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CJ Max | all galleries >> JOHNSTON Family Album 2005 > WWII Corvette Crew HMCS Brandon K 149
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WWII Corvette Crew              HMCS Brandon   K 149
Restored 2006 Restored by Clifford "Cliff." Johnston

WWII Corvette Crew HMCS Brandon K 149

Halifax, Nova Scotia, CANADA

Original Photographer Unknown

This is a photograph of the crew of the HMCS Brandon in WWII. My father, E.A. 3/c Glen Johnston, served aboard this Flower class corvette doing convoy escort duty. He is seen standing directly behind the second seated officer from the left. The captain of the ship was fondly referred to as the "Old Man". Dad said that he was a fine captain of the ship. He is in the front row, seated, 3rd from the left.

All of the HMCS Brandon's crew were Naval Reserves. The officers have the identifying "wavy stripes and square curl" on the sleeves of their jackets. In a twist of fate the regular navy officers had been withdrawn to shore duty as they awaited the building of 2 Canadian destroyers for the "big battle" between Allied and German battleships. This meant that most of the Canadian corvettes and frigates were manned by RCN Reserves. Ironically the "big battle" turned out to be the corvettes vs. the Nazi submarines, and the regular navy missed out on just about everything except shuffling papers on shore where they were said to be very effective.

Frigates were essentially longer corvettes with 2 engines instead of one. They were introduced after the corvettes.

The HMCS Brandon was in Northern Ireland for the Christmas of 1943. Dad said that he remembered that distinctly as he was in Londonderry and received a telegram announcing my birth on the day after Christmas. He and his shipmates proceeded to go out on the town and celebrate royally.

Red ink rubber stamp imprint on reverse reads: "Passed by Naval Censor (Photographic) Oct 10 1944 ... Initials)". The initials (...) are unintelligible.

Blue ink rubber stamp imprint on reverse reads: "ROYAL CANADIAN NAVAL PHOTOGRAPH Crown Copright Reserved Negative No. NF3633-12" with the "NF3633-12" being written in pencil.

"The corvettes could sail at 16 knots while the surfaced U-boats could manage 17-18 knots. They were short and had a broad beam which allowed them to patrol in a fierce weather while most other escort vessels could only concentrate on survival. This hull design also made them "roll on a wet grass" as one quote has it, they were very lively at sea and during the worst storms even the most hardened naval veterans felt uneasy for sea-sickness. One should bear in mind that the corvettes were built as cheaply and as quickly as possible, but they served very well and never gave the U-boats any break due to bad weather. Over 20 corvettes were lost to U-boats.

Eventually roughly half of the escorts in the North Atlantic convoys were corvettes.

The most famous class of corvettes was the Flower class which was a formidable U-boat hunter.

The short length of the corvette and shallow draught made them uncomfortable ships to live in.... A fortnight of constant rolling and pitching on transatlantic convoy duty tended to exhaust all who sailed in them.

Service aboard was monotonous and debilitating for long periods, either because of the need for constant vigilance in the face of those twin dangers, the sea and the enemy, or because of, in the North Atlantic at least, the cold. When action came, it could be prolonged and brutal with the sight and aftermath of the sinking of freighters or of other warships. The torpedoing of a corvette itself would be especially dramatic: its few compartments below the water line would cause it to sink in seconds, with few survivors. Over 20 corvettes fell victim to torpedo or mine during the War.

Normally sleeping conditions on board for officers and petty officers were relatively reasonable, but for the seamen in a crowded, stuffy and water laden forecastle they were a great hardship. The inability to store perishable food for more than 2 or 3 days led to a boring repetition of corned-beef and powdered potato for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since most of the crewmen were young, persistent sea-sickness was the principal health-hazard."

Corvette information courtesy of:

Shortly after moving to Pearland, TX, I was contacted by someone who had more information on the HMCS Brandon. Unfortunately the computer that I was using had a glitch, and I lost your information. Please, contact me, again.

11-5-2015: Modest almost to a fault it was only with the receipt of my father's naval records recently that I found out that he was a Chief Petty Officer. I had asked him if he were when I was a kid, but he never gave me a straight answer. He was never one for bragging...

Epson Perfection4990

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Scot Urquhart 06-Nov-2015 17:34
I am looking for information on this crew as a personal project, researching the military history of my step-father Edwin Leonard ( Ted ) Shipman. He served on board the Brandon for most of it's wartime duty.
I believe I have found him in this wonderful picture, although he is decades younger, and several pounds lighter than he was when he came into my life. If you have other contacts who may have information on the Brandon, would you please pass them along? I would be very grateful. Regards:
Guest 29-Apr-2006 16:25
That's a wonderful picture of Uncle Glen Johnston. It brings back memories of my mother and grandmother talking about how they missed him and his brother Bud when they were overseas during the war.

Eileen Anderton Smerdon (your cousin)