Life at sea was a boyhood fantasy for Dick Green.
“We didn’t know anything about it, it was a dream, something we read about and heard on the radio,” he said.
He was born in Wigan, Lancashire and left England with his family in 1927 when he was five years old. His father worked coal mining in Luscar, Alta. and by the time Green was 18, he had moved to Vancouver and was working in the shipyards building freighters.
When the Second World War started in 1939, he and his younger twin brothers all joined the Royal Canadian Navy. Green was sent to join Anti-Submarine Detection Incorporated Corps (ASDIC) and spent six months patrolling on the HMS Courtenay from Prince Rupert.
Then it was on to Halifax for more training.
“One night we were put on a train not knowing where we were going and three days later we were in South Carolina where we picked up a British cruiser, HMS Arethusa, and were on our way to Scotland,” said Green.
He was put on duty on the HMCS Algonquin, a destroyer that was 360 feet long with a crew of 250. The Algonquin was part of a convoy of 48 ships bringing tanks, oil and supplies to Russia in 1944.
“There was constant danger from submarines and planes because the Germans had air bases in Norway,” he said, adding that one good thing was that he was able to visit his grandparents and other family members in England while he was there.
The Algonquin was one of the ships that took Canadian troops to Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
“We were in England and it was all very secretive. All of a sudden, on June 5, we were told to get our gear together and we knew we were going to France. When we got there at 4:30 a.m. it was still dark. We were about a block from the beach maybe and laying gunfire on the beach ahead of the soldiers landing. We shot every shell we had after about four hours. So many died,” he said.
“I would never want to see anything like that again. All those people killed.”
The ship stayed in the area until August to patrol then went to Scapa Flow, a naval base in the north of Scotland, and took part in a second convoy to Russia in September.
Green received a medal of recognition from the Russian government in honour of his service on the Murmansk Run, bringing supplies 4,000 miles across the top of Scandinavia from Great Britain to Russia during the war. He also received the Government of Russia Ushakov Medal for his convoy duty.
Green had signed up for duty in the Far East and returned to Canada to prepare but was not needed there. He was on leave in Vancouver on VE Day May 8, 1945.
“It was exhilarating. Everyone was very happy and it was a big celebration. My twin brothers also made it through the war. I think people should know more about the war so they don’t make those mistakes again. I wouldn’t want to do it again.”
Green and his wife, Evlyn, worked in the hospitality industry until they retired to Vernon in 1993.