The purpose of this blog entry is to help all newcomers to Canada to understand some holidays/statuary days that are not well-known abroad. Embrace the Canadian ways and not forget one of many on-field stories of those who have served.
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day owing to the tradition of wearing a remembrance poppy) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War to honour armed forces members who have died in the line of duty.
I had the honour and opportunity to meet and interview Mr. Edar Barlow Huges, a 97-years old veteran (as of November 2021) who served in the Navy. Before I start spreading his story, I must say it was a delightful experience. Mr. Hughes is a very strong man, you couldn't tell he is 97 at simple sight. When I arrived, I found him playing the piano. After he finished playing, we headed to his room. He walks very fast!
He started to tell me about his days in the navy and some funny stories. When he was enlisted and doing his health exam, medical examiners agreed with him of being all navy just by watching his toes! Mr. Hudges showed me an old photo when he was young (a very appealing man), that reminded him of another story when he was in his 40's and when visiting a bar, nobody could guess his age; everybody was thinking he was in his 20's.
At that time, joining the forces was not a voluntary thing, Mr. Huges told me about the day he found out he had to serve. He was 18 at that time and his first impression was watching his mother crying while reading a letter. "You have been called to serve.", she told him.
He currently resides in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada.
My Navy days began on May 17" 1943 at H.M.S. Glendower in North Wales, U.K. There | did my seamanship training, and from there on to Liverpool to H.M.S. Wellesley for Gunnery training. From there | was transferred to H.M/.S. Chrysanthemum, (she was a small WW1 training ship on the River Thames in London, U.K.) to await transit. After ten days on her, a group of us went by rail to Gourock, Scotland to board a troop-ship to New York. Then from there, on a train to Ashbury Park, New Jersey for nine days of gunnery at sea. From there we boarded a train headed for Halifax Nova Scotia, we spent one night at H.M.C.S. Stadacona. The next night we moved to the Knights of Columbus Hostel of Hollis Street. | was there for about three weeks. | celebrated my nineteenth birthday while stationed there. From there we travelled by CP rail to Vancouver B.C.
The rest of the story is included in the following pages. It is a write-up of some of my experiences during some of my Navy days.
Provincial Service Officer Royal Canadian Legion Br 297 Cornwall, ON, she advised to print this incident.
Then, we carried on to Juno Beach, Normandy. We stood by action stations to cover the discharge of troops. Late the following morning we left for Tilbury to get more supplies, etc. We encountered our first V1's or Doodle Bug, better known as the “Flying Bomb”. One' of my D.E.M.S. buddies downed it with a round for the starboard deck Oerlikon.
After the last trip, our 15™ before we were sent on leave, (at last!) one of our artistic gunners painted small French Flags, one for each trip we made. And on the side of the Bridge he painted the silhouette of a Doodle Bug. By this time it was August 1944, and I went on a seven day leave, after which I was assigned to a new ship, the S.S. Fort Covington upon Newcastle upon Tyne. On arrival there was a small group of Wrens assisting with the installation of torpedo nets. The only difference in armament from the St. Croix was that she had 40mm Bofor instead of A.A. Rockets. We sailed for Antwerp, Belgium with more supplies and equipment for troops fighting in the area. While sailing up the Scheldt River, we saw a number of Doodle Bugs on the way but not close enough to take action.
Our third trip to Antwerp we passed a few ships with just the bridge, funnel and mast showing above the water. Apparently sunk from the mines we thought. On our way back to England for more supplies down the Scheldt there was an explosion just astern of us. It was a Liberty ship that had been hit, sadly we watched her as she slowly began to sink. Because of this, we were advised to be extra alert of our surroundings.
On our fourth trip to Antwerp I was on work detail cleaning one of the starboard quarter Oerlikon guns when I happened to look out. At a distance toward Ostend shore I saw an object. It appeared to be something like an oil drum drifting out to sea; the tide was on the ebb. Because of the uncertainty of the mines we were doing about six knots. I went back to my work detail, but my curiosity got the better of me and I looked up again and thought I would try to estimate the position of the drum. After two more sightings of this object, it had changed direction and appeared to be coming towards us. After a quick decision, I ran aft to the four inch gun platform and grabbed the binoculars off our watchman and saw that the object was in fact a small sub. As I turned to punch the alarm button, the order from the bridge came to fire, apparently the officers on the Bridge had seen my actions. A report was submitted on our arrival at Antwerp. On our return to the U.K, we were visited by a delegation of high ranking Naval Officers. I was commended for my alertness and quick action.
From the Antwerp operation we were assigned to a trip to Rotterdam in Holland. Ast the dock facilities had been destroyed by Germans, we had to secure to buoys close by. We damaged our bow on entering the area owing to the destruction all around us. After leaving Rotterdam we returned to dry dock in Antwerp for repairs. By the way, we had a couple of V2's drop fairly close to our ship, fortunately there was no damage to us. Also we did sentry duties and dropped grenades over the side from time to time, there was always a chance of frogmen coming alongside with Limpet mines, From there We sailed to the U.K., then to Canada. While arrival at Antwerp. On our return to the U.K. we were visited by a delegation of high ranking Naval Officers. I was commended for my alertness and quick action.
From the Antwerp operation we were assigned to a trip to Rotterdam in Holland. As the dock facilities had been destroyed by Germans, we had to secure to buoys close by. We damaged our bow on entering the area owing to the destruction all around us. After leaving Rotterdam we returned to dry dock in Antwerp for repairs. By the way, we had a couple of V2's drop fairly close to our ship, fortunately there was no damage to us. Also we did sentry duties and dropped grenades over the side from time to time, there was always a chance of frogmen coming alongside with Limpet mines. From there we sailed to the U.K., then to Canada. While there, V.E. day was declared, we were anchored in a bay (Sydney). We arrived back from Canada with supplies into St. Nazaire, France. While there I went aboard a French warship, The Gloria. On leaving St. Nazaire we discovered we were carrying extra crew. Three Germans had crept aboard, I was issued a revolver and a gun belt to guard them while on deck. When we arrived back in the U.K. a pilot boat came out with Military Police to remove the prisoners. Eventually we arrived in Scotland and sent to Naval Base, and them on to Devonport Naval Base (my depot) and demobilization and signed on R.N.R. and eventually R.N.V.R. in H.M.S. Wave, then in 1953 I did more sea training on H.M.S Wizard. I finally retired from Navy in 1954.
It has taken me a long time to put this story to paper. I will never forget my Navy days. It wasn’t until one of the service clubs that I belong to suggested it would be a good idea to write about some of my experiences during the war. Which could be submitted and used in one of our monthly newsletters. So I thought it was time to make my contribution....why keep it down inside.
The Service Clubs I belong to are: the RN Association, the RCN Association, I and The Royal Canadian Legion.
“Once Navy, Always Navy”
Ex RN D/jx552662
Mr. Hughes showed to me his navy suit with his medals. Quite impressive.
Another Photo and His Quote
Before I had to go, I took him another photo.
I must say it was quite an interesting and enjoyable talk.
Thank you for your service!