"Well, the main thing that bothered me most when we were doing convoy work was a tramp steamer would get torpedoed and we couldn’t pick up the survivors."
I enlisted in 1942, underage. I had done my advanced training or my basic training in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. And went to Petawawa, Ontario, done my advance training there. And then after completing that, I was with 6th Anti-Tank, which was an artillery regiment. And they were going to Sicily. But my mother wrote in and told them I was underage, so they released me. Which I’m very fortunate because the 6th Anti-Tank was about 50 percent wiped out in Sicily.
Anyway, I got out and come back to the, Prince Edward Island and done several small jobs around. I drove a truck for a while. Then as soon as I became 16, I joined the navy, the RCNVR, Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. And I went to Nova Scotia dockyards in Halifax and then I went to [HMCS] Cornwallis in Nova Scotia, which is for basic training for the navy. After that, I went aboard a couple of ships, sailed in them and then in 1944, I was sent to Port Arthur, Ontario [now Thunder Bay], to commission a minesweeper called the [HMCS] New Liskeard.
A convoy is a whole group of ships that get together and then the navy escort them across the Atlantic and most of the time, some of the old tramp steamers that were in the convoy, they all formed up in St. Margarets Bay, outside of Halifax. And they came from Boston, they came from New York, and they all formed up there. And sometimes you’d have 100 ships in the convoy.
Well, the main thing that bothered me most when we were doing convoy work was a tramp steamer would get torpedoed and we couldn’t pick up the survivors. We’d put a scramble net over the side of the ship, if they were lucky enough to grab onto it, we could take them aboard. But most people never made it and that really bothered me. That they would just drive away from them, really.
In the navy, they have what they called action stations. And every member of the crew had an action station. Mine was on the port side of the bridge and it was two 20-millimetre guns, which was hydraulic-operated. So as soon as action stations went, you were, you were there. If you were in bare feet, you went anyway and it was cold in the Atlantic; I froze my toes several times. They would blow a whistle from the ship, you know, you’d hear it all over the ship and it would go, whoop, whoop, whoop - you took off, no matter where you were.