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WWI Memoir of George "Siggard" Andrews

Used with permission of the daughter of George "Siggard" Andrews to post his memories of WWI. The material was written by his daughter, Kaye Marsh. 'Sig' (1900-1997) was born in South West Arm of New Bay (now Point Leamington) to Henry and Janet (Taylor) Andrews.

James A. Andrews (1837-1943), child of Henry & Mary (Alcock) Andrews of Harbour Grace, relocated to the New Bay area c. 1860s. He married Anges Cox (1843-1931) on September 25, 1863, daughter of John and Elizabeth Cox of New Bay Head and the couple became one of the first residents of South West Arm of New Bay (now Point Leamington) in the early 1870s. Their children included George, Henry, James M. and Luta. George "Siggard" was born to Henry and Janet (Taylor) Andrews in August, 1900.

The information was transcribed by BEVERLEY WARFORD, August 1999. While I have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there could be some typographical errors.

George "Siggard" Andrews

I volunteered for war service when I was sixteen years old. I joined the Navy.

I was working at a campsite harvesting pulp wood. We got news that there were many Newfoundlanders killed in battle, and I decided to go over and help out. I went to St. John's and went on board the training ship HMS Briton. I trained for a while and then went home on leave. I then went to Halifax by boat with about one hundred and fifty sailors. After a couple of days aboard the training ship Niobe, we joined the troop ship Arlanza (18,000 tons) and preceded across the Atlantic to Liverpool, England.

On the way across, we were on the alert. There were many submarines which were known as "tigers of the sea" on the Irish coast but we arrived safely.

There were many ships crossing the Atlantic at that time. One ship I remember was the S.S. Olympic (45,000 tons). She was considered one of the largest in the world.

While crossing the Atlantic, we did our drills on deck as part of our training. We were excited and anxious to get across to see England. We landed at Liverpool and for us Newfoundlanders that was an eye opener. It was quite a place to us at that time. We then boarded a train for Devenport, which was to be my training quarters. I trained to be a gunner, and qualified as seaman gunner. Our stay in Devenport was quite an enjoyable time for us. Occasionally we went into Plymouth which was a wonderful city. The people were especially kind to us.

I served on convoy service, scouting ships with cargo. My first ship was the HMS Lock Marie. I served on her six months, then I was transferred to another ship. Five days later the HMS Lock Marie was sunk with only one survivor. I was very lucky not to be on that ship when she went down. I was serving on the HMS Barry at that time. My base was Granton Harbour, two miles from Edinburgh, Scotland. That was to be my base for the duration of the war.

We escorted ships loaded with cargo along the Scotish and English coast and sometimes across to Norway. We saw many ships torpedoed. I will mention one convoy, and we lost six ships in twelve hours. Sunk by submarines. Many lives were lost. It became extremely difficult to get through without loss of ships.

I remember I was just settled on my first ship. For a couple of days everything seemed so peaceful. The water was very calm. We were escorting a convoy of ships along the coast to a place called Flambour Head on the shores of the English coast. I was standing on deck keeping watch. I noticed a ship on the port bow loaded heavy. The second officer came up to me and we started talking - he asked me if I had ever seen a ship go down. I told him "No I hadn't." In that same instant, he said "There goes one now!". She was torpedoed and went down in about a minute. I couldn't believe that I actually saw a ship torpedoed, but there were many more to come. We went on site immediately and rescued the only two survivors. One of the survivors I remember distinctly. He was from Australia, seventy two years old. He had been under water for a while and thought about his family that he would never see again. He danced and sang on deck and told us over and over how glad he was that we rescued him. This gave us a great feeling which has stood out in my memory ever since. As time went on we had the opportunity of pulling many survivors out of the icy water.

On November 11th we had word that the war was over. That night in Edinburgh there were a lot of happy people. If you were in uniform, it was very easy to get a kiss from the girls.

On November 11th my time was served but I volunteered another six months to help sweep mines around the British coast line. This proved to be very dangerous. We went out on high tides, and this would make it safer for us. I was supposed to get a medal for special service but it never came through.

Eventually the war office sent me home because I was a Newfoundlander and was supposed to be on my way home immediately after the war. I would like to mention that mine sweeping was a terrible job; I wouldn't do it again but I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything.

After receiving orders to go home, I then went to the camps on the outskirts of Devonport base to await passage home. I met about 150 navy boys that I hadn't seen for a long time. We had a great time together. We were camped near a farmer, and he treated us really well. Finally we got our orders to proceed on our way. We joined the ship Coronia to cross the Atlantic. She was 22,000 tons. We had 5000 men, army and navy, on board. We had a great time crossing. We landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia with a great welcome. We then proceeded to South Sidney and on to St. John's, Newfoundland on the ship Sagona. It was great to be home.

I would like to mention that one of my greatest thrills during the war was to see the German ships come over to surrender to Britain.

© Kaye Marsh, Beverley Warford and NL GenWeb
Exploits District