Friday, November 11, 2005

Remembrance Day From A Different Perspective

Today I am going to introduce you to my grandfather, Albert Burtenshaw, a proud Merchant Marine.

Burt loved the water. He joined the MM at the age of 16 and when called to duty, he courageously sailed until his last day of service in 1944, when he was blown off a mercantile ship a few miles off the coast of Nova Scotia during the long, drawn out Battle of the Atlantic.

Of course, this was not the first time Burt had been torpedoed off a vessell ... it was his 3rd!!

The role of the MM during WWII was to deliver troops, ammo, equipment, food and other goods, clothing, bombs, planes - you name it. Although considered civilians, they faced the same dangers as the regular enlisted navy.

Burt served with pride and distinction. He never complained and always said the guys in the army were the heroes.

Although he never spoke much about his time in the war, one of the memories forever etched in his mind was that of his attempt to save a ship's nurse during the sinking of the 2nd vessell he was on. His efforts proved futile.. only to swim with her 3 miles to find her dead.

The years of drinking spent after the war did little to ease the pain of this memory, nor any of the other nightmares that scarred his psyche. He died of cancer and alcohol related illness in 1979 at the age of 69.

As a kid, I did not appreciate the depth of his anguish, nor the supreme sacrifice he made for his country and family. I also never thanked him. Today, I want him to know that I understand ... I finally understand.

Rest well Gramps ... and THANK YOU FOR YOUR BRAVERY.

Here is some info about the Merchant Marines, compliments of the War Amps:

- If a ship was sunk, the survival rate for the crew was only 50%.

- One in 7 mariners serving aboard merchant ships in WWII died in the line of duty. The merchant ships faced dangers from U-boats, mines, armed raiders and destroyers, aircraft, and the elements.

- During 1942, there was an average of 33 Allied mercantile ships sunk each week.

- The casualty rate for civilian sailors Merchant Seamen was far higher than that of all the armed services combined. In the first two years of the war, merchant seaman deaths (attributed to enemy action) reached a staggering 25,000 mostly British but including Canadian sailors.


At Fri. Nov. 11, 06:22:00 p.m. MST, Blogger ABFreedom said...

Your grandfather was a great man and deserves our highest respect for his efforts. All these men who risked everything are in our prayers, and may they rest in peace.

At Fri. Nov. 11, 08:35:00 p.m. MST, Blogger Justthinkin said...

Thanks Aiz...helps with my memories of my gramps who died 13 months ago at 89. He spoke very little of his time in the war, but you could tell it had a profound effect on his life. My 1st Mother-in-law lost 5 uncles in WWII, all at the same time on the same ship in the MM. She told me it was this tragedy that lead to the regular Navy trying to never put more than 1 family member on the same ship during the rest of the war.

At Sat. Nov. 12, 09:17:00 a.m. MST, Blogger Aizlynne said...

Thanks AB. I didn't understand at the time that he volunteered his services.. they weren't mandatory and he was never drafted.

Jamie - I am sorry to hear about your grandfather passing. And I thank him for his services. Honourable men are never forgotten.

At Sat. Nov. 12, 10:03:00 a.m. MST, Blogger Sycorax said...

No they are not Aiz... Just like your grandfather.

At Sat. Nov. 12, 01:28:00 p.m. MST, Blogger TonyGuitar said...

Yes I'll throw in here too to remember the Merchant Seamen who were military in the sense they braved terrible odds to keep Britian supplied with war strength.

Those odds were clear from the Halifax papers, yet they were willing to gamble their lives for freedom. We owe them everything.

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At Sun. Nov. 13, 02:06:00 a.m. MST, Blogger Candace said...

Aiz, I'm sure your grandpa understood then, and quite likely now. It's hard for us to even try to guess what they went through, and likely equally hard for them to explain.

At Sun. Nov. 13, 09:05:00 p.m. MST, Blogger Debris Trail said...

Aiz: The Merchant Marine took on one of the nastiest jobs of WW2, and our government ignored them for it. Because they weren't considered regular combat troops, they did not get the post-war perks that most vets got. In fact, I don't think they are qualified as vets to this day. It was all a cynical move by the government to avoid paying pension and other benefits.

Men like your grandfather kept England alive in 1940 - 1942, and then made possible the build up to invasion. They crossed the North Atlantic in ships that today would not be considered seaworthy in that part of the globe. The North Atlantic, like Cape Horn, is considred a viscious traverse. Yet they went back and forth the entire war, and in 1941-42 took incredible losses.

So much is made of the fliers who saved Britian juring the Battle of Britian, but all to little is said of the men who brought hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies to England at a time when the German Submarines had the run of the Atlantic.

We owe them... Europe owes them an incredible debt.

At Wed. Nov. 16, 09:34:00 a.m. MST, Blogger W.L. Mackenzie Redux said...

Interestingly enough it is the Merchant meriners who were being refused pension top off for their service...I recall seeing a senior citizen from the MM picketing Parliament hill for years...with no resolve....the same stone hearted bureaucratic tyranny that robbed war widows and incapacitated veterans of their pensions.

As I have said many times, from the perspective of service to the nation, the current liberal regime and it's vast control bureaucracy are unworthy to even lick the boot of the humblest veteran.


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