Sketch by Jack Chalker

Chapter I

Liverpool to Halifax

Warwick Castle-2
Our ship as we left the docks in Liverpool was the Warwick Castle and when we later joined up with other ships from the Clyde we set a zigzag course across the Atlantic.

At that time two crucial battles were raging, the Battle of Britain being involved with air-raids of immense intensity day and night which we were leaving, and the Battle of the Atlantic which we were rushing into.

Our convoy included several troopships and what appeared a far from adequate naval escort, which was in and around us like bees in a honey-pot.

We had several alarms during the first few days out at sea but we saw neither places nor U-boats, and it would be true to say the only major problem was a predominance of seasickness as the seas were extremely boisterous and the ship rolled like hell.

I must be a natural seaman as I was never troubled to any great extent, although I could relate an experience, which probably accounted for this reluctance to be seasick.

The first morning I awoke at sea the ship was heaving and rolling simultaneously, and it was extremely difficult washing, shaving and getting dressed, however, when eventually accomplishing this feat, I felt as though my stomach had loosened from its base, and was slowly but surely rising to my mouth and it took continual big gulps to keep it down. I felt anything but fit to tackle my breakfast but as I was dooming for a cup of tea, I made my way to the mess-deck, in other words the dining-room, and after standing in the queue I reached the orderly who handed me a massive plate full of tripe and onions and what a reaction my body had to the floating mass of greasy tripe, ugh! It nearly came up as I took hold of the plate, but a boom of a voice from the orderly shouted "Get it down you mate, it'll settle your stomach,” well I have on occasions done things and wondered afterwards how I had managed and this is an occasion when I later had similar thoughts, as I actually did manage to eat that breakfast without vomiting my inside out, and lo and behold it had such an affect that I never had any resort to hanging ever the rails, such as so many of my comrades had to do on that voyage.

The ship’s crew brewed early tea which we could buy on one of the open decks before breakfast, and I think it was about the fourth or fifth day out to sea, when I scrambled out of my bunk and made my way up to the tea-deck just as dawn was breaking, and took my place in the queue.

“0h my God! What the hell is this,” shouted an honorary look-out and all eyes turned in the direction he was pointing. There on the distant horizon were plumes of smoke and small specks of several ships. The ship's alarm sounded and faces turned from normal to ashen-grey as the immediate reaction to us all was an attack by the Nazi navy, and they were sailing full steam towards us. The situation was not helped by the sight of an air plane coming straight to us from the direction of the ships and we were ready for our first encounter with the enemy. Zoom!! The plane swooped in over our heads and we literally fell on our knees in a prayer of thanks, as the belly of the plane had the Yankee markings, yes - the Stars and Stripes.

The adrenaline slowly worked its way back to our cheeks and the ashen grey returned to a bright pink.

The approaching convoy was our own merchant-men with the biggest escort I have ever seen in my life, on its way to dear old Blighty, with much needed food and materials.

The escort provided by the Americans consisted of every description of man-o-wars, big and little, corvettes, destroyers, battleships and even an aircraft-carrier, which was a sight one will never forget and particularly as we momentarily remembered our gallant little escort which had successfully brought us from Liverpool to the middle of the Atlantic, which consisted of a very few smaller man-o-wars.

The escorts both swung away from their charges and changed over, with our gallant little escort taking the merchantmen in hand for the perilous journey to our homeland.

The Yanks wheeled around into position to take charge of our convoy and take us the rest of our journey across the North Atlantic to wherever we were going, which in fact turned out to be Halifax, Nova Scotia.

There were far more escort vessels than troopships, and we slept soundly for the rest of the trip in the full knowledge that U-boats would be paralysed if they ventured on to our scene.

The sight of the huge aircraft carrier, which often came extremely close to the Warwick Castle, was indeed a boost to our morale, and my God we appreciated the company.

At last land, very rugged land was sighted and as daylight disappeared into dusk, we arrived at our first port of call, Halifax, where we disembarked but had to stay on the dockside and transfer our bodies to another ship further along the harbour.

 

Next Chapter

Halifax to Mombassa

 

 

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[The White Flag] [Chapter I] [Chapter II] [Chapter III] [Chapter IV] [Chapter V] [Chapter VI] [Chapter VII] [Chapter VIII] [Chapter IX] [Chapter X] [Chapter XI] [Chapter XII] [Chapter XIII] [Chapter XIV] [Chapter XV] [Chapter XVI] [Chapter XVII] [Chapter XVIII] [Chapter XIX] [Chapter XX] [Chapter XXI] [Chapter XXII]

 

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