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Torpedoed (part 1 of 2)

Heroes Remember

Torpedoed (part 1 of 2)

We had gone through past Gibraltar and this is November 5, 1943 and I remember it was such a lovely afternoon and people sitting out on the deck. The first tip-off I got was that one of the sailors, one of the crew was muttering, "I'll sure as hell be glad when we get another day beyond this. This is a poor spot." And all of a sudden our ship's sirens started hooting steadily and you could hear guns going off. And over top of all that there was a crash and a boom and the lights went mostly out, not completely, they went dim. And the ship tilted so we knew that we had been hit. And there was no panic whatsoever really. We had been drilled on what to do. The nursing sisters were put into the lifeboats right away. Dropped over and they took off. Very fortunately there was a large passenger ship, the Monterrey, who had been part of the convoy, they stopped and they were picking up survivors. They were about a mile away and so the Nursing Sisters were taken across in the lifeboats. Now the drill was that everybody else, there were rafts. Throw the raft in then jump in and climb onboard the raft. And when I was up on deck I ran into a character who was the OC of troops and he had been a teacher at North Toronto Collegiate and he was heading to check on some chaps that had been in the ship's hospital. And so I went with him and got these guys out and they were alright. But the rafts had all gone over by this time and we decided that we better get away. But we were darn lucky because by that time the life boats had made their run over to the Monterrey and were starting to come back. So we slipped into the water.

Mr. Meiklejohn recalls when the ship he was on, the Santa Elena, was torpedoed and what went on in the moments after the ship was hit.

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn was born in 1907, in Harriston, Ontario, and remained there throughout his youth, participating in cadets and the local militia. While attending medical school in England during the 1930s, Mr. Meiklejohn visited Germany. He returned from his visit certain war was imminent. Dr. Meiklejohn re-joined the militia upon his return to Canada, leading to quick enlistment upon Canada's declaration of war. Frustrated after almost a year of performing medical exams on troops, Dr. Meiklejohn transferred to the 16th Field Ambulance (whom he had been a militia member of) when it was activated, and was posted overseas. After arriving in England, Dr. Meiklejohn was posted to a newly created field surgical unit, a section of an advance surgical unit stationed within a few miles of the front lines, and posted to Italy. After losing their equipment when the ship was sunk during the journey, the unit was posted with British Forces for a few months before reuniting with Canadians. Following the Italian Campaign, Dr. Meiklejohn's unit was transferred to France to join Canadian troops heading into Holland. Dr. Meiklejohn finished his service in Holland bringing relief to the starving population. He returned to Canada soon after VE Day.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Dr. Robert Meiklejohn
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Mediterranean Sea
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp / 4th Armoured Division

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