Frank Curry Diary September - January

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Tuesday--September 1
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.

Wednesday--September 2
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.

Thursday--September 3
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.

Friday--September 4
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.

Saturday--September 5
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.

Sunday--September 6
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.

Tuesday--September 22
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...

Wednesday--September 23
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.

Thursday--September 24
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...

Friday--September 25
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.

Saturday--September 26
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...

Sunday--September 27
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.

Monday--September 28
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.

Tuesday--September 29
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.

Wednesday--September 30
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.

Thursday--October 1
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.

Friday--October 2
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.

Saturday--October 3
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.

Sunday--October 4
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.

Monday--October 5
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.

Sunday--December 27
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.

Monday--December 28
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....

Tuesday--December 29
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).

Wednesday--December 30
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.

Thursday--January 1
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 eight solid hours of fire watching.

Saturday--January 2
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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