Funny thing there was no jetty about for miles, but for close to a mile in length, ships three abreast were at anchorage and all the ships in this column were of the same class – the corvette type. We'd seen many of these packets before, practically all of them. Yes, they'd been grouped in the past, but never more than six together at once. Too these groups were operational and with the exception of a few days in port they were usually employed on convoy escort work, but here before our eyes more than 60 ships stood idle. It was hard to believe for every last one of these vessels had always been so darn busy before.
There had to be a reason for this so your "Jetty Joe" set out to fathom the problem. It wasn't difficult to unearth the necessity for this parade of ships but it kinda hurt a little inside when we heard what was going to happen to these rakish terrors of the deep that paved the road to Berlin.
Yes, here was the end of the "Sheep dog Navy." All 60 or more of these ships had played a big role in their battle with Germany's U-Boat fleet while escorting merchant packets along the convoy routes, but with the Victory in Europe, cessation of the convoy system, and these ships had been declared surplus to naval requirements.
They had reached the end of the trail and were ready for the scrap yard. No longer would the famed corvette, that literally drove the Nazi undersea dogs from the sea, be a part of the Navy. They had done their job – and done it well – and now their future rested in the hands of the War Assets Corporation, to do with them as they so see fit.
This parade of vessels was just inside the Sydney harbour. They'd assembled there after being called in from their convoy chores. A great many navy men who'd often sailed in the same convoys were for the first time given the opportunity of meeting either old pals or other navy chums they'd met since enlisting. Their stay was anywhere from one to two weeks so they got around a bit.
Then came the call and the ships sailed into Sydney to tie up along the jetty here to be stripped of all essential gear which could be of further use to the navy. This completed in a matter of a day or three then a short lived steaming trial and off on the ship's final voyage – up the river to Sorel.
There were many famous ships in this aggregation. HMCS Chambly, first Canadian ship of this or any other war to sink an enemy U-Boat, who also has two other probable kills to her credit. Also other corvettes with sub kills and assists to their credit, such as Ville De Quebec, Moose Jaw, Calgary, Oakville, Port Arthur, Chilliwack, and Drumheller.
Also in the group were the four corvettes of the famed "barber pole brigade" Wetaskiwin, Agassiz, Sackville and Galt, who together with the destroyers, Skeena, and Saguenay, first organized the barber pole group in June, 1942 while working on the mid ocean run.
Also present was Collingwood, grand old lady of the corvettes being the first Canadian ship of this class to be put in service. Kenogami, Morden, Kitchener of movie fame in K-225, Algoma, Athol, Arvida, Orillia, Quesnel and Summerside, all steady old work horses along the convoy lanes each with memorable stories of rescue at sea, salvage and attacks against the enemy to their credit.
All of these corvettes, the whole darn bunch of them, have done a job that deserves praise and it's orchids and hats off to the men that sailed them.
Another vessel, manned by Canadians, HMS Puncher, the aircraft carrier pulled into the port of Halifax recently and aboard were many "old timers" senior Chiefs and P.O.'s of Canada's peace-time navy. A most hospitable bunch of boys are those in the Chief's mess, headed by Chief Gunner's Mate Eddie "Queenie" McFayden of Victoria. McFayden has probably instructed more navy men in gunnery than he can remember and he should be among the top notchers when it comes to the number of men he's put through their paces. A heller on the parade ground – and he gets results – Eddie is exactly the opposite in the mess and is indeed popular with his messmates.
The boys aboard should be well fed – and they say they are – for in charge of dishing up the victuals is another old-timer, Freddie Waters also of Victoria, who fed the boys out at Naden in peace time.
Another west coaster and also a Chief Gunner's Mate, is George "Passenger" Stagg, who's mighty proud of his gun crew aboard the flat top and who many a sailor will recall receiving a "blast" from while taking gunnery instruction from him.
It seemed like the entire's ship's crew was from the west coast and all permanent men, for three more boys from Victoria, who used to be around Naden in the peace time days were also about. Chief "Hookie" Walker, big and fatter than ever, almost bowled Chief Alan Paver, the good looking stoker type over as he paid his respects with a hand shake that almost made powder out of our knuckles. There's a brass ring of Warrant on the sleeve of Harold "Tubby" Shergold's tunic and the former gunnery man of some 15 years service is looking mighty fit these days. Like their skipper Captain Roger E.S. Bidwell, RCN, of Halifax, the boys are all sold on the aircraft carrier type of ship and wouldn't take a draft off if it was offered on a silver platter – so they say – but I wish we had a platter and a draft to offer them and see what they'd do.
Ralph D. MacKenzie, who back in pre war-days used to sell oil and gas to dealers in Regina and there abouts on the prairies will soon be heading back to the rounds. The popular westerner has for the past four years been aboard the corvette Kenogami, aboard which he rose from junior subie to Commanding Officer, has just taken his packet up the river to Sorel and turned it over to the War Assets Coporation. He'll be around only long enough to get his ticket and then it'll be home to the missus and the infant daughter he hasn't seen. Ralph was an innocent victim of a tie-slicing surprise which he'll never forget, solely due to the fact that it was done by two newspapermen whom he hadn't even been introduced to. The scribes of a large sheet in Upper Canada stepped into his ship's wardroom on a story and while in the process of obtaining information required, Ralph walks in only to be pounced upon by one of the newshounds who promptly sliced the tie at the knot. It was Ralph's birthday, the newsie didn't like the tie, he said, so he removed it and next day sent him two and a box of cigars in return. It was all in fun and Ralph took it that way. A great guy is Ralph, popular with his crew and all whom he comes in contact. The navy'll miss him and the oil business should boom again in the west.
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