Navy vet recalls the gifts and sacrifices of war

William Lines remembers that the Second World War changed his life … for the better.

“I got a wife out of it,” he said with a smile. “I met her in Montreal. I wouldn’t have met her if I hadn’t been stationed there.”

Lines added that he also received a valuable education during the war and that led to employment with Bell Canada after the war.

Lines said he grew up near Victoria, B.C. In 1942, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy, and was sent to Calgary for training as an engine room artificer. ERAs were responsible for just about everything below decks aboard wartime ships.

“We were sent to the exhibition grounds, where they have the Calgary Stampede,” he said. “They set up classrooms there and training centres.”

Lines was assigned to an ocean-going tug in Montreal, and that’s where he met Julia, the woman he would marry.

In late 1944, Lines and his tug served on the St. Lawrence River, near Gaspé, Que.

“We were the standby tug for Gaspé,” Lines said. “German submarines were coming up into the St. Lawrence there.”

Lines stayed there until the day after Christmas, 1944, when his tug was transferred to Halifax.

He recalled that the harbours, such as the one at Halifax, were protected by loop stations, large circles of cable on the harbour floor that could detect the magnetic field of submarines.

“Sometimes ships coming into the harbour would (accidentally hook onto) these things and break them. So our job was to go out and patch them.”

Lines said he worked in Halifax until the end of the war, when he received his discharge. He returned to Julia in Montreal.

Thinking back on his wartime experiences, Lines said it’s important to remember. “(Remembrance Day) ceremonies are very important,” he said. “Wars are never going to cease. And unfortunately, people never learn.”