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Kamsack navy veteran served in Halifax during Second World War

John Welykholowa of Kamsack, now 98, served in the Navy during the Second World War. He embarked on his military journey in 1943.

KAMSACK — John Welykholowa of Kamsack embarked on his military journey in 1943

The 98-year-old Navy veteran commenced his basic training at then HMCS now CFB Cornwallis, N.S. Following his training, he was stationed in Halifax, where he received specialized training as a signalman.

His wartime service was concentrated in the Halifax region, with most of his time spent at the Camperdown Naval Signals Station in Portuguese Cove, situated just north of Chebucto Head.

Towards the end of the war, Welykholowa's duties led him to serve aboard HMCS Huron as part of the maintenance crew, and later on HMCS Birchton, a Norton Class seagoing tugboat.

The Camperdown Naval Signals Station, historically established during the American Revolutionary War in 1776, was originally designed as one of several flag signalling stations in Nova Scotia. Over time, it evolved into a wireless station equipped with Marconi telegraph sets. In 1941, the station was handed over to the Navy, leading to the construction of a new facility, complete with modern radio equipment. Its strategic location served to protect the entrance to Halifax Harbour.

Welykholowa's responsibilities at the signals station were paramount to long-range communication with ships departing from and entering Halifax Harbour. The station also played a crucial role in monitoring against German U-boats attempting to access the Naval Base. Various communication methods, such as radio, telegraph, and signal lamps, were employed. The coastal defence gun battery and lighthouse at Chebucto Head, approximately 1 km to the south, were observable from their position. Welykholowa's time at the station also involved living with a local family in Halifax.

A significant event during Welykholowa's service was the sinking of HMCS Esquimalt on April 16, 1945. The ship had contacted the Camperdown Station just minutes before its fateful encounter with a U-boat torpedo off Chebucto Head, where the ship planned to rendezvous with another ship. Tragically, of the 75 men on board, only 27 survived, including Sub-Lieutenant Michael Kazakoff.

After Victory in Europe (VE) Day in the summer and fall of 1945, Welykholowa and the crew of HMCS Birchton were tasked with towing decommissioned ships to Shelburne, NS, where they underwent preparations for salvage.

Welykholowa's military service concluded in late 1945 when he was released from duty and returned home. He went to work alongside his father, got married to Mary, and became an active member of his community, eventually establishing a restaurant in Madge Lake where the Chalet used to be for eight years, this was likely due to the fact John had befriended the ships cook while serving onboard the HMCS Birchton.

He later ran a variety store for approximately 22 years and then retired. The store used to be where the Prairie Family Centre stands today.

Now Welykholowa resides in the Eaglestone Lodge comfortably with his wife Mary.