99-Year-Old Navy Veteran Shares WWII Experience

REGINA—With World War II engulfing the world, it was during his first year at the University of Saskatchewan to pursue a degree in agriculture that Osborne Rachnes felt the call to join the military.

“A group of friends, what are you doing here? [other] A friend is going to serve the country, but we were not. So all four of us decided to join the Navy,” he said in an interview.

Growing up in his family home near Govan, Saskatchewan with his brother and four sisters, Lakness enrolled at HMCS Unicorn, a Naval Recruitment Center in Saskatoon. During World War II, 3,573 officers and non-commissioned officers enlisted and received their initial training at the center.

“They said the Prairie boys made the best sailors. “I was a Quartermaster there for about 10 months.”

But Lakness didn’t enlist in the Navy to stay in Saskatchewan.

“It was a little difficult to get out of there, so I asked for a draft, and Cornwallis gave me one. I wanted to escape the barracks. It was a different atmosphere than when I was on the ship. You’re a big family. was.”

HMCS Cornwallis Commissioned on 1 May 1942, the reorganization of the Halifax naval installations took place. She was moved to her home base in April 1943, at her Brook in Deep Nova Scotia, where she was over 200 kilometers east of her. During the war she was the largest naval training base in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Epoch Times photo
HMCS St Stephen on 1st February 1943 (Public Domain)

While at Cornwallis, Rakness asked a soldier who he should talk to about booking a ship.

“This is what I was told — if you let the writer slip [the person responsible] If you have some money, he will bring you a bill. And I said, “Oh, I’m going to try it,” he said.

“So I did [give him $10] And then I was drafted on a ship on the West Coast. HMCS St StephenI was on it when it was commissioned. “

Laknes began his 71-year marriage to his wife, Leta, on November 18, 1943.

“I was in the Navy when I met her. I’m not here, so I thought we should get married.So we got married.”

7 transatlantic crosses

Saint Stephen, named after a town in New Brunswick, was one of 60 River-class frigates commissioned by Canada to be built. The ship was built on Vancouver Island in Eskimalt, Columbia and was commissioned in the same city on 28 July 1944. In the Battle of the Atlantic she served as a convoy escort.

“When we left Vancouver, of course we went down the Pacific. [Panama] Canal, and back to Halifax. And from Halifax I made my first trip across the North Atlantic,” said Rachnes.

It took 21 days to cross the Atlantic. It was a journey he made seven times.

“We escorted them until just before they reached England, took off and went to Ireland and docked. That was our home base in Londonderry. [Northern] Ireland. “

HMS Ferret Coastal Station in Londonderry, Northern Ireland was responsible for 149 escort and anti-submarine patrol vessels, 2,000 Coast Guard personnel and 20,000 British and Canadian seafarers. This included St Stephen, which Rakness said had a crew of 149 men.

“We were threatened several times. “We got them!” They probably just squirted oil to make us think we got them,” he said.

“I remember it was off Ireland when we dropped the depth charges. The fish came up, so we lowered the boat and went out to catch the fish.”

Lakness remembers May 8, 1945 well. Victory Day in Europe came three days after his 22nd birthday.

“We celebrated by bringing rum, but he [the captain] He said, “Well, you’re not done. You’re going west.

Epoch Times photo
World War II veteran Osborne Rachnes displays his medal at his home in Regina on November 7, 2022. (Lee Harding/The Epoch Times)

“They gave me the chance to either discharge or go to war with Japan, so I volunteered.”

St. Stephen was refitted for action in the Pacific, and Luckness boarded a train to Vancouver. However, Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945 meant the war was over by the time he reached the West Coast.

Lakness was discharged from the military in Saskatoon and earned a degree in agriculture. He took over his family farm and remained there until the early 1960s, where he spent three years as a Canadian appraiser crediting his farm. After this assignment he returned to Goban, where he farmed for 17 years. His family farm was in the hands of his son Reg until he sold it two years ago with his father’s blessing. They both live in Regina and remain active curlers.

A four-time Medal winner, Larkness believes that the sacrifices Canadians made in the war are worthy of remembrance, even though the sacrifices of his generation predate the lifetimes of most of today’s citizens.

“Well, don’t you think they should? They wanted to give up their lives for their country. I think it was the worst for those who were in the military because they went into the trenches and stuff like that. It’s a pretty tough life.” They did, and they should remember. They bore the brunt of everything, the military,” he said.

“I think it was forgotten a long time ago. World War II veterans are sorely lacking.”

Lee Harding


Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based journalist, think tank researcher, and contributor to The Epoch Times.