HMCS TRENTONIAN had two Commanding Officers during her fifteen months of service. This page is dedicated to the men who commanded this corvette, each was referred by the crew as “the Old Man.” With time, and as each of them proved themselves to the crew of TRENTONIAN, they earned the more endearing title of “Skipper!”
William E. Harrison, RCNR, DSC.
Commanding Officer, HMCS TRENTONIAN
1 December 1943 to 30 January 1945
William Edward Harrison, Lieutenant, RCNVR. Harrison was a native of Ireland and resided in Halifax, Nova Scotia and had joined the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve on 29 May 1941. Having a background with the merchant navy he was given the rank of Lieutenant on entering the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.
Lt. Harrison’s first command was the Armed Yacht, HUSKY from 6 September to 18 October 1941. He was then given command of the new corvette, LUNENBURG from 4 December 1941 to 13 October 1943. He commanded LUNENBURG for almost two years on active duty, escorting convoys on the east coast of Canada, in the St. Lawrence and around the United Kingdom.
Harrison and LUNENBURG were one of the seventeen Canadian corvettes assigned to Operation TORCH, the invasion of Sicily. During the invasion, Harrison and his ship were under continuous threat by German aircraft, E-boats and U-boats while escorting convoys in the Mediterranean.
This gave TRENTONIAN a commanding officer not only with experience in command, but experience in corvettes during war and a wealth of sea time.
Years later crew members from TRENTONIAN would remember Harrison pacing the bridge in a turtleneck sweater and jacket, even in the coldest weather, rarely needing anything more. They describe him as a quiet and unassuming man, a dedicated seaman with a wealth of knowledge. He was honest, with a genuine concern for his men, when they occasionally ran afoul of some authority ashore or aboard ship, he could be relied upon to treat them fair and even with a certain amount of fatherly protection. When crew members would describe Harrison, there was always a sense of loyalty, respect and devotion in their recollections.
Leaving TRENTONIAN on 30 January 1945, Harrison was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and given command of HMCS JOLIETTE, frigate. After VJ-Day he was given command of HMCS QU’APPELLE, destroyer.
Awarded -Distinguished Service Cross, 15 June 1945
“The King has been graciously pleased on the Occasion of the Celebration of His Majesty’s Birthday to give orders for the following awards for gallantry or outstanding service in the face of the enemy, or for zeal, patience and cheerfulness in dangerous waters, and for setting an example of wholehearted devotion to duty upholding the high tradition of the Royal (Canadian) Navy.”
Colin S. Glassco joined the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve at HMCS STAR in Hamilton, Ontario in July 1940. His first Command was the Naval Reserve Unit, NONSUCH in Edmonton, Alberta from April 1941 to June 1942. He then took command of the Naval Reserve Unit, DISCOVERY in Vancouver, British Columbia from June 1942 to July 1943.
Lieutenant Glassco joined his first ship, HMCS VILLE DE QUEBEC, a Flower Class corvette, in July 1943 as her Executive Officer. He remained with this ship until taking command of TRENTONIAN on 30 January 1945.
The new Commanding Officer was first introduced to his officers and then the crew was called together for introductions and instructions. As many of the crew expected, with a new Old Man came new rules.
One of the first rules Glassco laid down was, no one was permitted on deck while underway without a life-jacket on and there would be no exceptions. This was a rule he brought with him from his previous ship.
Glassco was surprised that fourteen men of his new crew could not swim. This alone was enough to spark murmurs amongst the men. They would have to wear the bulky RCN issue life-jackets while attempting to perform even the most menial duties on deck. The men expected to wear them during action stations, but having to wear them all the time was going to make their work harder.
Years after the sinking of TRENTONIAN, the crew reflected on this rule, stating it had saved many of their lives when they were torpedoed, not a single man had drowned when they entered the cold water of the English Channel when they abandoned ship.
In March 1945, Glassco returned to Hamilton and was appointed commanding officer of HMCS STAR and promoted to Lieutenant Commander. Glassco left the RCNVR in 1946 with the rank of Commander and his family has donated his uniform to the museum at HMCS STAR, including the salt stained cap that he was wearing when he stepped from TRENTONIAN’s deck into the English Channel.
Discover more of HMCS TRENTONIAN’s incredible story in White Ensign Flying.