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link to read some of these stories as they were retold at the 1995 Reunion
Introduction to Life Aboard - Officers' View
sounds associated with daily life aboard ship were quite unique.
On the bridge could be heard a continuous sound not familiar to
many; that strange hypnotic "ping-pok" cacophony of the
ASDIC (echo sounding equipment) in it's relentless search below
the surface detecting the presence of submarines and the call to
action stations. Even in the dying days of the war the Nazi's fanaticism
was unrelenting and no ship was safe while they remained undefeated.
Many depth charges were thrown or dropped overboard and hedge hogs
fired at suspected submarine contacts. The toll of dead fish was
Taylor, Coombs, and Hunt
the crew, while all fulfilled their jobs with skill, there were
a select few that provided the leadership, and the knowledge to
carry out these combat operations with the precision required in
these kind of situations. The success of the combat role was the
result of well coordinated action by all of the crew members under
the guidance and leadership of the Captain and his officers.
was a constant battle, between watch and hammock, interspersed with
action stations, when all crew members were ready for action.
Al Ring, feeling that the Captain, Eric
Shaw, might like a better view of things, built him a stool
to stand on.
Shaw on the Bridge
The Bridge - by Gordon (Jamie) Jamieson
Bridge was the focal point of all activity, directing manoeuvres,
signals, attacks, gunfire. It was the nervous system that kept the
organization functioning. As such, there was a constant stream of
personnel, Officers-of-the-Watch, gunners, signalmen, seamen, lookouts
coxswain at the helm steers the ship according to instructions from
the bridge. With Jamie
Jamieson at the wheel the ship had a mind of its own. Jamie
relates that we had been at sea a few days when the gyro warning
bell rang. A report was made to the bridge and the Captain ordered
him to give the course magnetic. Jamie asked the Bosun's mate to
remove the cover from the magnetic compass and turn up the indicator
light, but he still couldn't see the lubbers line. It was still
impossible to determine the heading of the ship.
The Skipper came down from the bridge, looked over Jamie's shoulder
at the compass, then promptly walked around the backside of the
compass and exclaimed " quartermaster, who has tampered with
the compass?" The skipper lifted the compass from its gimbal
ring, turned it 180 degrees and reset it in the gimbals. Someone
had tampered with the compass as a prank, much to the chagrin of
Jamie, who suffered the wrath of the Captain.
aboard the NENE was far from a luxury cruise. One hundred and fifty
men crowded aboard a 1350 ton ship, under constant vibration from
its engines, sleeping in hammocks. Each seaman stood his watch (the
watch organization is the working organization of the ship). At
any given time there was a certain proportion of the crew on duty
in each part of the ship.
were seven watches:
to 4:00 a.m.
a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
a.m. to Noon
to 4:00 p.m.
first dog watch
p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
last dog watch
p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
p.m. to Midnight
Signal Watch - by Howard Elliott
signals on the signal yard was easy at signal training school -
no heaving deck, no gales force winds, all nice and easy but quite
a different thing at sea. It was another day at sea in the north
Atlantic, a cold fierce howling wind and thirty foot waves crashing
down on the ship. The ships in the EG 9 group were in "line
ahead" and the signalmen on the bridge were numb from the bitter
cold hanging on to anything to stay upright. Suddenly Yeoman of
Signals Bunny Roberts, his voice trying to compete with the howling
wind, barked " Forsythe, Elliott, get down to the flag deck
and hoist a signal to the other ships in line". Sam and Howie
thought they couldn't possibly hoist a signal in the gale but dutifully
they followed instructions. The ship was rolling starboard
to port side at alarming degrees and it took much effort just to
hang on without being swept overboard.
on the flag deck they busily began to hook the signal flags, protruding
from the pigeon holes of the flag locker onto the halyards. When
they began to hoist the very colourful flags the wind took over
found themselves in an almost horizontal position hanging onto the
halyards and themselves at the same time. The flags billowed
out over the side like a very fat letter "D". With exhaustive
efforts they finally got the signal (to what they thought was) "Close
up" to the yardarm and secured the halyards. Glancing up to
the bridge with smiles of satisfaction on their faces they looked
into the steely eyes of "Captain Bligh" Roberts. He said
"Close up" you two. To which the twosome responded "they
are Close up Yeo". Struggle as they would they could
not get the signals up nice and tight as per the Yeo's orders and
suggested that if he could do better to try it himself.
the challenge Bunny
Roberts stomped down the ladder in his mouldy old zoot suit.
Sam and Howie stood by as Yeo undid the ropes and then watched as
Roberts sailed out over the North Atlantic hanging on for dear life
until the ship righted itself and began to roll to the other side.
