Veteran Stories:
Tom Gunning

Navy

  • On board the HMCS Cape Breton in the English Channel, 1944.

    Tom Gunning
  • Escort Group 6 (EG6) anchored off the Faroe Islands, October 1944.

    Tom Gunning
  • Portrait of Tom Gunning in uniform, taken during the war.

    Tom Gunning
  • Tom Gunning is pictured here attending the 60th Anniversary of D-Day at the Canadian War Cemetery in Cintheaux, France, 2004.

    Tom Gunning
  • HMCS Cape Breton (K350), the ship on which Tom Gunning was stationed, Faroe Islands, October 12, 1944.

    Tom Gunning
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"We were constantly at action stations. And they gave us pills to keep us awake and at the end of the fifth day, I collapsed unconscious and I was laying in the companionway."

Transcript

We were put on North Atlantic convoy duty for a while, [Escort Group] EG9. And from EG9, they took more frigates out of EG9 and formed EG6, as a striking force. And we ran out of Londonderry, Ireland. And we went to Scapa Flow [Scotland] and we picked up the convoys that go to Murmansk [Russia]. And we ended up in Murmansk in the Bering Sea and in Kola Bay. And while we were there, there was all these destroyers that the allies had captured in Italy and they gave these destroyers to the Russians and they were all anchored in Kola Bay there. And the people were starving and the money was no good; and it was all barter system. And on our way back, we came past around the corner and near Bear Island [Norway], where the submarines hung out, they attacked the convoy that we were guiding and they were so intense that we, we’d drop depth charges [anti-submarine weapons] continuously for five days and five nights. We were constantly at action stations [prepared for attack]. And they gave us pills to keep us awake and at the end of the fifth day, I collapsed unconscious and I was laying in the companionway [stairway]; and the alarm bells were going off and I was laying there, and I felt mighty explosions hitting the ship. It kind of woke me up and I looked around, there was nobody around that I … I ran out to my action station again. But after five days and five nights, well, pretty exhausting. We ended up in the English Channel on Tuesday, June the sixth, Tuesday morning, and we were there for two months, doing anti-submarine work and rescuing people that were on barges that were disabled. And we were patrolling one day and the sea was as flat as a pancake. I think it was a Sunday morning and one of the frigates that was running with us, HMCS Annan, or it was HMS Annan, because it had a British crew on it, and you know how the British like their fish and chips. So they were making fish and chips and they picked up an echo; and they asked permission to go attack it and they attacked, dropped 10 depth charges on the target and it was a sunken ammunition barge and the depth charges exposed the ammunition barge right underneath the ship and then blew the ship right out of the water. And there was a great big grey cloud covering the ship and all you could see in the middle of this grey cloud was this mass coming up out of the water. And then the ship fell back down into the water; and we went alongside and there was men lying over the decks, bleeding at the ears and the mouth; and the cooks in the galley got the grease all over them and scalded them because you’re not supposed to make fish and chips at sea. [laughs]
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