Some Salty Dips from the 1995 Reunion Video
|These Nene Stories were told in July of 1995.|
The Story Tellers are:
#1 First, they discuss a dory visit to the beach at LeHavre, France in 1945.
#2 A story about soap and water.
#3 The ship's dog was sold - almost.
#4 German Sub Commander Rams Nene.
#5 Bermuda - Stealing the flags, clock, gunnery
#6 Food - eggs, hardtack
#7 Pub Visitations
#8 More Damage to the Nene
#9 Shore Misadventures
#10 Cartoon Trouble
Sam: The beaches at that time were really dangerous as far as the mines and….
Don: … live ammunition lying all over the place. Well, anyway somebody picked up something that looked like a 200mm Oerlikan, and threw it, and it exploded when it hit the beach. And it tore a hole in Ball's pants right near the …
Sam: Near the what?
Don: … near the centre line … and never touched the skin. And when they came back to the ship, of course, they got hell for going ashore when they shouldn't have gone ashore.
Sam: Yet, Freddie [Levesque], to this day, when I was talking to him in Orillia, says he didn't go ashore… at least as far as the record is.
Don: I saw them go ashore. You could see them off the shore. We were only a mile off the coast.
Sam: They were looking for souvenirs. And Freddie, being French Canadian, wanted to say he'd been to France.
Don: And I understand that they met a girl over there who gave them hell because she didn't like the idea of her house being blown up - which the Allies did to her house.
Sam: The poor Nene gets blamed for everything.
Al: And Freddie Levesque corked her one.
Sam: You mean Freddie actually struck her.
Al: Yah, he dusted her a good one.
Don: Did he smack her one? She was really mad wasn't she?
Sam: When they got back on board, you remember trying to get a bath or shower?
Don: Yea, we had saltwater soap. If you didn't use it in salt water, why you didn't get suds, did you?
Sam: And if you didn't dry yourself off you had a nice rash didn’t you?
Al: Dobey's Itch!
Sam: Dobey's Itch is exactly what it was called. But how did we get the water hot, Don?
Don: Steam hose. We had to put the water in a bucket and put a steam hose into it to heat the water. Then we had to pour into the sink. Of course, we had cold water in the sink but not hot water. If you remember too, we had a shower too - it was evaporator water.
Sam: When I got to the shower it had already evaporated.
Don: I think so.
Sam: You don't remember the pup we had on board?
Sam: It was named after shipwright, Desjardines.
Don: In that frigid water?
Sam: Ya. I think it froze.
Don: Well, yes, in 27 degree water; it freezes.
Sam: Are you talking 27 degree… what?
Don: English. [as opposed to Metric]
Sam: Below zero?
Don: 27 degrees below 32 Farhenheight … not this here "silly-us" stuff … we didn’t use. The merchant marine liberty ship … he went to Murmansk … and they had four dogs aboard ship and when they left they didn’t have any dogs. See, the people up there got 'm and ate 'm.
Sam: That would have been the fate of our dog.
Don: Probably it would because they ate everything that moved up there.
Sam: When we got the subs and the one captain of the subs cut a hole in your mess.
Don: Twelve foot I think it was.
Sam: That’s when the shipwright, Art Desjardins, did some work for the first time …
Don: A little we bit, yes.
Sam: I always wondered what a shipwright did aboard a ship.
Don: He did a lot of work though, making cigarette lighters for the guys.
Al: He made caskets too. Unfortunately Chips didn’t make it to the first reunion.
Don: He died in Whitby. He ran the Canadian Tire store up there.
Sam: In fact Marion Hewitt worked for the Canadian Tire Store and didn't know who he was.
Al: Its like Lancaster; he committed suicide and if we only got him before …
Sam: Well, such was life in the olden days eh…
Don: Well, "Delong", I think.
Sam: Well, something like that. I think the word "old" came in there. I think all of the girls in the examiner, in the office, laughed because they knew Don and they didn’t know me.
