We Sail

 

Our course became a puzzle as because the convoy turned in all directions as submarine precaution. This did not help our guesswork regarding ultimate destination, however, on November 7 we were mustered for a talk by our C.O., Major Knowles. He informed us (much to our surprise) that we would dock at Halifax (Nova Scotia) the next day, and that history would be made since upon our arrival at Halifax we would disembark and go aboard American ships. We were to be the first British troops to be carried by American ships. It seemed that at last America was about to join in the war...

 

 

...We sailed down the east coast of America and arrived in Trinidad on November 17, 1941. After taking on stores, etc., we left on the 19th and took a S.E. course. Then came the crossing of the Equator where the crew seemed to go mad in their pranks during the initial ceremony of crossing the line. Men were oiled and feathered. The Captain allowed hoses to be used for about two hours. At the end of that time there was hardly a dry corner on the ship and almost every man had been caught in turn and either thrown into the swimming pool or had the hoses turned on them. It was a good bit of fun while it lasted. Then one day the cry went up, "MAN OVERBOARD!" We rushed to the side of the ship to see what had happened and there in the wake of the ship I could see a man treading water. We had been warned that if we fell overboard the ship would not be stopped to pick us up and they were true to their words. The last I saw of him was a black spot in the distance on the surface of that great expanse of sea. I later learned that the young fellow (one of the crew) was in some kind of trouble and had jumped over to end his life. It left an empty feeling in my stomach and I felt quite sick. Our ship had apparently signaled a destroyer and the destroyer circled around but I think it very unlikely that he could have been picked up.

 

 

Later when we returned to the ship we found it so very uncomfortable and stiflingly hot that Gwyn and I decided to spend a few hours on the Dockside. The large stones of the dock wall looked so cool and tempting. However, when Gwyn eased himself on to one of the stones he jumped up with a yell. "Hell, these stones are hot" and sure enough they were. They had soaked up the heat of the sun for many hours. We gave up in disgust and returned to the ship. There were many complaints about our overcrowded ship and the heat, etc. Sleep was impossible and at night we lay on our bunks and rolled and turned and sweated. The open decks were crowded. One couldn't walk there at night for men lay everywhere. But through it all morale was very good and many a practical joke was played. Old Bob Blanchard (an old soldier who had served during the 14-18 war) kept us alive with his funny sayings and practical jokes. Trevor Smith was being promoted and was to put on a stripe the next day. He was resting in his bunk and Old Bob seeing him there got up, filled a pail with water, and threw it all over Trevor. The bunk and Trevor were soaked. We roared with laughter. Trevor got up dripping with water, and when he got his breath back wanted to know what he had done to deserve such treatment. Bob answered, "I did it today as it was my last chance. If I did it tomorrow you could bring me up on a charge."...

 

 

 

<Previous Excerpt