He came thundering back inboard and plopped down on the flag deck
like a paratrooper hauling in the shrouds of a parachute. Now there
were some who thought that Bunny Roberts was going in for training
as one of the "Flying Wallendas" as his post war job.
Needless to say Roberts got the signal close up and made his way
back to the bridge with the admonition, "I'll deal
with you two later". He never did deal with them.
(George) Roberts was the much respected Yeoman of signals aboard
The Hammock or Mick
hammocks were remarkably comfortable and swayed with the roll of
the ship. The hammocks were slung above the mess tables and care
had to be exercised in jumping down to make sure you didn't
step on someone's breakfast.
Daily Tot of Rum
tradition amongst ships of the British navy was the "tot"
of rum (2 ounces of rum). Each day the seaman were provided with
a tot of rum which had to be consumed in the presence of the officer
when doled out. Some took the opportunity to conserve the tot and
have a good "toot" ashore. Many ingenious devices were
rigged up to save the rum. A flattened can might be tucked
into your pants into which you poured the rum and saved
for another day. Unfortunately the devices didn't always work or
through malicious intent someone might have punched holes in the
can to have the rum pour down your leg much to the hilarity of all
Day - Crew of the Nene Slicing the Main Brace
Kye - Our Chocolate Treat
watch could be long and tiring and especially on cold-weather watches
a hot cup of chocolate, "kye" would hit the spot. It came
in various consistencies: thick, thicker and thickest. During one
trip the kye was not particularly good and the recipients, surreptitiously
disposed of it over the side. On arrival at dockside in Londonderry,
the Captain left the ship on his bike and at the bottom of the gangplank
suddenly slammed on his brakes. The side of his beloved ship was
streaked with a brown coating. Following the order: "All hands
muster on the jetty", to review the sight the "Jimmy"
had the crew paint the ship before the Captain reached the Commander
D's office. Fortunately the kye sloshers were never brought
up to trial, but the quality of the kye doled out on subsequent
frosty night watches improved considerably.
Position Means All
Coombs was the officer of the watch on the bridge while the
Nene was escorting four or five large troopships from Portsmouth
to Le Havre. There was a great amount of traffic in the Channel
and the night was pitch black. The Nene was steaming at 15 knots
straight ahead at a position 400 yards off the port of the leading
troopship and Coombs instructions were to maintain that position
at all costs. Paul was senior officer of the watch. A blip was picked
up on the radar to starboard and it indicated the Nene was on a
collision course - the blip had the right of way. Paul was not one
to disobey instructions and continued to maintain position with
the troopship, just neatly passing astern of a French frigate. The
comments from the French bridge were, to say the least not complementary!
Forester H30, an English destroyer, passing the Nene
Confidentiality - by Robert Munnings
were all kinds of jobs to be done on board. Some were paperwork,
it wasn't all guns and ammunition. Our intrepid Lieutenant, Bob
Munnings took over the responsibility of Confidential Books
Officer. Unfortunately a top secret document was missing
and Captain Shaw had to report the matter to Admiralty. At war's
end when he cleared out the ship's safe, the missing document was
found. Discretion proved to be the better part of valour and no
further mention was made of the document. The document was called
WI. - it was the outline of plans of action, if the Germans invaded
Britain. Pipes full of gasoline ran out from the south shores of
Britain. If the Germans attacked, the navy was to set fire to the
gasoline around invasion ships. A Polish engineer had thought up
the idea and was awarded the George Medal for his ingenuity.
Tall Tales - by Sam Forsythe
tale was related forty years after the fact at NENE's Reunion in
Belleville, Ontario. Telegrapher Bob
Watson claims it is the gospel truth but the Captain
and Sam (Sig.
Forsythe) will not confirm nor deny.
seems Howie (Sig.
Elliott) was forever late relieving Sam on the bridge when the
watches changed. Sam apparently got a trifle fed-up with five minutes
here, ten minutes there, so decided the next time it happened he
would show his displeasure.
We were well on the way to Murmansk, all watches were being
served in the darkness of the Arctic winter, all members of
the ship's company were dressed in the northern clothing issues.
It was the midnight watch, Howie was half-an-hour late, Sam
was cold, having been on watch for four hours in 40 degrees
below zero. His usually good nature strained to the breaking
point, when a heavily clothed creature appeared on the bridge.
He intended to carry on as usual and explain to Howie any pertinent
facts about the previous watch, with any special instructions
but the winter-clothed relief didn't say anything, just walked
A well-placed boot got the attention of the newly arrived matelot.
The Captain turned and "gently" asked why he was the
recipient of a kick. Sam explained his reasons and sincerely
apologized. The Captain, understanding man that he was, said
that he would be pleased to convey the message to Howie. Which
he did! There was one surprised Signalman, arriving three-quarters
of an hour late, who was greeted with a swift kick and the words:
"Sam told me to give you that, next watch be on time!"
