Amica at Beechwood Village
Foreign Service – British Navy
David was indentured as an Apprentice in 1938 to Andrew Weir & Company. They operated the motor ships of the Bank Line and he served in the Levernbank in the deck department. He served three years and nine months until his apprenticeship was completed. He then attended a course in London for three months of courses and sat five examinations and an oral interview to become qualified as a Mate. As it was then wartime, and he was moved into the London Pool of seamen for disposition to merchant ships.
When the war started he stood watches and carried out convoy work such as signalling with Aldous lamps (in morse code) flags and security work.
David was serving as 4th Mate on the steamship Port Nicholson, in convoy XB-25 when it was torpedoed on June 16, 1942 by the German submarine U-87. The Port Nicholson was first hit in the engine room where two crew members on watch below were killed, a second torpedo hit aft and caused her to settle by the stem.
David was watch and sleeping at the time of the explosions and the two torpedoes. On awakening he put on his overcoat and lifejacket and was picked up by HMCS Nanaimo (under Lieutenant T.J. Bellas, RCNR) along with the Master, 79 other crew members and four DEMS gunners.
At dawn, the ship was still afloat and it was decided to re-board her to assess the damage and chances of salvage. The boarding party consisted of the Master, the Chief Engineer, one officer and three ratings from the corvette. After they had boarded the vessel, the wind came up and the rough seas broke the weakened bulkheads causing the ship to sink quickly by the stem. The men climbed down the ladders and got into the lifeboat but the suction from the sinking ship overturned the lifeboat, drowning the Master, the Engineer, the naval officer and one rating. The remaining crew members were taken to Boston.
In September 1942, David served as Third Mate in the Fort Chilcotin on a large convoy to the French port Algiers in North Africa. Accompanied by Royal Navy ships they were bombed and David recalls that two ships were hit and a tanker exploded. He saw plenty of bomb damage in the port when they arrived, a result of air raids. Since they were carrying war cargo, they proceeded on to Alexandria, Egypt to deliver searchlights, anti-aircraft guns and large electrical cables. The coiled cables shifted in the hold and caused the ship to list dangerously to thirty degrees.
After arrival in Alexandria it was discovered that the coils had become tangled and could not be removed without cutting them up (which rendered them useless). David and his shipmates picked up a large party of Australian troops in Haifa bound for Crete but had to return when they learned that German paratroops had landed in Crete the same day.
After the war, David immigrated to Canada, where he became a Marine Pilot in British Columbia, piloting more than 2,000 vessels before he retired in 1984.