Don: "Old Timer" wasn’t it?
Sam: No, it was "Old". Just "Old". I don't think I used the word "Timer".
Al: Gordy Root and Joe Hoey, we went on shore patrol. We went to what they call the USC, the United Service Centre, run by Americans, and there was a girl there by the name of Phyllis O'Marryl. I'll always remember that. But, they had two flags, the British flag and the American flag - the only two on the island; we knew this. So Joe Hooey and Gordy Root they kept them busy and I stole the flag and went into the washroom and took my uniform off and wrapped the flag around me and came back out again. The next morning, when we got up on the bridge, we looked around and no American flag. The British flag was there. Then the patrols started to come out. So Gordy and I got a little chicken and we went down below and got a four inch shell and we wrapped the flag around the four inch shell and threw it over the side. We didn’t want to be accused.
Don: A ninety dollar shell overboard.
Al: It's in St. George's harbour somewhere.
Don: Anyway, we were down in Summerside, you know, the first time we went down. So we were near the at the American base there and one of our guys, one of the radar guys, went over to the American base and got this brass clock that we kept in the radar shack. And I brought it home with me from the ship and we had it all reconditioned. And it's still at my house, and it's still workable. I've had it 50 years.
Al: I remember down in Bermuda doing evolutions. Remember the Americans; they had a gun range that went from a 45-calibre pistol up to a five-inch radar and they used to bring the drove. Remember, they towed it. I think we got too accurate 'cause we sure as hell made an awful mess of that drove and they never invited us back. We blew it right out of the water. You are supposed to straddle these droves. We blew her right up.
Question: What about the food?
Don: What food? We starved, practically.
Al: Hardtack! In Londonderry, Ireland, they would bring bags of bread aboard. It was good the first day. They'd give everybody a loaf of bread and cut the mould off of it, and, what was left in the middle, that was yours.
Don: But then, when it come down that small [indicating size of a 50¢ piece], you pretty near had very little.
Sam: Well then you killed the cockroaches with it.
Al: That was fresh meat! --- Mutton . . . greasy old mutton. Jeeze!
Don: Put jam on it and it tasted good.
Al: Hardtack was good; we used to toast it.
Don: I used to split it down the centre; I had a jack knife and a pair of pliers. I used the jack knife and pair of pliers to split it right down the centre … and that was a little more…
Questioner: You used to talk about eggs.
Don: Oh, the eggs from Mobile.
Sam: They were duck eggs, weren't they?
Don: They were good eggs. I didn't find anything wrong with them. I always had eggs.
Sam: I'll put it this way. After we left the shore we fried some eggs up . . . several of them … not just two eggs. And I haven't eaten eggs since.
Don: We used to put an egg in the coffee every time. A fresh pot of coffee … put and egg in it … shell and all.
Al: I remember the first time going into Derry, up in Lisahally, (we were out of luck) and all the bumboats come out … remember …and we were selling everything, for Irish whisky. We sold them everything … everything we could get our hands on. I think by the time we got to Derry half of us were stoned.
Don: Somebody said that the captain said that you couldn't deal with bumboats anymore. But I did.
Al: And the reason?
Don: I guess at dusk they'd come along side and you could buy eggs of them. Danny [his son] wanted to hear about the little adventure I had in Plymouth. Dave Johnson and I went ashore and we went into a pub. And they had three classes in the pub: low class, middle class, and high class. On the wall they had a big sign that said, "Anyone stealing glasses from here will be fined 25 pounds". And they had lovely mugs you know, with handles on them. And we each took a pint mug and a half pint mug. I put one in this sock and one in this sock and Dave did the same thing. We walked out of the pub, casually, and there was a big cop right outside the door. And Dave panicked, and he ran, and the glasses smashed all over the sidewalk. And I just walked down the street, just casually you know; it didn't bother me. And about a half an hour later I found Johnson; he was still running. And the cop took after him, but he beat the cops.
