Remembrance Day: East York sailor recalls adventures

For Jim Lister, this Remembrance Day commemorated a positive and life-changing experience.

Lister grew up in East York, and fondly remembers summers swimming in the Don River.

Perhaps his enjoyment of the water is what encouraged him to join the sea cadets as a teenager – and that in turn led to his interest in the navy. In 1945, as the Second World War was drawing to a close, Lister became a sailor.

Initially stationed in Halifax, Lister eventually sailed to the Falkland Islands, Chile, Trinidad, and Brazil. Meanwhile, Lister’s older brothers,  stationed in France and England,  saw combat in Europe… and one of them was killed in action.

Described as a “great loss” by Lister, the death of his brother profoundly altered the social fabric of his family. Nevertheless, Lister describes his own time in the military in mostly positive terms, helped by camaraderie among shipmates.

“Every day was a different day. Some days were rough, some days were normal,” remembers Lister.

One of his greatest adventures came four years after the war. On Nov. 15, 1949, a B-29 bomber flying from California to Bermuda had to ditch in the Atlantic after a mechanical failure. Another aircraft found the plane and radioed to Lister’s ship, the Haida, to save the fallen airmen.

At the time, Lister, stationed in the wheelhouse, took directions to steer the ship toward the downed USAF plane. HMCS Haida rescued 18 crew from the B-29 and took them to hospital in Bermuda.

“We were glad to have been able to do that,” Lister remembers. “They were in need of help and we helped them.” But he downplays the notion of heroism among the Haida’s crew: “You just had to do your job.”

Every year, Lister participates in East York’s Remembrance Day observance – and he takes pride in educating people about the importance of the day… and the dedicated service of many soldiers, sailors and airmen who sacrificed their lives for their country.