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Heroes Remember

So we got down and pitch, pitch, black and these little men, little men they were filipinos so they seemed little compared with our men and they got these great oars trying to row the darn boat and some of these girls who were big, you know, six footers, they said, “C'mon we can row better than that!” So they rowed a bit and the man said, “No, those men are used to doing this!” So they more or less told the sisters to sit down where they were supposed to. So we waited, now they said, “We've got to get out of here.” Because the thing, the next thing is the planes would come and they would strafe everybody and that would be the end of them but there was a big black smoke put up, real smoke screen and they said by and by you will see a little light flicker and we have got to get over to that little light. So we did eventually after some hours we got over and this was the most tremendous ship I even seen. We had to climb the side of this ship, this was the Monterey, the trip that was picking up and it says on the ship, on the pictures that I have. The Monterey was designated to pick up troops and staff of the St. Ileana, if the St. Ileana was hit and we were the St. Ileana. This man, oh my God, those men I'm telling you they were the most wonderful people, they kept, because the rest of us were just shaking, you know, and he said, “Now look, you're going to have to jump on that net as our boat goes up, (and there was a big swell, you see) as our boat goes up, when I tell you to jump, you jump, don't stop for anything, if you stop you'll have to be pulled back and let the next one go.” I thought, I'll jump, don't worry, I'll get off here. So sure enough he had me by the back and he just said, “Get ready, get ready, now jump!” And I jumped and then up as fast as you could go because the boat would come up again, you see, with another one. When we got to the top the men were leaning over, you know, just hauled you up as if you were a sack of potatoes and we got on the other ship. The most wonderful feeling, the Monterey, I'll never forget her!

Ms. Whittaker describes being adrift in a lifeboat, the laying of a smoke screen to protect against German strafing, and finally being rescued by the American troop ship, SS Monterey.

Geraldine Whittaker

Geraldine Whittaker was born on March 12, 1915 in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Her father was the local doctor, and she would accompany him on his rounds. Ms. Whittaker decided to become a nurse after graduating from school, entering the nursing program at Montreal General Hospital. In 1937, after three years of training, she decided to enlist in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. After war was declared, Ms. Whittaker went to England where she served in hospitals at Farnborough and Horley. She was deployed to North Africa, but her ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean Sea. Rescued personnel were landed in Naples, Italy. Ms. Whittaker served in a hospital in nearby Caserta for eight months. She volunteered for service in France, was transferred there, and later served in Belgium and Holland. After her return to Newfoundland, Ms. Whittaker continued her nursing career.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Geraldine Whittaker
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps

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