USS Joseph T. Dickman
The 196 and most of the Division were kitted out for Desert fighting, so speculation ran that they were set for Africa or the Middle East. Transport this time was provided by the US Navy and the 196 Embarked on the USS Joseph T Dickman, an American troopship.
The convoy set sail on 10th November 1941 and on 22nd November had travelled to Trinidad in the West Indies to refuel. There was no time to allow the troops onto land at this stage though and the convoy soon set sail once again. On the 24th the unit were “victims” of the American Crossing the line ceremony, as the convoy crossed the equator, many of the unit getting an impromptu soaking or haircut, by the US hosts.
The 7th December 1941 saw the Japanese invade the Malay Peninsula, and the sinking of HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales, off it’s coast. This was a great loss to the Royal Navy, and soon after this Pearl Harbour was infamously attacked. It was noted that the attitude of the American sailors had gone from slightly patronising to much more friendly on 8th December and strong friendships were formed.
By this time the unit had arrived in Cape Town, South Africa and was given four/five days shore leave. This was a welcome relief to the unit, having spent 10 weeks at sea. Some of the unit describe table mountain and the sight seeing that they done. They also describe route marches and continued training. It was around this time that the convoy was officially diverted from its original secret destination of the Levant-Caspian front to the Malay Peninsula.
The 196th spent Christmas day in 1941 aboard the Joseph T Dickman. The menu was Roast Turkey, Giblet gravy, pickles, Sage Dressing, Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and Buttered Peas to start. Plum Pudding, Camper down sauce and Fruit salad for afters. There was also Bread, Candy, Tea, Raisin cookies, butter and cigarettes. The ships food was complimented by many in the unit.
The 27th December 1941 saw the unit arrive in Bombay, India, where they disembarked before getting on a train to Ahmednager, where they stayed for around two weeks. The living quarters were huts with a veranda, and the first encounters with mosquito’s were experienced.
The next stage of this epic journey was a train journey back to Bombay and another sea journey, this time aboard the USS West Point. This was a magnificent vessel that had been the SS AMERICA, before it was converted into a troopship. The same detachment, originally on the SS Andes, travelled on the USS Wakefield. The West Point and Wakefield were part of a convoy destined for Singapore, and it left Bombay on 19th January 1942. The journey saw the first encounters with the Japanese, as an escort vessel fired on a Japanese plane, apparently on a reece mission.
The convoy reached Keppel Harbour in Singapore and the 196 disembarked on 29th January 1942.