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Royal Canadian Navy
1940 to 1945
Sunday routine on board ship. After two hours spent cleaning mess decks, crew ashore to the jetty where a Navy chaplain held an open-air Church service. Very impressive. On board to put away a good dinner. Spent the rest of the day on board ship, reading and writing letters. Weather has turned very cold after a week of perfect Indian summer... and so another day.
The Old Man, the Jimmie, Ron, Cosburn, Rus Telfer and myself headed ashore to the Asdic Base where we spent the day brushing up on new attack procedure. Carried out numerous attacks on subs. Duty Quartermaster--always helps matters to have a night watch to keep when one is on the weary side...and so goodnight.
All the Asdic team back to spend another long day in the Asdic Base carrying out continuous attacks on the table. Went off ashore in the evening with the new W/T who hails from Oakburn Manitoba. Very dead evening for us and glad to wander back to the ship quite early.
They are certainly throwing everything at us in the Asdic Base where we again spent the whole day attacking, attacking, attacking. I think the Old Man will be a pretty cool customer when we run up against the real thing in the days to come. Went off ashore this evening by myself and spent a quiet evening in Atlantic House, browsing through their fine library of books. Some good ones on early Nova Scotia. On board at 2300.
Once again we Asdics spent the morning in the Asdic Base, but a much more pleasant task was in store for us in the afternoon--scrubbing the upper decks in pouring rain. Those fiends of officers must scream in delight when they hit upon such masterpieces of tasks for us lowly ratings of the lower deck. Oh to be a great and wonderful officer. No thank you--I prefer to live with the men! Quartermaster from 1600-2000. Helped push a car back onto the wharf that almost saw it into the pitch dark of the harbour. Boys whooping it up in the messdeck.
Attack and counter-attack--that seems to be the story of daily life these days as we practically live in the Asdic Base. Remained on board in the evening to do some washing and ironing. Getting to be quite domesticated--it is practically a must. Wrote home, and then started into a good book. Very cold outside, but our messdeck is comfortable... turned into my mick early.
There seems to be no end to the pleasant tasks that turn up on board ship. Today it was sloshing around on a catamaran between ships washing slimy oil and dirt off our ship's sides with coal oil. To help matters, every few minutes someone throws some article out of a porthole, such as a pot of old coffee grinds, or a bucket of soogey--or even better, a passing harbour craft or tug raises a swell which practically washes us into the harbour..make and mend in the afternoon so I wandered off ashore took in a show (poor) and had a meal in the Y. Walked back to the ship deep in thoughts of what this is all about.
Sunday again on board ship--after cleaning ship, crew ashore to the jetty where a Church Service was held in a driving snowstorm. We almost froze to death and tons of nattering could be heard from deep in the ranks. Lounged around all afternoon on board. Duty watch, and stood the 2000-2400 watch. Very tired when at last it came to an end. But woe is me, it took me 20 minutes to get Brady, my refreshing relief out of his cart. That, of course, put me in a wonderful frame of mind.
Up at 0600. Spent the morning removing the Asdic oscillator and taking it ashore. Afternoon saw us putting the dome back on and a new oscillator installed. Rumour has it that we are at last ready for operations, and that we pull out tomorrow. huge stock of stores came on board late this evening (you might know it). And so it is.
Today saw us start in on operational duties in the North Atlantic. We pulled out at 0500 for Sydney, Cape Breton. Rough--oh so rough--started operating and spewing. Everybody very sick--me included. That is about all I can jot down for today.
Operating continuously 2 on and 4 off. I am so terribly sick. What a life. Finally staggered into Sydney at dark. Half the ship's company allowed ashore. Naturally I was duty watch. After my watch, was ever so ready to hit the mick.
We sailed early this morning to escort a convoy--a rather exciting experience for most of us to take our first step in operational duty. Most of the day spent getting our convoy rounded up and into place. We are operating 2 on and 4 off, which is not the most pleasant routine in the world. Christmas ditty bags distributed along with woolen bundles. We are taking this convoy to some point in the Atlantic far to the East of Newfoundland.
Steady operating day and night. Weather fair, sea is actually not too rough, of major importance in my estimation. Please stay that way. I feel pretty good for a change, and am hungry at all hours of the day and night. Must be the fine sea air (coated with frost). Our convoy is slow poking, one of forty-odd ships--we are progressing at the fine rate of five knots per heavy hour.
Sunday at sea--but there is no way of actually knowing it, except that the cooks put gravy on the spuds at dinner. Seas are rough, but I still do not feel too squeamish, for some unknown reason. A bitter wind cutting through our rigging and snowing on and off. We turned our convoy safely over to another escort group far off Cape Race, Newfoundland, as we turned about and plunged towards Sydney, Cape Breton.
And I thought it had been rough before. Now I know something of the meaning of rough seas. Mountainous seas are breaking completely over the ship, and it is turning into massive coatings of ice as it hits. We are sheathed in sixteen inches of ice and I do not know what keeps us from going to the bottom of the Atlantic as we pitch, toss, roll and do everything else imaginable. Sure hope the rivets hold under all this pounding. At last we crept into port at midnight, the first of the escort group to make it. What a wonderful, wonderful feeling to get within the protection of land again.
Everyone on the ship busy hacking pieces of ice off the ship. Gigantic chunks crashing down all over the place as we slug it out with fire axes, bars, and anything else that will loosen the icy grip that has held us for two days. It turned out to be an all-day job. Went ashore in the evening for the first time in Sydney. Found the Y and wrote some letters. Had a huge meal and back on board early to get a solid night's sleep for a welcome change.
Some day I must find out what sign I was born under for I do not seem to be the luckiest person in the world. Today I lost my wallet with every cent I claim ownership to--$26.00 in all. It was to be my Christmas money, and it sure knocked me for a loop. The boys took up a collection and got me $12.50. Went ashore with Nichols.
Just as we were about to head back to Sydney, we received urgent orders to proceed to the rescue of a torpedoed ship in the Gulf. So off we went into the very teeth of terrific seas. Boy, are they ever huge green ones. Going on watch at 10:00 p.m., I stood for a few minutes by the wheelhouse which is all of 20 feet above the water line, and looked straight up at mountainous seas that made our little corvette seem very insignificant indeed--I hung on for dear life as I made my way in pitch dark with the roaring gales tearing at me every foot of the way, up to the bridge. How can anyone know what a night like this is at sea who has never actually experienced it.
Terrible seas still running as we pounded our way into them. We are bouncing all over creation. Somehow we found the merchant ship at 0200 of the wildest darkest night imaginable, and got a line aboard her. Headed slowly back to Sydney from close to St. Paul's Island. It is rougher than I ever dreamt the ocean could be. Our mess decks are knee-deep in bitterly cold sea water, everything possible is afloat from spilled tins of jam to best uniforms, hats, sea-biscuits, letters and books. No one gives it a second thought--for it seems all-important to think of survival. Arms and legs and joints are screaming for even a moment's relaxation from the jarring and pitching and beating. One has to go back to the old sailing rule of one hand for the ship, one hand for yourself, particularly on the upper deck where one false move means the end.
We staggered into Sydney harbour this Christmas Eve, feeling pretty good about accomplishing our mission. What a feeling to tie up securely to a jetty where everything is still--the crew in a jubilant mood, and I am no exception. Make and mend in the afternoon and we spent it cleaning our mess decks. Duty watch for me--on Quartermaster from 2000-2400, and I saw Christmas Day come in from the frozen gangway. Celebrated by taking a hot shower and climbing into my hammock at 0100.