Aircraft Reckon-Nishun - by Sam Forsythe
ordinary seaman, newly drafted to the NENE, drew for his watch THE
BRIDGE! Recently acquired seamanship training was fresh in his mind.
THE CAPTAIN was the Officer of the Watch! This being his first watch
at sea, he wanted to make a good impression. The combination of
all this emotion built up and resulted in this excited report to
the Captain: "Sir! Unindenti ... unandidifi ... unadent
... unindentifted ... Dammit! There's a plane coming from this side
and I don't know whose it is!"
The Engine Room - by Bruce Booth
Booth reminisces a little about life aboard the Nene in the
Engine Room. The approach to the Engine Room was via a gangway that
was well lighted and warm. As you entered, it gave a feeling
of comradeship and warmth and well being. The crew of the
Nene had worked hard to make the Engine Room spotless.
engines have their own character, tempers and pleasant sounds and
the Nene was no exception. The ship was two shafted with two large
triple expansion engines. The engines ran quite smoothly brought
about by the diligent efforts of the ERAs running and maintaining
everything in the Engine Room. The crew was constantly on the alert
for strange noises or sounds, signalling some problem and consequently
whistling was not allowed in the Engine Room or the Boiler
Room. Some skippers were very superstitious and forbid
whistling anywhere on board, believing it would encourage high winds.
It was the heart of the ship and the crew worked hard to maintain
the engines in good running order.
attack the Engine Room crew were so busy they had little time to
think about the action taking place. The Engine room was a refuge
from the cold, rain, sleet, snow and ice especially on the run to
one occasion the ship nearly ran out of water. The coils
had been changed in St. John's , Newfoundland. Bruce Booth (the
Engineering Officer), the Chief ERA Stoker and Dusty Miller worked
at the problem and they were at the point of shutting off the water
to the showers.The problem was the water column outside the evaporator
was not registering. By a simple correction they opened the petcock
at the bottom of the column inserted a wire through the orifice
into the evaporator and water was made like mad.
Grapevine - by Sam Forsythe
the latest Buzz, SIG? Signalmen were blessed with a rather unique
honour, being in charge of the latest "buzzes" aboard
(Elliott) and Sam
(Forsythe) were a mischievous pair and were always willing to
oblige with their tongue-in-cheek versions of sailing orders, draft
notices, next port of call, or even what we were having for supper
(again). For example: crates being loaded for the next trip could
be labelled "Winter Clothing" and those sigs would insist
that they were so marked to confuse any dockyard matey who may be
a spy; spreading the "buzz" that they contained white
shorts for a trip to Bermuda for further WUPS. It was fantastic
how quickly a "buzz" would travel throughout the ship
and be returned as gospel truth direct from the Admiralty. It would
be suggested that Iceland was the next stop and, before going off
watch, one would hear that real Ice Cream would be available
at our next port of call!
years later, at each of NENE's Reunions, Howie and Sam were dispensing
the latest "buzz" and their credibility was never questioned!
a rough weather, the deck of the NENE was washed from stem to stern
with water as the ship ploughed through the seas. On one occasion
a Stoker on board the ship ventured out on the quarter deck and
was washed over the side by the breaking sea but
managed to get a grip on the guardrail as he went over. Hearing
the cry for help Ralph
Patterson dashed across the deck, without regard for personal
safety and hauled Rodway inboard, saving his life.
The Storm - by Ron Graham
Graham remembers a storm and the effect it had on him as an
make our way southward now, out of the raging maelstrom that has
battered us for the last two days, and that now is carrying its
fury away to the northeast. We limp along at half speed through
the long sweep of the Stanton Banks ground swell, the gentle pitch
and roll of the quartering seas, finally rounding into the lee of
Inishowen Head, past Magilligan Point and finding there the calm
of Lough (Loc) Foyle. We look about the gentle rolling hills as
though for the first time and find them beautiful and draw from
their beauty a restoration of strength and purpose that only now
we have come to realize has been drained from us. It is an awakening,
an awareness, even as we feel the total weariness of exhaustion.
storm: As I begin to prepare for the first watch I'm only
too aware of the ship's motion. She has been rolling sharply for
some hours now. It will be wet, wet and cold, and I bundle up, wrap
a towel around my neck to slow the inevitable creep of sea water
from the flying spray, shrug into my slicker and sou'wester. Out
on the main deck I stop briefly to adjust to the darkness, but only
briefly, for the seas are flooding across and I climb to the flag
deck to shelter for awhile before going to the bridge. Spray is
flying constantly in the gusting wind and my winger is glad to be
out of it, disappearing quickly down the inside companionway. I
join the lookout on the port wing, trying to scan for a horizon
within the flying spume of a force eight gale.
