"Guns Above, Steam Below" is the true story of the experiences of A.G.W. Lamont, an Engineer Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. His first sea-going experience was in the corvette HMCS Cobalt on the triangle run Halifax, New York, St. John's. There he instructed the engineering staff on caring for their boiler waters and stood watch on the bridge with Mate Bett, RCNR, a great man. Cobalt was one of many corvettes, fending off the U-boats while themselves experiencing Guns Above, Steam Below. The largest part of the book, however, deals with the River Class destroyer HMCS Qu'Appelle on various assignments, including the Normandy invasion of World War II. Lamont provides a brief history of the ship with the aid of photographs and diagrams. Extracts from the memoirs of some of his ship-mates are used to recall life on board and he describes many of the crew in detail, and with great affection.Lamont also recalls his own experiences in the 'Steam Below' spaces of the ship where the men were oblivious to what was happening, either on-deck or in the sea below, and were subject to extreme heat and noise - including the noise of outgoing and incoming shell fire, depth charges and torpedoes exploding nearby.
He then recounts his experiences of the events that took place during his career. After several trips across the Atlantic, Qu'Appelle was assigned as the lead ship of four to be positioned at the west entrance of the English Channel during the Normandy invasion. Their orders were to prevent U-boats from getting at the enormous number of vessels in the invasion fleet. About a month later, Qu'Appelle was also leader of the four Canadian River Class destroyers engaged with their 'Guns Above' in the Battle of the Black Stones, launched against a group of U-boats and heavily armed escorts as they left port in Brest.In October 1944, when their presence was no longer required in the Channel, Qu'Appelle and three other ships, including HMCS Skeena were sent to patrol an area near Iceland. A vicious storm blew up and the shore authorities advised the ships to anchor until it had passed. This proved successful for all but one, HMCS Skeena. Lamont gives a most gripping and moving description of the wild and tragic events that followed as Skeena's anchor dragged and she was driven relentlessly onto the rocks near Reykjavik, causing the loss of a number of her crew.
"Guns Above, Steam Below" provides a fascinating insight into the lives of the people who were brought together by war and makes an insistent point about the nature of leadership. It will prove compelling reading for those with an interest in engineering, the Canadian navy or the events of World War II.
Archie George Wares Lamont was born in Canada on April 9th, 1921. He studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Toronto, where he would meet and later marry his wife, Claire. After graduating, Archie trained at the Canadian Officer Training Corps and joined the Canadian Navy shortly after. In April 1944, he was assigned to the destroyer HMCS Qu'Appelle as Senior Engineer while she lead a group of four destroyers in the naval operations of D-Day and subsequent months. Three years later, after studying for a Master's Degree in Physical Chemistry, he joined Eldorado Mining and Refining as Assistant Uranium Superintendent and later became Assistant Manager. In 1952 Archie, Claire, three-year-old daughter, Dale, and newly arrived son, Jim, headed to the U.S. as landed immigrants, full of hope for the future. The stay was brief. On returning to Canada, he became a founder of Hatch, one of the world's leading providers of engineering and construction management to the global energy and infrastructure sectors. During his 30 years with Hatch, Archie was a major contributor to the firm's long-term success and was well respected and highly revered by his colleagues.