'I walked where Hitler walked'

Heart's Delight-Islington veteran remembers his day aboard the Aviso Grille

Nicholas Mercer nmercer@cbncompass.ca
Published on June 19, 2014

Heart's Delight-Islington resident Baxter Crocker holds up two pieces of paper from the pamphlet he received after boarding the Aviso Grille in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1945.

Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass

Baxter Crocker of Heart’s Delight-Islington has been holding onto two pieces of paper for close to 70 years.

The paper is ripped along the sides and the words have begun to fade. To keep them together, 94-year-old Crocker has made a cross out of tape in the middle of both pages.

It is a document he has taken great steps to preserve. They never leave their plastic sheet protectors.

The two pages date back to the tail end of the Second World War and Baxter's time in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was stationed there as a member of the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit.

The Aviso Grille, also known as "Hitler's Yacht," had been captured by the Allies, and was docked at the Scottish port at the conclusion of the war. Baxter obtained the pamphlet when he visited the ship with his sister-in-law during the vessel’s victory tour.

Baxter's face lit up as he spoke about his experiences. He leans forward in his blue rocking recliner and his eyes grow a bit wider. He was 23 at the time and he remembers being excited to step foot on the famed ship.

“There were a lot of people around,” Baxter recalled.

It's last official duty as a warship placed the Grille in Norvik, Norway starting in July 1942. The Grille served as the command centre for German U-Boats in the Arctic Ocean.

“It's wireless room was busy 24 hours-a-the day, sending and receiving reports and instructions of the Hun (Germans) at sea,” the pamphlet wrote.

Baxter, along with other members of the public who went to see the vessel, were given a guided tour of the massive "yacht."

“There must have been thousands of people there,” he recalled.

For complete coverage, see the June 23 print edition of The Compass.