Christmas Day--and what a day. My first one aboard a ship, but, from the looks of things, not my last. Up at 0800 (among our rare gifts, and a most welcome change). We hosed down the decks and cleaned ship. Decorated our mess decks and tied a small Christmas tree to the masthead--apparently another old, old tradition of the sea. I got feeling pretty merry on the punch which the Old Man fixed personally in the seaman's messdeck. We had a tremendous dinner--all the officers in a very congenial mood for a change--they were almost human. Went ashore with a gang of the fellows and wandered about Sydney, stopping in at two or three dances, but dancing little.
Back to the old grind today - up at 0600 and the morning was spent with a paintbrush securely in a frozen hand. Duty watch for me--most of the crew off ashore having themselves a good time. Ship very quiet and peaceful--one of those rare happenings. Turned in early.
A morning spent cleaning and sculling (mostly sculling) in the Asdic compartment. Cooper and I spent the afternoon overhauling the Asdic recorder. Went ashore in the evening--took in a show (slept most of the way through it) and wandered back on board ship early.
We sailed on an anti-submarine patrol off Sydney. Water smooth as glass--operating 2 on and 2 off. Picked up instructions just at dusk for further work.
We went alongside the good old jetty at 0800. Crew busy cleaning ship after the rough going. Plenty cold up top. Quartermaster 1200-1900, seven straight hours of it. Turned in as soon as I was relieved.
Up at 0400 and fire sentry patrol until 0700. Quite cold and monotonous out in the dark and icy quietness. Over to see John Granda on the Malpeque. Went ashore in the evening to take in a singsong at the Y. Other fellows along. Lots of fun for all. Back on board early.
This morning spent doing a final check on the Asdic. We sailed at 1600, picking up oil from the Teakwood on the way out. Headed for the open Atlantic at dusk. Rounded up convoy of 78 ships and we took up our screening position on the port beam...here we go again.
Weather not too bad as we plunge ahead. Sea quite heavy and kicking us around a fair bit. We are operating Asdic 2 on and 4 off. No sign of an echo so far. Tough time holding onto the convoy in the pitch dark. Thinking a lot of home so far away.
We are steaming north-east with our large convoy. Heavy seas running, operating and watches down to a routine. So far not a sign of any trouble. Feeling pretty good - so far. Eating everything in sight--an enormous appetite. So it goes---where are we headed???
Operating 2 on and 4 off. Visibility closed down to one half mile. Picked up a sub echo at 0530 and we gave it two solid patterns...resumed position at 0700.
Headed more easterly now--our convoy is steaming right along and for a change things are going very smoothly. Not a sign of trouble so far. Sighted two American destroyers and a patrol bomber off the port wing of the convoy...something to break the monotony.
Seas are running much rougher and huge swells are rolling us 40 and 50 degrees at a roll. We are warned to be on the lookout for Hudson bomber down in the Atlantic in our vicinity. What a hope in all this water. No sign of subs since that echo of several days ago.
Greek ship on the far side of our convoy was torpedoed at 0500 this morning, nothing doing on our wing. HMCS Rimouski picked up some survivors. Sure feel tense when I am operating Asdic, knowing that subs are close by. Split my knee going to action stations when I skidded on the icy decks. Depth charges going off all round the convoy. We haven't had a contact yet.
Looks as if we might be getting off lightly this time as we have not lost any more ships. Things quietened down considerably--perhaps it is the huge seas that are running. We are bouncing around like a top. My knee is driving me crazy with throbbing. Still heading east, ever east.
Well, we are still rolling -- and I do mean rolling -- due east. How vast this old Atlantic appears to be to an awed landlubber like myself when I gaze out in all directions day after day and see nothing but turbulent waters as far as I can see -- never dreamt a few short years ago that this is what my future would bring.
Boy---are there ever huge seas running. I never expected to see them this big -- ever. We are still keeping the port beam of our convoy covered and heading ever east. We run out of spuds today. Rice from now on. Double lookouts on watch for long-range German Junker aircraft which are spotting allied convoys.
Huge seas still running. We ran out of bread today and it will be a diet of hardtack from here on in. British escort arrived at dusk as we are now off the north-west coast of Ireland. We five corvettes gladly turned over our convoy to them and we -- the Kamsack, Rimouski, Trail, Trillium and Napanee headed on alone at full speed.
Great seas still pounding us. We are close to the coast of Ireland as I write this. What a wonderful feeling after two solid weeks at sea. German air activity in the Irish sea reported, and we got a red warning in our vicinity. Everyone highly enthused about getting near land. What a life.
Today is a great day - a wonderful day. At dawn, even before darkness lifted, we could smell that wonderful smell of land, earth, long before we could see it. In the early dawn we slipped quietly into Loch Foyle. Immediately went alongside a British tanker where we filled our near-empty oil tanks brimming. Ireland looks beautiful. Guess any solid earth looks beautiful at a moment like this. We sailed twenty miles up Loch Foyle and at dusk tied up in Londonderry. Everyone busy buying fresh cream, live chickens for packages of cigarettes. I headed ashore for the first time in Ireland--went along with Yearsley, and we wandered around in the blackout and rain, finally finding a chip shop where we had a feed of chips. Returned early--drew two pound casual.
If Newfoundland is the land of snow, then this appears to be the land of rain, for it has not let up for a second since we first sighted land. I wrangled permission to go off to Enniskillen. No trains running there on Sunday, but managed to get there by going half way around Ireland by bus. Went by way of Omagh, Ballgolly. Young English army officer and I chummed up in the blackout waiting for our bus connections. We had a meal in a hotel. We had quite a chat sitting by a blazing fireplace. I finally reached Enniskillen at midnight--pitch black and pouring rain. I felt my way around the deserted and silent streets, managing to find the Imperial Hotel, where I took a room for the night ....
Up at 0800 and a real Irish breakfast in the dining room. The big question--how was I to find my relatives when I had no idea where they lived???? Went to police barracks and luck was with me--an inspector knew the Currys. He ordered a young constable to drive me out in a patrol car. Saw cousin Gretta on the way. Uncle Frank, Aunty Lucy and Cecil gave me a great welcome--they had no idea that I was wandering about this part of the world. Spent most of the day wandering about country lanes in the rain and eating and talking. Had to get going all too soon. Train to Omagh and caught a bus back to Londonderry. Still pouring rain as I headed back on board ship at 2300.
Morning spent lugging on board sacks and baskets of those huge Irish loaves of bread. We left Londonderry at 1300 and headed down Loch Foyle. Went alongside tanker at Moville. Rumor has it that we shall be boarded tonight.
Up anchor at 0400 (no boarding during the night) and sailed with St. Laurent and four other corvettes. Out of Loch Foyle and so off to sea facing us as a rather unpleasant prospect. Feeling pretty grim as we plunge our way out into the Atlantic. Headed north-west, where to, know not we. Heavy seas running, and already our little ship is a mess...
A weird feeling to see it pitch dark at 0900 and a full moon shining down on us...we are heading to the north with our large westbound convoy, in the hope of eluding subs; operating steadily, with the seas having levelled off just a little, much to the relief of everyone on board.
Thick fog has settled down around us--rather a queer feeling to be escorting a convoy that is invisible--a huge convoy of 73 ships. Suddenly at 1500 we cleared the fog and it was an amazing sight to gaze on our convoy in the brilliant sunshine. Lots of time off watch spent behind the funnel, the gathering place for the Funnel Gang--off watchers.
