Pearl Harbour and Honolulu
Soon the Captain informed us that we would be arriving at Hawaii (Oahu), the Hawaiin Islands, docking in Pearl Harbour. This immediately conjured up thoughts for me of grass skirts and golden sands. The Captain went on to say the ships crew would be at attention as we entered the harbour and all “hands” (as we were now called) must line up in single file at the ship’s rails along the flight deck if we wanted to watch proceedings. He added that he would be giving commentary as we sailed in so that we would all know what was happening.
Soon after breakfast next morning we were up on deck lining the rails as we entered Pearl Harbour. It was a massive, natural harbour full of warships and aircraft carriers. The captain named the ships as we slowly followed our passage through the moored ships and explained that it was necessary to dip our ensign to all ships larger than us. Most of them were; except for one which caused us much amusement. We were almost past this ship, which I assumed has less tonnage than HMS Glory and we were almost abreast of it when we heard the command from the bridge “Give him a blast, Mr Brown!” But before the order could be carried out the American ship dipped it’s ensign; we wondered if the Americans had also heard the command. Our ship glided alongside the quay, tied up and we were told we could stand down.
On the quayside, waiting to welcome us, was the U.S. Air Force band. I had always enjoyed big band music. Before joining up I listened on the short wave radio at home to this type of music from America so knew some of the tunes they were playing; especially Glen Miller. It was fantastic; we all clapped and cheered them. They seemed to appreciate our applause and responded to it by playing for an hour and a half before forming up and marching off to the St Louis Blues march; brilliant! I felt alive.
During the afternoon the telephone company “Western Union” sent personnel on board with the generous offer that we could each send a free telegram home. Naturally, we promptly accepted their kind offer. A talk followed, given by the Captain. He explained that there would be no pay parade; Britain was broke and nobody was getting any dollars. We were, however, able to go ashore the following day and at the gangplank would be given tickets of various denominations that had been generously supplied by the local traders. These we could spend in the bars and cafes. Later that day a troupe of grass skirted dancers accompanied by a Hawaiian band came on board and performed for us. It was a perfect ending to a glorious sunny day.
Next day a crowd of us decided to do some exploring. Our attire, U.S. Navy working gear, consisted of a light blue shirt, dark blue jeans, black shoes and no headgear. Going ashore we made for the dock gates where U.S. Military Police (‘Snowdrops’, when they were out of earshot) wearing their white helmets and with drawn truncheons were on duty. As we streamed forward one shouted out “Hey you there! Sidewalks are for walkers and roads for vehicles”. So we had to be patient and go singly through the narrow footpath entrances on each side of the road. Once outside, we pondered where to go. There were high wire fences each side of the road that seemed to go on forever. After walking for about fifteen minutes, we began to encounter uniformed soldiers behind the wire. They asked “How did you get out, dressed like that?” We spoke to some who told us they weren’t allowed out of camp ever; there were too many military personnel on the island. We asked if they knew the way to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach; they thought we had to turn right but a long way.
It was a long way, but there it was eventually. Lots of hotels but as for the beach, I'd seen better ones in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Malaya; that’s if sand and palm trees are to be considered. I felt disappointed. We piled into the cafes for a cool drink then wended our weary way back in the heat stopping occasionally for more cooling drinks. Our tickets spent, we made our way back to the ship and thankfully climbed back up the steps. Back on board it was home and feeling comfortable. Then we sat on deck roasting as the heat below decks became overpowering. Around midnight there was a commotion coming from the quayside. Apparently a group of P.O.W.’s went ashore to a club where some customers noticed them paying for drinks with tickets. The customers asked why and when the ex-P.O.W. status was explained, the customers insisted on paying for them. Several free drinks later they were given transport back to the ship together with a band and dancing girls from the club. There must have been some very tolerant MPs on the gate that night.
The officer of the watch on the gangplank said he would have to get the Captains permission for them to come aboard. The Captain, who had retired for the night, gave his consent and joined us. All the flight deck lights were switched on and we were treated to another performance of hula hula dancing; very enjoyable. I was ready for bed after that.
I didn’t bother going ashore again. With the sweltering heat, no money in my pocket and very long walks to get anywhere was something I wasn’t ready for. I was content to stay put and rest. Two days later we cast off and headed for Vancouver, Canada.