During the first years of World War II I served in ships on convoy duty and there I found out where Hell was. I first served as a Seaman in HMCS St.Laurent. The ship had no heating system. During peacetime it had gone south every winter to avoid the cold. In the spring and fall we had a pot-bellied stove set up in the messdeck that supplied some relief from the cold while in harbour. It could not be used at sea. When the war started the stove disappeared. From there on no respite from the freezing cold and wet was available. The misery lasted for weeks at a time. At war's beginning the Canadian destroyers escorted the convoys part way across the North Atlantic and then were met by British warships that took them the rest of the way. This allowed the Canadians to return to Halifax to re-supply and re-fuel, before escorting the next convoy. Later on when the enemy submarines were operating in "Wolfpacks," we accompanied the convoys all the way, then went in to Greenock, Scotland for four hours to re-fuel. In addition to the misery of cold and wet, the St. Laurent had no refrigeration so after a few days at sea there was no fresh milk or bread. Powdered miklk was invented later on and it tasted like chalk. The absence of refrigeration also affected the meat and vegetable supply and stormy seas on the North Atlantic during the winters made it mpossible for the cooks to bake bread. If the cooks had been adequately trained the diet might have been suitable but hunger for real food often added to the misery of cold and wet. At the start of war the ships were inadequately crewed. There weren't enough men for a four watch system of two port watches and two starboard watches, so we were in port and starboard watches of four hours on and four hours off. In rough weather, after four hours in a wet or damp hammock we would go on watch and get cold and soaked for four hours before doing it over again. This is where Canadian sailors learned all about the elasticity of human endurance. After a few weeks of being constantly cold, wet, hungry and tired twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I knew where Hell was.
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Arlo M Moen
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Scotia Square RPO
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What's this book about?
AUTHOR’S NOTES: I want to make it perfectly clear; the stories in stage one of this book are unadorned fact, as true as my memory permits. These accounts constitute Naval History since they detail my servicein the destroyer, H.M.C.S. St. Laurent, when it was an escort for the first wartime convoy leaving Bedford Basin in September1939; my service in the destroyer, H.M.C.S. Saguenay, when she was torpedoed in December 1940; my service in H.M.S.Drake during the Plymouth Blitz and my service in the battleship H.M.S. Rodney during its bombardment of the German battleship, Bismark in May 1941.They are the reason I struggled to publish this book. Too many stories are being lost as Naval veterans die off: Let these not be among them. The stories in stage two are creative factual accounts of the postwarNavy. Stage three stories are vehicles to tell what it was like growing up in small town Saskatchewan in the 1930s. Stage four is the fictional product of my slightly deranged mind.
Others said : Moen, a veteran of WW2 and a long time serviceman decided in his eighties he should write a book and A Sailor’s Stories is the result. On December 1,1940, the HMCS Saguenay was torpedoed 300 miles west of Ireland by the Italian submarine Argo while escorting Convoy HG-47, and managed to return to Barrow-in-Furness largely under her own power, but with 19 dead and without most of her bow. Arlo Moen was there. He was also on board the H.M.S. Rodney, one of the ships that gave the famous last chase to the German battleship, the Bismarck. A Sailor’s Stories tells of the war and the times after the war when his ship visited Havana in the heady days of the fifties. Reading this book will make you think you are sitting with Arlo, knocking back a few rum and cokes while the stories flow. Moen shares, as well, his life as a young boy in Outback, Sask during the depression. His stories about pest houses, travelling exhibitions, and the politics of ladies’ society clubs will bring that time alive.