reduce speed at this point, to about seven knots, as the wind, settling
in out of the southwest, continues to strengthen. Another hour into
the watch and we are into a full gale, the wind now backing to east
northeast, conditions that warrant the Captain's arrival
on the bridge. The deck watch checks all the lashings,
the torpedomen set the depth charges to safe and all watertight
doors and hatches are secured.
pitching, rolling, twisting struggle is an abuse the ship cannot
withstand for long, and the Captain decides to heave to. The
exercise is a hazardous one, dependent on experience to ensure a
successful completion of the turn. One is aware of the
timing for the ship as it surges forward and heels into the sea,
struggling momentarily and plunges off a passing wave to settle
into the oncoming flow. The change is apparent at once. Now we will
try to ride it out, keeping her head into the wind and adjusting
the revs to maintain steerage and minimize the strain on the shafts.
(Note: Don Delong recalled the sound of the spinning propellers
when they lifted out of the water - a scream of sorts.)
winds and seas intensify to where one is unable to distinguish between
the sea and the sky. Fifty foot waves surge past, lifting
her bow up, up up and then dropping her with a breathtaking plunge
into the trough, forcing you to your knees even as you try to anticipate
what is to come. Her bows surge into the oncoming wave, the seas
roll across the foc'sle to thunder in a jolting stop against the
superstructure; the fearsome struggle, the weaving from side to
side to unload the burden forcing her down. Painfully she surfaces
repeating this wracking, terrifying assault on her being.
cannot see this happening, only sensing it, but it is terribly real.
We cannot see it through the flying spray, through the flying sheets
of water torn from the wave crests and flung against us in great
slabs, forcing us away from our positions against the bridgewing
dodgers and flinging us down repeatedly and momentarily smothering
us 'til we climb up, painfully, to regain our position. To
yield, to stay down would mean almost constant submersion and the
subsequent state of disorientation would be fatal. At this
point all of us struggle to maintain our watch positions.
wind tears at us with a force that threatens to fling us into the
sea; it howls and screams through the rigging like some demented
being, and combines with the tormented screeching of steel under
stress to assail our ears and minds with a cacophony of sound that
brings a desire to have it all done with.
becomes irrelevant. Even if our watch ends we cannot be
relieved, nor can we leave the bridge. It becomes a matter of going
on. Under normal conditions the watch is never overly long, nor
tiring. But now time is lost in this vast malevolence that holds
us, that bruises us, body and soul, until the will to go on must
come from an effort of total concentration.
breathe means an agony of salt laden moisture that burns the throat
and fills the head with a throbbing ache. The lungs seem
to demand more and more even as the wind tears our breath away and
distorts our faces with its alternating pressures and vacuums. To
breathe at all becomes an agony and our bodies become a mass of
bruises further tormented by the abrasive chafing of our wet, salt
the midst of this, those of us positioned on the wings of the bridge
make the decision, ease toward the inner bridge to take what little
extra shelter might be available, and to seek the comfort of others
suffering this hell. Making this brief journey is one of timing.
And there they are, other lumps of humanity wrapped in their individual
bundles of misery. They acknowledge your being there with a brief
becomes apparent that all five people of the watch are there and
well, though one lookout keeps falling and we take turns keeping
his head up to ensure he is clear of the water constantly swirling
about our legs. An awareness of feeling returns and pain and cold,
very, very cold. In other times you can, with an effort, drive it
from you; now it seems to penetrate to the innermost parts of your
Captain moves from one to another, giving encouragement with his
quiet strength. You wonder how as this must be such a great
responsibility for him. Everyone is praying a bit, right now, not
loud, perhaps only subconsciously, a plea out of the confusion that
reigns in our minds.
our lethargy, we slowly become aware of a tentative change, something
that begins to seep into our consciousness, tapping against our
minds, trying to gain attention. A hand rests on my shoulder and
I turn toward the Captain, and he looks up to the sky and there
is a brief suggestion of a smile. I, too, look up and realize that
I can see more clearly for the blackness is less so, dawn is nearing,
reassuring us a bit. Even as we welcome this change other changes
take place confusing us with their rapidity. The wind backs suddenly,
then veers again; it comes in great gusts, and falls nearly calm,
the sea is no longer running, but leaping in wild disarray; the
ship plunges and wheels and seems out of control. Then in the sky
we can see fast scudding stratus all shedded into streamers and
flashes of sunlight through breaks in the huge vertical cloud banks
all around. We are in the eye of the storm and the wind
will come at us soon from the north-west!
tempest returns, though the motion seems easier as we move off to
the southeast, running in a stern sea. It would be easy to broach
in this; there could be no room for error in the revs and heading.
