"They had surrendered and it was so, sort of, strange. Here, the [German] crews were still on them, the crews hadn’t been taken off. And here they are, standing watching us going up the river, you know."
We were down in the engine room and the steam goes through the, these turbines they call it, things that make the propellers go around. And then it goes into a condenser because they have to keep recycling that fresh water. So you have to look after that, you know, it’s getting cooled properly and then you’ve got the valve open to give the right speed. They ring down from the [ship’s] bridge how many revolutions they want, like 90 or 120 revolutions. And you adjust the throttles so that they give that speed. Like you don’t know what’s going on outside at all, whether it’s day or night or anything because obviously, you’re in the engine room.
You’re on four hours and off eight. Like go 12:00 to 4:00, you’re off at four til midnight, and you go back on at midnight until 4:00 in the morning. And there are a group of you that do this. So there are two people on all the time, around the clock. You’re always down in the engine room and looking after the pumps and the throttles on the engines. And sending the signals through to the boiler room so that they know how many fires to put on and if it’s oil fire, to keep the pressure at the same. And I think it was 300 pounds per square inch, I think.
In the stokehold, you get signals from the engine room but it’s pressurized, like there’s a big fan there and it’s blowing, sucking the air in from up on deck and blowing it down into the stokehold and then out through the boiler and up the stack. So you have to go down, you go down through one door and you shut that and then there’s like a trap door and you go down a ladder and seal that behind you. And then you have to keep enough pressure on there to keep that air going through the boilers. It sounds kind of difficult but really, they’ve been doing this for years and years and years. When you’re used to it, it’s not bad.
VE-Day [Victory in Europe Day], we were in the British Channel, we were in the English Channel and they had the radio on, like they had shortwave radio. And it was piped, you know, wired through the ship so you could hear the news. We were told to go into Portsmouth in England to oil up. We go into Portsmouth and we hear all the big deal, wonderful celebrations. We could see the fireworks going off on the English coast as we were going down the channel and into Portsmouth. We oiled up and they sent us out for another five days on patrol, up and down the English Channel, waiting for the German U-boats to surrender. So our, my experience of VE Day was very low key. And we heard about the riot in Halifax, how they broke into the liquor store and everything and here we are, puttering along up and down the English Channel.
We went back into the Foyle river, going up to Londonderry, and there were about four U-boats tied up down near the mouth of the Foyle river. They had surrendered and it was so, sort of, strange. Here, the [German] crews were still on them, the crews hadn’t been taken off. And here they are, standing watching us going up the river, you know. You think to yourself, I wonder if they ever had us in their periscope sight? Did we ever drop depth charges near those people? And yet, they were just, you know, fellows just like ourselves. Seems, I don’t know, it was a funny feeling, is the only way I can describe it.