Book 4, Continuing my Overseas Training

YGeachDG1394781v1.pdf

Title

Book 4, Continuing my Overseas Training

Description

Fourth of David Geach's diaries describing the final part of his training in Canada. He writes of his service and personal life training as an air bomber. He describes his ground and flying training experiences, social life both in camp and in local Canadian towns and New York. He details train travel across Canada and the United States and his homeward voyage across the Atlantic in the troopship liner Queen Elizabeth. Covers the period 12 December 1942 to 15 March 1943.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

1943

Contributor

Steve Christian
David Bloomfield

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

Handwritten diary

Language

Identifier

YGeachDG1394781v1

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

Book cover
[page break]
[deleted word]
[deleted word]
[deleted] 106/10 [/deleted]
[deleted word]
[underlined] BOOK 4 [/underlined]
CONTINUING MY
OVERSEAS TRAINING
[page break]
[underlined] 12th December. 1942 [/underlined]
Back the Gunnery Exams are now over, that means that all our exams are completed [four indecipherable words] the aircraft [indecipherable word] & as I have always been pretty sound on that I have no fears in that direction. The final was on the 10th & the written on the 11th, the written wasn’t a bad paper a few tricky maps but we all made it O.K. I think the James Backward Movement of the ‘Breech Block,” cropped up. Looking back now upon the hours of binding on our précis, I wonder if it was all necessary. Still, maybe, it kept us out of marching, but I can’t help thinking of superfluous binding, I bet this thing is all forgotten on ‘ops.’
[page break]
[photograph]
[page break]
They found the missing ‘Boley’ today, it was at the side of 6 mile Lake, after all, that farmer had been right when he said he heard the crash there. It must have gone straight in from a fair height, because the largest piece left of it was only about 4 feet square, so I guess there was some excuse for the aerial search party not finding it. The fellows could hardly have had a chance they must have gone straight in. It is a fact that one hasn’t a chance of getting out, what with that tiny escape hatch, & the comparative low height they fly, no, I guess you just go & hope for the best. I feel terribly sorry for those fellows parents back in England, just to receive a brief telegram – its [sic] very hard.
[page break]
We were down on the 25 yd range the other day with the Browning, it runs a hellish waste of ammo at that short range. It was hellishly cold, except for the brief period when we were outside firing we were huddled in the hut around the stove. It was really grim if there was a stoppage. That is one disadvantage of the Post Office being right down by the Guard Room. We have to tramp all the way down there then through the Snow, & this bitter cold wind covering our ears with our hands as they still wont give us winter caps. Then when we get down there, we receive invariably the answer, “What name? Geach? No, sorry,” I wish it didn’t take so long to come across. Airgraphs are pretty quick, but they are read in a minute.
[page break]
[underlined] Tues 15th December. [/underlined]
Our worries are now all over at least as the exams are concerned. We took our last one today, Aircraft Rec, and that was O.K, poor old Taffy was never a Gen man in that line, nor was Norman & I was hard put whispering the answers to both of them. However whatever the results may be thats [sic] the end of the written & theory side of B & G. There only remains the practical to get in now. On that side we are slightly behind due to bad weather, I’m afraid, just lately I’ve had some incomplete exercises. Yesterday I tried to get a Low Level in the first time up there was a U/S bomb release & the exercise was incomplete. The second time up though everything went O.K except the exercise
[page break]
I got 96 yards for that, pretty grim for low level. Last night I was up twice trying for a High Level, the first time it was an incomplete exercise, because of icing up and the second time it was [indecipherable word] films. I was really cheesed, after hanging around the crew room most of the night, & go up twice, then not be able to get an exercise in.
One good thing over here, everyone has 4 days leave for either Xmas or the New Year which is better than at home so that is one benefit we’ll have. We certainly have put in some work at this place, and now I can see the advantage in having the station so isolated. There are no outside attractions to take our minds off our work.
[page break]
[underlined] Friday 18th December [/underlined]
Today was the coldest day I have ever known, & I hope I dont [sic] experience any more. The temp was 54˚ below zero, it seems incredulous to me that it could go so low. We were on our first gunnery flight, camera gun exercise. but of the whole gunnery flight they were only able to get one Blenheim started, it was so cold that it was impossible to get any life out of the others. It seemed an effort to breathe on the ground the air seemed so thin. Cross & I were on the camera gun trip, how I wished we werent [sic]. Clad in full cloths with a sweater then outer & inner flying suits on top of that, & two pairs of gloves we staggered out.
I was first in the turret, we had tossed & I had lost so I was ‘Joe.’ The Bristol turret, in ordinary conditions an abortion
[page break]
for anyone above 5ft 6ins didn’t react very favourably to my efforts to climb in. At last after a hell of a struggle I made though every time I rotated it, my feet were jammed. I saw the target Blenheim, and went to open fire, obviously he was in a playful mood, because he sat in the blind spot just under the tail, & would suddenly slide out, until he saw me struggle with the turret, my frozen hands gripping the controls, when the guns were almost bearing on him, he would pop back under the tail. Consequently I hadn’t had a chance to fire at all. He repeated the manoeuvre about 4 times, & I was nearly freezing with cold, because one is almost sitting in the open in those turrets.
Suddenly I got a bead on him and pressed the triggers holding in down, then
[page break]
looking at the counter dial, I saw it wasn’t moving, no film was being wound over. I cursed & swore like a madman, the cold had sapped at my strength so much that any little thing almost made me scream with frustration. Smashing at the cover I eventually lifted it & hauled out the magazine. I thrust it behind me into Cross’s hand & shouted for another. He was rather a long while & I shouted & swore, then he handed it up & I thrust it in. After getting it all set up I found that didn’t work, so utterly exhausted I almost fell out of the turret & thrust poor Crossy willy nilly in there screaming in his ear, what I know not. It wasn’t long before he was in the same state and scrambled out, trying to push me in, but I had had enough & told the
[page break]
pilot to land. By this time the cold had seeped through into our very marrow, & our bodies were shaking in uncontrollable spasms, apart from the absolute numbness, of our hands & feet.
Looking back in the warmth of the hut it seems incredible that cold could make us act like demented beings. Yet, so much did it eat at us, that everything going wrong made us swear & shout into the empty air & struggle hopelessly our fingers so cold they couldn’t grasp a thing. It was such a feeling of frustration that I would have thrown the gear overboard, had I been able. As it was the gun was so frozen up it was impossible to operate. I am surprised that they sent us up in that weather, with only one kite serviceable.
[page break]
Yesterday I was up with Smithy for a High Level, he went in first to, but gave a good few dummy runs, then said the windscreen was iced so much he couldn’t bomb. P/O Cheye the pilot asked me to try & ‘em so I went in & found it was iced up right to the line of sight & no corrections were possible. Anyway I tried as best as I could dropping bombs on the turn & all sorts of things. When we landed I told the pilot to come over to the plotting office & bear out my statement of the lousy conditions I had bombed under . When the result was worked out it was only 156 yds & I only needed 150yds or under to have a pass, so bombing under those lousy conditions I was only 6 yds over. The little English P/O that we didn’t like was in charge & when my pilot told