Sea smooth as silk--there has been trouble close by. We sighted several large pieces of wreckage and then we came upon two machine-gun-riddled life boats, two dead seamen in one--nothing we could do about it--a terrible sight and I feel it very deeply. Action stations in the noon hour and the Rimouski, our old winger, is going at it hot and heavy on the other side of the convoy with a sub contact. No contacts for us, but I feel pretty tense every minute I am operating on the old Asdic set.
Beautiful sunrise as I operated on the 0400-0600 watch. Something to remember, just to sit high on the bridge and gaze out on such a magnificent scene, with a brilliant sun coming up in the east and our great convoy steaming quietly on its way, with little corvettes spotted out on all wings. Still smooth as anyone could wish for--everyone amazed and happy about it. We picked up a good sub echo on the Asdic at 1925 and threw four patterns of depth charges at it--crew pretty tense, not to mention one FC.
A bit rough today, but really nothing to moan about. We are ploughing right ahead with our large convoy and making good progress. We have certainly swung far to the north with this one, and are now well up between Iceland and Greenland..must be method in this madness...
Seas have flattened out again, and we are steaming right along, with nothing out of the ordinary for the last couple of days. Just a constant alertness for something to happen..
Still (I repeat still) smooth as smooth. Grand warm sun came out and poured down on us all this long day. If you were trying to convince anyone back home that winter in the north Atlantic was not exactly a picnic, you would have a tough time today. Seems more like a summer cruise in the Caribbean. But we are not complaining a bit ...
Does not take it long to change. This morning it is rather rough and much, much colder. Guess we have moved out of the Gulf Stream and are now getting closer to the dear shores of Newfoundland. Feeling in an awful mood, and thought I would go raving mad on the 2400-0400 watch. Staggered through it somehow.
After waiting for sailing orders, we slipped out of St. John's, leaving Swhartz ashore. He went for last minute mail and never came back -- looks like he jumped ship. Very thick fog as HMCS Trillium, Sherbrooke, Rimouski and ourselves headed out into the Atlantic.
Operating 2 on and 4 off. Cooper taking the place of our beloved Jones, who is sicker than a dog. Fog thick around us -- no sign of our convoy or the rest of our escort group. Feeling pretty woozy--a lot of the fellows in the same boat. Here we go again.....
Jones still out like a light. We are plunging right along, with never a sight of our huge convoy of 86 ships which we are taking to Britain. We are operating 2 and 4. Pounding quite a bit as we do 14 knots.
Quite a sea running, but we are riding it. Our convoy at last hove into sight for the first time when the fog broke at 0800. 86 ships spread out in vast columns--destination Britain. One of the old four-funnelers with us, rolling like nothing on earth. We are screening the starboard forward end of the convoy. We are headed north-east, rolling badly in the huge swells.
Only way of knowing it is Sunday way out here in the vast expanses of the Atlantic is the hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. A miserable day all round. Heavy seas giving us an awful pounding and our messdeck is really and truly a mess. Crew in a generally miserable state of mind....
A terrible time holding onto the convoy during the night--tremendous seas running and we are taking an awful beating. Everything bouncing around in the mess decks--dishes, helmets, hat boxes, tins of jam (open), letters and loaves of soggy bread--all sloshing around in two feet of stinking north Atlantic ocean. What a life .....New moon rose out of the stormy horizon.
The huge seas are still breaking around and over us as we pound our way steadily ahead in a north-east direction. Kamsack bouncing all over the Atlantic. No sign of any trouble so far--very quiet as far as subs go. Found it almost an impossible task to pen even these few miserable lines in my daily record. Something keeps making me want to keep a personal record of these difficult days for the future (?) days .... Very cold--a few of us huddled faithfully behind the funnel this bright afternoon watching our solemn convoy plunging, lunging and rolling its way to Britain.
And still it goes on and on. Great seas still pushing us around like a top. Mess deck is a sickening place to go near. Bridge is continuously awash as seas constantly break completely over the ship from tip to stern. Jam, peanut butter, loaves of bread (mouldy and soggy), sea-boots, old socks--everything swilling around in our beloved home away from home, the mess deck. Not a single whole dish left, and we have now reached the stage of eating out of empty jam tins, steel helmets or anything else with a depression in it that will contain food. How the cooks can get anything cooked on the galley stoves is one of those untold miracles.
The sun broke through for the first time in days, and everyone is in a much happier frame of mind--sure does not take much to help a lot under conditions such as these. Quite heavy seas still running but it is a mild day with a bright and warm sun as we continue to escort our convoy ahead--we are now off the southern coast of Iceland and the Old Man is pretty concerned about the constant reports of submarine activity in our particular vicinity. We should be swinging around on a new course pretty soon now. Things have been mighty quiet...
We dropped two 8-charge patterns on a good solid sub echo, just as the sun was rising, and we chased all over our screening section to make sure nothing was sneaking into the convoy. Convoy spotted a German aircraft spotting us. It hung around for hours, just visible on the horizon--probably doing a first rate job of reporting our presence, speed and course to a friendly bunch of subs. Received a report of British aircraft attacking a surfaced sub 150 miles directly ahead of us. It is beginning to look as if our pleasure cruising this trip is just about over.....
On watch 0600-0800, and feeling pretty tense as we have been warned of several subs being in our immediate vicinity. Action stations at 0930 when Trillium reported a sub contact on her wing of the screen. We stayed closed up at action stations for five long hours. Seas smoothing out, which does not help matters.
Glad to see daybreak again after a long night of scares and the road of constantly exploding depth charges. We seemed to have kept our screen tight enough to keep the subs out of our convoy--most of the escort group (including ourselves) very touchy all through the night. This is the beginning of our second week with the convoy, and it has brought us smoother seas and a bright friendly sun to warm our spirits. We are now sailing in on the northern approaches to the British Isles, and at 2130 Kamsack set off alone to escort three ships to Loch Ewe on the northwest coast of Scotland. The rest of the convoy and escort headed for the Irish Sea, Belfast and Liverpool.
We sailed all night with our three ships--we are out ahead about three miles, doing a continuous zig-zag screen. Seas are smooth, and we are at last able to square off our mess deck and make it almost decent enough to live in again. We were off Loch Ewe at noon, and our ships slipped in immediately. And so we saw the end of another mission. Headed south along the coast of Scotland. Quite close in and we sailed between the Hebrides and the mainland. Able to examine this barren coast with its snow-capped mountains, magnificent waterfalls crashing right into the ocean. Telescopes and glasses at a premium. Only sign of life all day long was a small herd of sheep. Full speed ahead for Londonderry.
And the top of the morning to you this fine St. Patrick's Day, as we wind our way up Loch Foyle at dawn, after having oiled up off Moville near General Montgomery's home. Traded fags for cheese and chickens (had to kill and pluck them in the bargain). We tied up in Londonderry at noon and it is a wonderful feeling to be tied securely to a jetty that stands still. Got a casual of 1 pound, and Schiller and I wandered off ashore. We took in a show, had a meal of chips in a small waterfront shop, and back on board early to willingly hit the hay for a good night's sleep.
We spent the morning squaring off the ship for Commodore's (no less) rounds--which did not come off. That was good for plenty of nattering on behalf of the lower deck. We immediately suspected a foul plot on the part of the Jimmie to get some extra work out of us. Make and mend in the afternoon and I went off ashore to get a haircut at my little shop with the witty Irishmen. Not often one can get a haircut for 10 cents. Cooked my chicken in the evening. I was king for a day.
