"And I never felt so sick in all my life. We had to go through the procedure in the ledger of discharging dead. You had to put over in red ink, discharged dead, discharged dead, discharged dead"
Whatever you do and however you’re doing it, you want to get paid. At the time I was working with what was the Provincial Bank of Canada at the time and now the National [Bank of Canada]. It was in Charlottetown and in 1942, I made up my mind that I wanted to join the service, in Charlottetown, [HMCS] Queen Charlotte. So I went to the barracks in Queen Charlotte and I joined up there in 1942.
After interviewing me, I was put in what they called the executive branch, if you want to call it that, in the pay branch pretty much. And having done that, I found out later that it would probably not ever give me a chance to get to see, which I had hoped that I would have gotten to see. Why that? At that time, the navy consisted mostly of corvettes. We had a few destroyers and the only ships that took my branch - the Writer branch was the writer -, so it exempted me pretty much from going.
So I was in the pay branch of that. At that time, it was a unique kind of a system. There was what we called two ledger keepers. I was the senior ledger keeper and then one sat across from me. We had identical ledgers and then we probably had about five or six corvette crews to look after. And all the documents would come in; I’d enter them first, initial it and pass it over to the next. And that, all these documents would be kept, pay documents and everything.
Once a month, at the end of every month, we had to rewrite those two ledgers, the whole bit of them again. So that was that and it was a complicated thing, you had to be very careful, like you had the seamen and the stokers and the so and so. Then they were Leading Seaman So-and-So and they’d had so many stripes and if you didn’t want to drink, they gave you ten cents a day for not drinking. But we couldn’t have our grog and that onboard ship, you could have your, your drink with this. So in that sense, you know, it was unique.
We were paid once a month. And all in cash. And the first few trips down, it was something else. Myself and, well, several of us would go to different banks. We’d go downtown Halifax and we would load up with cash and all cash then, no cheques then. So we’d come back probably half a million, a million dollars and a couple of guys in the back with a rifle and we never took the same way back. But anyway, we landed at the, it was like sort of a big barracks, big rink and everybody gathered in there. I’d have my section ledgers and all those people, those who were there, you’d pay them all cash. The lineup would be a quarter of a mile long. So that was the unique situation of that.
I can remember one occasion when we were at our work and a corvette had left the harbour and it had just gotten outside the harbour someplace and it was torpedoed. And I never felt so sick in all my life. We had to go through the procedure in the ledger of discharging dead. You had to put over in red ink, discharged dead, discharged dead, discharged dead. And that was one occasion and a couple other occasions not as severe but still discharged. But that particular occasion was a sad one which I never seemed to get over for a long while. And it made you think how serious it was and how instant. That ship might have passed in the harbour half an hour or an hour ahead of time and this happened.