Friday, 30 September 2011

26: Adventurous Journey Home – Part 2.

Sea Transport Arrives at Last

Eventually, after about three weeks we were informed that a Royal Navy ship, HMS Glory, an aircraft carrier, was on the way to take us home. After what seemed an eternity, we were told of it’s arrival and that we were to board next morning.

After breakfast we were ready to go, not much packing to do; a change of shirt, underwear and a waist length jacket. I also had a bag containing cigarettes that I was still smoking my way through and some tobacco and cigars I intended to give my father. After saying goodbye to our hosts, the Americans, we settled ourselves into the personnel carriers for the journeys to Manila Bay. The Bay, when we arrived, was absolutely packed full of ships of all descriptions. Gradually we were loaded into large craft type boats and out into the bay we went.

Someone nearby asked the U.S. Sailor steering the boat which ship we were making for; an aircraft carrier was his reply. We must have travelled three miles from the shore and the sea was still thick with ships. I came to the conclusion that they had all been readied for the invasion of Japan since, with all the surrounding Islands taken, only Japan remained to be resolved. I must confess I was pleased that the invasion hadn’t taken place as me and my fellow P.O.W.’s would not be on our way home; instead we would have been executed. Terrible as it was, I was thankful for the Atom bombs that had been dropped by the allies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We approached the aircraft carrier, floating alongside a pontoon, from which steps led up the side and into the interior of the ship. We were then guided up to the flight deck. When we were all assembled, the Captain welcomed us on board telling us how glad he was to have the opportunity tot make our lives more pleasant. He then gave a brief resume of what had been prepared for us. All the aircraft had been flown off to Sydney, Australia; the empty hangars now contained beds for us. Our meals were to be taken in the ships dining room. Each of us would receive £20; two bottles of beer and a packet of cigarettes would be available for us to buy each day. Our destination was to be Vancouver, on the West Coast of Canada, stopping on the way at the Island of Hawaii. Our ship, HMS Glory, was underway as we settled in and tried out our beds; quite an experience after so many years sleeping rough.

A Neighbour Onboard Ship

The following day we were asked to list our names and hometown. This list would then be printed and hung in the crew quarters and the crew would be doing likewise for us. There were over a thousand sailors on board and it was explained that there could possibly be someone they or we knew on board. No duties were asked of us except to keep our bed space tidy. It was nice to be able to go up on the flight deck after breakfast where we were able to relax in the deck chairs that had been provided, have a read or just watch the sea. The weather was glorious!

A day or two after the lists were exchanged I had returned to my bedside where my few belongings were kept. I had just sat down when I noticed four sailors approaching. As they came nearer, the features of one seemed familiar. It turned out that he, Charlie, lived down the road from my home and was about 4 or 5 years younger than me. The three other sailors were his friends and they told me they had put their daily rum ration in a mug for me and would do so for the rest of the voyage. I protested and told them I didn’t want them to do that, but they had decided and were determined to do it, and they did. Charlie tried to fill me in as to what had been happening at home whilst I had been absent. He told me how upsetting it had been especially for my parents when I had been reported missing. It was April 1943 when they were notified that I had been captured and was a P.O.W. in Japanese hands. Charlie paid me regular visits, bringing me extra food to try to fatten me up and we spent much time reminiscing about our youth.

The films being shown on board were mainly newsreels of the war years but others were of mishaps on the aircraft carriers, which I found distressing to watch. Damaged aircraft limping manfully back only to disappear over the side of the ship or crash and burst into flames.

1 comment:

  1. How dreadful for your parents, not knowing whether you were a prisoner and alive, until April 1943! But also, how wonderful that you found someone from home on the aircraft carrier that took you home!