For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar
O'NEILL, Thomas Clinton (Tom) - was born in Harbour Main, Newfoundland, 31 Oct 1923 and died in Welland, Ontario, 8 Aug 1997.
He joined the RCNVR on 2 Feb 1942 and was discharged with the rank of Able Seaman at the end of the war in Nov 1945 receiving a $100 rehabilitation grant. Service No. V-3990.
He was living with his parents and siblings in Kenogami, Quebec when he went off to war. The family moved to Welland in 1945 and Tom joined them there after his discharge while at HMCS York in Toronto. In 1942, at 18 years of age, he left his home with a friend for Montreal to join the RCAF but was rejected so he joined the RCNVR. His father, a survivor of WWI with the RNNR, hunting submarines in the Irish Sea and circumnavigating the globe, did not want his son to go to war. A short time later Tom's conscription letter to report to the army arrived at home.
Tom served 14 months at sea in minesweepers and frigates (escort duty), gunnery and general seaman's duties in the North Atlantic. He described it as miserably wet. The waves of the North Atlantic swept over the deck and into everything. You couldn't get dry when this happened. The winter cold would go through you and stomping your feet on the deck while on watch was all you could do to keep them warm. The ice building up on everything was a serious threat to the stability of the ship and had to be chipped away manually. The remainder of his service was ashore, general manual duties and guard duty.
He was on the flag ship of the 31st Canadian minesweeper flotilla, HMCS CARAQUET, sweeping Omaha Beach for the Americans for D-Day and described the event in detail. The dark cloudy night spent seemingly a stones throw from shore; the break in the clouds and the bright moon illuminating their position but the enemy did not see them; the break of dawn and still they were not seen. Not until the invasion flotilla was approaching on the horizon were spotted, and all hell broke loose.
With the surrender of the Germans that followed in 1945 they all prepared to be shipped out to the Pacific to fight the Japanese Imperial Navy, but that came to an abrupt and welcomed end as he had had enough of war. For his service to king and country Tom was awarded the 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp, and the War Medal.
Ships served in:
HMCS MONTCALM - Enlisted 03 Feb 1942. Commenced Active Service 09 Feb 1942
HMCS STADACONA - Served in STADACONA 07 Apr 1942 - 06 Jul 1942
HMCS AVALON - Served in AVALON 07 Jul 1942 - 29 Dec 1943 as an A/AB, RCNVR
HMCS CARAQUET - Served in CARAQUET 30 Dec 1943 - 29 Nov 1944
HMCS PEREGRINE - Served in PEREGRINE 30 Nov 1944 - 07 Jan 1945
HMCS STADACONA - Served in STADACONA 08 Jan 1945 1945 - 31 May 1945
HMCS CORNWALLIS - Served in CORNWALLIS 01 Jun1945 - 22 Jul 1945
HMCS CAPILANO - Served in CAPILANO 23 Jul 1945 - 02 Sep 1945 while the ship was in refit in SHELBURNE
HMCS SHELBURNE - Served in SHELBURNE 03 Sep 1945 - 20 Sep 1945
HMCS YORK - Drafted to YORK 21 Sep 1945. Demobilized 27 Nov 1945
AB Thomas O'Neill
(left) Thomas O'Neill with his parents (right) Thomas O'Neill on duty as Quartermaster on HMCS CARAQUET