Veteran Stories:
Norm Dick

Navy

  • Murmansk Run Medal, given by the Soviet union to Royal Canadian Navy and Merchant Navy personnel in 1985, for the 40th anniversary of the end of the war.

    Norm Dick
  • Mr Dick is wearing his navy uniform, in the middle, taken in Brandon in circa 1942. He is standing next to his friends, Harry and Stan Fraser who were respectively in the air force and the army.

    Norm Dick
  • The crew of Monnow, the total crew was 125, but this is a photo of the engine and boiler crew. Mr. Dick is the tallest one in the centre of the back row. His nick-name was "This-Above-All", as he was 6 feet and four inches.

    Norm Dick
  • Picture of Mr Dick's ship: The Monnow, taken in 1943.

    Norm Dick
  • Engine room roster of H.M.C.S. Monnow, as of 12th may 1945.

    Norm Dick
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"Finally, just about the time I think I was going to let go, two guys came bursting out of our ship and they each grabbed an arm and just like a, a wet fish, flipped me onto our deck."

Transcript

Well, we usually travelled from Newfoundland to Londonderry, [Northern] Ireland, escorting convoys. That was sort of a “milk run”, a “Newfie [Newfoundlander]dairy run” they called it. So we did that for a good many times and then after that, we went to Murmansk, [Russia]. I wasn’t cold because I was a stoker [a person who tends the furnace on a steamship]. The stokers were below decks.

The first time I went to sea, it was in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we hit a storm, we were sailing from Lake Ontario and down the St. Lawrence [River] to Halifax, [Nova Scotia] and in the Gulf [of St. Lawrence], I got seasick. And that was it, I never ever got seasick again. The first trip was in December, 1944. My life was saved in the, if it hadn’t been for this trip, I wouldn’t be here. And so for that reason of course, I found it interesting. And we hit horrible weather, it was far worse than we had on the North Atlantic [Ocean]. We never saw waves so high. And I put my foot on this plank and the next thing I knew, I was way downstream. I think I sort of stunned myself on the way down, I hit my nose on our ship on one of the cables and broke my nose and I was bleeding, that sort of thing.

So I got down there and now I looked up and there’s these two ships. So I was able to swim up the stream between the two ships. I could see them, dark as it was, they just loomed up there. When I got up in between the ships, I had a hard time finding a place to hang on. Finally I found a hole in our ship with a steel bar down the middle of it and it turned out to be the outlets from our heads, you know what heads are, I presume. So I grabbed that and hung on for dear life and now, I decided first thing I was going to do was yell for help. And I opened my mouth and nothing came out. You can believe this, or not very, but I couldn’t make a sound. I guess that’s what cold water did to me.

As I hung on there and wondered what to do, all of a sudden, there was a flashlight came over the edge of the tanker and it found me. So the guy, he starts yelling at me to hang on and he threw me a rope. I grabbed the rope and then let go of my hold on the ship and he floated me down to our quarterdeck and our quarterdeck wasn’t very far off the water at this point. So I reached up and grabbed the cable, this is the cable I guess I’d hit my nose on, and I lifted myself up and put my knees on the edge of the quarterdeck and I thought I would just flip myself over and be aboard. But I discovered suddenly that I had no strength. And I did my best and I couldn’t pull myself up and I was just sort of lying, hanging there and the fellow in the tanker, this is the guy I had been talking to, he was yelling, he could see that I was in trouble. He was yelling at the top of his voice. Finally, just about the time I think I was going to let go, two guys came bursting out of our ship and they each grabbed an arm and just like a, a wet fish, flipped me onto our deck.

And the next thing I knew, I was under a hot shower and the Chief Stoker came in and handed me a cup full of Pusser’s rum, which was potent stuff, and I think I drank it like water. I knew this guy on the tanker had saved my life. So I gathered up as many cigarettes as I could. I found the guy that I was looking for and you’ll never believe how delighted he was.

Six [German] subs [submarines] surrendered and we had to escort them back to Scotland and their crews were interned as POWs [prisoners of war]. As I recall it, the Germans that we met didn’t speak English. I thought Germans all spoke English, but they didn’t. And they weren’t getting any news. But I remember one of the cities [in Germany] had been flattened, I forget the name, Hamburg or something, and one of the guys there, he was from the city and we were trying to tell him that it was kaput and he wouldn’t believe us. He just didn’t believe us. They obviously weren’t getting any news.

We just got rid of them as soon as we got over to Scotland. They were nice guys, they were all nice guys. Everybody was delighted that the war had ended. No doubt about that.

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