Veteran recalls Christmas at sea
Bay de Verde native Donald Blundon served Royal Navy during Second World War
Bay de Verde native Donald Blundon’s first Christmas at sea was spent in the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland.
It was 1939 and the then 19-year-old had just joined the British Royal Navy at the start of the Second World War (see related story on Page B6). Stationed aboard the HMS Asturias before the ship was moved to the South Atlantic, Blundon remembers this Christmas being different from the ones he enjoyed back home.
There was no Christmas tree decorated in the corner of the mess hall, nor was there much in the way of seasonal decorations along the walls.
However, there was one thing that was similar — the food.
The 94-year-old resident of Symphonie Residence West Island old-age home in Pointe Claire, Que., fondly remembers sitting down with 25 of his fellow seaman and enjoying turkey with all of the trimmings.
“We always used to have good food,” said Blundon.
That Christmas in the Denmark Strait was just one of several he experienced during wartime.
It was a stark contrast to the holiday season he experienced in Newfoundland.
Part of a big family back home — he was one of eight children — Blundon was used to “having a time” during the holiday season.
At that time, Bay de Verde, like most other rural settings, was divided by religion.
“There were Catholic times and Protestant times,” said Blundon. “There was a lot of mummering.”
Had to be ready
While the First World War featured a series of unofficial Christmas truces at the onset of the conflict in 1914, the Second World War had no such compromise.
There were no exchanges of souvenirs or small talk in the trenches between German and British forces. There was only the constant threat of a U-boat attack. “You had to be ready,” said Blundon. That meant the possibility of having precious little time to enjoy your Christmas meal before manning your posts in light of an attack.
“Every day was the same,” said Blundon. “You had to be prepared.”
The first one away
The first Christmas weighed heavily on the mind of the teenaged Blundon. It was his first way from his siblings, parents and the good times in his hometown.
“That was the worst part,” he said. “It was a big change.”
However, he had a job to do and there was no way of getting him home.
“You had to forget about it,” Blundon noted.
Blundon lost the sight of snow when his ship moved south. More specifically, his station was changed to South America where his ship would patrol the waters of Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian ports of call. “It was not the same,” said Blundon. He was referring to the climate and celebrating the holidays below the equator.
Despite only being allowed to patrol three miles outside port, Blundon did manage to get into town and pick up some souvenirs to send home.
Never on land
In his seven-year naval career, Blundon never experienced a Christmas on dry land. He was always at sea.
Whether it was aboard the Asturias or the HMS Chance to clear mines away in advance of Normandy, Blundon was never having turkey dinner in a barracks at a naval base. “I was at sea as long as 72 days,” he said. And, that’s just how he preferred it. “I was never one for the barracks.” In many ways, the first Christmas he spent home after the war was similar to the last one he spent before enlisting.
A Leading Seaman at the time, Blundon returned to a Bay de Verde in 1946 where Christmas traditions remained similar to those of 1938.
“Christmas was one big party,” he said. “There was always a time.”
Leading Seaman Donald Blundon spent all of his Christmas at sea during the Second World War.