8 November 2021
Every life is made up of stories. Long-time Queens Court resident and proud veteran, Ernest Jones, can tell a few especially interesting ones from his time as a young teenage naval officer during WWII.
At age 14, Ernest Jones ran away from a difficult home life in North Wales and made his way to Liverpool, England. There, he lied about his age to join the crew on a Merchant Navy freighter, a job for which the minimum age was 16.
It was 1940 and a young Ernest – nicknamed Jonesy by his crew mates – would spend the remainder of World War II ferrying food, raw materials, supplies and troops between North America and Europe in support of the Allied war effort. In his estimation, he made the North Atlantic crossing more than 100 times.
Showing a keen interest in the radio operations, Ernest was eventually promoted to First Radio Officer two years into his service. At age 16 (his superiors were by this time aware of his real age), he was one of the youngest sailors to make rank of Merchant Naval Officer during WWII.
The Merchant Navy is made up of civilian sailors and the types of freighters Ernest worked aboard during the war were unarmed vessels. But crossing the North Atlantic during the war was not only vital to the war effort, it was also extremely dangerous. Merchant boats were prime targets for enemy action, more than half of the British Merchant fleet was sunk by German U-Boats, and 32,000 British merchant sailors’ lives were lost. In 1992, Merchant Navy sailors employed in support of UK military operations were legally recognized with the title of UK Merchant Seafaring Veterans.
About this time of his life, Ernest says, “I was simply one of the incredibly lucky ones. And I saw it as a grand adventure. It was great fun.”
Some of his fond memories include times when he was on leave. He attended concerts in Great Britain and loved to dance. One very memorable moment was meeting Queen Elizabeth II when she was a young princess driving an ambulance in the British Army corps. “I didn’t know who she was and I thought I’d ask her on a date. I was so close to the Queen’s court and then ironically ended up in Queens Court after all!”
Ernest stayed on with the Merchant Navy until 1951, when he immigrated to Canada at age 23, eventually making his home in Calgary. Ernest has lived with Silvera for nearly 30 years.