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Uncomfortable Voyage

Heroes Remember

Uncomfortable Voyage

Well there was 150 of us, they were young navigators and young aircrew. And from Halifax we were called down to the docks. They said, “Okay line up into three flights.” So it turned out there was 51 in one flight and the rest were in the other next two. So they took the first 51 and put them on this big ship and the rest of us, there was 99 of us on the little... it was a little, what they called a banana boat. Biano (sp) was the name of it. And we, it was 5 o’clock in the morning we started out, we ended up marching down to the docks. By the time we got onto the ship, because there was a twelve foot swell in the harbour so they had to bring a tender in. They couldn’t bring the ship in. We all climb on this and then go out with the tender. As soon as the ladder got even with your little craft, with your kitbag you jumped on to the ladder and walked up the ship. So it was about noon, we were hungry so down to the dining room we headed in this little boat. There were beautiful napkins and white table clothes and silverware and everything. Gee this is just great! And there was, the reason they called it a banana boat was it traded in the Carribean between the islands and they collected bananas and so on and so that’s why it was called a banana boat. Anyway, it was put into the convoy service, you see. So we ordered our... would you believe we had a waiter that came around and took our order? We ordered soup and everything, soup. We’re down in the ship and had their soup. And all of a sudden it was just going up and up. I was seasick before we even set course... set sail because I was up and over the side with my soup. I was never seasick after that, fortunately but it was fourteen days. And anyway, the other... we were in line astern and the big ship with the 51 fellas on was behind us. Fourteen days in the convoy. We’d wake up in the mornings and here we’d be in the middle of the convoy. Our captain would take the little ship and put it up in the middle. This is where training from reading signals, what they call the Aldous Lamp, was the signals by light flashing. The commodore of the convoy was saying, “Get back in your place, you cunning old fox.” So back the ship would go and be in line again. But if he hadn’t done that, we’d have been sunk too. We woke up one morning and the boat with our friends on it was gone I just looked in the book there this morning before I came and one of the young fellows in that boat was from Moosejaw. He lived a block from me at home and he was lost on that ship. I had a roommate on this boat and he never made it. He’d ordered his breakfast and by the time it came he was back in bed. Never had a bite to eat for the full two weeks. He was a sick boy when he got to England and turns out, he never got home. He was on the list of the boys that were lost, too. So this is how lucky I’ve been, just everything worked out fine. But we had fourteen days of uncomfort and yet in lots of ways it was really comfortable because we had all these amenities in a way. But the risks were there and we got away with it.

The trip overseas took 14 days. Mr. Wickens talks about the trip and a tactic used by the captain of the ship he was on to get there safely.

Donald Wickens

Mr. Wickens was born in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan. Despite the scarcity of jobs during the depression, he took employment with the Bank of Montreal, where he worked for two years prior to enlisting. Although not initially eager to do so, Mr. Wickens decided to join his friends who had preceded him into the service. Unlike many of his friends, however, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force with the intention of becoming a navigator, and completed his training in Portage La Prairie. Once overseas, Mr. Wickens became a member of 434 Blue-Nose squadron and took part in 37 bombing and mine laying missions over Northern Europe. He and the rest of his aircrew were decorated after surviving two air attacks in which their aircraft was disabled. After leaving the service, Mr. Wickens returned to the Bank of Montreal. He currently resides in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Donald Wickens
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Atlantic Ocean
434 Squadron
Flying Officer

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