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First Christmas Away From Home

Heroes Remember

First Christmas Away From Home

We were wild. We, we had no fear. We, we didn’t know what was going on. The older hands now, the older hands that were there and they had wives and family home and everything like you know. And they used to, you could see the, the look of fear on their face. But us guys, they, you know, we didn’t care, we’d run around there as though we, we were individuals. We was never gonna, Rambo wouldn’t touch us. The officers were a great bunch of people, especially the captain, and the navigating officer. They were great people. All, all the, they ate the same thing as the ratings did aboard ship. There was no, there were no difference. Everybody was treated the same. That’s one thing about that. This was in December, and I was there and I had a bucket of paint and a paint brush. I was told to paint all the stuff that, that you’d see with a bit of rust on it, and I painted all the things that were rusty. And there was two old fellas sitting there and they said, “How you doing there young fella?”And I said, “I’m doing good.” You know, like, you know. He said, “What’s your problem today?” I said, “You know,” I said, “it’s Christmas Eve.” He said, “So what?” You know, they, they had nothing. They, they didn’t care whether they come back or not, they had no concern about home life. And I was thinking good God my mother and father my brothers are all home. And I said, “But there will be no turkey, no turkey dinner tomorrow.” “Oh, yeah,” the guy said. He said, “There’ll be turkey dinner tomorrow.” He said, “and plum pudding.” And I said, “How’s that going to happen?” Well, he said, “The helicopter will be bringing it in then.” Well, man, I swallowed that hook, line and sinker. And I painted that thing from stem to stern on that ship, and I fell asleep that night and I was dreaming, my God, am I gonna get that turkey dinner tomorrow. The next day, we went into the line, and the cook, who went to the galley, put out my plate. He slapped a big bowl of, a big ladle full of macaroni. “Happy New, Merry Christmas!” That was our Christmas Day, first Christmas without home. That was tough. It was rough.

Mr. Gray talks about the ship’s crew and his first Christmas dinner at sea.

Earl Gray

Mr. Gray was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on May 6, 1924. As a child, he lived in poverty, despite the fact that some of his family worked in the local steel mill. Although there was a large naval presence in Sydney early in the war, Mr. Gray enlisted in the army, only to be released as an under aged recruit. Six months later, he successfully enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. He first experienced life at sea aboard the HMCS St.Croix, a destroyer assigned to convoy duty. After four voyages, Mr. Gray joined the minesweeper HMCS Vegreville, whose responsibility it was to sweep mines between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. After joining the 31st Minesweeping Flotilla in Portsmouth, England, HMCS Vegreville took part in the sweep of the English Channel as part of the D-Day assault. After the war ended, Mr. Gray was married within a month of his return home. He still resides in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Earl Gray
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
North Atlantic Ocean
Omaha Beach
HMCS St. Croix
Able Seaman
Deck Crew

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

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