Keeping his memories alive.
YOU MAY HAVE wondered or may not have wondered what veterans think on Remembrance Day on November 11. At this stage in my life, I've experienced 60 some November 11 services and for me, the 11th of November is a day with a fixed routine. Wake up, breakfast, daily devotions, shave and dress for the Remembrance Day ceremonies at a local arena. There is a 50/50 chance the day will be overcast or cloudy. And it is certain to be on the chilly edge of winter. It is also certain that the bad memories will bundle up and come along, especially the memory of Charlie.
At the arena I join with the other vets, who will march in a platoon in the parade of presently serving armed forces, police and cadet corps. Our platoon is a mixed bag of all three services. The marching is ragged because we're old and the air force never could do it right. I thrill to the skirl of the bagpipes and the whump, whump, whump of the big bass drums. And my heart goes out to the poor sods who drew sentry duty at the four corners of the cenotaph. Their heads bowed and arms reversed, motionless for a long time. It is an amazing feat of physical endurance. Last year, one was a woman. It is likely they're dedicated volunteers.
For me, the enemy is there as well, even though I never saw a live or dead enemy in the war. They're the ghosts of the 30 or 40 German sailors who perished when HMCS Edmundston attacked [the German submarine] U-877 on December 27, 1944. I wonder, were those men willing members of the monstrous evil regime we were fighting or were they conscripted? Either way, they died a horrible death. Two-minute silence for those who gave it their all; those who never heard the chill, clear notes of Taps or Reveille at a Remembrance Day service. It is over and my wife, Muriel, and I are taken out for lunch by members of our family.
And then I remembered Charlie. Charlie and I literally bumped into each other on a street corner in Saskatoon about a year after war's end. I met Charlie in basic training at Cornwallis in Nova Scotia. He was tall, athletic, blonde and friendly. When I looked at him on the street corner, I wasn't certain it was Charlie. The confident Charlie was gone. The new Charlie was haggard and untidy. It was nearly noon and I invited him home for lunch. Muriel, always gracious, welcomed Charlie and adroitly adjusted the menu. When coffee arrived, Charlie's hands shook so much he required both hands to raise the cup to his lips. Gradually, I coaxed him to tell us what happened to him.
After Cornwallis, Charlie joined HMS Nabob, a baby flat-top [escort] aircraft carrier. Off the coast of Norway, the ship took a torpedo. Charlie was ejected from his bunk. When he picked himself up from the deck, water was up to his ankles. Charlie was first on the ladder and three friends were following. As Charlie emerged through the hatch, the command "close all watertight doors and hatches" boomed from the loudspeakers. The seamen stationed at the hatch slammed down the cover and tightened the turnbuckles. Charlie's screams of protest were ignored and he was physically restrained from opening the cover.
ROYAL CANADIAN NAVY
SECOND WORLD WAR
Caption: Pictured, the Royal Canadian Navy corvette HMCS Regina (hull no. K234) taking part in escort duties during the Second World War. "I was a crew member on August 8, 1944, when HMCS Regina was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Bristol Channel, " recalls survivor Don McIntosh. The ship sank in a mere 28 seconds, with almost one third of the ship's crew lost to the sea. This ship was similar in build to HMCS Edmundston, on which Donald Bowman served during the war.
Caption: HMS Nabob (D77) was torpedoed by German submarine U-354 in the Barents Sea on August 22, 1944. This resulted in a 32-square foot hole aft, below the waterline. Seen here on August 23, her damage under control, Nabob makes three knots under her own power and proceeds to Scapa Flow for emergency repairs but was deemed to be too badly damaged and decommissioned on October 10. The torpedo caused the death of 21 crewmen and wounded 40 others.
Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.