"U-boats, that were in the Atlantic had been ordered to surface and surrender and fly a black flag during daytime so that the Allied ships would know that they were surrendering and keep the lights on at night."
I met this Lieutenant Commander Lawrence, who was from Toronto and had been with the Toronto Star, and he was in charge of the Toronto PR [public relations] office. And I met him and as a fellow newspaper man, we became friendly. And I did write a few little articles on navy matters that would be of interest across Canada and I freelanced for George Lawrence. Later on I found out there was another selection board being held. And one in Victoria [British Columbia] had recommended that I appear before the next one so I submitted my name to go before a selection board. When George Lawrence came back – he had been out of town – I told him that I had applied to become an officer in the special branch, which was his field of operations. He said, “Oh, George, I’m sorry you did that because I have approval from Ottawa itself for both Petty Officer Graham and Leading Writer Healey to become officers at this selection board.” I said, “Well, I’m sorry I didn’t know that, but now that my name is in I have to appear before the board.” So, the selection board was held in Stadacona [Nova Scotia]. I went down and the first one to go in was Petty Officer Graham and he came out after five minutes, sweating and saying, “Oh, God, they were very tough. They turned me down.” And I said, “How could they turn him down? He was approved by Ottawa!” So then Healey went in and he came out a few minutes later and said, “They turned me down too!” So, knowing that they were turning everybody down I was very calm and collected and didn’t worry about going in to appear before a selection board. So I wandered in and answered a lot of their questions and when they finally got around to the end of their usual questions, they asked me, “What did you do as a civilian?” I said, “Well, I was a newspaper editor in a daily newspaper, the Edmonton Journal.” They said, “Oh that’s a pretty responsible position wasn’t it?” I said, “Oh, yes, of course.” They said then, “And what was your pay?” I said, “Well, I was being paid 2 300 dollars a year.” And they were so impressed because that was big money in those days. I think that’s what influenced them more than anything else: if I was that worthy as a civilian I’d be a darned good officer!
So they promoted me to officer and I promptly became a sub-lieutenant and was sent down to HMCS Cornwallis at Digby [Nova Scotia] to where the new officers were going into training. However, by the time I arrived there, I was not feeling very well, and so I said, “I’m not feeling very well.” They sent me across the highway to the navy hospital. And I was in there and I was diagnosed with something that had just been discovered apparently at that time, a new disease called mononucleosis, which later became quite well known. But as such, I was in hospital and I was on the daily rounds of all the travelling physicians who came in because they could feel my spleen and usually you can’t. And so I spent a month in the naval hospital, looking out the window at my fellow training officers marching up and down across the road at HMCS Cornwallis, being trained as officers, and I was lying in comfort in a hospital bed, looking out the window.
When the months of training ended I was still in the hospital and I had to phone Halifax to George Lawrence to see if he could get me out of the hospital and back to Halifax, which he did. And so I went to work in his office and in the fullness of time, when he went overseas at the time of the Normandy Invasion, I was left in charge of the office as acting public relations officer. And in the fullness of time I became a full lieutenant, I was permanently appointed to the Public Relations Office and was in and out of Halifax on various duty trips and reporting what was happening on the East Coast and in the Atlantic for the newspapers across Canada. And at the time of VE-Day [Victory in Europe, May 8, 1945] when VE-Day was coming up and the submarines, the U-boats, that were in the Atlantic had been ordered to surface and surrender and fly a black flag during daytime so that the Allied ships would know that they were surrendering and keep the lights on at night. And so they were to be escorted in to the only Canadian port designated to receive the surrendering U-boats and that was Shelburne, Nova Scotia. I was sent under top-secret orders down there to record the arrival of the U-boats.