Al: You remember those pubs in Derry? We'd always have an empty whiskey bottle or a rum bottle and we'd put it down the side of our … And we'd walk in and they always had these kind of 50 gallon vats of beer out the back, between the washroom and the bar. And everybody walked out. And you know, you'd take your time. You'd go out the back and take a bottle off and fill it up with beer, and you'd have a cigarette here, and you'd keep doing this and you'd fill your own. And you'd gingerly walk back and then order a drink. We did this once and all of a sudden you heard a crash. Somebody dropped their bottle out the back. And as the bartender and the owner went that way and the rest of the damn hotel or bar cleared out, 'cause everybody had bottles.
Don: I never did that.
Al: Awe, come on! Remember the piano running down the main street of Derry.
Sam: Wasn't that our communications … Zeke Clark and Al Diamond from the Communications.
Al: I don't know if it was our crew but I can still set see that piano going down the main drag. Part of shore patrol … part of shore work … and I don't think … I've never met to this day anyone who accomplished it, but it's called "The Pub Crawl". As soon as you got off your shift you went up to the corner of the next pub, turned left, and you had one drink. And you did that at every pub, and you did the same down the other side. Nobody ever made it down the other side because every place was different. Some would sell bitters, eh George, and some would sell, ah, I don't know Guinnesses. One drink, that's all you had ... go to the next pub. You'd never make it because you're always supping back on the Pussers [rum].
Don: You remember Christmas Day in '44? Somebody was saying they had to go down into the Free State to get a drink.
Al: That's right!
Don: Well this day [HMCS] Peterborough was in Derry [Londinderry], very near us, and of course I knew the steward aboard the Peterborough. So he stole a bottle of Canada Club they call it . . . the whiskey. So we went ashore with that. So we didn't do without on Christmas Day.
Al: I'm trying to remember that little town in the Free State. If you
went across the border there you had to do your burberry up at the neck
and leave your hat at the border. And you'd walk across and you'd go
into a pub and you'd sit and have a few drinks … and there, a German
submarine crew sitting at the next table.
Al: We did … had to bum more steel.
Don: We had a 26er of rye. We didn't have to go to the Free State .
Sam. Rye or rum?
Don: Rye. Canada Club, is it?
Sam: We were always able to go ashore from a communications mess with a 26er of Pusser's Rum. Did you know that by Christmas of '44 we were something like 500 shots short in the rations?
Al: How many birthdays did you have in a month? Every birthday you always got your extra couple of tots.
Sam: Quite a few birthdays. I should explain to everyone that you guys drew your tot of rum, I never drew on mine, ever.
Al: Jeeze, come on! I know, he took the seventh.
Sam: No, I was always underage… come on you guys. Yah, I can show you my card, eh George. Isn't that what it is … UA? That's what I was … UA. I was just a kid you know.
Don: Are you sure you weren't RC? (laughter)
Al: Oh, these were good times. Where was it that the old man left the anchor? Was it the port anchor? It was at Scapa wasn't it?
Don: I think it was Scapa. Isn't that where the rolling straight was sticking out of the ship about 30 or 40ft.?
Al: Yes, after that one storm.
Don: I saw her going up in dry dock in Newcastle; there and this thing sticking way out … I wondered how they sailed the thing, but you could feel the ship shudder at any speed it all.
Al: I had it made in Newcastle ~~~ because all my relatives were there. That's where I went and saw Vera Lynn for the first time in my life. I went to what they called, "The Annual Press Ball". It's a big … all up your nines and this and that. We wore all of our tiddlies. She showed up in a pair of damned jeans and an old shirt and I've never liked her since.
Don: She looks all right to me. Any way that's where the shipwright had a good time. Remember that? That's another story.
Sam: Desjardines. Yah, but he couldn't marry the girl because he was already married.
Al: I loves ya Canada. Hi Rosy! [an aside when new person entered room]
Don: An officer and him went from Portsmouth to way up in Newcastle to straighten everything out.
