was getting ready. Then we were, on the day of commissioning, which was August the 29th, 1942, we commissioned Stratford and next day, proceeded to sail down the Saint Lawrence River and what have we, towards Halifax. And when we arrived in Halifax, we were sent off to Newfoundland right away to be part of the Newfoundland Escort Force. And we spent the rest of the war with the Newfoundland escort force, doing convoy duties and at one stage of the game, we were taken off convoy duties for about three weeks when they found a minefield had been put down by the German submarines just outside the harbour in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

And so we swept those mines up and that was interesting. Mines were exploding around us and it did give us a bit of a lift at times but we had no problem, we didn’t suffer any damage ourselves. And after that, we went back on convoy duty for the rest of my time in Stratford. The ship would be in port and we’d be waiting for the next convoy to go and your captain would disappear and he’d go up to the convoy commodore’s offices, along with all the other ships’ captains who were involved in this, plus the merchant ship captains; they’d have a little convoy conference. As a rating, I didn’t go on these meetings at all, I was simply an ASDIC [a sonar submarine detection device] operator and I did my job.

But while we were at these convoy conferences, the convoy captains and the merchant ship captains would be told what transpired, what sort of a threat there was posed for the next few days and what the weather was going to be like and what they were to do in the event of an attack by a submarine or if the convoy was disbanded because of bad weather or for other reasons. And where they would reconvene or meet again through form of the convoy and that’s about as much as I knew.

The convoy screen would need maybe six or eight escorts and they’d be disposed four towards the band of the convoy and one on either side of the bow and maybe one or two at the rear. And those ships would simply take station and do what they call an ASDIC sweep as required by the captain and the threat as he saw it. And so you’d sit at your little, it looked like a telephone booth on the bridge and it was pretty stuffy and if you were seasick, it was just too bad, you took a bucket and held it between your knees and brought up what you had to bring up and deal with the odour, which was pretty odious at times.

We were very fortunate in our convoy duty. As far as I know, we never came across a submarine and we certainly had contacts and we depth-charged those contacts but nothing was realized from those contacts. So run of the mill, most of the ships had the same experience I would think. I suppose we were sort of a lucky ship because we didn’t have any casualties whatsoever and so there we are.

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