[page break]
him the score he hummed & hawed, then finally said, come back & see it later & it will be different. When I went back expecting about just under 100 yds, as in good conditions it would have been that easy, I found he had taken 6yds off, & I had 150 yds, a bare pass, what a concession it must have broken his heart to give it away. I also got a Low Level in & got 56 yds pretty nice. Last night I had a wizard exercise, to catch me up I went up alone, with Jake [indecipherable word] for pilot, he is a smashing guy. I had 12 bombs on & had to complete two exercises in, we got them off O.K. & the results were 79 yds & 85 yds, boy! Was I happy. What was better still we were down early enough for the film show, & as I was the only one in the class on night bombing, I was able to nip over, & go in the show with them. Truly a happy night.
[page break]
[underlined] Monday December 21st [/underlined]
They are certainly cracking on with this flying now, getting exercises in on every possible occasion, if only this keeps up we might finish on time yet. On Saturday I went up on High Level and got 105 yards, which was O.K. There is only one fault with there [sic] bombing exercises and that is bombing up, especially in this blasted cold weather, I don’t know a bigger torture. We go out to the Anson before take off & find the 12 bombs laying under the aircraft. Under the kite we crawl & lay down in the snow & hammer away at the frozen butterfly nuts, trying to pull the [indecipherable word] down to grip the bombs. It is deadly cold & even though we wear two pairs of gloves our hands get numb. Ramsay a New Zealander split
[page break]
his glove once & happening to get hold of the bomb with his bare hand tore all the skin off it.
After we have put the bombs on we get back in the kite, & wait till the pilot says the kite is serviceable, (which it often isn’t). Then out we scramble dive under the kite & start to pull the pins out. This is the worst part of the whole business, both engines are running & we crouch there in the slipstream, with the snow being whipped in our faces like a miniature blizzard. Once all the side of my face went right numb & a ground staff chap rubbed snow on it & it went O.K again. The copper wire holding the pins in, is generally too tough to break & we turn our gloves on it & twist & pull in vain. Then
[page break]
if that goes, more often than not the split pin is frozen or rusted in. We twist & pull, curse & swear, then eventually they are out & back we crawl. Quite often we are only up for a few minutes & the exercise is [indecipherable word] out, or sometimes we haven’t even left the ground before flying is scrubbed. Then back we crawl & push the pins back & vainly try & wind the copper wire around the safety plunger, [indecipherable word] the [indecipherable word] switch gently, so the plunger wont spring out. Then if it does you fumble around, cursing for all you are worth. Ah! [indecipherable word] what a mugs game this is.
We also went up Saturday night to try to get a High Level in but it was scrubbed owing to icing up, the old story, they ought to
[page break]
have something to keep the [indecipherable word] free from ice, a guard or something. I got the exercise in last night though, it wasn’t a particularly brilliant one, 141yds but it was a pass
Today was my first actual gunnery exercise & after all the tales I had heard I was surprised that everything went off without a hitch. I was in the turret first, I& was enjoying bashing away at the old drogue so much that when I thought it was about time to let Jamison fire his rounds I looked down and saw I had fired all mine and all of his except for about 20. There was nothing else to do but pop them off. Still he didn’t mind because with his height it is a work of art to get in & out of the turret.
[page break]
[underlined] Thursday 24th December [/underlined]
The exercises are gradually being completed, we have all completed bombing & have only the rest of the gunnery [indecipherable word] to do. We are not graduating on time though, they knew we wouldn’t a while ago, but were going to send us on leave for Xmas & on to AONS without bothering to complete the rest of our gunnery exercises.
This has all been squashed on the head though & we have to stay to finish them. The worst part of all, our leave has been cancelled, & we have to fly over Xmas, Taffy & I have had to cable the people in Surhatoon, who invited us to stay there & tell them its off. Poor old Chiefy Oliver he was really cut about us not getting it.
[page break]
The Navigation School we are going to is No 1 CNS Rivers Manitoba, & all the English fellows are going there. Most of the Canadians wanted to stay out West, so we let them apply for Regina, because it would be a rotten trick for us to try & keep them from their homes, we don’t mind where we go actually. I do wish we could have leave though.
I went up on two trips yesterday the first one, I had a really u/s gun, neither of us could do anything with it, so we had to land with the exercise incomplete. Sometimes if there is a stoppage that can’t be cleared & there are only about a hundred rounds left, we throw them over the side into Quill Lake so we can
[page break]
get in a complete exercise. Today I got an exercise in with Sgt [indecipherable word] a New Zealand pilot he is a mad guy, a good flier but a regular binder, he drives me to the point of turning the gun on him.
We all have to belt our own ammunition, heaven knows how many thousand rounds our class has made into belts, but it number quite a few. Every individual has to do a certain number, & there are always arguments about personal scores or somebody skiving off & not doing his share. Well its getting on so I must join the boys in the bar they are having a Xmas Eve party there, & we have invited the Aircraft {indecipherable word] Corporal & the Cpl in charge of our hut they are both decent fellows.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday December 27th. [/underlined]
Xmas has come and gone and our Bombing & Gunnery course is now completed, at least mine is with a few others, there are still some that have to get another one or two gunnery exercises in. The Xmas was the worst I have ever spent, I make no bones in saying that, & it was entirely the fault of the C.O & powers that be on the station. Xmas eve we had a marvellous time, because we organised it ourselves. We all had a good beer up in the canteen, at our party, then bowled down to the WAAFs recreation room. They are allowed to invite one fellow each but the whole crowd of us just swarmed in there, & took the place over. We started a dance with the juke box & it was bang on.
[page break]
I think I got to bed about 3AM. On Xmas morning but got up rather [indecipherable word] for the Xmas dinner. This was rather a nice meal, but what a fiasco it was. The officers & NCO’s were serving us & it wouldn’t have been so bad if they had laid off the liquor before hand. Instead of that we had to sit at the tables for about three quarters of an hour before they finally rolled in. Boy! They were certainly well heeled, the officers had NCO’s tunics & vice versa, the little Sgt B/A who came back from England was wearing one of the large fur hats we could just about see his face. Anyway they tried to serve it, the meal, I mean, & there was nearly a riot. They dropped quite a few & were playing about the rest of the
[page break]
time.
As everyone was nearly starving, the boys began to eat up, an officer jumped up to try to make a speech but was howled down. Then the Orderly Officer & Orderly NCO came in, & the NCO tried to shout at us, & someone hit him in the eye with an apple, & he hit him good & hard. That started the fun there was a shower of apples that were provided on the tables. It was great while it lasted, then things quietened down & we finally got our meal, which was good, although my taste was rather spoilt by the effect of the previous nights hang over.
Xmas night what a night, there was no tea, because the mess was still in the shambles it was from the dinner, so we had to forage around
[page break]
& get what food we could. Then we looked for some amusement, the officers were having a hell of a party with bags of liquor, lots of women. The N.C.O were doing likewise in their mess everyone was having a whale of a time – except the airmen. We drifted along to the WAAFs recreation hall to see if there was a dance, but it was practically deserted, all the WAAF’s had been invited to the parties. After disconsolately playing a couple of records on the juke box, we thought , oh! Well we’ll go in the canteen & just sit there drinking, so off we went. When we went there, we found a notice to say it wasn’t opening as there was no beer. No drinks to be had on Xmas night at least for the airmen, NCO’s & officers were gorging it down & there wasn’t a
[page break]
drop for the other ranks. Pretty poor arrangements on the CO’s part, in fact the whole attitude was let the airmen take care of themselves. Some said there should have been 12 barrels of beer for the airmen, but it mysteriously disappeared into the other parties, whether, this was true or not I don’t know, anyway we were out in the cold.
The YMCA took pity on us & screened a couple of travel films in Norway, & the place was full, it shows what a degree of apathy had sunk to. On the wireless we could hear the fellows at Mossbank having a marvellous party & the English fellows broadcasting home to their families, & we were going to bed at 10P.M – Merry Xmas.
Today I did my last two gunnery exercises, one with [indecipherable word], everything went O.K. so my B & G course is now over.
[page break]
[underlined] Thursday Dec 31st. [/underlined]
1942 has almost gone & it has been quite an eventful year for me, I guess we will be up when the – New Year arrives. Speaking of new things we are now at our new station, Rivers Manitoba No 1 Central Navigation School. Back at Dafoe we kept binding the others to get their gunnery exercises in as there might be a chance of leave. They finally got them in & our graduation party was set for Tuesday the 29th. We spent the day packing our things & getting everything ready for our journey. Then in the evening we assembled promptly in the YMCA hut for the proceedings. The C.O & the officers arrived & after a few speeches & the usual bull about being one of the best courses etc, though this time they quoted figures and
[page break]
we had beaten all previous courses records. Then came the awarding of the certificates, old Smithy came top, everyone expected that, it shook me that when the final results were out, of both practical & theory work, I had come fourth in the course, I didn’t expect that.
Afterwards there was some drinking & a sing song but we didn’t get canned or anything, then around midnight we bowled along to the mess for a special supper that was provided. I had two lots of toast eggs bacon tomatoes & chips, with wizard coffee, I was really starving. When that was over some of the boys [indecipherable word] off to a recent cache of beer they had & were certainly heeled. We got to bed around 2 A.M. & we were hardly asleep when we were awakened at 5A.M. to get moving.
[page break]
After a quick breakfast we bundled our kit bags in the back of the lorry, then found we had to climb in on top of them. The back of the lorry was open, there was a blizzard raging & we had a 30 mile drive across the prairies to Raymore where we were to catch the train. So we said cheerio to all our Canadian friends on the course who were going to Regina & off we went.
I find it impossible to describe that ride, no mere words on paper can conjure up the intense cold we suffered. Cold is a thing that always strikes me & it nearly did them. We were laying there on the kit bags huddled together like sheep for a little warmth. Before long my feet had gone dead & I couldn’t move them so I had to
[page break]
get Taffy to punch & pummel them, because I was frightened of frostbite. About every five minutes he did this, & I think that was all that saved them. I was in agony with the bitter cold, & thought the ride would never end, on & on we jolted until at last we reached the little township of Raymore. I fell out of the lorry & so did quite a few of the others, & got into the bare waiting room of the railway station for warmth. When we had unloaded the kit & placed it on a truck, we found out our train which [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] was then due was snowed up & hadn’t left [indecipherable word]. There was only one hotel in the place so we went there, to have coffee. After a while we decided to have breakfast as well, & got cracking.
[page break]
The hotel appeared to be devoid of customers but us, & I didn’t see any people staying there, heaven’s knows how they made it pay. The old chap who owned it didn’t appear to take to us at [deleted word] first, but he thawed out [deleted word] later. We plunged back through the driving snow to the station to see what the position, but the train still hadn’t started out, so we ordered dinner at the hotel. As it turned out we spent all the day there & never have I experienced such complete boredom. There was nothing at all in the hotel, just one room with an old piano, which Smithy banged on, but as he played mainly by music & the pieces there were pretty old & grim, there wasn’t much amusement in that direction. In the town there wasn’t one shop we could
[page break]
look in, or a cinema, dance hall, absolutely nothing. Some of the boys discovered an old barber’s shop with a pool room in the back & played there for a while, but that was deadly.
After dinner the bar was opened, & we sat there most of the time drinking, then the station rang to say the train would be in at 5P.M. Pat Smithy & myself wandered off & found a little café The lady came from London Eng [sic], & we had quite a chat. Then there was a panic because we found the boundary of Mountain Time & Central Time ran between the café & the station, so we didn’t know whether the station had meant 5P.M. their time or what was in the café, what a topsy turvy town. As there was an hors difference we dashed to
[page break]
the station in a panic. There we found the train still hadn’t arrived& would be later than they thought. Back to the hotel for tea & we were sitting in the bar when we heard the whistle, the train was coming through we dashed out & there she was in the distance her headlight glaring and her whistle screaming how we cheered it. She was 13 hours late.
Soon we were heading away from that desolate spot, & one step nearer to England again. When we reached Rivers there was a truck waiting & out we went. We had to book in at the guard room, it was then 1.30am. they gave us a light meal & then tried to find billets for us. The fellow who knew where they were, was apparently away & the
[page break]
Cpl. Who showed us didn’t. We stumbled into huts in the pitch black switched on lights got furious howls from the occupants & dived out. Eventually we found the hut we had had odd beds amongst a flight of navigators that were sleeping there. They had only just moved in for weeks they had been sleeping in hangars, & we had to wake the poor devils with the lights.
We were in bed about 3AM. & they sorted us out at 8A.M. to get weaving on the schedule of signing in FFI’s & the usual routine. With hardly any sleep for two nights we certainly feel tired now. Today we met our instructor had a look round at the place & received the usual welcome address, and so have begun our Navigators course it lasts 6 weeks. Ah! Well it has just struck midnight so Farewell 1942 & Greetings 1943 – Happy New Year.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday 3rd January. [/underlined]
I’m afraid this place isn’t as good as Defoe though it is a fair bit easier for us, being as Air Bombers aren’t taken seriously, it is almost purely and simply a Navigation School. Our huts are O.K. only I wish the blasted heater in our room would work constantly, when it fails, & it invariably does in the night the place is like an ice berg come morning & a supreme effort is needed to leap out of the sheets. The kit bags arrived the day after we did & mine was missing, it’s the one with flying kit, I’ve bound about it, but so far without result. I think the biggest laugh is our classroom, it is in a huge drill hall, that is still under construction, & I guess our classroom isn’t constructed yet. It is a ramshackle
[page break]
affair of wood, all knocked together. The floor is rough planks, & ends before it reaches the far wall, there lies a large hole in which all sorts of rubbish is dumped. There is no heating & not much electric light, the one bright spot is that the walls are literally covered, with women that themselves are far from covered. Represented are the Queens of Hollywood in their most glamorous & revealing poses and photographs from various nudist magazines, it is a superb collection. A Flt / Lt bought the Sqdn/Ldr along see them and have them removed. Gesturing he said to the Sqdn/Ldr “you see what I mean,” the latter surveyed them in silence & said “yes, but mind you, they’re damn fine women.” The best part was when the padre came to the room for his chat, but even he couldn’t keep his eyes off them.
[page break]
The food as whole is pretty grim here, & the mess isn’t so hot, although we had a really smashing dinner on New Years Day & didn’t bother to go to classes in the afternoon. Our instructor is a decent chap, he’s only been a P/O a couple of weeks was an LAC like us then. He is rather easy going, keen, & tries hard, I’m afraid we take advantage of him. When looking at some out of date reconnaissance books the other day, there was a diagram of a battle fleet at sea. It was obviously pre-war with the destroyer screen in a beautiful Vic ahead of the rest & four aircraft carriers bunched together all on their lonesome at the rear. I remarked “They’d be a sitting target for U. Boats,” at which he gazed hard at the diagram & rather vaguely said “I don’t see any U Boats.” Before I realised it I said ‘no, they are under the water.” I couldn’t resist it, he really asked for it, guess he has drawn the bead on me now.
[page break]
[underlined] Thursday January 7th [/underlined]
We have commenced our flying here, I went on one trip Tuesday, ostensibly we are there for Map Reading, but actually we are ballast. Nobody bothers about us we sit up by the pilot & heroically wind the undercart up & down, every now and again the Navigator pushes us aside to read the astro compass. Should we be very conscientious & map read diligently all the way, then offer the Nav a pin point, he looks at you with deep suspicion, still I guess they have every right to be they get so many duff pin points. Their cross country trips last about three hours & we are supposed to drop one bomb at the end. What good one will do I don’t know, but most pilots hate it, & will do anything rather than carry out the bombing, they find wizard excuses too.
[page break]
P/O Grand gives us logs to keep in the air, pin points recce reports etc, I blush to say most of them are cooked. We have to prepare flight plans too, actually though we don’t do a lot of ground work here, the photography is the most binding I think. Certainly there isn’t the study at night like at Dafoe, the navs [sic] work hard though, I pity the poor guys. The cinema is the same as Dafoe though not so clean & it is more crowded, not bad though. There is a fair sized canteen opposite with a bar one end divided by the partition. They sell hot dogs for a nickel each & I generally get a quarters worth I love them. Generally they have a good selection of commercial goods, shirts and everything. There is a small YWCA by the gate where they sell lovely coffee, we don’t do so badly.
[page break]
[underlined] Tuesday 12th January [/underlined]
I have been on two more cross countries here we are gradually getting our hours in. My flying kit bag turned up after all so, I didn’t have to wear borrowed kit again, God knows where it had been, halfway across Canada again I reckon. We had a 36hr which we were going into Brandon for, over the weekend. After queuing at the gate & in a mad rush we arrived in there safely, but after back & forth along Main Street we figured we had seen [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] [inserted] everything [/inserted]. I splashed out & bought a Rolex wrist watch for $65 (£15) it really is a lovely thing though. Afterwards we went to a cinema to see “My Sister Eileen,” quite a funny film. Although we had been in two cafés for snacks already, we were still able to wade through a large dinner in the Hotel.
[page break]
After that we were absolutely at a loss so we went to a cinema again. It was a grim little dive really & the films were pretty poor. I happened to be sitting next to a Canadian Flt/Lt. & his wife, & she noticed my ATS cap badge, that I had worn ever since somebody stole my badge at Manchester. I could hear her whispering to him “ask him what it is,” & I was all set to [indecipherable word] out Air Training Scheme as I told an S.P previously, but he didn’t. after the show we figured there was absolutely nothing to stay for, Jock, Butch & a couple of others stayed & went off to find some women, but we caught the last bus back to camp.
Our Wings Parade is due the beginning of February, the day we have waited for all this time is getting pretty close now. Ah! Well I’ll be glad its [sic] all over.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday January 17th. [/underlined]
Life is still the same, fairly uneventful, some days it snows, & some days it doesn’t some days we fly & some days we don’t - [indecipherable word]. We went into Rivers this afternoon, we started to walk but hell! It was so cold that we were mighty glad when we got a lift half way. A good hot meal in the drug store & we felt like new again. That’s the thing I like about Rivers it may small & dead, but boy! You can get a good meal pretty cheap. We generally come in on the bus, straight into the drug store, & there have, coffee, rolls & butter, steak, two eggs, green peas, French Fries, with lemon pie that just makes my mouth water all for 65 cents. Afterwards we see a film at the tiny “Four Star Theatre” or the other one, then time for another meal, & just time to catch the bus back it really is a pleasant evening.
[page break]
There is only one general store to wander round but they stock almost everything, what a thrill it was when we first had bananas there, they really tasted good. The new snack bar on the camp is now open, its [sic] a real flash affair, red leather stools, with chromium fittings & red leather settees, some café for an Air Force camp. The drill hall or games hall is nearing completion, its [sic] a wizard floor & quite a size, the Canadians certainly look after their men.
I went on the open air skating rink the other night to try my hand, the chaps who could skate said it was pretty grim, but I’m no judge. As I have done a fair amount of roller skating, I was able to maintain my balance & not fall down at all, & whip up a little speed on occasions, but it really made my ankles ache, afterwards.
[page break]
[underlined] Thursday 21st January. [/underlined]
It really has been cold lately, and we have had to cease lectures over in the class room, because there is no heating, and one simply can’t pay attention. So just lately we have moved the classroom to our billets because they are warm, at least the one next to us is, our own heater keeps breaking down.. On Monday the temp. was 48˚ below zero, boy! That’s getting down some, I hope never to experience cold like it again. One has difficulty in breathing, & your eyelids gum up, every tooth in my mouth aches, & the skin on the face feels as though it is being torn off in strips, its [sic] really grim. I never thought I should see the day when it got warmer when it started to snow. We also flew Monday, luckily there was an inversion, & it was only -32˚ but that was cold enough.
[page break]
The other day on a day cross country our track took us across Winnipeg, it was well worth seeing from the air. The tall buildings, I dont [sic] think they are big enough to be called sky scrapers, stood up very clean & the mass of cars in the streets looked [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] like hundreds of beetles crawling along, in fact the whole place resembled a large ant hill. Easily the most fascinating part was the railway station & goods yards, they looked like little toy trains puffing in & out of each other, it was well worth seeing. We spent our 48 hrs. there & had a good time, apart from the fact I collected a frost bitten ear, which became the size of a young foot-ball. I was able to see May’s Aunt & was made very welcome. We went in on the “flyer” Friday afternoon & came back Sunday night, it is a nice town, & it made a break, I really enjoyed myself.
[page break]
[underlined] Tuesday January 26th. [/underlined]
The flying programme really has been moving these last few days, I have flown three days running now, as there was a good break in the weather. Lets hope the weather continues to be O.K. & then we wont be held up after Wings Parade to complete our flying hours. The results of our Mid Term Exams, which we took last Wednesday came through, & we all passed, it was pretty easy so I guess we all should. Our final exams come off tomorrow & Thursday, & we will all pass by hook or by crook & mainly the latter. The whole class will be cribbing most of their written exams, & I make no excuses in fact I say its [sic] the right thing. The stuff they teach us is all obsolete, & we will never use it when we leave here, both the instructors & pupils know it consequently there is no effort made to learn it.
[page break]
We have done a couple of night cross – countries & I can’t see they are much training. If the trip is East it is invariably by Winnipeg & as soon as we climb to 6,000ft the glow of Winnipeg can be seen in the distance there is no chance of losing it. Even if the navigator gives a duff course the pilots fly towards it, so they don’t have to stay up longer than they can help. It is pretty cheesing for us, we just sit there in the cold, see a town lit up on the ground, shine a dim light on our map then on our log to make an entry. Invariably the pencil or log falls on the floor and we grope around for it, whilst the pilot curses about the light flashing. The other night I saw the pilot laughing heartily at something so I crawled into the bombing hatch & put the ear-phones on, they were listening to Bob Hope, so I discovered a way to relieve the boredom.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday 31st January. [/underlined]
Well our last exams are over & passed, we have no more to take now before we get our wings, that should be pretty soon now. The exams weren’t too bad, & we didn’t have to do a lot of cribbing, the aldis & a couple like that we couldn’t possibly crib, still we all made the grade. Now we are trying to get our 30 odd flying hours in I thought it would be a rush for them. We flew yesterday & today & only need three trips now & our flying programme will be completed. 65 course who were at Defoe with us, left for Moncton except one chap who had to stay behind to get his flying hours in. Riches the chap I used to work with has gone on the 4th Vector course so I guess hell [sic] do his OUT over here.
[page break]
I don’t think we shall get any leave after our course, the last lot of fellows didn’t, they certainly have twisted us out of the five days leave we should have had for Xmas or the New Year. Our life is the essence of laziness now, as there is nothing for us to do in the way of lectures. We write, read & yarn most of the day, & toddle along to the cinema at night. It gets rather packed now & we have to queue about a quarter of an hour outside to make sure of getting in for a seat. ‘Red’ Sollis and the rest of the navigators that are passing out with us have just about finished wading through their pile of exams, they certainly have some to get through. More & more I thank my lucky stars that when I washed out as pilot I wasn’t made a navigator I just wouldn’t have stood it.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday February 7th. [/underlined]
Its [sic] arrived at last, almost a year to the day of entering the R.A.F we have our tapes and I am now Sgt Geach. The big day was yesterday & it was about three days overdue, we flew Thursday, & twice on Friday in order to get our flying finished in time. Old Grand wanted us to fly on the first night cross country on Friday, come down get into another kite & fly on the second one in order to get our time in, that was on top of flying 3 hrs. in the day time. It would mean 10 hrs flying in about 16 hrs, anyway when I returned from my first night cross country I told him what he could do & walked off, so did some of the others, a few flew again. When we got to the mess for a midnight meal they wouldn’t serve us because we were wearing flying boots. So we all took
[page break]
them off, one of the Canadians had red & yellow hooped socks, some of us had blue & some grey, it was quite a sight, anyway they had to serve us.
They sprang this wings parade on us the day before and we were frantically bulling for it. It took place at 2P.M. yesterday, & there were two flights of navigators passing out beside we Air Bombers. There was bags of bull, a terrific long march out to the Groupie, I wasn’t looking forward to it. Suddenly my name was called, & like a robot away I went, “attention, one pace back, turn left, march smartly, head up, left, right, bags of bull. Getting near the Groupie now, get ready for a smart halt not too near him, & not too far away.” Then horror of horrors as I came to a real crashing halt the steel tips on my heels made me
[page break]
slip, the whole room held its breath as I tottered & even the Groupie smiled when I managed to regain my balance, it shook me. A handshake, pin on the brêvet, a few words, then it was all over & I was marching back. So I had graduated at last into a trained Air Bomber.
That afternoon we were all queuing up at the parachute section getting our tapes and brêvet sewn on, they certainly made some money there. Now we have been packing all the time & throwing out all the unwanted junk. We leave tomorrow to Moncton & should have a two day break, at Montreal I guess. That is a start of our journey back to England, & home again, this place doesn’t seem so bad now, stations never do until you are on the point of leaving them, anyway cheerio! Rivers.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday 14th February. [/underlined]
Here we are back in Moncton, as some wit put it “Brother, this is where I came in.” We had quite a pleasant trip back here, we left on the Monday, the train was a few hours late owing to snow storms. It wasn’t too good a coach but at Winnipeg we changed onto the train that was taking us across to Montreal, and we climbed into our bunks there. On the whole we slept fairly well, the one thing that cheesed me was every time the train stopped there was a colossal clanking & jarring as each coach hit the other. The Canadian railways lead ours in many ways, but I certainly think they would be wise to use spring buffers. Our coloured attendant was quite a good sort & cleaned our shoes if we left them out.
[page break]
Our journey back across Canada was quite a lot different from the journey out. Before it had been summertime and maybe just a tinge of autumn creeping in, but now the country was really in the grip of the winter. Snow storms would rage & the fine powdered snow would filter in under the edges of the doors. The scenery was really lovely in its majestic beauty though. The pureness and [indecipherable word] of the snow is certainly something & as we raced through forests along the edges of frozen lakes one couldn’t help but be impressed. Although our coach on the train was the old wood & leather type, the meals were everything one could wish for, with excellent service. To cap it there was a tourist car next to it, at least I believe that was what it was.
[page break]
It had huge soft armchairs on swivels, with enormous windows allowing the maximum vision. Such a lazy existence to sprawl back & gaze at the panorama flitting by. We had a little break at Ottowa and took a few snaps, & then on to Montreal. The snow had been very heavy around there & was up above the fence tops, quite a few telephone wires were down as well. I don’t think I’ve ever got over Canadian telephone poles, having twists & bends in them, whereas ours are dead straight & creosoted! No doubt it is because so many come down that it is only worth while lopping the branches off trees and sticking them up. However at about 6 P.M. on Wednesday we came rolling into Montreal. We reported to the RTO, got everything fixed up, dumped our kit & set off for a place to stay.
[page break]
Ronnie Clureman & I set off for the YMCA but got lost & had a hell of a job finding it. I was surprised to find the pavements and roads were coated with a solid sheet of ice a foot thick. To make matters worse the temperature rose suddenly & it rained forming pools everywhere, then just as suddenly it froze. It was exactly the same as walking on an ice rink. At the YMCA they said they hadn’t rooms there but they could fix us up. I’m afraid we were more out for a spree than anything, consequently we didn’t want to stay in a persons house and come in pretty early, So mumbling excuses we crept out & started to look for rooms, we soon got fixed up, in a place owned by a Frenchman, a decent chap though. Following this we went back to the YMCA for a meal.
[page break]
Jack Benny was in town with his show Rochester, Don Wilson, & the rest, they were giving a show in the Y.M. that night so we went, it was pretty good. Afterwards there was a jam session we were able to stand it for a while but with our heads absolutely splitting we tottered out. The next day we were mainly sight seeing and shopping during the day. Gangs of men were chipping the ice off the side walks, because people had been going down like ninepins the night before & I guess there were a few bones broken. We lunched at Dinty Moor’s we had nearly all our meals there, & I saw Noel Cowards ’In which we serve,” it was very good. The Y.M.C.A gave us free seats for any film show that we wanted to go to. After tea we started a real round of the various night clubs & dives.
[page break]
Our first call was at the Beaver Club, because that was the only place we could find where the price of beer was reasonable. It was 45 cents a quart, so we would quaff a goodly sum, & then bowl off to the dearer places, well heeled. The Beaver really was a dive though, the grimmest excuse for a cabaret I ever saw & a really grim lot there at times. Still it served its purpose then off we would trot to the Astor or Music Box, we hovered around both places, but I know we finished at the Astor. Harry Jamieson & Corrie were really gone & had a couple of women with them, as up came a photographer & snapped them & charged them $5 a copy. The cabaret there wasn’t too hot, anyway we remained till the end around 3A.M. and we wended our way back rather staggeringly to our bed.
[page break]
The next day was much the same as the previous ones, silk stockings & cosmetics, being purchased at Eaton’s, & a general tour around. We went to Lochi’s to see a film, & then wended our way to the station, we were very sorry to have to leave, I should have liked a fortnight there, two days was far too short. The train journey to Moncton was pretty uneventful, the sun was shining brightly on the snow, & we took quite a few photographs.
At 4P.M. yesterday afternoon we drew into the familiar station at Moncton, & took a taxi to the camp. They hadn’t been expecting us which annoyed us, because we could have had a few days more leave, Jock Creighton hasn’t come back yet anyway. Now we are settled in our billets and are getting quite comfortable again, I love this central heating.
[page break]
[underlined] Wednesday February 17th. [/underlined]
The weather has taken a turn for the worse now when we arrived the streets were clean but we’ve had a couple of snow falls since. Things have tightened up here since we were last staying, there is more of a check on you. We parade in the morning after breakfast, if we can get up for it. The trouble is we have to queue right round the hall, because there are quite a few N.C.O’s here, it shook us having to have our own knives & forks again, most of us had thrown them away.
After parade they march us to lectures they have just started, they are more or less a farce, not a lot of gen given us. There is quite an amount of square bashing on a huge parade ground they have built, what a life, could be worse.
[page break]
I have been into town once, everything is much the same, a new restaurant has opened, & is packed out always. As there has been no troopships leaving for a few weeks there are tons of RAF chaps & the town is crowded. Once I went to the Camp Cinema its [sic] really is the finest I’ve seen a real luxury effort. Red plush armchairs, covertly staggered, velvet curtains, everything done in modern style. Beside this there is an ordinary camp cinema, which is free. The bar is a good one, and we have a decent café, with oranges & milk available, so we are pretty well off. Our food isn’t too bad, the majority of our meals are ate in the town though. On the whole Moncton must get 50% of its business from the RAF.
[page break]
[underlined] Sunday 21st February [/underlined]
A week of waiting has passed, with bags of rumours flying around regarding postings home. Never before has the camp been so crowded, owing to the active U Boat campaign no RAF chaps have sailed for [deleted] [indecipherable] [/deleted] six weeks, & the camp is jammed, all the huts are full. The other day a huge bunch of Aussies & Canadians arrived from Halifax as they were overflowing there as well. It is really grim in town trying to get in at a café or cinema, its [sic] air force air force everywhere, & we vainly hunt for a place to eat. On a course one doesn’t notice the time passing but here on the last lap home, it just seems to drag. Another thing we don’t get mail now because we told everyone at home to cease writing when our course was finishing at Rivers. In this way
[page break]
it obviates bundles of old letters chasing you to England. However we tramp hopefully to the Post Office each day just in case, & sometimes there is an old one that has been chasing all over Canada.
We are in a different hut now, it was a bind lugging all the kit across. The old ‘F’ flight at Manchester, (65 course at Defoe) are in the next room, its [sic] funny how after all this time we are still together. It has just come through who are getting commissions, they are Stan Cross, Pat Kinsella, Smithy, Wade, Jock Crighton, Hunter, & a quiet chap in another class Walker I believe his name is. Most of them were expected, Jock Crighton was a shock he had had more detentions & charges than all the course put together, he arrived here quite a few days leave. Some of them deserve their commissions thoroughly though, its [sic] a pity we are split up now.
[page break]
It was a humorous but tragic sight here the other day. The weather was quite warm when most of the fellows went into town around 5P.M. at 8P.M. it dropped terribly in temperature, & as they only had thin RAF caps, there were well over 50 fellows walking about with a bandage on their head & two great pads over their ears. After my dose of it I was truly sorry for them. They try to put in an amount of square bashing here, its [sic] a bind, W/O Libby is one big b- & thats [sic] no lie as the Canucks say. He is the station W/O & really likes aircrew – I don’t think.
It is May’s birthday today, but I’ll have to deliver her present when I arrive home. These various items have travelled some miles already, & will be travelling a good few more before they are ultimately delivered.
[page break]
[underlined] Monday March 1st. [/underlined]
One more week gone & it really seems as though something big is moving now and I sincerely hope so. Some of us popped of to New York for a few days leave. We managed it by forging letters from imaginary people down there, as this was necessary, I think everybody knew they were faked including the officer, still we had a fine time. Lots of times we have been warned of the Fifth Column over here, & we have had ample evidence of it. From bags of people we have had “authentic” gen regarding our ship, port & sailing date. Most of them seem to favour the Queen Elizabeth from New York, I hope they are right from the point of comfort. Regarding the sailing date it is sometime during the next fortnight, and that seems feasible enough.
[page break]
The Fleet Air Arm chaps had a party last night a regular beer up, they finished up with women in the billets, one could hear them shrieking of laughter all over the camp. So a few officers were Joe’d to go along & turf them out. Our hut has a real handy location for getting out of camp, instead of walking right across to the main gate, we have a hole in the fence at the back of our hut. Here we slip through & catch a bus right into the centre of the town, it is most handy returning at night [deleted] bef [/deleted] being dropped off almost at the doorstop.
Some of the commissioned lads are acquiring their kit, seems strange to see them in cheese-cutters. I don’t exactly know if I wanted one or not, so can’t tell if I’m disappointed. I know I wouldn’t take that commission Grand spoke of to go on the 4th Vector course.
[page break
[underlined] Wednesday [deleted] 4th [/deleted] 3rd March. [/underlined]
Things definitely are moving and its [sic] homeward bound we’ll be in a few days, it seems too good to be true. Not much has happened but we have been warned to stand by & get all our kit assembled together, & chase round to the various places, if we have any boots or shoes etc. anywhere. We came across here with webbing & two kitbags although we didn’t need it all, we kept the webbing with us, & the kit bags were stowed in the hold. Now we are only allowed one kit bag & webbing & we keep these with us all the trip there being nothing stowed in the hold, I don’t know why. We are handing in our flying kit here, but we still lose a lot of room, as flying kit could go in 3/4 of a kit bag and the rest of the room could be used for something else.
