Veteran Stories:
John Stables


  • John Stables' Medals. Left to Right: 1-4 for service in World War II; 5,6 Korean War; 7 Nato Germany; 8 United Nations; 9 Canadian Decoration and Clasp (for 26 years of good conduct).

    John Stables
  • John Stables' Statement of Service in the Canadian Navy, 1942-1945.

    John Stables
  • John Stables' statement of service, Reserve Army, 1948-1950.

    John Stables
  • John Stables' statement of service, Special Force and Regular Forces, 1950-1971.

    John Stables
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"At that time there was a railroad strike on and the train that we were on hit an eastbound train in British Columbia, heading for Montreal. We hit head on. Seventeen army guys were killed, two firemen and two engineers."


John Stables. I joined the RCNVR, which is the wartime Navy in 2nd of March, 1942. I was seventeen at the time. I had to get a medical and I went to St. John to the army place, and was an army doctor that examined me. Said I was in real good health. But I only weighed a hundred and five pounds and the PO said, "Oh, that's all right, he'll put a lot of weight on within the next year or so. So we'll take him. He's gonna be a Boy Seaman for a while." So that's when I first joined the Navy.  And at the end of the basic training I took a special course, they call it SONAR now, submarine detection, and that was at that time called ASDIC. Anti-submarine Detection International Committee, it was called. But now it's called all SONAR after the American type.


I was on a number of ships, and one of the nicest ones I was on was a frigate, HMCS Ettrick. It's the fastest frigate in the Canadian Navy. One time we escorted a group of ships into a harbour and I happened to be on set and I picked up a torpedo coming towards our ship and I yelled up the voice pipe, officer on watch turned the ship to about 35 degrees to starboard and the torpedo missed us. What happened then, they turned hard to port and when we swung around they hit something. And he said to me, "See, we hit a reef. The sub's not around there." But unknown to him at the time the sub was there, because we hit the coning tower of the submarine. When I came out of the Navy I went to a technical school in Moncton and I worked in Bathurst, Northern Newcastle, where there was no navy, but there was a 20th Field Artillery Battery and I joined that. And that's the time that the Korean War started.


So I was single, I went in the Navy barracks there and they weren't recruiting anyone, so I hopped on my motorcycle and went to the Army. And of course I had a little bit of experience on the reserves, and they took me in right away. I joined the Forces, and at that time there was a railroad strike on and the train that we were on hit an eastbound train in British Columbia, heading for Montreal. We hit head on. Seventeen army guys were killed, two firemen and two engineers. And I was one of the first guys out of our car, the first one to stay on the rail after the engine and other cars were standing on end... trying to get the guys out, windows were smashed, and it was wooden cedar on the inside of these cars, and they splintered, and went into the bodies. That was quite a deal because we never expected that. Not like war, but almost the same. I'll never forget it. So then I went to Korea with the Artillery.


When I was in Pusan I got a toothache. This is now funny. (laughing) I got a toothache there, and the dentist said, "I haven't got any gear here yet but." he said, "the trunk will be off the ship, soon as that is I'll give you a call." So I went there and this chair was in the back of a... quite a big van. And the door was at the back and the chair faced the door. He said, "Which one is it?" I said, "I don't really know which tooth it is." So I opened my mouth and he started tapping, and hit one right in front. He said, "It's ulcerated." He said, "I can't do anything about it." "Well," I said, "tomorrow I'm leaving to go up north." I said, "I'll be driving the truck." And he said, "Well, what do you want?" I said, "Pull it." He pulled it and the... but, so I suffered for a few days and I never got anything done to it until I got back to Canada. So sometimes you'll have good times, sometimes bad times.

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