Once more we are enveloped in our pocket of sound and fury, though
now we can see a bit and are able to anticipate. But the pressing
weariness is still there, total, punishing, seemingly forever.
the passing hours, dully we begin to know a slow, almost grudging,
lifting of the travail. Slowly the wind continues to back through
the west to the south-west and eases to force seven. The watch is
relieved and the crew turns to with a will, for now we must return
to the reason for our being here, and there is much to be
done to clear the ravages of the storm.
Damage to quarterdeck - Liberty boat gone
is much damage. We've lost our boats and the davits swing free,
with their falls and strops flying about like wringing hands in
the despair of loss. All around the railings are twisted and here
and there flattened to the deck. Canvas covers are missing, halyards
and antennae broken, ready lockers dented, and some of their covers
swing loose on bent hinges. But there is an enduring strength to
rest in the calm of the Lough and await the pilot boat busily bustling
toward us from Moville on the lee shore. It arrives, finally, coming
up from astern to nudge alongside only long enough for the pilot
to step nimbly aboard on the upsurge, then dashes away home to await
another call. Our pilot looks about briefly before coming to the
bridge, and there is a smile passed briefly among us as we recognize
him from a previous run, this little gnome of a man in his tweed
jacket, long since formed saggingly to his spare frame, his salt-'n-pepper
cap resting on his ears, in his mouth the ever-present clay pipe
titled upward by his forward thrust jaw. If the pipe were lit it
would probably burn the tip of his nose.
goes directly to the Captain, gives him a perfunctory handshake,
mutters something like "been in a bit of a blow so you were,
and all..." and turns to the voicepipe with "slow ahead
... starboard twenty ...midships...and we enter the Foyle to find
our berth in 'Derry.
brief passage up the river, in the final light of the sunset, the
shadow patterns streaming down the hillsides, a balm soothing to
our minds. With this soothing peace there enters my thoughts a dreaming...
of a day's leave maybe, of a walk in the countryside ... down these
rock-walled lanes I see...past these thatched cottage farms ...
and a chat, perhaps, with a passer-by...and hear the laughter of
children, all uncaring ... and happiness prevailing....
a personal account of another storm see: ALGONQUIN'S
STORM: A PERSONAL VIEW
By Donald Dunn - C2WR4 (1958-59)
AND THE STORM OF 1959
The Mess Deck
NENE went on patrol for periods up to one month at a time, constantly
on the alert for submarine contacts. For the crew it could be long
boring days, eating, sleeping and going on watch. There were lots
of card games to pass the time, cribbage, bridge and letters to
be written home to loved ones. The great joy was the receipt
of mail with news of home.
others wrote home, talked, or read, Telegrapher Al
Nyman would trot out his briefcase full of his collections.
Some people collect stamps, some people collect matchbook covers,
but our Al had the largest collection of beer bottle labels ever
to the limited space in our messes, we were all aware of the necessity
to "dhobey" on a regular basis, ( Dhobey is a word acquired
in India, meaning - to wash clothes). One rating left his smelly
socks around for longer periods than others thought prudent. While
he was on watch his messmates cured him once and for all by depositing
all of his socks in the wall locker (commonly called a porthole).
your hammock could require a major effort especially if the sea
was rough. One seasick rating was trying to tie up his 'mick' with
the proper Seven Seas wrapping. He was so sick, he couldn't
hold his head up and rested it on the 'mick' as he was
keeping balance as best he could. John
Inglis, the coder, said it was the first time he had ever seen
anyone sleeping and lashing at the same time.
Communications Mess had the ship's barber, Telegrapher Harry
Willer. Harry was from London, Ontario, and was quite old (middle
resident mimic aboard NENE was Signalman Howie
Elliott from Hamilton, Ontario. He could produce beautiful music
when he simulated the piccolo, trumpet, etc. Yet this same signalman
when seen in the dance hall in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, was a
wallflower. When asked why he was not dancing he replied that he
couldn't dance! With his natural rhythm that was difficult to understand.
The Dog Watch - by Dewey Barwis
Executive Officer, The Jimmy, known officially as Lt.
James Taylor, gave strict orders. One of the strictest orders
he ever issued was one that must never be disobeyed: No
dogs aboard! Dewey
(Dick) Barwis as we all knew had brought a pup aboard and kept
its presence a secret for as long as possible. This pup sailed to
Murmansk with us and The Jimmy told Dewey in no uncertain terms
to get rid of "that animal". A tugboat skipper convinced
Dewey to sell the pup for a huge pile of Russian banknotes (probably
worth all of about 50 cents Canadian). Barwis had trained the pup
to respond to his whistle and just as we were pulling away from
the jetty, gave a whistle. The pup leaped the necessary footage
to get aboard, leaving the tugboat skipper fuming and yelling obscenities
at the NENE. Admittedly, Dewey did pass some of ill-gotten Russian
bills around to crewmates as souvenirs.