Spent all morning until 0930 in a bed--a true luxury these days. Then up to have a grand breakfast and then off to the Easter service in the Cathedral. A beautiful service, with the church crowded. Wrote letters home in the afternoon, and took in a service concert in the evening. Turned in early ...
Up at 0800 after a fine sleep in the Y, and had another dandy breakfast. Then to wander about this quaint old city of St. John's, with its crowds of children, Newfoundland dogs, sailors from all nations. Spent almost $10.00 in the Kodak shop. Wandered far off in the outskirts of the city and then trudged back to the ship tired and pensive to find most of the crew roary-eyed drunk. Ship in a turmoil--hardly conducive to sleeping.
After a morning ashore at Captain D's, returned to the ship only to find we were doomed to spend the afternoon on the Attack Table. Pretty good results--Old Man quite happy about his Asdic team. Evening on board...
Tons of mail landed on board early today--as a result the ship in quite a fair humor. Off ashore in the afternoon to pick up a terrific blast for not saluting an upstanding young example of a naval officer. Certainly put me in a nasty frame of mind for a while--if I could only picture him being at least worthy of a bent elbow...On board early and turned in...
What a day--howling gale, heavy snow and very cold, altogether one which could best be put in alongside a nice blazing fireplace with a good book and a comfortable chair. Instead, we nearly froze all day working on the upper deck, getting our little ship ready for what the North Atlantic has to offer in the way of tough going. Did not venture ashore--stuck around the mess deck and spun dips with the boys.
After knocking about the ship all morning, Cosburn, Jetty Jones and I wandered off ashore and hiked miles around St. John's. Ron and I bought two huge boxes of groceries to stock up for the coming days. Cost us both a pretty penny, but we felt it was money well spent. Supper at the Y and then back on board ship early.
Little to put down on paper these past few days as we hopefully cling to the jetty for another day and pray we will remain inside the harbour gate for even a little while longer. I dread to go back to sea. Quite a bit milder for a change, with perhaps a hint that the long dreary winter is coming to an end.
Weather has turned again, and the mess deck is the best place to be. The ship settled down to a drowsy Sunday afternoon routine of slinging carts, climbing into them, reading, nattering or making huge pots of stew--rather a pleasant day, all in all. A lazy one spent in the very closest of quarters with the companionship that can only take place on a small ship such as ours.
Asdic runs all morning ashore at the Base, with very good results. Picked up the mail and medical stores in the p.m. Ron Cosborn and I stood in line almost two hours to see a movie ashore, and it turned out to be a pretty miserable effort. We were both disgusted.
The wonderful weather continues, with the seas quite smooth. Who says this sailing business is rough????? Big disaster of the day was the snapping of the gramophone's main spring which means no more music. We sure will miss the old music machine that ground out "I Wish I Had a Dime" by the hour....
On watch 0400-0600 to see a most beautiful sunrise--certainly makes up for being dragged out of a warm and comfortable hammock at 0330 hours of a pitch dark morning. And still one more grand day. Certainly we have no complaints to register with the Officer in Charge of Weather. Out of this very relaxing routine HMCS Saguenay suddenly spotted a dipping periscope just at teatime, and threw the book of charges at it. Ocean churned up just ahead of us -- no evidence one way or the other as to the results. Wonder what the night will bring us--looks as if this trip will have its moments--yet.
Tonight as I write my usual comments for the day, we are steaming between the Inner and Outer Hebrides off the West coast of Scotland. It is 8 p.m., the sun is high in the sky, and we are enjoying a most beautiful and peaceful evening after having got ourselves out of last evening's tangle with no more trouble. Kamsack is escorting 11 ships to Loch Ewe, which is far up on the northwest coast of Scotland. The rest of the convoy and escort headed for Liverpool and Belfast, but we, lucky fellows, being junior ship, picked up the choicest assignment.
On watch early this morning as we arrived off Lock Ewe--the convoy headed in as we screened off the entrance, and as the last one slid safely in, we turned tail and headed for Londonderry. A truly magnificent day, grand warm sun, as we steamed along at full speed and just at evening we arrived off the lovely coast of northern Ireland and slipped into Loch Foyle as the sun dipped behind the blue hills. Alongside a British tanker to oil up, and we spent the night at anchor. Very peaceful and restful, and we swung at anchor in the broad mouth of the Foyle. Turned in to get some sleep in preparation for the middle watch on the anchor.
We headed up Loch Foyle at the turn of dawn. Beautiful sight as we skipped along quietly between patchwork countryside and the distant mountains clothed all in mist and the sun rising over the eastern hills. We tied up in Londonderry alongside HMCS Rimouski. Duty watch--so it means remaining on board. Make a dollar and six shillings scrubbing hammocks--Turned in early.
After a morning astride a stage over the side, painting, off ashore with WC Bell to the Post Office, and then wandered about this lovely old town of Londonderry crowded with genial shoppers. Back on board just in time to help shift ship down stream. Off ashore again at 1600 to get an 8-penny haircut. Met some of the fellows ashore, and we managed to find a spot where we could get a small tough steak and chips for supper. Then to a show and back to the ship.
The whole day spent slapping paint over everything in sight. Grand day--quite hot (for Ireland). Some of the fellows got themselves four days' leave. I wandered off ashore at 1600--did some browsing around the shops and got talking to an ERA off the Rimouski. Wandered about Londonderry for hours, absorbing its atmosphere and colour, finally back to the ship, dead tired.
All morning spent in the confines of the Asdic Base, hammering away on attacks. Make and mend in the afternoon and Cosburn and I, cameras and film, set off on a bus to Strabane, County Tyrone, to spend a memorable day. We swam in the River Mourne in our shorts (to the open amazement of the local citizens) and found the water ice cold, but we enjoyed every moment of it. Then to hike for 10 miles along the Mourne to a little town named Sion Mills. From all appearances, we were without doubt the first sailors ever to reach this quaint little town. We were greeted on all sides, and given a royal reception. A grand old man of 79, who rode a bicycle 30 miles every day, took us to tea and then personally showed us all over the estate of Sir Everett Emerson, a good friend of his who owned the local linen mills. Spent a grand evening meeting all the local people, and then at dark set out to hike back to Strabane, where we caught the last bus back to Londonderry. On board ship, tired, but very happy.
Up at 0600 and sailed down the Foyle early this quiet and peaceful morning. Topped off with oil from the tanker off Moville, then out to sea for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine exercises. Excellent attacks on the Dutch sub. Also a noisy, successful shoot. Back off Moville at dark, and then out to sea again for spotting subs on the surface at night. Quite a hectic night of continuous action stations and mad manoeuvres. Dropped anchor at dawn off Moville, just as the sun peeped over the distant mountains of Mourne...
We lay at anchor all day. The weather was grand, and the ship settled down quickly to the peaceful routine of riding at anchor. Oiled up again from the Empire Dolphin, and at dusk slipped quietly away on our own, headed for a convoy rendezvous.....
After a quiet night for us, steaming at full speed, along with HMCS Skeena, Saguenay, and Eyebright (excellent company to be keeping), we picked up a convoy of twenty-two 12-knot tankers and headed west. Beautiful day, with our last sight of Ireland just at dusk--leaves me with a sad feeling deep down inside. Crew feeling just a little apprehensive about this convoy--it could turn out to be dynamite, being all tankers. Took my turn on watch just as darkness closed in on us.
