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24 June 2010

100 Years of Our Navy

Naval Memories of John Trafford

Belleville resident John Trafford joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserves in 1940, following his friends and his own patriotic instincts in the early years of World War II. At this time, the Navy was growing so quickly that they took back John's uniform and gave it to another division, forcing him to arrive in Halifax for training in civilian clothing.

After beginning as an Ordinary Seaman, John quickly rose through the ranks to become a Petty Officer Wireless Operator. Trafford found, at the age of eighteen, that adjusting to naval life was fairly easy, despite the occasional bout of seasickness.

John describes his time in the Navy as a great adventure. John was also a crew member of HMCS Columbia I-49, a Town Class Destroyer that chased the German battleship Bismark, but never caught it; he laughs that they would not have known what to do with it anyway. While traveling in the Azores on the Bangor Class minesweeper HMCS Mulgrave J313, she ran aground and needed to be towed 1600 miles to Scotland.

John was also part of the 31st Minesweeper Flotilla on D-Day on the Mulgrave. Arriving off Omaha Beach, the Mulgrave was badly damaged and decommissioned after a mine blew off the stern. Luckily, John fondly remembers, they did not lose a single person onboard. When asked how he felt about the Normandy invasion, John casually explains that to the crew, who are constantly at sea and waiting for something to happen, anything involving navy routine is a part of daily life. John reflects that D-Day "did not affect me personally, it was just another trip at sea, but still a very active day."

While constantly fighting the harsh weather conditions and German mines, John found that the Navy inspired in him and the entire crew a strong sense of camaraderie, since "your neck depends on the guy you work with"; as a result, John developed many lasting friendships. The Navy also enabled him to get a university education: "If the war hadn't come along I probably would have ended up working in a factory" observes John, who feels that the Navy has given him a better outlook on life.

John Trafford
John remembering life at sea

Today, after a successful career with Corrections Canada, John resides in Belleville. At age eighty-nine he remains enthusiastic and energetic, cycling over thirty kilometres to Picton to share his story with the Archives and Collections Society.

Natalie Anderson and Madelaine Johnson


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