HMCS Montreal, Mr. Peters is in the bottom row, third from the left, 1942.JIm Peters
Italian prisoners from the submarine, Avorio, sank by HMCS Regina. Prisoners are happy because they are on the Canadian Ship. Photo taken in Bône, Algeria in North Africa 1943.Jim Peters
K234 Ship HMCS Regina that sank Italian submarine Avorio, 1942.Jim Peters
"I look up ahead and I see this wall of water coming at us. It turned out to be a 60 foot rogue wave and I was up to my chest in water."
I was born on February 21st, 1924 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. And my father had come from Greece and of course, he had opened a restaurant in Saskatchewan. Then we moved to Montreal and the day after I was 18, I was down at the barracks in Montreal. And within a week, I was down in Cornwallis, in Halifax, Cornwall, it’s the name of the barracks down there.
I met a guy in the hall, he was crying. Me, I’d been looking forward to being there. I wasn’t crying. I said, “what’s the matter?” He says, “I got this ticket.” And I said, “what do you mean, ticket?” He says, “well, I have to go board HMCS Regina tomorrow.” I said, “well, do you want to change tickets?” He said, “yeah!” So we changed tickets.
So I took the ticket, I went aboard HMCS Regina and I spent the next four years bouncing around from ship to ship. All in all, I was onboard four different ships. Someone would always ask for a volunteer and I was always there. Other than my family, which I had later, they were the best four years of my life. I became a man and I loved it. We sank a submarine during the course of the fight. We took aboard 26 Italian prisoners, that you’ll see some pictures of later, who were so happy that we’d picked them up out of the water, the ones that were left alive when the submarine popped up to the surface, they all jumped in the water. And we went out and picked them up, as many as we could of them, 26. And we took them into shore in North Africa.
I was starboard lookout on the upper bridge. Strapped in, which everybody was in that position as a lookout, strapped into the place. I look up ahead and I see this wall of water coming at us. It turned out to be a 60 foot rogue wave and I was up to my chest in water. And then the ship shook like mad and worked her way out of it; it’s like going up a hill. And we got up the hill at least. But all the windows in the deck below, which was the steering room I guess you call it, it wiped out all the windows, wiped out all the Carley floats and the one lifeboat were all gone.
I was in charge of the after rail, which held the depth charges. They would call down, set the depth for 50 feet. So you’d turn a little knob on the depth charge and then you’d hear, roll one on the right rail or the starboard rail. So we’d pull the handle and we’d go, roll two. You set the depth and hope, cross your fingers that it worked. And that’s what got the German submarine. Well, not German, Italian.
And we went up Murmansk, took a convoy up to Murmansk from Scapa Flow, which is northern Scotland. So we went up along the fjords of Norway and during going up there, out of one of the fjords came a German battleship with guns a-blazing. He fired one salvo, maybe four shots or five and it went right over us, we were closer into the shore, they went right over us into the convoy and they hit one ship. So that was it, then they scooted back because they know somebody was going to call the cops, you know, ask for the air force to come out and chase them back in.
So we had it down to take the ship over to, well actually, they were saying we were going to go into the Pacific theatre of war but we were down at the foot of the Red Sea on the cruiser and they turned on all the lights at night. We had never seen lights for four years at night, be otherwise submarines waiting around. And they said the Japanese have surrendered, the war is over. And they lit up the whole ship. That was quite a sensation. I wondered if maybe there was a stray submarine who hadn’t got the message yet.
Got our discharge, went home. They’d moved from Montreal out to Pointe Claire, where I didn’t know anybody. On the porch were my two sisters, my mother and my father. Then there was .another girl there. My father says to me, he says, “there’s the girl you’re going to marry.” Huh? Yeah, sure dad. Two years later, we did. And that lasted, we had our 62nd anniversary last year.