On watch--0400-0600. Grand watch to be on if one can appreciate the beauties of a sunrise coming up out of a somewhat stormy horizon. We are pitching and tossing right along at top speed--have to keep in step with these mad tankers. They just seem to be always in a great hurry to get somewhere, and having to be constantly zig-zagging adds to our troubles. We altered course on an emergency signal--headed almost due south at 9 in the evening--apparently a wolf-pack of six to eight German subs was straddled right across our original course some three hundred miles ahead. Might as well steer well clear of those chaps if we do not want trouble, and we are not out looking for it, that is certain.
We continue to run far to the south, and our fast convoy of tankers is plunging ahead in great old style. Flock of messages pouring in that Convoy W-8 is under heavy attack to our north--looks as if they ploughed into the mess of trouble that was awaiting our presence. Not sorry to be clear of it all--they lost six ships last night and are still under heavy attack.
Out of nowhere we ran into trouble--Jones picked up a sub contact at 5:15 in the morning and we gave it three patterns. We brought quite a slick of oil to the surface. Skeene and Eyebright busy on their side of the convoy, both attacking a single contact. Looks as if we scared them off, for we did not hear from them.
On watch 0600-0800. Cosborn 15 minutes late for watch, which is always hard to take. Not such a good day. Quite rough and raining. Large convoy ahead of us which is being escorted by the United States Navy is under terrific attack by a swarm of subs. We were taken from our group and detailed to go at all possible speed to their aid. Full speed ahead, plunging and ploughing into head-on seas. We are taking an awful beating.
We are ploughing - and how - at full speed through heavy seas in an attempt to reach the convoy which is still under attack, and lend a hand. We are taking a terrific pounding as great seas break right over the bridge almost continuously. No sign of our battered convoy yet. Much colder as evening closed in on us early.
On watch 0400-0600 this cold and wintery morning. Speeding on at full speed into rough seas. No sign of our convoy as yet, although we are continuing to receive numerous reports of numerous subs in our vicinity.
We spent a terrible night--one that will never be forgotten by me. As we hurled ourselves onward into the teeth of mountainous seas at full speed, we made an all-out effort to reach the convoy which has now been under steady attack for four days--we found her at least, in the pitch darkness of 2:00 in the morning. She has now lost sixteen ships, and everyone feeling mighty tense as we took up screening position. Thick and miserable fog closed in on us at dawn, and we are going to have one great time hanging on to this convoy ....
On watch on the set from 0400-0600 with a magnificent sunrise out of a rough and stormy Atlantic. Our convoy is now ringed tight with extra escorts, and there seems to be a good chance that things are under control. Weather bitterly cold and ice forming all over the ship. Some talk that we will go right on into Halifax with the convoy. We will not mind that at all.....
So it won't be Halifax for us this trip. We were detailed off to escort a section of the convoy into Newfoundland. Altered course and ploughed along in zig-zag fashion at the head of our group of ships, shepherding them to safety of port. Hope nothing happens to us, for we are all by ourselves and could not offer too much to our ships in the way of a screen. Dark, unpleasant night closed in on us as I went on the early evening watch.
Very happy at this writing to be tied up securely alongside the jetty in St. John's, Newfoundland. We steamed at full speed for Newfie and made it early this morning. Alongside the tanker and then at long last--to the jetty, meaning the end of one more round trip. The ghost walked at 1100 a.m. Then it was away from our ship for a brief few hours to fasten onto a pair of new shoes and obtain a very necessary haircut. Cosburn and I had a good solid meal at the Y and then took in a show "Thanks for the Memories". Back on board early to have an all-night sleep. How wonderful.
A deadly day of lugging stores on board--bags of flour, bags of sugar, and vast amounts of tinned goods. Sure looks as if we will never starve. Remained on board--mess deck and the ship in general quiet and peaceful for short time, only to have the spell broken when the boys started to roll in.
Up Halifax harbour early this morning and swung compass just inside the harbour gates. We spent the afternoon over the side swinging a paint bucket and brush as the Kamsack swung lazily tied to the buoy as emergency ship, ready to make off out to sea at full speed in five minutes if the word came. Ship in a quiet, lazy mood this evening. Most of the fellows writing letters, reading, or just plain spinning dips or playing bridge. I am duty watch, so it means a long night on the bridge as a lookout.
Up at 0400. I scooted ashore to pick up some last minute signals, and then we sailed at 0600 with HMCS Rimouski and Oakville and HMS Burnham--a juicer packet which is our senior ship. We picked up a large convoy of 55 ships and headed north-east out into the Atlantic. Seas smooth, weather quite dull and depressing (or is it just my mood). Drizzling and dripping. Back to the old routine of watches, 2 on 4 off, 2 on 4 off, day and night. Thinking a lot of home as I came off watch in the pitch dark of midnight...dark and foreboding. Convoy looms up as a mass of barely visible black shapes off our port quarter. We are ploughing steadily into the darkness ahead. Makes one wonder what he is doing away out here at this ....
On watch 0600-0800 as we slide along through a heavy fog, cutting into a sea as calm as the proverbial millpond. Right back into the deadly routine of on watch, off watch, on watch, off watch. No sign of our convoy in the fog, but it is right there. Can tell from the odd mournful hoot of a whistle or the periodic ping off the closest line of ships to satisfy the Old Man that we are holding our position. And so on into the day and night .....
Heavy fog still had us in its grips as dawn broke, but it suddenly lifted about 10 a.m. -- quite an amazing feeling to suddenly emerge into the midst of brilliant warm sunshine, and to see our large convoy so close by. Sea continues calm and lazy. Life is readily accepted as proceeding along in a deadly fashion on days such as these, but we are lucky to have them--no complaining.
Just as dawn broke this peaceful morning, we left our convoy in the hands of a relieving escort group, and headed full speed for St. John's, Newfoundland. It is a bright warm day with the sea ever so smooth. Into Newfie in mid-afternoon and immediately alongside the tanker to oil. We remained in the stream, closed up at action stations, as there is a red warning on--air aid imminent--buzz has it that several unidentified planes have been spotted in this vicinity. A long dreary night of watching and waiting for something to happen - which it did not, as per usual.
No sign of those German planes that were supposedly close by. Weather broke and today is a miserable dirty day of continuous downpours. Quite a job of provisioning ship in the rain, lugging vast quantities of stores across half a dozen ships, dripping and dropping the odd article between ships into the oily drink. Can think of many more pleasant tasks than this....
Today is just one of those days when there is absolutely nothing to record of interest--unless it be my despondent mood which comes to me in spite of always trying to see the bright side of this life. But on and on it goes with not much sign of any break ....
Just another Sunday at sea, and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. Ship is taking quite a beating in the rough going, and everyone is quiet and tense, with very little in the way of conversation going on. The crew can see very little to talk about when the going is grim. Just short, curt replies to short, curt questions. Even the ship's clown takes on the mood of the ship. I do not imagine we are a very lively group to live with under such circumstances. And so on into another dark dirty as I scrawl these few lines in my daily diary by the dim light of the emergency lighting in our pitching stinking mess deck with its off-watch men curled up like animals on the sliding deck, trying to catch a few minutes' rest.
Things quietened down a little towards dawn, and with the dawn came a grand sunrise and smoother seas, much to our delight. The crew certainly perks up with any improvement in the weather. Along the coast of Nova Scotia and into Halifax just at noon. I did not waste any time aboard ship, and slipped off ashore in the first liberty boat. Had a good meal (so welcome) and took in a show. Back on board early to roll into my cart and have a good night's sleep.