The Galley and Canteen -by Russ Cameron
meals at sea was an arduous task with the ship bouncing around like
a cork. It took great ingenuity and skill as Bill
Hampson and Floyd
Fancy would testify. The ship would suddenly lurch hard to port
or starboard for a minute or so and Bill and Floyd would run back
and forth trying to keep the pots and pans on the range. Many expletives
were expressed toward the Bridge and it was suggested that it was
a deliberate attempt to scuttle the meal. Now with all the tasty
meals being cooked, who would ever conceive such a devilish scheme!
Rotenberg recalls an incident aboard ship. The flag deck was
directly above the galley and during a trip the signalmen dropped
the flags to execute a signal through the open galley skylight directly
into the soup. What a soupy signal disaster! Cookie was
brought up on a charge of destroying Crown property!
about tasty meals Gordie
(Jamie) Jamieson relates a little story with a humorous side.
Jamie was a member of the "Blue Watch". One evening four
seaman including Jamie, drew their supper, shortly after the "Dog
Watch". Supper was a large tray of shepherds pie ( bully beef,
topped with a brown crust of dehydrated potatoes). They helped themselves
to the tray, tucked in, and a moment later the Killick, Freddie
Levesque stood up with his plate in hand and exclaimed "
We're not eating this! Jamie bring your plate and come with me".
They all proceeded up to the Wardroom where Levesque, plate in hand,
banged on the door. The Pay Bob, Lieutenant
Hunt, came and Levesque shoved the plate under his nose and
said, "See, would you eat this?" Lo and behold
it was full of cockroaches, legs and heads peeking out (but well
had eaten half of his plate. Well the Pay Bob took the plate in
and showed it to the Jimmy
(Lt. Taylor). Jamie and his friends ended up having two eggs
- where they found them nobody knows, because the fare was mostly
the NENE went into refit in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Lieutenant
Jim Brandy was Canteen Officer and Russ Cameron the Canteen
Manager. Several days were spent cleaning up the Canteen, getting
the shelves set etc., before the Canteen was ready for operation.
Unfortunately there was no money available to purchase stock, so
Mr. Brandy came up with with an ingenious idea to purchase chocolate
from a local chocolate company on credit, as the ship would be in
refit for several weeks. They purchased $300.00 worth of boxed chocolates
and sold the chocolates to dockyard mateys at three times
the value of their purchase, realizing a neat profit. Needless
to say the profit was used to "set-up" the Canteen and
it flourished thereafter. A genius that Brandy!
Demon Rum - by Gord Jamieson
were clear: no rum, even though it was dirt cheap, to be brought
aboard when we were in Bermuda. Who could forget the humour of the
ABs unloading their keg of rum astern on the offside for the seamen's
mess, keeping a sharp lookout for "trouble". At
the same time, certain officers floating around the bow with their
kegs of rum, neither squealing on the other!
board there was an older Able Seaman, a seasoned seaman mostly from
his love of rum. One tot would send him aft. One beautiful evening,
while anchored at Grassy Bay, this seaman donned his life jacket
and padded a quarter mile away to a neighbouring anchored ship,
where he broke into their rum store and proceeded to get paralytic
drunk. Sometime around midnight the Nene received a signal to come
and retrieve the wayward seaman. Needless to say upon our return
to Halifax this seasoned seaman didn't sail with us.
Sick Bay - by Robert Munnings
could be brought on by a variety of things, demon rum, food, the
sea, work related injuries and the body succumbing to fatigue and
contagious diseases that passed from crew member to crew member
in such close quarters. Serge
Breard was our Leading Sick Bay Attendant. His responsibility
was to attend sick seaman even during Action Stations - hardly
the place you'd want to be when depth charges were being dropped
and in imminent danger of being blow up.
roll of the ship in heavy seas was the source of potential dangers
especially if you lost your sea legs. During the middle watch 12:00-4:00
AM Bob Munnings
had an emergency reported on the Quarterdeck. Bob along with Don
Bogle and Gibson
were trying to control a loose depth charge. Gibson broke his leg
and was in considerable pain. He was carried to the funnel
area and tied down until medical attention could be given as the
seas were very heavy. Bob
Munnings and Don
McGee continued their efforts to secure the depth charge, finally
disarming it by removing the pistol mechanism. The depth charge
had been rolling and smashing equipment on deck.
