Frank Curry Diary July - August

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Sunday--July 12
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.

Monday--July 13
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.

Tuesday--July 14
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...

Wednesday--July 15
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.

Thursday--July 16
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....

Friday--July 17
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....

Saturday--July 18
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.

Sunday--July 26
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.

Monday--July 27
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.

Tuesday--July 28
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.

Wednesday--July 29
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.

Thursday--July 30
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.

Friday--July 31
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...

Saturday--August 1
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.

Tuesday--August 11
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.

Wednesday--August 12
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.

Thursday--August 13
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...

Friday--August 14
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..."

Saturday--August 15
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.

Sunday--August 16
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...

Monday--August 17
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 eight or nine 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...]

Monday--August 24
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...

Tuesday--August 25
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...

Wednesday--August 26
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.

Thursday--August 27
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.

Friday--August 28
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.

Saturday--August 30
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.

Monday--August 31
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.

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