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Torpedoed (part 2 of 2)

Heroes Remember

Torpedoed (part 2 of 2)

I was picked up fairly quickly and we were taken over. It was dark by this time and I remember being sick in this darn boat. It was kind of choppy. Get up to the Monterrey and I never, I knew boats were big, ours wasn't, the boat I was on wasn't very large but this Monterrey was a big ship that sailed from Vancouver or San Francisco I guess, down south and they had scramble nets over the side. Unfortunately our boat came up to a scramble net hanging down not far from the boat on the highest part and I remember when you looked at that scramble net and with the roll of the sea, one moment you were way up and right beside it, the next moment this thing was you know, twenty feet above you. So you had to wait until the time was right. You grabbed the net, which I did and started up and I really kept on going. I remember hearing a voice from above saying, "Take it easy chum, take it easy! You're there." Sunday morning had a church service up on deck. The sun was bright. A band of the Irish Regiment was on board. I always remember them playing "O God our help in ages past" and "The Sailors Hymn" and I never hear them but now... But our own ship didn't sink at that time and after that church service somebody said, "Look over there!" and sure enough we could see a small tug pulling our boat. We thought, "Oh boy we're all set" cause we'll get our, you know, stuff back. And right before our eyes we saw it drop down out of sight, gone. Interviewer: Now that, the Monterrey that stopped, that's unusual Usually like if you fella's had been in the Atlantic it wouldn't have stopped for you? Well I don't know. The circumstances were rather different. They had that hospital with a bunch of nursing sisters on board and I think things like that play a part. Interviewer: Was there much loss of life? No. There was very... Interviewer: Everybody got off? Everybody got off. One nursing sister slipped going up that scramble net but she was alright. And the only loss of life that occurred on our ship itself, the Santa Elena was where it had been hit by the torpedo. And some of the crew, three or four stokers were lost, yeah. We got out of that very, very well. Very well indeed.

Mr. Meiklejohn continues his story, describing being picked out of the water by lifeboats and taken aboard the Monterrey - another ship from the convoy that had stopped to help. He also describes seeing the Santa Elena sink the next day, and explains why the Monterrey broke with normal procedure and stopped to offer aid.

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
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp / 4th Armoured Division

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