Don Young, who sailed four years as a merchant mariner, hopes Canadians will use Sept. 3 to remember the contributions of the merchant navy during the Second World War. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Former merchant mariner living in Sidney hopes Canadians won’t forget

Don Young said merchant navy made a war-winning contribution

A Sidney mariner asks Vncouver Islanders to take a moment this Labour Day weekend to reflect on the contributions of the mariners during the Second World War.

Don Young, who sailed on two British Petroleum oil tankers and an iron ore carrier between 1959 to 1963 before coming to Canada, said merchant mariners made a decisive contribution to the war.

Their efforts helped win the war, especially during its early phase, when Nazi Germany sought to starve out the United Kingdom by cutting its supply lines from other parts of the western world, including Canada.

Merchants mariners also shipped large stocks of supply from the United States to the Arctic port of Murmansk former USSR. That port was guarded by German planes and submarines based in occupied Norway and sustained Malta, which served as an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean that harassed and eventually strangled supply lines to German-Italian forces in North Africa.

“If those places had fallen, we wouldn’t be sitting here as we are today,” he said.

RELATED: Reminiscing with one of Canada’s oldest submariners

RELATED: Families, spectators wave goodbye to Navy Task Force from Victoria shorelines

Sept. 3 marked Merchant Navy Veterans Day. Canada’s merchant navy during the Second World consisted of non-military vessels and crews that nonetheless fought as combatants during the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted the entirety of the war. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, 12,000 men and women served in the merchant navy, making more than 25,000 voyages. About 1,500 Canadians, including eight women, died with 59 Canadian-registered merchant ships lost.

Young said public memory often loses sight of these figures.

“It wasn’t just the loss of ships. It was the loss of lives.”

BritishandlaterAmericanmerchantmarinersalsosufferedlossesinthethousandsonvoyagesduringwhichtheyfacedmultiplechallenges.Sailingonamixtureofoldandnewshipswithrudimentaryquartersandweapons,thesesailorsnotonlybravedroughconditionsoftheAtlantic,butalsothethreatofGermanU-Boatsstalkingthemlikewolvesstalkingdeer.Lossesappearedespeciallyhighduringthefirsthalfofthewar,beforesuperiorAlliedtechnology,aircoverandindustrialproductionturnedtheGermanhuntersintothehunted.

The question of recognizing the contributions of merchant mariners gained prominence during the 1980s and 1990s, but it was not until 2003 that Canada joined other countries in making Sept. 3 a day of remembrance.

Young’s interest in the history and contributions of the merchant navy does not just spring from his own professional background, but also from personal history.

“I had relatives, who had been in the Royal Navy,” said Young, who was born in January 1939 near Newcastle-on-the-Tyne. As a child growing up during wartime, he benefited from the merchant navy. Newcastle’s location as a transportation hub near the Atlantic Ocean and status as industrial production centre in northwestern England had also made the city specifically and the area generally a target of German planes.

Young still remembers how his father hustled Young and the rest of the family including a twin brother to the air-raid shelters as searchlights, anti-aircraft fire and planes pierced the night sky.

“That was my most vivid memory of the war,” he said.

Growing up near the Atlantic also fostered a love for the sea among Young. “We used spent holidays on the seaside.”

Soon, Young knew exactly what he wanted do, telling his school’s headmaster in no uncertain term when he asked Young and his twin brother about their career plans.

“He had one twin sitting on one knee, and me on the other. And he asked, ‘what, are you going to be when you grow up? A fireman or what?’ And I said, ‘no, I’m going to be a sailor.’ From then, I had sought my sights on being at sea.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Sidney

Just Posted

New report finds ‘chronic’ shortage of daycare spaces across Greater Victoria

52 per cent of demand met in the best for six surveyed communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man walking from Hope to Saanich for healing, reconciliation

‘Kind Lightning’ James Taylor departed Sunday for five days journey

Out on a Limb: What I learned from living through a pandemic

Awesome, I thought, when the pandemic hit, I’ll learn some new skills.

Masks and temperature checks now mandatory to enter Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Mall says it’s the first in B.C. to put these kind of measures in place

RCMP: Trio arrested, firearms seized after report of shots fired in rural Qualicum Beach

Police say search also found evidence of large-scale drug operation

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Purebred breeders go for a walk in Nanaimo to show off their dogs

Purebred dog breeders sometimes get a bad rap, says event organizer

Victoria man to run marathon after overcoming rare cancer diagnosis

Nigel Deacon was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2010

Authors nominated for Victoria Book Prize awards

Finalists for 2020 announced in two categories

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

B.C. ELECTION: Comox Valley ridings short on voter options as snap election called

Courtenay-Comox riding has two candidates; Mid Island-Pacific Rim only has one

West Shore RCMP seeks video footage after homeowner interrupts Colwood break and enter

Police were called to 600-block of Stornoway Drive late Sunday

VIU Elder College going online with dozens of courses this fall

There are 16 courses in the September session

Most Read