Royal Canadian Navy : Colin Murdo Nicolson


Portrait of Colin Nicolson during WW2

Portrait of Colin Nicolson in 1991

After Eric Nicolson identified his father, Colin Murdo Nicolson, in a photo of the crew of HMCS Sioux, (click here to see that photo) he then told me in another email: " My family also retains old photographs taken aboard the Sioux during 1944-45 and my father kept a diary for that time. I do not know if these items have any interest for you but I would be happy to scan and forward them should you determine that they may be of value . . . . "

Colin Murdo Nicolson was from Port Arthur, Ontario (now part of the city of Thunder Bay), and that's where he joined the RCNVR in late 1943, at the age of 18. He took his basic training in western Canada – almost certainly at HMCS Naden – and joined the newly-commis­sioned HMCS Sioux in Ports­mouth, England, on Feb. 22, 1944. He served on her until the end of the war.

Eric isn't sure that his father had his own camera, but he describes him as a pack-rat, so he must have acquired these photographs from others. But most importantly, he kept a daily journal of his time on the Sioux. Like most sailors he was obsessed with the weather and his lack of sleep – "Sleep? What's that?" – but what really comes through is the horror of what he witnessed, and how he managed to block most of it from his mind.

The ship was lucky – although there were many engagements with the enemy, they escaped major damage, and the only two deaths were from accidents. But this self-described matelot spent nearly every waking moment on the upper deck, standing endless watches in the wet, freezing cold, or as part of a gun crew as they were attacked by air­craft or sub­marines, or on one occasion, artillery from a battery on land. He was often in a haze of exhaustion but still managed to write down his thoughts. He died in 2007. He left us an enduring legacy.

Personal Diary of Colin Nicolson – February 22, 1944 to April 17, 1945.
June 7, 1944: D-Day invasion as seen from HMCS Sioux – June 7 to 23: patrols along coast of France with much action – June 24: major action involved sinking of HMS Swift – Aug. 24 to 29: attacks on Tirpitz – Sept. 7: accidental death of Signalman Robert White – Sept. 16 to Oct. 4: convoy to and from Russia – Dec. 30: accidental death of L/S James Joseph Williams – Jan. 1/45 to Jan. 21: convoy to and from Russia – Feb. 3 to 27: convoy to and from Russia – Feb. 10: survived prolonged attacks from aircraft – March 13 to 30: convoy to and from Russia – April 16: arrived Azores, en-route back home to Canada.
HMCS Naden basic training graduation, 1943/44 This graduation group photo was taken about 1943/44 at HMCS Naden. The training division may have been Hood I or Hood II, or possibly even B-170. Surnames of the men photo­graphed are: Aud, Babington, Bannister, Bolliantz, Boomer, Cooke, Cooper, Craig, Esveld, Evans, Ferris, Flaig, Flynn, Forrest, Gibbons, Gibson, Grabriel, Harrop, Heier, Hendrickson, Hillier, Hoffman, Howell, Hughes, Humes, Hymers, Jenkins, Johnson, Kehl, Kerr, Koapchiuk, Kromm, Landversitch, Lowe, Main, Martman, McMahon, McPherson, Meiers, Meloff, Moe, Nicolson, Paolini, Parker, Parry, Peltier, Rennie, Robertson, Schmidt, Schultz, Schumaker, Sleeth, Sorrel, Swanson, Thornburrow, Toninato, Trono, Turner, Weichel, Widdell, Wilbon, Willis, Zemp, Zimmer. There are many signatures with home towns on the back of the photo, including some who were absent from the photo session – those names are: Ceogg(?), Luthrie (possibly Guthrie), Maddia, Wilton. All of the recruits who signed the back of the photo were from western Canada, the most easterly being "The Soo". HMCS Sioux on North Sea Patrol, 1944 Ten photos of HMCS Sioux, the ship which Colin Nicolson served on throughout WW2. Surnames of people shown: Bilton, Bourke, Nicolson, and a mascot, Hairless Joe, a dog which seems to have been fished out of the ocean. Not to mention two photos of King George VI, inspecting the ship's company. Invasion of Juno Beach, Normandy Five photos of the invasion of Juno Beach, Normandy, June, 1944. The photos were mostly taken from HMCS Sioux by RCN photographer S. Short. Only vessel identified is LCT950. HMS Berwick on convoy duty in North Sea, 1944/45 Five photos of North Sea patrols and convoys to Russia, 1944. Good photos of HMCS Sioux, HMS Berwick, & HMS Rodney. HMS Swift sinks after hitting a mine, 1944 Three photos. HMS Swift sinks after hitting a mine off the coast of France, June, 24, 1944. HMCS Sioux picked up 14 survivors. HMS Nabob still afloat after being torpedoed, 1944 Seven photos – six of HMCS Saguenay, and one of HMS Nabob, both severely damaged. Saguenay had its stern blown off when a collision with a freighter detonated its depth charges, and Nabob was torpedoed by a U-boat on August 22, 1944, but was able to limp 1,600 km back to harbour. Torpedo crew on HMCS Sioux, 1944/45 Three photos – two of men in HMCS Sioux's torpedo crews. Some of the same men may be in both photos. The only one identified is Sykes. There is also one photo of a torpedo being fired from the ship. HMCS Sioux Chief Petty Officers Crotty & Falls & Johnson & Parnell & Short Five photos of HMCS Algonquin, including one of Admiral Nelles inspecting the crew at the ship's commissioning, Feb. 17, 1944. C.P.Os identified by surname: Crotty, Falls, Johnson, Parnell, Short. HMCS Stettler, 1944/45 12 photos of several RCN ships, including Farmiles and a Harbour Craft, but also a Norwegian frigate, a Swedish hospital ship, and a surrendered U-boat. The only man identified is Lt-Cdr. J.C. Stubbs. Ships shown: HMCS Assiniboine, Huron, Kapuskasing, Stettler, Uganda, HC-317; as well as SS Drottningholm, HNoMS Stord, and U-190. HMCS Sioux crew members 17 photos of crew members of HMCS Sioux, who were friends of Colin Nicolson. Surnames of those shown: Bourke, Dorman, Gallagher, Hamm(?), Heier, Kitchen, Lamoureaux, MacAskill, Majewski, McMahon, Montgomery, Nicolson, Sykes. Others are identified by first name only. Tom Bilton & Colin Nicolson of HMCS Sioux Ten photos in another photo collection of crew members of HMCS Sioux, who were friends of Colin Nicolson. Surnames of those shown: Bilton, Bourke, Hamm, Heier. Unidentified sailor with kittens on HMCS Sioux, 1944/45 16 photos of mostly unidentified crew members of HMCS Sioux, plus various others, plus two cats and a dog. Surnames of those shown: Heier, Moe, Nicolson, plus kittens Comp and Hodge. The photo of Moe shows a mate of Colin's from basic training at HMCS Naden, and is shown with a "Hood" sign, which was their training division. Unknown ships at anchor Six photos of unidentified ships. The photos all seem to have been taken on or from HMCS Sioux.

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