Sketch by Jack Chalker

Queen Elizabeth I

Our time for moving along was close, so it was back on the train, preparing for the next part of our journey home, what a wonderful thought. That song 'Sentimental Journey' was getting more and more known to us and also the time seemed to drag on. How many more days, oh yes, we were being well looked after by the Americans but our thoughts were always on home, hoping that everything was alright, as no correspondence had been received for the last four years.

Our next stop was Chicago, but this time only a short stop, no time to get off the train. Once more we were on our journey. Our next stop was Montreal in Canada, then things changed. This was where we departed from the American jurisdiction and came under the British Rule.

From then on, we had to look after ourselves, no more break-fasts in bed, no more orders to the coloured porters, back to the old routine. Well we had been spoiled by the Americans, so we had to settle down and get used to all the changes.

Again Montreal was only a short stop, we still did not know how the rest of our journey was going to be and then the news came out, we were bound for Halifax in Nova Scotia. My what a small world this was. Back to where we left the convoy of British ships four years ago, hence and there tied up at the docks was the Q.E.I. in all its glory, what a great surprise.

Now there was only five hundred troops on this ship and a few civilians, one of these civilians happened to be wee Georgie Wood, a well known comedian in those days. Him and some of the guys giving an impromptu concert kept us occupied and entertained across the Adantic. I think this was five of the longest days and nights I have ever endured in my life.

It was a problem getting to sleep through the excitement of meeting up with our loved ones again. I visualised my wife and son, how would I find them, was the thought. I knew my wife would not alter in any way, my son was only six months old when I left England, and now he was four and a half years old. We were being fed very well on the ship and we had plenty of room to move around. What a lovely ship. Now the excitement was getting intense, every minute, every second, we were getting closer to the shores of England.

And then it happened, we were steaming up the English Channel bound for Southampton Docks. What a thrill that was, can you imagine it after four years, three and a half of sheer purgatory, disease, filthy, degradation, etc., we were nearly home.

It was now 5th November, Guy Fawkes day. We tied up at Southampton at about five p.m. and was welcomed by the music played on the quay by the Salvation Army Band. Quite a difference from the reception at San Francisco, but still to us a great welcome.

We were really getting excited, come on, let's get going, we want to get home! Eventually we disembarked and boarded trucks that took us to the Army barracks in Southampton. They showed us our room for the night and this did not go down too well, we might have known that by the time we had settled down the trains to Gt. Yarmouth had ceased running for the night. So here we went again, another sleepless night, tossing and turning. You just can't realise how we felt, so near and yet so far. Daylight could not come soon enough. You see, telephones in people's houses at that time were very scarce, so it was a case of being very patient.

At last morning arrived and after breakfast we had to parade to be given some money, our railway warrant and at last, we were on our last leg home. We were taken to Liverpool Street Station and by the way, there were only two of us bound for Gt. Yarmouth. We boarded the train and you would never believe this, it stopped at every station on our way home. You talk about excitement, it was intense, I was visiting the toilet every few minutes. I was going there, when there was no need to go. I had never experienced anything like it and then we pulled into Southtown Station, Gt. Yarmouth.

I was home, I had made it, thank God!

As we pulled into the station, I opened the carriage window, looked along the platform and there at the gates a crowd of people was welcoming us home. Among them, I hoped, was my wife and son and there they were. I threw my kit on the platform and a little boy with a school cap came running to meet me. In the melee, I lost my army cap, but who cared I was home, then my wife eventually got to me and it was hugs and kisses all round. A time I shall remember for the rest of my life.

Now, this time of year in GL Yarmouth was Heriing fishing season, so fortunately I had relations come from Scofland to work on the boats. This made the homecoming even greater. My wife had arranged a welcome home party at my home. They were all invited to attend and by the time everyone had got into the room it was pretty packed.

Now the Army gave us so much money and about if I remember rightly, three weeks leave. My parents were still in Scotland, so after settling down in Gt. Yarmouth, our next move was to visit them. So off we went again and the welcome there was again marvellous, houses were decked with bunting, etc., and a big party arranged.

A week after that, we were back in Gt. Yarmouth and waiting patiently for my demob. This came about two weeks after, when I had to report at Northampton, we were given the usual clothes: suit, shoes, hat and overcoat, etc. My army days were over.

So, after six years of laughs, drama, suffering and God knows what else, I had travelled all round the world in defence of my country only to spend the biggest part of it as a prisoner of war with the Japanese.

Can I conclude in saying that I consider myself one of the very lucky ones and may the boys who I left over there and never made it home 'Rest In Peace'.


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