Veteran Stories:
Robert Bradstock

Merchant Navy

  • HMCS Huron after collision with French destroyer during exercises in the Mediterranean in late 1950's.

  • Robert Bradstock in Merchant Navy uniform circa 1942.

  • Robert Bradstock retiring at age 60 from Marine Atlantic Roroship Cariboo in 1972.

  • Robert Bradstock's Medals depicting his outstanding service during WWII, Korean War, South Pacific Theatre,and Peacekeeping operations. The Merchant Navy pin (left) was awarded in 1944 upon completion of six months in dangerous ocean zones.

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"Actually, we were up in that night, and they sent us out to find the submarine, and thank God we didn't find it, because we had a twelve inch deck gun, and half a dozen DEMS gunners."


My name is Robert Bradstock, and I was twelve years old when the war broke out. I went to sea in 1941 when I was fourteen and a half on the Estovan, which is a lighthouse and buoy tender off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Wasn't considered a war time area at that time, until... during the ten months I was on the Estovan, they shelled Estavan Point lighthouse. And it was a submarine - they found the shells afterwards, and had identified it as a Japanese submarine. Actually, we were up in that night, and they sent us out to find the submarine. And thank God we didn't find it, because we had a twelve inch deck gun, and half a dozen DEMS gunners. DEMS is Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships - they're naval reserve gunners. And so it became a war zone then, and I joined a ship from the manning pool - the Mount Douglas Park. And the second trip out our coal hole caught fire, and we burned for the week or a week and a half or so, I forget now exactly - it's a long time ago. But the coal just smoldered, as slack coal will, because that's what we burned. And we had a heck of a time putting it out because it just smoldered, and there was ammunition in the holes forward, boiler room was aft of the bunkers. So it was a pretty hot time there for a little while. Second trip out there I left the Mount Douglas Park and joined the Nicholas J. Senate, which was an American Victory ship. And they had the two classes - Liberty and Victory. And they were the same... very similar to ours. Running up from Australia up to New Guinea and we were unloaded a Tapeii Bay. Very weak perimeter defence. We had to get out of the harbours at night because of the danger of getting Japanese bombers nailing you and blowing the harbour up. And while we were there unloading, first trip up there, the ammunition dumps started to blow up. And they didn't just go bang. And burned consecutively for about a day or two. And there was four thousand drums of gasoline there, which made quite a horrendous flame and noise, and was quite an experience for a young boy (laughter). After I got out of the Navy, I opted out of the Merchant Navy to join the Navy, I guess life went on sort of normally in the Navy for twenty-seven years. Until we had a collision with a [ ]when we were in the Squadron. And she cut across our bow in the middle of the night, and we hit her, and we lost thirty feet of our bow. And fortunately nobody was killed or injured in it. I finished up twenty-seven years in the Navy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Loved my life there. And retired, and then I ended up working for Marine Atlantic, the large ferry system. And I was one of the overseers on the first large ferries that they use up there now. And that's my life up to about now, I guess. I'm retired and enjoying it. And been married fifty-three years. And I get happier every year.
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