Dick Esralian - Stoker First Class - ( Born? - 2009)


Story is from http://www.duffpublishing.ca

They were the two worst storms that Dick has ever seen, ones which will never leave his memory. He had no idea that storms could be so ferocious. How the cold winds howled and the mountainous waves rolled!

On one trip in taking a convoy to Londonderry, Waskesiu was near Greenland and Iceland when a terrible North Atlantic storm struck her. The sailors used hammers and other tools to break the ice that formed on the deck when the waves swept over the ship. It was such that the frigate would not carry any extra weight.

Later, Dick was told that he missed by two weeks being transferred to a ship that went to Murmansk. That was another trip which had problems with ice forming on a ship.

On the last convoy duty, following a stop at the Azores, Waskesiu passed into a minor storm whose swells were so great that numerous sailors feared that the ship might roll over. Happily, it stayed upright.

Dick was born in St. Catharines, Ontario.

He served at HMCS Star, in Hamilton, for his basic training, then at HMCS Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, for advanced basic training. After their completion, he was assigned to HMCS Magog, a frigate, which was torpedoed by an enemy submarine. He was then assigned to HMCS Waskesiu, another frigate. Finally, he was assigned to HMCS Woodstock, a corvette, for Pacific duty until the end of the war. In October 1945, he was discharged from naval service.

He was in the engineering branch from 1943 to 1945, his title being Stoker 1st Class. His belief is that on board ship or ashore in the barracks the food menu was the same.

His impression of the naval service was that he was only seventeen years of age at the time of enlisting and learned in a hurry how to become a man. He had no experience in the world before then and, thus, was taken aback when he saw what human beings do. It was quite an education in learning that people live differently.

HMCS Magog was a frigate built in Montreal, Quebec. Dick was part of the temporary crew to pick her up at the shipyard and then take her on trial runs twice to Bermuda, after which she was assigned to North Atlantic convoy duties.

The frigate left Halifax to meet a convoy of freighter ships from Montreal in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to help escort them across the Atlantic to Londonderry. One day later, she arrived in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. At 10:25 AM on October 14, 1944, as they were leaving with the convoy, there was a deafening noise and the ship shook. What had happened?

Magog had received a torpedo on her stern. Dick was on duty as stoker in the boiler room making steam at the time. Since they lost approximately sixty-five feet (20 m) of her stern, they shut everything down and the men had free time on board. What saved her from sinking was that the stern curled up instead of slicing off. There were incorrect news reports that the incident occurred late at night. They lost three members of the crew in the incident.

Attaching lines to the bow of Magog, HMCS Toronto towed her until the tugs arrived and completed the trip to Levis, Quebec. She was decommissioned on December 20, 1944, and scrapped.

Following the loss of Magog, Dick and most of the others of the crew, including the commanding officer, Lt.-Cdr. Quick, were transferred to HMCS Waskesiu when she returned to Halif

Although he had fun on leaves in Londonderry, he did not meet many people because he was very shy. Wherever he was, he did not go out of his way to do anything because of his shyness.

At a later date, Waskesiu was returning from Europe when the captain received news that Victory in Europe had been declared. He had orders to sail to a certain location in the Atlantic Ocean as there would be an enemy submarine waiting for his ship. Aboard that U-boat was a high-ranking German officer who was to surrender to the Canadian crew.

Waskesiu went to the location, but there was no German ship. The enemy played cat-and-mouse with the Canadians for two days, going from one place to another. Then, the captain received news that the officer wished to be picked up, not by a Canadian ship, but by an American ship. He preferred the Americans because he wanted to live in the United States after the war. When an American destroyer arrived, he surrendered and was taken to the U.S. base at Norfolk, Virginia. Dick and the other non-officers were given no details about the German officer.

After returning to Halifax, Waskesiu set out for the Canadian west coast via the Gulf of Mexico and the Panama Canal. At Colon, Panama, the ship needed repairs because of an accident in the canal and stopped overnight. The crew was asked to go to a park in the city where local people staged entertainment, which included Spanish music, for them. Everyone enjoyed the occasion.

Shortly after the frigate reached the Pacific Ocean, a crew member became very ill. Authorities contacted San Diego and a seaplane was sent to the rescue. After it landed near the ship, the sick sailor was placed aboard it and taken to hospital in San Diego. In three days, the ship reached that city and stayed there for another three days.

The crew also enjoyed San Diego. They were amused when American sailors would ask when they saw the Canadians, whose uniforms were the same as those of the British, “How are the Limeys today?” The visiting sailors let them know that they were from Canada.

Dick does not know the results of the inquiry at San Diego regarding the incident in the Panama Canal as he was not an officer. Only the commanding officer and the first officer knew—and they said nothing to the crew. After the three days, the sailor who had been ill came aboard and the ship continued to Vancouver.

After leaving Waskesiu at Esquimalt, Dick transferred to HMCS Woodstock to participate in the war in the Pacific Ocean. The ship was not far from Hawaii when the crew received the news that Japan had surrendered and that the captain had received orders to return to British Columbia. Dick was disappointed that he never reached Hawaii. His opinion of the corvette was not favourable as the ship bounced like a cork.

He received four medals for his part in the war, the same as all naval personnel received.

After he was discharged, he was employed by General Motors, in St. Catharines, where he was part of lower management.

In later years, he had tried to go to the public schools to tell his story, but no one had been interested. He lamented the lack of history being taught in the schools of today. He would like to add that since time began, wars have not proven anything positive.

Dick passed away on October 11, 2009.