Lakness, Ossie

Ossie Lakness was born in Govan, Saskatchewan on May 5, 1923.  He grew up against the backdrop of the Great Depression in that small farming community, the youngest in a large family.  Ossie remembers well those difficult early years, when dust storms and grasshopper plagues impacted the people of the Prairies.  When the war came Ossie was in Grade 12, and he remembers several of the young male teachers joining up in the early days.  Ossie applied for farm aid:  his father was getting older, but Ossie was denied the exemption as he had an older brother.  He was able to briefly attend university, and while there Ossie met and married his wife – at age 20!  When the time came, Ossie chose to enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy, and he reported to Saskatoon, and then to HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia, where he went through basic training.  He was assigned to a frigate, the HMCS St Stephen, where he would serve as quartermaster.   Ossie completed seven convoys across the north Atlantic, a critical part of Canada’s role in the Battle of the Atlantic.  Canadian frigates like the St. Stephen would defend the convoy against U-Boat attacks, targeting them with depth charges and doing what they could to stop the unseen threat.  He also dealt with all the other difficult conditions:  the weather, the ice, the sea sickness – and occasional conflict among his crewmates.  When the war came to an end, the crew of the St. Stephen escorted a number of U-boats to harbours in eastern Canada, and they were about a day outside Halifax on VD Day – so they missed the riots.  Ossie took advantage of his veterans’ benefits at the end of the war, returning to university to complete his agriculture degree, which led him to a career as a farmer.  He also raised his family – and was an avid curler!  Ossie Lakness was interviewed over zoom by Crestwood students in November 2023.