Page 33 - Sydney Harbour in World War 2
ISSUE : Issue 13
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1976/6/1
Capt. Jack Willis, Sydney, Master of Ex? amination Vessel: They had a Boom Defence across the inside from Low Point to Southwest Bar, across from North Sydney there. And there was a gate vessel each side of the Boom Defence. ,Vhen everything was all right • the signal was all right • they would open the nets and let the ships go through, one at a time. They'd open the net and it would stay open until the convoy was in. Or they'd open the gate and let a single ship in. The signal that we gave the ship was their signal to open the gate. A ship would come to the mouth of the har? bour and we'd stop them. Flashed the sig? nal: "Stop for examination" • Morse Code. Heave to and we would board them. Every ship had a man aboard. He'd have his ques- tionaire and when he was satisfied, filled out his questions, he'd give the captain his signal. He'd see that the signal went up before he would leave the ship. Lights by night and flags or shapes by day • dia? mond and ball shapes. They'd hang these up to the yardarm, where you could best see them. When the boarding officer saw it was right he'd come down aboard the small boat and let the ship go on. And the batteries ashore were ready to fire if these ships didn't have the right signal. Each ship had a different set, set up'new for every day • and the batteries had that signal too. And when they saw the ship flying the proper signal, she'd pass on. But if there was a mistake in the signal, they would stop them by firing a shot across their bow. And if they didn't stop, they'd sink one. They fired across the bow all right but they ne? ver had to sink one. '*'f Capt. Jack Willis today and in 1942 with the officers, signalmen, engineers, fire? man, deckhands and staff of the examination vessel. HMCS Arras. Roy Bennett, Pilot: The Navy expected us to get ships out, passing through the Boom Defence, a minute apart • they'd have them scheduled • and we used to take ships of four and five hundred feet in length and not as high-powered as the ships you have today. The Navy was very cooperative then. We didn't have a fast craft on the harbour and there may be 40 ships sailing in con? voy and we were say 20 or 21 pilots. We'd all be called out on convoy day. It may be that men were on station for ships inbound and 15 of us would be dispatched for con? voy duty. Each man might have 3 ships. As you were picked off the Navy would supply a fast harbourcraft to take us back in, put us aboard the next ship. Tried to get them out only a minute or so apart. In practise it was almost impossible. The pilot station was located at Swivel Point, Sydney Mines, at the entrance to the harbour. There's very little as we knew it because shortly after we left there the coal company was removing fireclay from the surface. But we had a little shack right on the end of Swivel Point and the army built an advance lookout in the fall of 1939 • and as the searchlight and gun batteries were set up at Chapel Point, Stubbert's Point, Fort Petrie • we took over the ad? vance lookout for our pilotage lookout. We had one man on watch continually through the night. We divided the night into two- hour watches. That way hopefully you'd get a little sleep • but it seemed the navy preferred to have their sailings through the night. At times all the pilots were gone and there was ah old man, an old re? tired coal miner by the name of Rory Mac? Dougall and another man still alive, he was a blacksmith with the old Sydney col? lieries by the name of Alex MacNeil • and manys the night they stood watch for the pilots. So many ships moving we'd all be on the go. We went to work at 10 o'clock on a Cape Breton's Magazine/33
Cape Breton's Magazine