Polowin, Alex

Alex Polowin’s official birthday is April 15, 1924 – but it was really May 15, 1925.  That’s because like many young Canadian men he was anxious to go to war, and since he was born in Europe the official records had been lost.  So with the help of a lawyer, Alex filed his new birthdate, had his father sign the documents, and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy.  Alex had grown up in Ottawa in a big family; he attended Ottawa Tech and by his account life was good, but he was ready for something new.  So he joined up and went through basic training, and was quickly assigned to a corvette, the HMCS Pictou.  The navy had it in mind that Alex would serve in the galley, but he petitioned for a combat role and did the basic seamen’s training.  He went from Halifax to St. John’s, Newfoundland and was quickly dispatched in his first convoy, headed to Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  The teenaged Alex learned to adapt to his new conditions quickly, performing his duties and making friends in the crew.  Soon after he was drafted to a destroyer, the HMCS Huron; with a little more experience under his belt, Alex was a little more senior on this second posting.  The Huron took part in the dreaded Murmansk convoys, and the ship was also tasked with the pursuit of the German battleship Scharnhorst.  Back in England, Alex found himself in Plymouth, ready for the next phase of his war, which would prove to be operations in the Channel before and after D-day.  They were active in this area for months, and the Huron and the rest of the Allied fleet were incredibly successful, guarding the D-day landings and keeping the Channel secure, and destroying the last remnants of the German navy.  Alex’s final assignment would come on the HMCS Poundmaker, a frigate, which he recalls as a much lighter time.  The war was in its final stages, and the dangers were by that time.  They would eventually return to Halifax, and from there Alex returned to Ottawa, where he readjusted to civilian life, marrying and raising a family and falling into the rhythms of postwar life.  In more recent years, Alex has become a passionate advocate for remembrance, speaking to students and sharing his wartime journey with Canadians from coat-to-coast.  Alex Polowin was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters in October 2020; as this was during the pandemic they met over zoom, thanks to an introduction from Ellin Bessner.