It was back to the Asdic Base for a horrible day in the heat of attack, attack, attack. I was not in a particularly pleasant mood when we finally got back to the ship at 1630. Then to add to the general gaiety of the hour, duty watch saw us lugging huge quantities of stores across five ships. I could willingly desert on a night like this...
A terrific day of heat here in Halifax Harbour as we lay alongside the jetty. A pleasant, lazy task of slapping paint all over the upper deck. Our mess decks with their solid steel walls and overhead, are like ovens. I had a shower and slung my hammock on the upper deck for the night.
Our all too brief hours in port came to an abrupt end, and so it is back to sea again. We pulled away from the jetty at dawn when Halifax Harbour and the City was all peace and quiet, with most of the people still sound in slumber. We slipped quietly down the harbour, passing the deserted Halifax-Dartmouth ferry, and on out to sea. Our escort group picked up a large convoy of some 70 ships and headed nor'east, spreading out our screen in keeping with the S.C.'s instructions. And so back to the grind of operating. It has been very quiet and uneventful these past few trips, but one never knows.....
On we plough with our large convoy, with little out of the ordinary to break the routine of on watch, off watch and back on watch. Weather is not bad, and the seas are fairly reasonable as we take flock steadily onwards on out into the Atlantic. This life certainly gets one thinking and wondering about everything .....
Another day of taking our large convoy a little further on their long and perilous journey to far distant ports, loaded down with every type of war material and food, planes piled high on their decks and deep in the water with their valuable cargoes. No sign of submarines in our particular vicinity but one never knows when the unexpected will bring disaster to our group. On we sail, thus far unmolested.
Well, it is another day at sea. Early this morning two of our escort on the far side of the convoy had a sub contact and blasted away at it for over an hour. No signs of success, but we did not lose a ship, which is the main reason for our being here at all. Long hours of being closed up at action stations with the seas heavy and rough. We are taking an awful beating. I feel so tired right now that I could sleep for a week. A grim feeling that in ten minutes I will have to feel my way up to the bridge in the pitch dark and close up for my watch.
How much longer--this continuous battle of weariness, dirty and sour smelling mess decks that are more like pigpens than a place to live. The poor cooks have an impossible task in trying to get a hot meal for the crew, what with pots wedged on galley stoves and meals piling up in a corner of the galley with our little ship at the mercy of the Atlantic. I feel that they have about the most miserable job in the whole mouldy outfit. If ever the label hero could be tacked on anyone, surely our cooks aboard a corvette in rough seas deserve it.
We are making fair headway in spite of the rough going, and we are closing in on the east coast of the United States. So far we have been clear of trouble, with the one exception, and it looks as if we shall make port soon. Cannot be too soon for anyone.
At last the seas have levelled off a little, as we close in on the U.S. coast, but it is no haven in port for us tonight. Looks as if we might make it into Boston, Mass. tomorrow, if all goes well. Quite a few planes overhead and ahead of us, screening our convoy's path. A most comfortable feeling.
We sailed into Boston harbour at 1400 this afternoon and tied up at the Commonwealth Pier. Off ashore as soon as we had a line secured to the jetty, and a wonderful few hours of wandering all over Boston with Wise, Hunter and Jamieson. We were quite a weary bunch as we headed back near midnight, but at the same time, a deep feeling of contentment, of having got away from it all for even a few brief hours ashore.
A repetition of Iceland--that of being in port for a few hours and then shoved out to sea again. Crew in a grim mood with the prospects. We picked up a 20-ship convoy and headed north, Halifax-bound. Back to the old grind of operating and spewing. Seas rough and ship in a mess as soon as we hit them. How long can one go on like this....
Heavy fog seemed to break the back of the heavy seas which had been pounding us, and we are feeling our way along in dense fog in rather calm seas. Pleasant task of stoning the decks in my off-watch. What those fiends back aft can dream up for the crew. Certainly not my idea of pleasure cruising. No signs of any subs in our immediate vicinity. And so another day draws to a close this midnight as I pen these few lines after coming off watch at 2400.
A very thick fog and heavy seas--a combination of conditions guaranteed to put anyone into the depths of the blues. Our convoy is not visible, but we managed to get the odd ping off the head of the nearest column of merchantman, and kept out of the way of any wandering ship that might decide to take a slice off our bow or stern. Heavy going and crew in a grim humour.
On watch on the old set from 0400-0600 of a cold, damp, foggy morning. Nearly froze on watch (and this mid-summer...). HMCS Skeena and Saguenay arrived just at dark, and we left our convoy and headed smash bang into the big green ones, St. John's our destination. Great cold seas breaking completely over the ship from bow to stern, and we are taking an awful pounding. Mess deck a horrible mess--stinking, full of sea water, gear floating around, smashed dishes, collapsed tables. And the crew somehow have to live in this "our home". If they could only portray all this in their recruiting posters.
We pulled into Newfie early this morning--don't think we could have taken that beating much longer. Alongside the tanker to oil, and then to the jetty to tie up just ahead of HMCS Assinaboine. She just pulled in an hour before us after a running battle with a surfaced German sub which she eventually sunk after getting shot up. May have sunk another one in the bargain. No shore leave for us, lucky people. We sailed at 1930 out into the cold miserable Atlantic. I have just about run out of my reserves, but somehow have to face up to it all again. On watch, off watch ......
Doing 14 knots with HMCS Columbia, Chicoutimi and Calgary. Dull and very cold as we pound ahead. Picked up our convoy of 47 ships at 1600 and headed with them in a southerly direction. Seas rough and giving us more to think about in the way of mess decks swishing with foul-smelling ocean, tired, aching muscles from the perpetual battle of trying to keep one's footing, every second of the day and night ..... mess deck quiet and almost deserted as I pen these few daily thoughts in the "daily record".....
This day started out to be cold, damp and raining, but we suddenly burst into a warm wind, and the sun broke through late in the afternoon. An immediate effect on the whole crew, including myself. We became almost human again, and are back on talking terms with our best chums. Our spirits soared with the temperature. And so closes still another day at sea. Probably can be written off as most uneventful, and yet I shall never forget the impact of days like these on our lives.
One more Sunday at sea with all that goes with it to make it almost like any other day of the week (with the possible exception of the hard boiled eggs). A day of clear, warm sunshine intermingled with heavy fog banks. One minute we are in the most brilliant sunshine imaginable, and the very next, we are wrapped in about the thickest fog imaginable. No sign of subs or any other form of life ..... on we roll.....
Quite a night last night, right out of the deadening days and nights that had been piling up on this trip. After standing on the upper deck after coming off a quiet, uneventful watch at midnight, looking up at the tingling clear sky and guessing at the countless number of stars, and with an immense feeling of serene peace and quietness all over everything--suddenly it began to happen. First we started to get a flock of messages from a convoy immediately behind us which had run into a mess of German subs. They lost several ships right off the bat, and are carrying on a running battle with at least 8 or 9 subs. Just at dawn, we too found ourselves in the same mess of trouble. Ours started off when a Polish destroyer screening just ahead of us caught a sub on the surface laying in wait for our convoy, and smashed it wide open to the bottom of the Atlantic.
