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VE Day in HMCS Niobe

HMCS Niobe Ravenscraig, Greenock, Scotland was an RCN shore establishment in the U.K. during the Second World War. The following text is adapted from the The Crow's Nest : News of Canada's Navy, July 1945.
Captain J. R. Hunter, HMCS Niobe
An earlier photograph of NIOBE's commanding officer (from the Crow's Nest, July 1943, p. 11). Lt.-Cdr. John R. Hunter, R.C.N.V.R. popular "Skipper" of H.M.C.S. PREVOST takes time out here from a busy day to strike a familiar pose for the photographer. Lt.-Cdr. Hunter has guided many hundreds of sailors who get their start in London. In his career as Commanding Officer he has played the role of everything from business adviser to Cupid. A draft of ratings never leaves London without his familiar words of advice. He was in command of one of the famous M.L.'s during the first world war.

Sound that trumpet, crash those cymbals, for VE Day in HMCS Niobe was one of the happiest and most successful days in the history .of the establishment. It was no makeshift affair for the whole idea and, plan had been worked out weeks before by Captain J. R. Hunter (LCdr, Acting Captain, RCNVR, seniority 1 January 1943. Ed.) and Commander E. M. Detchon (LCdr, Acting Commander, RCNVR, seniority 1 January 1944 Ed.).

The actual VE Day announcement took place at a most precise moment, May 7th, when fellow Canadians from another service were present. Captain J. R. Hunter made a short speech at the conclusion of the visiting RCAF "All Clear" show in the Drill Hall. The show itself had been one of the finest ever to visit HMCS Niobe and the announcement of VE Day further kindled the spirits. The show people were all smiles when the Captain gave the glad tidings and a gentle reminder that the entire battle against world domination was not complete; there was still a job to be done. In all it was a down to earth speech packed full of human interest.

Before announcing officially Niobe's plans for a VE celebration the following evening Captain Hunter congratulated his ships' company on their work. There was a genuine lump in his throat which could be easily detected as he realized he would perhaps never again address all his men again. For many VE meant home and loved ones.

News of the termination of fighting in Europe spread rapidly through the barracks after the concert and before long the courtyard and quarterdeck was teeming with naval personnel. Actually a VE celebration took place on this evening. Many members of the Niobe band brought their instruments to the courtyard while all the ship's company aboard chanted "We Want The Captain," until Captain Hunter appeared. He was hoisted shoulder high while the ship's company sang "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow."

While the band struck up marching tunes the ship's company followed their Commanding Officer around the barracks and RCNH and onto the sports field where they gathered in a circle around Captain Hunter and the Niobe Band. The band played many Canadian songs and a few Scottish airs and folk songs but the hit song of the evening was a song made famous by Harry Lauder, "I Belong To Glasgow."

It seemed fitting that this tribute should be paid to Scotland, which has served as a foster home to the men of Niobe throughout the past few years of the war.

A "make and mend" was declared the following day, May 8th, as soon as the final arrangements and work had been completed for the official VE celebration. There was a colorful parade led by a rating attired in regalia of a naval officer complete with four straight painted stripes. A dance was held on the bowling green. The remainder of the band played a band concert on a stage set up on the sports field.

Ample stocks of food were at hand on tables set up on the field and there for the taking. Twenty one barrels of beer secured at Edinburgh especially for the occasion provided the liquid refreshment. A huge pile of debris and stumps had previously been placed on the field with a cardboard "Hitler" adorning the huge pile for a victory bonfire.

Niobe had an "open gangway" for the celebration but few men left the establishment, preferring to remain in barracks or bring in their lady friends.



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Revised: 6 May 2013