A Canadian veteran of the ‘Newfie-Derry run’ during World War II’s Battle of Atlantic returned to the city for the first time in 68 years this week.
Bob Edwards, and his wife Gladys, from Burlington, Ontario, were on a personal pilgrimage to find landmarks he recalls from his ships’ stopovers in Derry.
Bob joined the Canadian Navy aged just 17 and served on HMCS Orangeville until the end of the war.
One of Bob’s most vivid memories of his time in the North Atlantic was when the Orangeville and a sister ship were chasing the same German U-Boat just off the north-west coast of the Ireland.
The sister ship was hit by a torpedo but stayed afloat long enough for many of the crew to be rescued and an attempt made to tow the stricken ship into port.
Bob remembers the welcome sight of the “greenness” of Ireland whenever his ship entered the Foyle estuary after the cold greyness of the North Atlantic.
He also remembers the hospitality of the Derry people and of the people he met on rare excursions to Belfast.
Bob says the crew valued getting supplies of fresh bread, especially potato bread, whenever they came into port.
Bob was involved in some of the unofficial bartering that also went on, especially over the occasional bottle of Canadian rye whiskey.
In fact, it was this last item that made his last trip to Derry, in 1945, even more memorable.
Bob found himself taken into custody by the RUC at the port gates when a bottle of rye was discovered by a sentry in the mail bag he was bringing on shore. His captain had to liberate him from the police cell in Derry without telling police that their ship was due to sail the next day.
Luckily for Bob, the Captain burned the court summons which would have prevented Bob from returning to Canada with his shipmates.
During their stay in the city this week, the Edwards visited the Base One Europe Museum at the Beech Hill Hotel.