For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar
The Story of Screech by Able Seaman Joe Montgomery, SD, RCNVR
I was aboard HMCS Charlottetown doing convoy work on this side of the Atlantic during 1941-42. Our job was to escort the convoys to protect them against the German submarines. The top of our run was off the coast of Newfoundland, where we turned over our convoys to the escort group from St. John's, who escorted them to Londonderry, Northern Ireland. We always stopped off in St. John's for a few days on this particular run.
Able Seaman John Garland, who had been celebrating his time ashore, came back onboard with a little dog tucked under his arm. On the island they had an especially strong local drink, supposedly rum, and quite cheap. It was made by the fishermen and enjoyed by some of the crew, so someone tagged the little dog with its name, "Screech".
Garland was a seaman dong 4 hours on and 8 hours off while we were at sea and he took the dog with him to his stations n the ship, such as helmsman, look-out, etc. The dog and the sailor became inseparable. They scrounged the dog's food from the galley and were together 24 hours a day.
A corvette is a small ship which could easily be built cheaply and was excellent for doing convoy work. The ship was very crowded and during actions stations it became a problem as there was not time, room or facilities for a dog. We still had our jobs to do and speed was essential. When Garland and I came off watch one day, the Senior Leading Seaman, who was in charge of the mess, approached me and said that while we were on watch they had had a meeting in the mess deck and made a unanimous decision that the dog be put ashore the next time we returned to Newfoundland. I knew that they were right and I was delegated to speak to Garland about the dog. When I approached Garland, I was surprised he listened, as I had no authority as were we both Able Seaman. Garland didn't say much but he agreed and the next time we went to Newfoundland he went ashore with Screech. When he came back he was alone. the dog was left in St. John's and we continued with our convoy work.
Months later we were tied up in Halifax, about 3 ships out from the jetty. I was working on the quarter deck when one of the fellows hollered for us to take a look at what was coming down the jetty. It was Screech. the chap who spotted Screech made his was over the ships, picked up the dog, brought him onboard, and turned him over to Garland. No one ever complained about the dog again. They said, if Screech could find his way from St. John's, Newfoundland to Halifax, Nova Scotia during the war with all the ships both merchant and navy, it was meant to be.
We were taken off the triangle run to escort ships in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as the German submarines were sinking ships in the gulf. We had taken a small convoy up the St. Lawrence and dropped it off at Rimouski, Quebec and were returning to Gaspe. A German submarine his us on September 11, 1942 as exactly 8 o'clock in the morning. We were hit with two torpedoes containing high explosives and the ship went down in 2 1/2 minutes. Somehow the dog and Garland were separated and Garland went down with the ship. I don't know how Screech made it to the carley-float but he was there. We were picked up about 3 1/2 hours later by the minesweeper Clayoquot.
Fifty-three years later we were invited by the Navy to attend the commissioning of HMCS Charlottetown III. I was surprised and pleased to see that the Seaman's Mess was named Screech after the mascot of Charlottetown I. I met a few of the original survivors and asked them what happened to the dog. After we were rescued I was in hospital and never knew what had happened to the dog. They told me that he had been taken home by two brothers who were stokers on the ship. Later, the dog was sent to Come-By-Chance, Newfoundland to the wife of Able Seaman Bowser, a good friend of Garland. Bowser had been killed by our own depth charges.
Screech was back in Newfoundland to stay.
* The story on Screech is posted with a collage of articles and photos on the loss of HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN K244 (1st of name) on the door to the Junior Ranks mess on HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN 339 (3rd of name).
Ships served in:
HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN - Survived the sinking of HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN
Adolf Paul Specht with Screech - the mascot of HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN K244
The photo was taken after they were rescued when HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN was torpedoed. Screech found Adolf in the water and held onto him until they were rescued.
From the collection of CPO Adolf Paul Specht