Dean Rownd showed his love of Canada and its people by enlisting in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942.
Recovering from a broken hip and a stroke that has affected his speech, the alert 94-year-old Navy veteran said he would have gone to war again to protect Canada’s freedom.
Rownd was working in a Vancouver machine shop when the owner’s son enlisted. Rownd, who was 17 at the time, followed suit.
“It was the thing to do,” he remembers simply.
Rownd was sent to Halifax and assigned to the frigate HMCS Saint John as an oilman. His job was to keep the ship’s steam engines running smoothly.
The Saint John headed to Newfoundland to join a convoy of about 150 ships. Rownd remembers that one of them was lost to a German submarine during the crossing of the Atlantic.
On Sept. 1, 1944, the Saint John and HMCS Swansea sank a German submarine off the western coast of Cornwall, England.
In December 1944, his ship was assigned to escort convoys on the North Russia or Murmansk run to and from Kola Inlet near Murmansk.
The extremely dangerous route into the Arctic Ocean was used to deliver desperately needed materials – much of it from North America – to the Soviet Union.
The Saint John was present on D-Day. Rownd recalled the ship being out on the ocean off Juno Beach but not engaging in action.
“The chief engineer, he disappeared. He had a chance to jump ship and go home to his wife and kids,” he recalled.
“We were sent to the Channel Islands and we thought the Germans were gone. That was a nasty surprise. We were blowing smokescreens and getting out of there as fast as we could.”
Rownd also remembered being on one of six ships travelling in single file as they patrolled off the coast of France where the Germans established a submarine base.
“One evening we thought we had a sub. It was on the top of the water,” Rownd said with a grin.
“We were ready to attack but nothing was there. At daybreak, we discovered it was a large ball of foil.”
On Feb. 16, 1945, HMCS Saint John destroyed its second submarine, this time in Moray Firth, off the northern coast of Scotland.
“We were using hedgehogs, shooting them off the bow,” Rownd said of the British designed, forward-throwing anti-submarine weapon that fired up to 24 spigot mortars ahead of a ship.
“Then we had to reverse fast to get out of the way of the explosion.”
Despite dangerous assignments and some close calls, including one bomb that exploded near the frigate’s stern, Rownd and the Saint John survived the war and returned home.
As a crew member of the Saint John, Rownd was awarded Canadian battle honours—the Volunteer Service Medal, the Defence Medal and the War Medal 1939 – 1945, as well as the Arctic Star, Atlantic Star and 1939-1945 Star.
“All the guys I knew are gone now,” said a nostalgic Rownd, who turns 95 on Dec. 5.
While some of the details have dimmed and speech is somewhat difficult, Rownd’s love of Canada and family endure without question.