Smith, Percy

Percy Smith was born May 10, 1923 in Ceylon.  His father worked in the British civil service there, and that is where Percy spent his early years.  The family returned to England in the late 1930s, as the clouds of war were closing in on Europe, and the world.  Percy was 16 at the start of the war, and within that first year he made the decision to enlist, choosing to enter the merchant marine.  It would prove to be a critical lifeline for England, keeping the island nation supplied all throughout the war.  In the merchant marine Percy braved U-boats, storms, and hard work and crowded conditions.  He participated in convoys in the Atlantic, Indian and Arctic Oceans, including the dreaded and frigid run to Murmansk, Russia.  Percy saw his share of tragedy during those years, and he recalls that when he came home from war the transition was difficult.  He didn’t know it then but later he realized that he was suffering from PTSD during those years; readjusting to family was difficult, and there was no work to be found in Britain.  Percy tested the waters in Ceylon, where his mother still lived, and when that didn’t work out, he decided on a complete change, and he came to Canada.  He continued with the merchant marine, and he also attended college, earning his CGA; most importantly he married and raised a family.  Together they fell into the rhythms of postwar Canadian life.  Percy Smith was interviewed via zoom in October 2020, during the pandemic; we thank the Memory Project for referring Percy to us.