CLARENVILLE, N.L. — Branch 27 of the Royal Canadian Legion has lost one of its oldest veterans and a founding member.
William Halstead Gosse, who passed away on Friday, March 2, just weeks shy of his 96th birthday.
Gosse of Queen’s Cove was founder and life member of the Clarenville Legion, serving Branch 27 for 65 years. For years the Naval veteran of the Second World War led the annual Remembrance Day parade as the Sergeant at Arms.
In November, 2014, Barbara Dean-Simmons of The Packet spoke to Mr. Gosse about his time in the Navy.
At the time, during the Second World War from 1939-46, it was a long time to spend away from family and friends, putting your life at risk each and every day you go to work. However, Gosse looked back with good memories of his time in the Naval service, remembering the friends he made and the camaraderie that helped make those days less difficult.
Asked if he would do it all over again, he did not hesitate to answer, "Yes I would."
In the Navy, Gosse was stationed on ships that sailed back and forth under cover of darkness in the Atlantic Ocean, protecting supply ships making runs to Allied troops in North Africa.
He spent most of his war service on the Totland — a 250-foot, 1,500-tonne American coast guard boat that had been loaned to the British in 1941 to serve as anti-submarine warfare escorts.
He was just 19 years old when he signed up for duty in 1939, leaving his hometown of Queen's Cove and his job in the family sawmill business for a life of adventure on the high seas.
"I never got a scratch," said the veteran with the clear blue eyes, reflecting on the other ships in his convoy he saw torpedoed and sunk.
"I never once felt scared. I never thought about that."
During his interview with The Packet, Gosse preferred to remember the better times — the camaraderie among the men who sailed together, and the shore leave when they could get to the Newfoundland club in London, or take a train to visit his Queen's Cove and South West Arm buddies who were working with the Forestry unit in Scotland.
Gosse remembered well the day they heard the war was over.
They were sailing along the coast, on a pitch-black night, heading to England from Africa. As they approached the port of Morocco, they noticed all the lights in the city were on.
"Everything was all lit up," he said. After six years of the nighttime "black out" rule, where lights had to be turned out, or windows covered with black material, to make it more difficult for German airplanes to pinpoint buildings and houses for nighttime attack, the lights of the city were a welcomed sight.
"We knew then the war was over."
Gosse remained on duty until the end of 1946.
After his duty he returned to Queen's Cove, to regular work and regular life.
Gosse was predeceased by his wife, Mabel, who he married in 1948. Mourning him are his five children, including daughters Linda Davis (Rob), Dianne Raymond (Dennis), Judy Ellis and Donna Barr (Bob); sons Wayne (Jane), Jamie (Mel) and Raymond Bailey (Joan); 13 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; sisters-in-law and a large circle of family and friends. He was laid to rest on Tuesday, March 6.