If you are ever in St Johns Newfoundland a visit to the Crows Nest is a must, especially if you have a sailors background. Today the place is often found quiet with no more than a handful of old salts sipping their favourite beverage. I feel an attachment through the Royal Navy 6th Canadian Submarine Squadron, in approximately 1960 members from the Submarine Squadron install a periscope through the roof of the club from a World War two U Boat. Unfortunately when I tried to view St Johns Harbour through the periscope a few years ago the outside lens was so dirty nothing much was visible. Nevertheless, this is an amazing place that still retains the war time atmosphere of long ago. The photos and ships crest that adorn the walls would take hours to view. On my visit I could almost imagine the place packed with sailors relaxing and preparing for their next run across the U Boat infested North Atlantic. Today the rickety stairs have been replace with firm sturdy ones, although I doubt many departing mariners noticed on their way down after a few hours in the club!!.
There is too much history and detail to list here so I will just add a few items.
The Crow’s Nest Officers’ Club is located in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. In World War II, St John’s was the western station of the Triangle Run, a springboard for the merchant convoys and their corvette protectors en route to Europe. St John’s was a city bustling with military activity, and the Crow’s Nest was established—on January 27, 1942—as a hideaway for seagoing naval officers.
There are various different stories on how the club was named. Popular opinion had it that the club was called the Crow’s Nest because of its altitude and its magnificent view of St. John’s harbour. However, Captain Mainguy recalled that a Canadian Army Officer actually originated the title. Puffing and winded when he arrived at the top of its 59 steps, the Lt-Col mopped his forehead and gasped, “Crikey, this is a snug little Crow’s Nest.” His companions were delighted with the observation and the name stuck.
During the war, the “Seagoing Officers’ Club” became famous for its relaxing qualities, as well as its rickety 59 steps. As a memento before entering the theatre of war, many men visiting the club would scratch the name of their ship on the walls. Captain Mainguy’s first reaction to these notchings was quite severe. On further reflection, however, he remarked, “Damn it they are going to do it anyways.” With a quick calculation of the size of the club, he decided he would allot 4 square feet to every ship. These four feet could be used as each ship pleased and the ships’ plaques and insignias started to arrive. These colourful works of art, reflecting the unique humour of the men serving in the various allied services, adorn the walls today.
I hope the Crows Nest will endure and I hope the many mariners who pass through St John to day will continue to support is great artifact of history.
God Bless and keep reading.
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I love little places like this. Thanks for the history!
you are welcome