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Childhood friends, Second World War veterans reunite after 71 years
Growing up in Burgeo, N.L, Norman Crewe and Aubrey Ingraham were best friends, swimming together, playing hockey together and, when the Second World War erupted, enlisting together.
That was 71 years ago, and that was the last time the Merchant Navy veterans saw each other.
Both men are 93, born five days apart, and on Friday they were reunited in Halifax by fate – and television.
“I never slept last night – no, honest – because we haven't seen each other for so long,” said Crewe, who was interviewed on CTV News this past Remembrance Day.
That’s how Ingraham spotted his childhood friend, making this reunion a reality.
“Soon as they mentioned the name, Norman Crewe, I knew that guy went to school same time I did,” said Ingraham.
Crewe joined the Merchant Navy in 1940, and Ingraham followed suit in 1943.
Though they didn’t know it at the time, they were often on the water together, in ships lining up in convoys to make the deadly voyage across the Atlantic.
As the old friends met in Halifax, they swapped stories, including wartime tales that were similarly somber.
Crewe recalled being in a convoy of 55 ships that came under attack, when a neighbouring vessel was torpedoed in the pre-dawn darkness.
“They got it amidships, and it's still dark, as you're steaming through, going by, you can hear guys singing out, please, don't leave us, help,” said Crewe, remembering how they weren’t allowed to stop to rescue the sailors, lest they be sunk as well.
Ingraham shared a memory of seeing a ship attacked while at anchor in Conception Bay.
“… and then boom, mean and metal up in the air like matchsticks,” he said.
After the war, both men settled into their postwar lives, putting down roots in Nova Scotia, but never crossing paths.
When Ingraham saw Crewe on TV, he knew he had to see his old friend, and CTV News helped the pair get in touch.
“When you called that morning, and you said about the snowballs…I would have never guessed who it was,” Crewe said to Ingraham.
“You know, I remember almost everything we ever did,” said Ingraham. “I hate to say we were bosom buddies but we were as close as two guys can get.”
But at first, Millie Crewe, Norman’s wife, wasn’t convinced the reunion should take place.
“ … and every time he started talking, he'd start to cry, and I said ‘if you're going to cry, you know, you shouldn't get together’. (He said) ‘no, no, it's not that.’ It was wonderful,” said Millie.
“It’s so wonderful, I think it’s so wonderful because they don’t remember, they don’t think they’ve seen each other since 1943, and that’s a long time ago.”
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw