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On Board ship
July 3, 1942
Miss you all!
Dear Mom & Dad,
We are on our way at last—most sudden, but not unexpected—we left Tuesday morning, June 30th, rode train to the ferry and thence to our ship in N. Y.
It was terribly hot and were laden with gas masks, belts with canteens, overcoats, musette bags on our backs and suitcases and pocketbks. Such excitement and I won’t deny that I felt a fusion of fear too. It took a long time to embark, long rows of military men as laden as ourselves. We also had our helmets on—easiest way to carry them but heavy and hot. We are aboard an Australian ship—the crew of course from Down Under! There are just 14 of us nurses on board and about 3,400 soldiers. We sit on the deck most of the time reading and talking.
Lovely lads—Priscilla and I became acquainted with two Australian engineers, nice young men—they live in Hamilton, New South Wales. They told us a lot about their country—We have seen porpoises, schools of them.
Our steward also brings us fruit in every morning—it is really cold at night and so foggy. One of our poor nurses Margaret is deathly sea sick and so miserable. We get a basket of fruit every night.
We had a scare on our 4th night at sea. Miss Wallace our chief nurse came in our stateroom and frightened us half to death—she told us 2 submarines had been following us. We were told to dress warmily [sic] in wool shirts, slacks, sweaters, fill our overcoat pockets with chocolate bars and small necessities. That was the way we slept, if we slept. Renni dug out her bible and read some passages—we were too keyed up and nervous to sleep but we must have because we were awakened by our stewd. and we were still here!
Seven of us to a cabin. It is very crowded but we get up in relays and dress and use the tiny bathroom.
There were seven ships in the convoy with destroyers as escort. It is the largest detachments—thousands of American soldiers in this convoy. The weather was unpleasant dull, drippy grey skies overhead—the fog did lift occassionally [sic] but only to give us a quick glimpse of the sun.
In a deep fog our ship and one other strayed from the convoy and we ended up in Halifax Harbor for 2 days. Two destroyers found us and escorted us the rest of the way. We understood U-boats were lurking nearby as the Axis hdqrters. evidently knew of the troop movement. Depth bombs were dropped several times as we continually zigzagged across the dangerous runways of U-boats.
There are many young RAF pilot officers aboard—have been studying in America—only 19 & 20—have already been in combat.
It is so cold and dark in our state room, blackout curtains at the portholes, we still haven’t lost our sense of humor, however!
The English lads were admonished by their parents about returning home with “that damn Yankee accent!” We laughed about that.
July 7 The watch almost shop up our own destroyer this a.m. It just loomed up out of the fog and they were really alert. Everyone is nervous and on edge—this is the danger zone. Had an emergency drill this a.m. There was much shooting along with it and we surely thought this was the real McCoy. We are close to Iceland—in fact we can see it in the distance—No wonder it is so cold—I hope we never have to jump in this ice water or we will never return home. It is light all night!
July 13[?], 1942
The coffee is horrible so we are becoming tea drinkers—we or rather I rather feel so far away from home—the ocean is so dark and deep and all we can hear are the waves pounding against the ship—night and day. We have had concerts and dances in the evening. Rumor was that we went 200 miles off course to avoid some U-boats. We also arose at 4 a.m. to see a gorgeous sunrise.
Beautiful day—the coast of Scotland is in sight—to-night we are in the harbor safe and sound. Our perilous voyage is over!
We sailed up the broad river Clyde to-day—blimps and planes soared overhead—many ships lined the river banks. It is a great ship-building area and we saw many Scottish “Rosie the Rivetiers [sic] in their overalls working around and climbing all over the ships. People lined the banks and waved and cheered.
We said a sad goodbye to our friends and fellow passengers. We were the last off so we watched the rest of them leave—it was sad but I expect it is only among the first of many good byes. Jack—my Australian friend is going to send you a cable to say we arrived safely.
Thus, after days of waiting at Fort Dix—our long 15 day voyage through submarine infested seas, we are finally here. I shall now be able to post this letter. Don’t worry about me Mom. It was kind of hairy at times but we made it. I shall send my address as soon as possible.
Give my love to all.
Your loving daughter,