(Sam Forsythe relates a similar (perhaps the same) story. He recalls
Don McGee kicking a loose, or hanging, depth charge overboard before
the timer caused it to explode. He was the only man on deck who
shipmates had great skills, like swimming and diving. While in Bermuda
on trials Freddie
Levesque demonstrated his great daring by diving off the yardarm
into the ocean barely missing the side of the ship. The challenge
was too great for others, fearful for their lives. Tony
Dore (Muscle Man), spent his spare time in the flats, working
out and building up his muscles. Others spent their time
in more leisurely pursuits, bending their arms.
Delong recalls winning the swim relay race around the ship,
with his mate, Art
Desjardin, while in Bermuda. The prize - a chocolate bar. Don
had no fear of high diving, having done so many times from the Mcfarlane
Street Bridge in Peterborough, during his youth.
The Midshipman -The Theta Group
convoys were destined for northern Russian. The convoys were harassed
by attacks from submarines and planes located in the Norwegian fiords.
Our Midshipman Bjarne
Thorsen played a part in the surveillance of German activities
the summer of 1940 rumours were rife in Norway, that the Germans
were about to invade England and that considerable numbers of the
invasion forces would embark from the West of Norway. According
to the same rumours, the invasion would take place by means
of fishing vessels and coastal ships which would be confiscated
by the German Occupation Forces. A young student at Bergen
Technical High School, Jan Dahm felt it was essential to report
this to Britain and to send such reports by means of radio transmitters,
even though the reports might have to be sent uncoded. He discussed
this with his closest friends and they agreed to build a radio transmitter
powerful enough to reach England.
constant surveillance by German authorities Jan continued to work
with friends. Bjarne Thorsen who was 19 years old at the time was
chosen to go to England and try to establish proper contacts with
Norwegian and British authorities and return to Norway with radio
transmitters.In October 1941 he was selected by his group to go
by fishing smack to the Shetland Islands and obtain a transmitter,
codebooks and crystals for a radio transmitter. It wasn't easy for
a young boy, but he spent fourteen days in a MI-5 camp and another
fourteen days training in London and he was back in Bergen. Bjarne
made several trips back and forth to England obtaining radio transmission
equipment and codes. The group known as the Theta group watched
for the German warships, the Bismark and the Tirpitz and also movement
of shipping from Bergen. The Tirpitz was paralyzing many British
ships and two new American battleships that were being held back
from the Atlantic, held on constant alert should the Tirpitz attempt
to make a break for the open waters. The Tirpitz was subsequently
destroyed by Allied bombing in the Spring of 1944.
Germans eventually discovered the secret transmission room but the
Theta group escaped and went underground. At various points
in time members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo and interrogated
but no disclosure was made of the identity of the group.
qualified for the Naval Academy in October 1943 and was sent as
a Midshipman to HMCS Stormont and on December 19, 1944, joined HMCS Nene.
was always the attraction of shore leave, to put one's foot back
on solid earth, to leave behind the heaving deck of the ship after
weeks of escort duty. Even more exciting was the opportunity
to set foot on the shore once held by the enemy even though it wasn't
an authorized visit. Such, was the case of those stalwart
seaman, who appropriated the ship's whaler and made for shore at
Le Havre, France. The shore was strewn with the relics of war, a
gun, spent shells, a shoe and live ammunition. John
O'Connor was the leading protagonist in this adventure. A photo
depicts some of the crew members at the oars of the whaler, off
the coast of Le Havre. Pictured are Bond, Roberts, Desjardins, Donaldson,
Breard and two unidentified seamen.
Levesque also appropriated the whaler and with his crew set sail,
like Columbus, for the trip ashore to Le Havre. With a full wind
astern, sailing to the shore was a breeze. The return trip was more
arduous however, there was no wind. Like the pirates of old Freddie
at the tiller, gave the signal to row, row, row your boat. They
were greeted on arrival by the "Jimmy", hardly pleased
with their excursion. Fred's explanation was that he wanted to dry
the whaler's sails!
Roberts, Desjardins, Donaldson, Breard and two unknowns
take the whaler for an unauthorized visit to France.
Delong said that one of these men (F.L.) found a live Orlikan shell
on the stony beach, whereupon he tossed it aside, causing it to
fire. The shell (or more likely its casing) passed through his trousers
near crotch level. Luckily, all remained intact! Children and grandchildren
to receive shore leave with the others, Don was surprised and angry
when denied leave. He was told the reason - the radar housing looked
rather shabby and needed a coat of paint before he could leave.
Within the hour he reported his work done to an officer who could
not believe that a man could work so fast.
