THE VANCOUVER COURIER FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2011
As war loomed, Kitsilano students marched and took riﬂe practice
Teenager joined navy to battle Germans on the high seas Ted Hunt Contributing writer
ed Pratt greets you at his door with a wide-smile and ﬁrm handshake. Blue eyes lock on you with a look of genuine interest. If you think you were facing a salesman, you’d be only half-right, because there is a natural honesty within, and a serious side for sure. He was born Aug. 31,1924 after being rushed to hospital from his grandparents’ home near Crescent Beach. Mother Beatrice caused a sensation at the dinner table by announcing labour pains, and father, Arthur, took charge. Pratt laughs, proudly showing his family ring passed on from grandfather, to father, to son. Set on a ﬁeld of gold, a lancer charges a dragon. The Boer War inscription reads: “Edward Pratt. St. George’s Riﬂes April 24, 1889.” By 1938, Pratt played basketball at Kitsilano secondary at a time when everyone recognized that war with Germany was inevitable. Kits introduced marching and riﬂe practice in the basement. Students, with detentions were
Ted Pratt traversed the Atlantic on the HMCS Poundmaker, with her two large cannons and anti-aircraft guns. photo courtesy Ted Pratt given target cards. Many years later when “militarism” was removed from the curriculum, Pratt learned that teachers received 10 cents for each card turned in. During the Depression, those dimes were welcomed extra income. Lord Strathcona, the railroad magnate, wanted Canadian support for Britain, seeking “young men who sit tall in the saddle.” However, as Pratt developed his strong interest in the sea cadets at HMCS
Discovery in Stanley Park, there’d be no saddle for him. He continued navy training even when he moved back to Lord Byng for his senior grades, there discovering Canadian football. “I’ll never forget facing my old school for a football game where the newspaper predicted that ‘Kitsilano High would whip Lord Byng handily.’ It occurred to me that they might just do that because we hadn’t won a game all
season. But damned if I didn’t catch a long pass at Athletic Park and ran as fast as I could in the mud to score our only touchdown. We lost 35 to seven, but I hadn’t disgraced myself.” Pratt’s face lights up at the memory and he pulls out well-preserved press clippings and photos of teenagers of the late 1930s full of the joy of life. The enthusiasm continues as he speaks of high school clubs, dances and close games, with more girls’ names recounted by this tall young man with the wavy hair and ready smile. His graduation photo describes Ted Pratt as, “An ofﬁcer in the Naval Cadets. A member of the Monitors Club. Good in all sports. Plays Senior Canadian football.”
n the fall of 1942, Pratt registered at UBC. “But after a couple of months it was time for me to enlist, so I signed up at age 18.” Pratt grows quiet at this point in our conversation. A change has come over him. No more enthusiastic stories or wide grins. Questions are left hanging—or he answers in a business-like man-
ner without detail. “The war was going badly,” he recalls. “I signed up at Discovery and left for training at Regina.” Acknowledging the insanity of a naval training centre on Canada’s great central plain, he says: “I was a navy guy. I did what I was told.” Asked about leaving his family: “My sister, Phyllis, was a nurse. We never talked about the war too much.” Lt. Pratt received more training aboard HMCS Prevost on Lake Erie. “Then to Halifax and Naval College for prospective ofﬁcers, where they zipped us through onto a real ocean to train on a real ship, the HMCS Renard”. In what is by now a steady stream of guarded statements, Pratt says quietly, “Subs were sinking ships. It was found that torpedoes were attracted to the sound of propellers. So we were sent out to test certain things. Like a cable with a device producing a loud version of a ship’s screws.” After a long pause he ends the conversation with the cryptic observation: “It worked. Subs shot at it.” Continued on page 5
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Published on Nov 4, 2011