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Honouring Our Veterans - Bill's Story

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​Charles (Bill) Stanley Warnick just turned 90 this year. A month ago, he was delighted to receive a letter from Murmansk, Russia thanking him for his service in the war. ​

“We don’t’ know how they got our names,” laughs Bill. “Russia doesn’t give anyone anything. They didn’t like us tramping around in their town, but they gave us a medal for what we did.”

Canada played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic. The RCN was responsible for escorting convoys in the Northwest Atlantic. It was a hard fight requiring courage, new technology and tactics. More than 25,000 merchant ships safely made it to their destination under Canadian escort, delivering approximately 165 million tons of vitally-needed supplies to Europe. The RCN sank or helped sink more than 30 U-boats, but at a steep price. The RCN lost 14 warships to enemy attack and another eight ships to accidents at sea during the Second World War. There were more than 1,600 Canadian and Newfoundland men and women who lost their lives due to enemy action.

Canadian ships and seamen often sailed under other nations’ flags. Bill and his shipmates were recognized and honoured by Russia because there were among the Canadians that patrolled the seas to catch German submarines coming out of Europe. Their patrols took them from Murmansk, down the coast of Norway to the North Sea, to Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean.

“When you go to sea, you go where the ship takes you. You listen and do what your told. My life in the Navy was discipline and training, looking after yourself and everyone else. I was at sea for nearly five years.”

Raised by his Mother, Bill learned many of his life’s lessons on the farm with his Grandfather William. Bill was a cadet in Winnipeg when the war started. Britain sent for Canadian sailors, but they were unable to send the ships to pick them up because they didn’t have enough experienced sailors to man them. Canadians had to be shipped to England to meet their ship. Bill and his fellow cadets were gathered together in Manitoba where they were told, “Ok, you and the other guys are all 16 and you’re ready to go to England.”

“You can imagine this was quite a shock,” said Bill. “At the time, I was going around with my girlfriend.”

“’Jeeze Mac, I can’t go. I want to get married.’ I told him. He said to me, ‘That’s OK, Bill, you can get married when you get back.’”

Bill wasn’t convinced the war would be over that quickly. “So I went back to see my girlfriend to decide what to do. The next day, I called the Captain and I asked him to marry us. He said OK, and we were married before I had to leave.”

Bill was soon on the train to Halifax, then on a ship to Scotland and on to Bristol England where he finally met his ship.

“We picked up the ship and started our patrol was from Bristol to Gibraltar, into the Mediterranean and on to Italy, then back up the coast to Norway up to Murmansk,” says Bill. “They told us we’d be right back home… it just wasn’t true.”

“And she (my wife) waited for me in Winnipeg. The next time I saw her was nearly five years later.”

It was a long, grueling tour, but Bill doesn’t begrudge the time away from loved ones to serve his country.

“I made a lot of wonderful friends,” says Bill. “When you’re on a ship in close quarter with one hundred guys, you learn a lot about yourself and other people. We received excellent training and some of the officers on our ships were superb.”

Thank you, Bill for your service and your sacrifice.


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