Donald Kennedy - Joining the Merchant Navy

Running time
2 min 23 sec

Department of Veterans' Affairs


I was 16 and the people who weren't around at that time did not understand, perhaps, what the pressures were on people to volunteer. Because, not that it was any pressure on me as a school boy, but I pressured my father. I couldn't get in the Army, Navy, or Air Force because you had to be 18. Anyhow, I met him one day in Sydney and he said, "Here."

He gave me a piece of paper. He said, "Go to this firm." I went to the firm and gave the man a piece of paper. He said to me, "Why do you want to go to sea?" Being articulate and educated, I said, "I don't know."

Anyhow, he went away and made a phone call, came back and gave me a piece of paper again. He said, "Go to this ship." I found my way to a ship, Sydney Harbor. Knocked on the door and a big tall Norwegian gentlemen came out and said, "What do you want?" So I handed him my piece of paper.

He said, "Why do you want to go to sea?" You can guess what I said, "I don't know." So he talked to me for about a minute and he said, "Come back tomorrow morning with your gear." That was it.

A couple days later, we sailed out of Sydney Harbor headed for the Atlantic. Rather a foolish thing to do, when you come to think of it. But there were different circumstances, different circumstances. Just about everybody who could go, went. No compulsion, no conscription, it was all volunteers.

My cousins had gone, my brother was overseas in the Air Force. I haven't quite worked out why I did it. It wasn't any sense of trying to win the war. It was just that it was the thing to do. If you couldn't get in the Forces, you'd do what you can. I don't know why. I really don't understand. It was a stupid thing to do. I left my mother by herself, actually.


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