[page break]
So it has come to the question of room for service stuff or for our presents, & the answer is emphatically presents. After lugging them this far we certainly aren’t going to leave them behind now for some service gear.
We had the job, one night of waiting up through the night for an intake arriving here from England. They were pretty late & we kept waiting in the empty huts listening for the whistles of the trains in the sidings. We found a tramp fast asleep in one empty hut in the old RAF blankets. He said he had been sleeping there every night for a fortnight, we told him to beat it in case the S.P’s came along & boy! Did he move. The intake arrived at 7A.M. full of questions, about training & everything, we were exactly the same when we got here.
[page brake]
[underlined] Sunday March 7th. [/underlined]
We have said our last goodbyes to the part of Canada we are in, not that Moncton is representative of Canada thank heavens but that is the only place available. Tomorrow morning will see us moving off heavily laden, bon voyage & then England & home yippee! This has been a pretty frenzied week on the whole, hurried rushed parades for some new gen. Being put into our embarkation flights, roll calls over & over again, tramp around in a huge straggling column, continual threats that offenders will be “taken off the draft” it really is a hustle. I met Fred Price the other day, a chap I knew back at the YMCA club in civvie [sic] street. He is a [indecipherable word] Nav/W. we had quite a chin wag over the old times, I was pleased to see him.
[page break]
There was an enormous pay parade we had to wait a hell of a time before we collected the filthy lucre. Most of us went into town & bought up bags of things that will be unavailable in England. Chief among these was cosmetics, the manager in Eaton’s was saying he had never seen anything like it, three days running now he has had his complete stock bought up. That is one of the most obvious signs that there is a draft moving out, this terrific orgy of last minute spending. Also all the chaps that are well in with their girls in town will be saying goodbye, yes! If there’s a person in town who doesn’t know we are all moving out tell me. Still I guess the powers that be are fully aware of this fact & have taken it into account, I hope so anyway.
[page break]
Jock Crighton put a fast one over on some of the boys, he owed quite a few of them packets of money. When he first arrived he kept putting them off, & now the draft is going he has suddenly gone sick, got moved into hospital, & refuses to see anyone. Consequently he is missing the draft & his creditors, he never had any conscience in those matters though.
Tomorrow morning we have our final parade with full webbing, I really hate the stuff now, I’ve put it on & off so much lately. Every available inch of it is crammed with presents, it is a masterpiece of packing, bags of 664B though on the next clothing parade.
Naturally I shall be very glad to get home, but I would have liked time to have looked around Canada more. Although one thing I shan’t be sorry to leave is the snow, I’ll never want a ‘White Christmas.’
[page break]
[underlined] Tuesday March 9th. [/underlined]
Once more I am writing afloat, though we aren’t under way, we are on the boat but she is still moored to the dockside. The old grapevine was pretty bang on with their ‘gen’, the boat we are on is the Queen Elizabeth & just outside stretches Lil’ ole Noo [sic] York. Their date of sailing wasn’t so far out either, we leave tomorrow.
We paraded yesterday morning in the drill hall at Moncton, with all regalia. The customary period of waiting ensued, during which we sagged with our webbing & finally threw it on the floor. At last we began to move off flight by flight, down past the buildings along the huge drill square & to the railway siding where we sat & waited for the train. Hell! It was cold my ear nearly froze again, still the train hove into sight just in time.
[page break]
A wild rush began for seats with chaps getting entangled with each other’s kit, everyone settled down O.K. though. I could have wept for one chap. Like a lot of fellows he had bought a large blue kit bag in the town so he could get more stuff in it than the service kit bag permitted. It’ was made of inferior material however & split right down the side as he ran along. Presents fell out right & left cosmetics strewn around, and silk stockings in abundance. It looked grim, but when it was collected he had only lost two small jars of cream broken, and one box of powder. All the train journey he was busy sewing it up with string, & lashing it with straps.
Off went the train with the customary lurch & series of bumps, then became lost in a maze of sidings around Moncton
[page break]
before beginning its southward journey. On & on we went with the afternoon lengthening into evening, then with the dark out would come the cards & the groups would get going. There couldn’t be much security about the movement, because all along the way, even when it was dark, lots of people would come out to their doorways to wave at us passing. We were the fifth troop train to go through so quite a few people must have known. That is one pleasant thing here, the hospitality & friendliness of the people, everyone turns out to wave at you passing. At one place there was a long stop and we all streamed out to get something to eat, but they chased us back again. Cooked meals were served in the old dixies [sic] & steel plates while we were travelling, they were a bit grim though.
[Page break]
When we awoke in the morning we were well on our way, the sun was shining it was much warmer, & wonder of wonders the good earth was showing without a snow covering. Yes, we had crossed the border & were in the States again. We followed the banks of the Hudson River for a while, taking bags of photographs. The guard warned us about taking snaps of a submarine yard further on, as he said a guard fired at a chap with a camera. It was quite a large place, with several sleek black shapes around. The Hudson was really broad here & later we crossed an enormous bridge & pulled up in Newhaven. There was a wait of over an hour an hour here, and all the other troop trains were also standing there. At this point the electric trains came into use with the overhead trellis & cables like our trolley buses, they were lovely jobs.
[page break]
On we went & clattered into the suburbs of New York, everyone waved & we waved back, all were happy & life was grand. There was a brief halt in Pennsylvania Station, then back & forth across Long Island until we drew up at the dockside. Then we were right on East River, with the skyscrapers towering above, to proclaim Manhattan. No doubt about it, it certainly does impress you, I guess we Londoners get used to the five storey buildings etc. as the main thing. It really does look thrilling from the river to see the Empire State, the Woolworth, Rockefeller Centre, Chrysler, & others towering up to the sky, certainly better than they look when one is underneath. The ferry boat pulled in & on we went, I could never stop thinking of the old Mississippi days & old Man River, when I saw these. They were so identical in shape to the old paddle steamers that plyed [sic] back & forth.
[page break]
We slowly moved up East River, past the skyscrapers, wharves, docks & shipping, I know one thing struck me that I hadn’t noticed before. That apart from Manhattan, New York is pretty flat. There was the hulk of the old Normandie [sic], at the French wharf, she was lying over on her side, half submerged with wooden islands all around & over it,& gangs of men swarming like industrious ants. The Cunard Quay was next & there towered the Queen Elizabeth in her sombre grey war paint. We docked & filed up a narrow gang plank with our kit bags, one chap had one so heavy he overbalanced & fell into the water. It was crammed with presents & with stoic determination he refused to let go, but gripped on it tightly. With that & full webbing he was nearly on the point of drowning till a lively boat man secured him with a boat hook.
[page break]
