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Set to Sail!

Heroes Remember

And we set sail in the afternoon . . . set sail in the afternoon. At about evening, six, seven o’clock, the storm came up . . . fierce storm. The waves, the winds were blowing. Hard to do anything, and the swell of the ship, and anyhow, they said, “We can’t turn back now. We gotta keep going.” So, we kept going until that night, and just about dusk, they stopped the operations. You could almost see the coastline of France, of Calais. And the Germans used to have a V2 rocket, or a buzz bomb, what they would call a buzz bomb. They would light . . . and they would come across there. It was like a bomb with a mechanized motor, and they’d, they’d have gas coming from the tail. But as long as that gas is coming from the tail, when it’s going over you. But once it stopped, it, it dropped and exploded. Well, he started that that evening, and he continued all night. It’s a good job he didn’t know we were in that channel ‘cause he would have wiped them ships out of that channel, the whole thing. In the meantime, the whole armada of the navy was heading toward the shores and nobody knew what was going to go out. And they said, “No, everything is cancelled.” So, we stayed that night. And the next morning at 5:30, well, before 5:30, the orders came aboard the ship that “Set everything, set sail, go.” And the ships, that, the minesweeper had to go first and clear all the mines that the Germans . . . they had plenty there. They had an awful lot of them there, and we cleaned that all up. And you come back there. The idea was so that the other landing craft, the assault boats and the ships that were coming in, would be able to go in the, the beachhead without getting too much trouble.

Mr. Gray describes sweeping mines in the English Channel in preparation for the D-Day landing.

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
English Channel
HMCS Vegreville
Able Seaman
Deck Crew

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