Veteran Stories:
George Alfred Kearney

Navy

  • George Alfred Kearney, Navy.

    George Alfred Kearney
  • Group photograph of seamen aboard a ship.

    George Alfred Kearney
  • Photograph of a submarine, the U244, flying the black flag of surrender, as seen from George Alfred Kearney's ship. Date believed to be May 13th, 1945.

    George Alfred Kearney
  • Photograph of a submarine, the U244, flying the black flag of surrender, as seen from George Alfred Kearney's ship. An aircraft is overhead. Date believed to be May 13th, 1945.

    George Alfred Kearney
  • Photo of a U244 submarine flying the black flag of surrender, as seen from George Alfred Kearney's ship. Date believed to be May 13th, 1945.

    George Alfred Kearney
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"On the last convoy, we left Londonderry on the 12th of May, 1945. On the 13th of May, we sighted a surface submarine, the U244, flying the black flag of surrender. There was an aircraft overhead, and a Royal Navy frigate on the horizon coming up."

Transcript

By 1943, the government was drafting people into the Army; as a matter of fact I had an initial letter from them telling me to report to the 103rd Training Base, which was on the Kam River across from what is now Bombardier. I applied for an exemption to complete education, and was granted, and at the end of the 5th year in high school, rather than waiting to be drafted by the Army, I enlisted in the Navy. Shortly after that I got called to active service at Griffin, and within two days, I was drafted out of here to Winnipeg. And I did my Divisional training in Winnipeg, with a group of twenty-some other communication people. I enlisted as a coder, and Winnipeg was where they were training the communication ratings at that time. So I left here on a draft with two wireless operators, and a visual signalman. The four of us went up one night from here to Winnipeg, and, that was from mid-July to mid-August in Winnipeg. From there, we were sent to Cornwallis, just outside of Digby, Nova Scotia for basic seaman training.

Well, on the last convoy, we left Londonderry on the 12th of May, 1945. On the 13th of May, we sighted a surface submarine, the U244, flying the black flag of surrender. There was an aircraft overhead, and a Royal Navy frigate on the horizon coming up. I can recall one of the officers hollering to the gunnery people who had apparently turned the 24-inch guns on the submarine to get the get the guns back aligned fore and aft. Because the submarine was pointing at us, so if anything had gone wrong, they could’ve fired torpedoes. That stands out in my mind, and I have a couple of pictures I took of that. You weren’t supposed to have a camera, and I had one, and I got a few pictures. Couple of them, three of them, of the submarine in the distance. It doesn’t stand out very well, but it’s enough to bring back the memory to me. I remember that. Most of the time at sea was routine. If you sail the convoy down towards the Azores and then back up, usually it was calm weather. But most of them took the northern route, not quite up to Iceland, but the northern, the Great Circle Route, you would run into rough weather, particularly in the wintertime, and I can recall a lot of the ship up and down, and sideways, and that, and wondering when in the heavens they were going to change tack, because you were doing a zigzag in a convoy – wondering when that was going to stop.

We had several contacts, whether they were submarine contacts or schools of fish, I don’t know. The ASDIC or SONAR operators, they tell me it was hard to distinguish. You’d send a pulse out, and it would strike a metal object and bounce back to you, and get the range, and with the latest equipment that the ships had, you could also determine the depth of the contact. Now it may be a sub contact or a non-sub contact, but as a coder I wouldn’t know the difference. If we were at action stations – if they thought they had a submarine contact, they’d go to action stations, and everybody had their job. When I was on the first ship, the HMCS Leaside, my action station was ammunition supply on the bridge Oerlikon gun. But on the frigate, where I spent most of my time, my action station was in the Signal Office, waiting to do anything they needed spare people to do – repair any damage or something like that.

Or, another incident, in one of the convoys: December 1944. We lost a man overboard. He was on lookout duty, aft, and yes, the 21st of Dec, 1944. Ordinary Seaman Hardy was on aft lookout and fell overboard. We immediately tried to rescue him, as did one of the other frigates, the HMCS Poundmaker. He was rescued after about 40 minutes in the water and died shortly after. The next day, we had a funeral service aboard ship for him. That’s the only casualty of any of the ships I was on.

 

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