She has some 5000 American soldiers on board and is flooding the area with messages calling for help. We plunged off on our new assignment and the old Kamsack is ranting and roaring as we rent the Atlantic at the fastest speed we have ever made. The whole ship is quivering and shivering as we go all out. All afternoon we tore on and on, then shortly after four, we spotted her, crept up on her, and finally came right to her. We found that we were the first ship on the scene, and the first signal we received was "Stand By--We are preparing to abandon ship at any moment"...we felt very helpless right in alongside her with her towering over us, and her decks crammed with thousands of soldiers in lifebelts, prepared to go over the side. She was making slow speed ahead of some four knots an hour, heading for Halifax, and praying that the watertight bulkheads would hold. Only one bulkhead between her and disaster. We clung to her for hours, and then out of nowhere, dozens of other ships came on the scene, and soon the Awatea was ringed with ships. She crept slowly ahead, every moment expecting the worse, and finally made it safely into Halifax. Sure hate to imagine what would have happened if she had abandoned ship when we were the only one with her....
[Footnote--added in the typing---The Awatea was one of several troop transports sunk in the invasion of North Africa several years later.....]
Dead tired today as we oiled ship and then made our way to jetty five. Wonder of wonders, a make and mend in the afternoon. I slung my hammock and hit the hay to try and catch up with all the sleep I am so sadly in need of .....
Up at 0700, only to find that we were doomed to spend the whole day up in the mad Asdic base where we sweated blood on attack after attack .... we were ready for the nut house when we finally obtained our release at 1600. Back to the ship, there to remain the rest of the evening...
I do not know what we on the Kamsack have done to have the Admiral of the Fleet against us, but we seem doomed these days to never have more than one brief day alongside the jetty. Sailing orders arrived on board at noon, and we were on our way out the gates an hour later to carry on continuous anti-sub patrols off the approaches to Halifax harbour. Apparently the subs are getting hungrier, and are lurking in close to Halifax for soft pickings. Closed up at action stations all through this long and dreary night.
We slipped quietly back into Halifax at 0700, just long enough to pick up a Gunnery Officer and then headed back out to sea to carry out a long surface and AA shoot. My ears are still ringing now at midnight as we lay at the buoy in the middle of Halifax harbour after coming in just at dark.
We lay out in the stream all day, slapping paint all over the ship. Make and mend in the afternoon, and I caught the first liberty boat. Had a meal at Naval Intelligence--The Bon Ton, and then took in a show over in Dartmouth. Back early so as to catch a good night's sleep before hitting the Atlantic again.
What a miserable, rotten hopeless life. I cannot imagine a more miserable existence than this of being caught on a corvette in the Atlantic. An Atlantic so rough that it seems impossible that we can continue to take this unending pounding and still remain in one piece. One's joints ache and ache from the continuous battle of trying to remain upright ... hanging onto a convoy is a fulltime job... mess deck is a terrifying place to venture near, knee-deep in sea-water, tables smashed, clothes floating around in it, breakfast stirred in, the crew in an almost stupor from the nightmarishness of it all. New chaps in our crew are having a horrible time of it, trying to keep going. I am as sick as a dog as I cling to a locker and pen these few words that I hope some day to read again and look back on as one of the most awful experiences of my life. And still we go on hour after hour.
Today has been a repetition of yesterday, with its pounding seas, its cold, miserable and wet crew who could leave this behind for ever on a moment's notice. We are plunging ahead with our large convoy, apparently clear of sub trouble for the moment, but in the deadly embrace of mountainous seas that make life a continuous nightmare ... on and on we plunge.
Nothing turned up during the night, but the heavy seas kept us in their embrace to keep our lives a very miserable existence. Day broke clear and sunshiny. Quite a vivid day of shining spray as mountainous seas continued to break clear over us from stem to stern. Probably very picturesque, but far from being a pleasure cruise as our convoy plunges right along into it and we continue our slow zig-zag on the port wing.
We were all very thankful to see the heavy seas of the past few days gradually levelling off, and life is more liveable. The weather has turned quite cool and we are starting to run into patches of fog. Easy knowing that we are somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland. Mid-ocean escort to HMCS Saguenay, Skeena, Buctouche, Agassiz and Galt relieved us, and we turned full speed ahead for St. John's, Newfoundland. Just at dark we made the narrow gates and slipped through to creep alongside the tanker, there to spend the night. A most wonderful feeling to have the ship still under us, to know that we can catch a full night's sleep. Never dreamt that sleep could be so precious. Sure happy to climb into my mick at midnight.
Up bright and early this September morning and finished oiling ship, then alongside the good old jetty to tie up. Spent the morning down below giving our set a thorough going over after the pounding it took these past few days. Lovely afternoon spent as jetty sentry. Very strong gale blowing, but it is bright and warm here in St. John's, Newfoundland. Duty watch, meaning a long night of watches coming up.
Very tired this morning after the 0400-0800 quartermaster watch. A day of working on the old set, and she is pinging away in fine style. Off ashore with John Kereti. We had a good supper, and then took in a show at the Cap. which proved to be phony. Picked up an armful of papers and headed back to the ship early.
A pleasant morning of lugging stores across five ships. Did you ever try hanging on to a side of slippery beef and step from ship to ship????a most interesting pastime. Make and mend in the afternoon. Remained on board and did some washing and letter writing. Had a long chat with a young merchant sailor from Greenock off one of the ships in port. And so another day in this mouldy outfit.
Up at 0700 (late for Sunday in this outfit) and after cleaning ship, cleaned ourselves into No. 1's for a church service on the jetty which was attended by all the crews of the Canadian ships in port (incidentally, there is nothing voluntary about Church in this mouldy outfit--you go to Church...that is that). I was very impressed with the sermon based on "thoughts, actions, habits, character, destiny". We sailed at 1500 and hit smack into the heavy seas as soon as we were clear of the gates and around the corner from St. John's. We are on our way again, back to this miserable existence.
No sign of any sub during the long night that has passed, as we are ploughing our way steadily into rough seas with our convoy always the uppermost thought in our minds. Convoy attacked off Sable Island, and we just now got the first news of the sinking of HMCS Ottawa off Newfoundland. Everyone feeling pretty grim, many of the fellows having close buddies on the Ottawa--most of her crew went to the bottom with her when she caught two fish. Night closed in on us, icy cold, dark and rough.... what a miserable existence....
I picked up a sub contact just at midnight, and we held on to it for a good hour, running in on it for five separate attacks. We gave it over forty depth charges, and we felt satisfied that whatever it was, it took quite a beating. We are off Newfoundland this morning, prowling around in a dense fog. Finally into St. John's at dark, and alongside the oil tanker for the night. 2400 leave, which means we won't be left in harbour for long. Turned in to catch a good night's sleep.
Up at 0400 (how grim can this outfit get), and we sailed at 0500. Looks as if they do not want to spoil us with too much shore leave in between convoys. Weather just as miserable as it could possibly be. Thick fog, wet and heavy swells. We ploughed along in line ahead with our group most of the day, and picked up our convoy from a British escort group just at dark. Took up our screening position on the port wing, and started in to guard our ships. And so back to this deadly routine....
Another deadly day as we plunged into rough seas, sticking close to our convoy of some 70 ships. Tossing and pitching, which means life is at its lowest ebb on our small dirty, miserable ship, crammed to the deckheads with chaps who would give anything to get away from it all for good. But it is our lot to do this, and all that keeps us going is the thought that we just will get back to normal life some day.
At last the seas have seen fit to level off a little, and we have more or less ended our continuous plunging and rearing all over the ocean. The sun broke through for the first time in days, and we are steaming along in bright warm sunshine. There won't be many more days like this, this year. Same old routine, with little out of the ordinary...