After being checked in carefully at the gate we filed on board received our berth & meal cards & set off to our room. I was unlucky enough to get a bottom berth again, but it wasn’t so bad. We dumped our kit & set out for our meal. The mess isn’t so decorative as the Queen Mary, none of the boat is, because she is finished as a troop ship, & the Mary was completed in peace time. I’ll say more about the ship later. Tonight we sneaked up on deck though we weren’t supposed to for the last look of New York by night. Although it has a supposed black out it still resembles peace time Piccadilly. Late workers in the skyscrapers had various windows lit, & now & again, one would go out as they packed up and went home. Multi coloured lights were visible up & down the river with hurrying craft, whilst on the roads streams
[page break]
of taxis whizzed back & forth. Bright lights were twinkling everywhere, & I would have given anything to just be starting a months leave there, still if [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] wishes were horses –
They were loading some cargo or something in the forward hold, & it seemed strange to see the huge arc lamps glaring down on the ship. It seems funny that after this time we are at least going home. Tomorrow morning we shall be under way to England, in a way I shall be sorry because I have enjoyed myself over here. Still I got a bit homesick and had to come down from the deck, & there being nothing doing I decided to write this. I wonder how long we will be aboard, before we dock again, it all depends on the route. Well, I’ll turn in now, & see if I can sleep, so farewell States & Canada.
[page break]
[underlined] Thursday 11th March. [/underlined]
Once more we are afloat on the Atlantic, & it is no smoother than it was before, a little rougher if anything. At about 10A.M. yesterday we cast off from the quay, & a small flotilla of tugs nosed us out into the river and slowly took us out to sea. There is nothing like the freedom, on board this ship, that there was on the Queen Mary. They wouldn’t allow anybody on deck & all portholes were supposed to be shut. Naturally everybody was jammed at the narrow opening to get the last glimpse of New York & the States. It was a pretty cold morning & there was some ice floating around. After a bit the famous Manhattan skyline faded into the mist & the next land we would see would be good old England. Suddenly came the beat of our engines the tugs cast off tooted a last farewell & we were on our way.
[page break]
They allowed us up on the Boat & Promenade Decks then, the land was completely out of sight. We still had an escort about five coast guard cutters or something & up above cruised us a U.S. Navy Blimp. Backwards & forwards she went, but after a while it ceased to be a source of interest & was taken for granted. We went down to the cabin for awhile, & when we came back on deck the escort had gone, we were on our own. Then certainly isn’t so much freedom on board we cant [sic] go to a lot of places, all the decks around the guns are out of bounds. With all the troops on board, they estimate there are 25,000 it gets a bit crowded especially at the canteens. There are two one for cigarettes etc and the other for chocolates, sweets & oranges. They open at selected times during the
[page break]
day and long before opening time arrives, there is a large queue stretching right down the corridors & up stairs. Quite a few go over an hour before & sit & play cards, naturally we are all buying chocolate to take home, the bar takes American, Canadian & English money & must make a hell of a packet.
We certainly need to patronise them, because owing to the number of troops aboard, they can only give us two meals a day, though they are serving all the day. Our two meals are 8 A.M. & 5 P.M. & boy! We certainly get hungry in between. There is a terrific queue for each meal up the staircases & along the corridors with everyone shuffling forward. They scrutinise the meal cards very carefully at the door, because they just haven’t enough for seconds. The water is also rationed, fresh water only being obtainable before 9 A.M. & after 5 P.M. guards are posted at water ports.
[page break]
[underlined] Saturday March 13th. [/underlined]
We thought as we were N.C.O’s we wouldn’t have to work this trip, but they had other ideas. Our gang of chaps were made guards two hours on and six off, it was a bind at first but I rather like it now. The main reason being that at night it is really sweltering down in the troop decks, & I have a wizard post on the sun deck. This is reserved for Wing Cmdrs. & above, & is situated craftily between the two funnels, there are vents in the front smoke stack, allowing the warm air to blow back along the deck, so it is never cold. I love standing there at night with the wind blowing & the old ship racing along it really streams at night, & the sparkling phosphorescence shows up marvellously. It certainly is better than being down below.
[page break]
I think if anybody is sea sick it is beneath decks, with the heat & crowding for meals, there staircases are jammed, when it is time to eat. Also there is a queer sickly smell like linoleum inside the ship. Looking along a terrific long corridor it gives every impression of being on land, then suddenly heels over it really is queer. This ship rolls terrifically, because there is no ballast in the hold, they have temporary troop quarters there, every piece of space is utilised, that is the reason that we had to keep our kitbags with us.
I would like to see the route this ship takes across the Atlantic I bet it certainly goes places, way south then up again. It is fascinating to watch the wake as the ship zig zags about every couple of minutes, we have seen no action by day however.
[page break]
[underlined] Monday 15th March. [/underlined]
We must be best part of the way across now I thought the journey would only take four days. The other night they said we came up with a convoy that was being attacked & we had to turn right round & beetle back, I don’t know how true it was. Yesterday the weather was fairly squally & the strength of the wind was phenomenal, it absolutely drove the rain against the ship. From the height of the boat deck the grey waves didn’t look so large, but by jiminy they were, I should just hate to be in an open boat. It is a funny thing but looking around the horizon with the waves rising one could swear they were ships on the horizon. I think it is quite a significant fact that a huge ship can cross the Atlantic unescorted in the middle of a big U Boat campaign.
[page break]
This afternoon I was up on the [deleted] [indecipherable word] [/deleted] sun deck on guard watching the gun crews, when the Tannoy blared for action stations at the guns. They often used to have dummy practises with imaginary aircraft, and I though this was another one. However there was an aircraft way out on the horizon very small but distinct. All guns were trained immediately, swivelling around & following it. When it came nearer we were able to distinguish the shape of the good old Sunderland, coming out to escort us. What a welcome sight she was it meant we were approaching home at last. She started to search all around in case there was a lurking U Boat. It would have been a sight, should it have been an enemy, there are 73 guns aboard, that helps to make the ship roll as she is so top heavy, & with no ballast in the hold.
[page break]
This ship certainly has a variety of armaments, the 6 inch in the stern should give any U Boat a hot time. For ack ack, there are the 40mm. Bofors & 20mm. Oerlikon, & they also have two sets of 12 rocket guns, it would be quite a sight, in air attack.
Well I guess with the Sunderland reaching us today we should be docking tomorrow sometime, that makes 7 days, the same as our outward journey. Twice crossing the Atlantic that isn’t bad I never dreamt before the war I would ever cross it. Out of the two journeys I think I enjoyed the outward one more, mainly because there was more comfort I think. The next time I write I will be in England once more, as I won’t be writing tomorrow so one more stage of our travels’ are over & tomorrow we will be saying ‘Hello England’.
[page break]
15th MARCH 1943
CONCLUDING BOOK 4
AND ENDING MY.
EXPERIENCES IN.
CANADA.

Collection

Citation

David Geach, “Book 4, Continuing my Overseas Training,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 22, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18821.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.

Can you help improve this description?