101-year-old vet has early Remembrance Day
Charles Moores, 101, was a crew member of a ship torpedoed during WW2
At 101 years of age, Merchant Navy Second World War veteran Charles Moores was up at 5 a.m. Friday with a little extra hop in his step.
He’d been looking forward to the day because there would be extra attention on him, particularly during a Remembrance service planned that morning at his retirement home in Paradise.
A number of family members would be attending.
Being the oldest resident at Meadow Creek Retirement Centre already makes him somewhat of a celebrity there, but he also likes to share his story from the war.
On Nov. 30, 1942, after picking up troops in Mombasa, Kenya, his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the Indian Sea at night. Moores says he was asleep in the top bunk awaiting to go on watch when two torpedoes hit, one after the other.
“I was thrown from the bunk and landed on the floor,” he said. “I got up as well as I could and made for the boats, and we got what (life) boats we could off her.”
“I had my lifejacket on (and jumped in), and I pedalled to a small raft and there were two more men on the raft. I couldn’t get on her because she was only a small raft. I held onto the raft for two hours and I lost one of my shoes kicking off the sharks …” Charles Moores
Moores said there were a number of people on the ship killed in the blasts, and the crew was able to get most of the survivors into lifeboats. Moores was still onboard the ship, along with a few other crew members, when it started to go down. He said he had a choice to make — either go down with the ship or jump from her into the water. Neither choice was much comforting as he couldn’t swim.
“I had my lifejacket on (and jumped in), and I pedalled to a small raft and there were two more men on the raft,” he said.
“I couldn’t get on her because she was only a small raft. I held onto the raft for two hours and I lost one of my shoes kicking off the sharks. And finally, a (life) boat came along and picked us up, one of our own boats. And we spent three nights, three days in the lifeboat. We had two women in the lifeboat with us. And the third day, a convoy came along and picked us up and brought us back to Durban, South Africa.”
Surrounded by memories
Sitting in a recliner chair in a corner of his room at the retirement home, just prior to the service Friday morning, Moores is surrounded by memories.
The wall and tables are covered with framed photos of family and of him taking part in previous Remembrance Day ceremonies and events, of certificates and cards of congratulations, and of
framed newspaper articles in which he was featured in during previous years. It’s a quiet, reflective space.
But behind his smile and gentle demeanour, the memories of those years sailing the dangerous seas of the Second World War are never far from this mind. He said it was a time of constant fear.
“I think about the war all the time,” Moores, who is from Carbonear, said. “I’m getting a little forgetful on some of it, but I still remember.”
It’s been 76 years since the torpedo attack and the passage of time may erase some of the details, but not the feelings.
Moores was only 25 when he felt the sudden, jarring jolts of the torpedo hits, heard the loud exploding rumble of steel and the shouts and cries from others about ship, and felt the strong sense of duty to scramble to his station to get people safely off the vessel — not knowing whether another torpedo was on its way toward them.
Then there’s the memory of being in the dark, cold water. Holding desperately onto the small raft and being circled by sharks.
Immediately after the interview was finished Friday, Moores’ jacket with his medals attached is fitted onto him and he’s off eagerly pushing his walker down the hallway from his room to the large cafeteria where the ceremony is taking
His son, Keith Moores, said all the family is very proud of his father and appreciative of the staff and the Remembrance service put off at Meadow Creek.
“He is very proud and anxious to be a part of this ceremony,” Keith Moores said. “It’s a celebration for him.”
Before heading into the ceremony Charles Moores pauses to get a photo taken with another resident of the home, Irving Wareham, who is also from Carbonear.
Wareham has served more than 30 years in the Royal Canadian Legion and has volunteered much time over the years training army and air cadets, and also spent many years with the Canadian
Rangers, and worked with the Reserves.
He said he always knew other members of the Moores family, but first met Charles Moores about 15 years ago.
As for the Second World War, as a young boy he remembers seeing bombers flying out of the airfield at Torbay and coming in from Gander and Halifax. He has an active part in the service.
Moores was always a regular attendee at the National War Memorial Remembrance Day services in downtown St. John’s. He’s been unable to do so for the past couple of years.
Still, just before turning his walker and heading again toward the cafeteria for the ceremony on Friday, he said, “I feel good.”
Merchant Navy Second World War veteran Charles Moores (left) is 101 years of age. He is pictured with fellow Meadow Creek Retirement Centre resident Irving Wareham Friday morning prior to attending a Remembrance service being held at the retirement centre in Paradise.