Sam: Do you remember going out on the rail line, out to Whitley Bay from Newcastle? I thought it was a very good rail system going out there, but I understand that they discontinued it after the War.
Al: It's about the same as the trains in Bermuda; the trains are no longer there. I've got the last ticket …
Don: But I had a laugh, you know. We'd get tied up in Newcastle at a bar. By the time we woke up to the fact, it was after 11:00 o'clock and the last train had gone. So we walked 10 miles from Newcastle down to North Shields, at night.
Sam: Ron Graham just came in, and do you remember our old friend from the Mono . . . Lieutenant. Commander Skinner? What did he say to our friend Ron?
Ron: Well, Skinner, he got us lost in the British Home Fleet coming back from ~~~. We were supposed to go through the British Home Fleet, turn around and bring up the rear. So he got half way through, then he turned around to soon. The rest of us got through OK. Anyway the Home Fleet becomes aware that they have an extra ship, and all of our lights come on. So I drew this cartoon anyway about this little Canadian ship sitting there with the ~~~ ~~~ looking like downcast eyes and a very red faced skipper on the bridge, which is fine. And I left it on the mess deck table. Someone picked that up and they put it on the notice board outside the ward room when we were in harbour. And Skinner, being the senior officer, he happened to come on board and he saw the cartoon . . . a grave mistake . . . because he wanted to know who drew it and somebody told him. So Graham was to report to the ward room. And when I got there he was sitting there tapping his finger ~~~. He gave me a pretty rough time over that. He said, "Do you think that's funny?" And I said, "I thought it was funny at the time but I'm not sure now." Anyways he looked at me for a long time and he said, "You know I could really get you in trouble over this." I said, "Oh, yes ~~~." He said, "Sit down." So I sat down and he turned around to the steward, who was listening to every word and he said, "I want two double rum." So he brought the double rum, and with no water.
Don: Neat rum.
Ron: Neat rum. "Now," he said, "Drink it." I said, "Sir, I don't drink." He said. "Fine, drink it or two weeks." So I drank it. I don't remember getting back to my bunk. I don't remember going on watch for two days. But anyway . . . no more cartoons.
Don: As a CB and a Signalman you knew all about this…
Don: Possibly, Lowe didn't know anything about it.
Ron: Just as well.
Sam: Ron, I'd sure like to know who put that up on the ward room wall.
Al: Of course that wouldn't have been you, Sam would it?
Sam: No, I never did a thing to be corrected.
Ron: He saw the humour in it about two months later.
Don: It took a long time.
Ron: Commander Skinner, if you got to know him, was a good commander.
Sam: Do you member Bunny having to destroy the confidential signals, and you and I seemed to be the only two that had made up signals that…inadvertently drop a signal on the way to destroying the confidential papers? And before we could get back up to the top deck the whole ship had the rumour of what we did … Joe Hoey was the worst for picking up a buzz. What's the buzz? What's the latest buzz?
Don: Like we are going to Gibralter and then we end up in Murmansk.
Howie: They mentioned on the news there that the Nene was one of the few ships that could go into the White Sea. It was something to do with the hull. I don't hear all of well, and I just didn't catch what he said. Maybe if somebody can get a rerun of that newscast last night you'd know what he was talking about.
Don: I don't know where he got that information because only we know that. And we escorted ships from this Murmansk convoy into the White Sea over another … Archangel was it? …
Bob: July fireworks and the place looked like Christmas you know it was really something. We got away from that and fired two shots.
Don: I guess I was asleep when that happened too.
Howie: It was supposed to be too shallow for submarines to go in there. In the White Sea submarines couldn't go in their at all.
Don: Well see our ship was built in England and it was all riveted and I guess it was a lot more … what would you say … safer than… well, more durable than the Canadian vessels that were all welded.
Bob: I can tell a story … [Come back again later for more stories from the Nene.]
Webmaster: Dan Delong - Updated: November 30, 2002