Chicken Dinner - by Stan Zatylny
Zatylny relates this story. It was late Fall, 1944, and the
principle people involved included Joe Gaglardi, Ron
Zatylny and one able seaman. We were at Rest Camp for approximately
seven days. Most times we were out visiting places such as Belfast,
Balleymena, and as well, the seashore. The seashore included the
peacetime resorts of Portrush, Portstewart, the Giant's Causeway,
etc. There were miles of sandy beaches for us to explore and the
cliffs at the Giant's Causeway were awesome. Coleraine was the location
of the railway station where we boarded to get to Belfast and where
the "chicken episode" took place.
Belfast Bob Watson and I were looking into a store window where
licorice allsorts were displayed in a large jar. While we were admiring
the allsorts a woman came along and asked us if we would like to
have some. She offered us her ration coupons! We
thanked her but did not want to accept. She insisted, at which point
we gladly accepted. The group of us, realizing we were hungry, looked
for a place to eat. When we found a restaurant, it could only serve
us tea due a shortage of foods. It was approximately 4:00 p.m. We
left the cafe and met the able seaman from the NENE who told us
he was having supper with an Irish colleen. It is not clear how
the six of us invited ourselves along but we landed at the colleen's
house with him. Well, when the lady saw the whole gang, she was
obviously shocked and uncertain. She finally welcomed us but said
it was an impossibility to feed the whole gang.
Gaglardi asked her if we provided the chickens, could she cook them
for us? She replied she could. Gaglardi then got us together and
broke the news as to where we could find some chickens. Apparently
on the way he had spotted some chickens on a farm not too far away.
Well, it wasn't long before the whole gang were chasing
chickens all over the place. By the time we stopped chasing,
I am not sure where the most feathers were; on us, or on the chickens!
Gaglardi, being the expert, wrung their necks and showed us how
to clean them. If memory serves me right, two chickens were captured
by six sailors.
lady of the house was surprised when she saw the chickens and also
a trifle apprehensive, but she cooked them for us. She supplied
vegetables from her larder and we had a terrific dinner. That
was a memorable meal, one none of us will ever forget.
1944 was spent in port at Londonderry. The Nene had just returned
from Russian convoy duty and all hands were ready for a good rest.
This was the only Xmas holiday spent by the entire crew together.
In keeping with the navy tradition, Myles Cook, the youngest crew
member became Captain for the day.
Nene Christmas cards were made available to the crew. [1944
Nene Christmas Card]
serving aboard the Nene, correspondence with friends, wives and
parents were important morale boosters. Although all letters and
correspondence were censored, to ensure ship movement and locations
were not disclosed, receiving news from home and letting loved ones
at home hear from you were reassuring messages. Some crew members
married during the war and it was especially important to them to
reassure their wives of their continued safety.
Nene crew had its share of "War Brides". At least two
served in the navy themselves. Edna Roberts was a WREN coder and
at the signal school at St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. They were married
in the RCN Chapel at St. Hyacinthe in 1945. Jean Dubroy was also
a member of the WRENS from 1942 to 1946 and served in the Postal
Group in Canada and the United Kingdom. She and Lou
were married following the end of the war.
conflict with Germany and Japan was a long and difficult period
to live through. For those who left brides at home, it was a worrisome
time knowing that their husbands were in the war zones. Mary Honora
Shaw and Eric were married in September 1939 and Gretchen Booth
and Bruce were married in 1941 in St. Pauls Anglican Church, Halifax.
Bruce was then
off to Mombasa Africa, while Eric
Shaw was off to sea as a gunnery officer.
from the Mediterranean in March 1943, Ross
met a young Scottish lass, Marion, at the Paisley ice rink and in
September 1943, she and Ross were married. Ella Kay and John
were married in the Dockyard Chapel, Halifax in 1943.
of those married the earliest was Anne and Jim
O'Rourke. They were married on Jim's birthday May 10, 1939.
Russ and Thelma
Cameron were married in September 1939. Anne and Bob
Munnings were married in 1942 and Bob became an officer candidate
in June 1943.
Poirier and Fern
were married in August 1943, Lois Coombs and Paul
1944, Stella Levesque and Fred
1942, Jean Donaldson and Sandy
in November 1943 while Sandy was doing convoy duty. Bob
Watson and Joyce were married in Prince Rupert, B.C., in a naval
wedding conducted by Rev. Ian Edwards, later to become Deputy Chaplin
of the Fleet, Protestant.
Hunter and Warren
married in 1943, Ruth and Al
MacDonald while Al was on leave, Barbara and Tony
Dore in 1942 in Belleville, Eileen and Norman
Cummings, November 1942, Betty and Tom
Whitefield in 1944, Elsbeth and Bob
Jaeger, January 1942 and Dorothy and Fred
Miller in the spring of 1944. Julius
(Caesar) Mahalek asked for marriage leave while aboard the Nene
in November 1944 and married Irene McMahan.
Nene Lives: ed. Kenneth Riley; 1993, ppg. 41- 57)