Another grand day, right on top of yesterday. Our convoy split up, with HMCS Annapolis and ourselves continuing on with one section. Hurricane warnings pouring in on W/T, so it looks as if we may catch it if we are out here much longer. No sign of subs in our vicinity, and we don't mind it in the least.
This seems to be the end of a black week for the Canadian Navy in the North Atlantic. HMCS St. Croix sunk with only one survivor out of a crew of 200. Gives one an awful feeling way down deep inside. We are ploughing along in very heavy seas and the wind is picking up every minute. It is screaming through our rigging like a demon, and whipping spray in great clouds that give a vivid picture, but make life miserable as it could possibly be. We are plunging and rolling for Halifax and it will be a mighty happy crew that makes port safely. Terrific winds and seas and rain hitting at us from all directions. It is about as wild a day on the old Atlantic as I ever dreamt it could be, and then some.
We finally made our way into the safety of Halifax harbour at 3 a.m. this morning, after wondering if it was going to be our fate to be pounded to pieces in the wildness of the North Atlantic which battered us into submission and deep down feeling of being utterly helpless. It was with a tremendous surge of thankfulness that we crept slowly into the friendly shelter of the land and made our way up dark and quiet Halifax harbour, with the whole city asleep and unaware of our homecoming. And so to tie up alongside the tanker until daylight.
After oiling up, we finally had the grand feeling of tying up to the jetty at noon. Spent a mad afternoon of tearing all over the Dockyard, picking up Asdic gear and spare equipment. Was quite happy to settle for a hot shower and then to settle down to catching a good night's sleep... how precious sleep can be when faced with the prospect of going without it for long periods.
With starting suddenness, my whole pattern of life changed at 0500 this morning. Just as we were securing ship for sea, and almost ready to head out into the old Atlantic, a signal arrived on board, draft me ashore for an H.S.D. course which in turn brought on one mad scramble to pack my gear and make hurried farewells to all my shipmates with whom I had shared every moment of these many terrible months. It was with a new sort of feeling way down deep inside that I stood in the half darkness on jetty five and watched the Kamsack slip away from the jetty and head for the open sea for the first time since she was commissioned--without me. It was as if a part of me would ever remain with her. She looked so quiet and yet so confident and efficient as her crew went about their ways so casually and yet so effectively. I watched her until she was out of sight, and then turned away and slowly found my way with all my gear up the hill to the barracks, there to try and settle down to my new home, ashore. The place is a continuous madhouse, and I feel as if I could scream out loud.
At exactly 0530 this morning the whole barracks (minus the dodgers) set out on a mad run in the frosty darkness of Barrington Street. What a sight to see hundreds and hundreds of muttering matelots strung out, dog trotting and cursing the mouldy outfit that sees fit to disturb our early morning sleep. This is the Navy's idea of P.T... no doubt some Admiral is enjoying the whole mad idea as he slumbers peacefully in his warm bed. And they tell me that this is DAILY ROUTINE. Spent the day finding the dentist and after hours of waiting managed to get some fillings done. Remained on board this made place to get my gear straightened out.
Up at 0530--it hurts terribly--and after the usual mad gallop over the cobblestones of Barrington Street, back to a phony breakfast of red lead and bacon. What a way to start the day off. Manual party, and spent the morning preparing for Captain's rounds. Off ashore in the first liberty boat. Meet a fellow sailor from Winnipeg. Murray by name, and had a long chat with him. Later on meeting Don Stuart from Winnipeg also. He is just about ready to head overseas with the Air Force. Spent the evening with the Nebbs. Sure hated the idea of heading back to barracks at midnight.
Getting more or less settled into barrack life. Miracle of miracles--no morning jaunt over the cobblestones in the dark. They actually make a distinction on Sunday from the rest of the week. Sunday routine. I am duty watch which means plenty of hours on fire watches. So another long day in this mouldy outfit.
Up at 0530 and no escaping the long ramble over the streets of Halifax long before a soul is stirring anywhere else in the whole of Halifax. It appeared as if we circled the whole city before the clown in charge called it a day. All day on the manual gang, shovelling stone and gravel--one thing I never expected to run across in the Navy of all places. Good pay too. Oh well, I am rapidly getting to the stage where nothing will surprise me. You just cannot beat this life. Turned in early.
A wonderful week has slipped away, and nothing is left but the fine memories of new friends and friendships. And now we are having to put these days behind us and face up to the miserable life ahead. Bill and I packed our gear into a taxi and headed for the Toronto Union Station. A huge, wild mob milling around in the station, and everyone seemed to have the same ideas--find the Montreal train. We were extremely lucky to even get aboard the 19th Century type coach with its wooden seats and gas lamps no less. We squeezed into one small corner, where we spent a most horrible night standing up all the way to Montreal. Finally dragged into that city at 0730 in the morning, where we grabbed some food and fought our way through the mobs, even worse than Toronto, which awaited the Halifax-bound train. Somehow we were swept aboard the train in the uproar, and ended up on a little wooden bench at the end of one dark coach. I have never seen anything like it--the entire train jam packed with people, and not an inch to move anywhere. We were lucky to get aboard. A terrible night of cold and tiredness as we headed back to Halifax and the Navy, after this spell away from it all.
This train has to be seen to be believed. As we roll along through New Brunswick, it is a sight that would turn me if I had not memories of our mess deck in a stormy Atlantic. Every inch of the train is jammed, massed with human beings, sleeping standing up in the aisles, sleeping on the tables in the diners, standing, sleeping everywhere one turns. No food being served anywhere on the train, its only purpose seeming to be to move a mass of people from Montreal to Halifax, no matter what the circumstances. Caught a glimpse of George Snead propped up in the aisle further down. Finally the train pulled into Halifax at 3 a.m. only four hours late. Bill and I headed for Sandborns and Nebbs, respectively. They were more than a little surprised to see us at this hour of the morning, but soon we had our heads down.....
Up at 0700, still dead beat, and after a fine breakfast with Hebbs, met up with Bill and we headed for the Naval Barracks with a sense of doom hanging over us. I dread the very thought of going back to that life. All through the grim routine of entering barracks--must be quite similar to entering jail. One bright spot in the whole business was seeing a lot of the old gang around. I was hit with duty watch right off the bat, so I dutifully remained on board (as if there was any choice about it).
We started right in on the second half of our H.S.D. course this morning, bright and early. We have Petty Officer Lubin as our instructor. We started in by reviewing all the Asdic operating procedures, and there appears to have been many changes, even in the short time since we left our ships. I headed off ashore alone in the evening, and got caught in torrential rains, which made the streets of Halifax as treacherous as I have ever seen them. Had an awful time making it back to the barracks, soaked to the skin and in grim shape.
A brand new year, and it is hard to contemplate what this one has for us. Little to write home about, being caught up in this mad life of the Navy. We were allowed to sleep in until 0700. Quite a break--some admiral must have been in a very generous mood. Sunday routine in barracks, but being duty watch, I remained on board so that I might take part in 8 solid hours of fire watching.
Sunday routine again today in barracks--that will make three Sundays in three days--trust the Navy to mess the week up. However, this is quite easy to take. I spotted HMCS Kamsack in harbour, and headed down to the jetty to find her just back from refit in Liverpool. The crew has changed quite a bit since I was part of her, but some of the old boys are still with her. Stuck around for dinner, and then off ashore to visit the Nebbs, where I spent a grand, quiet evening.
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