Alan and Graham: Returning Home


Figure 1.--

In my welfare folder is correspondence about arrangement for our return. Dad had made provisional arrangements for us to go to a public School in North London on our return. He was ted us to return as soon as our American school term had finished and hostilites ceased. The situation was the same for the thousand or so other Brit. children. There were two ways of getting home. One was by passenger liner, the other by 'Special Transport'. The former would not be sailing until hostilities ceased, the latter was hit and miss as it meant going on a warship. They would be sailing first, and in fact Dad paid 10 excess for us to come that way. In the event the liner came first and we went hom on the Samaria, a Cunard ship. This had been converted to a troopship so there was a lot of accommodation on board. Going home presented problems. You can imagine that after 5 years each child had collected a lot of clobber, and wanted to take it home. We were allowed a bit more than the one suitcase rule applied the same as it had when we left England. My brother and I had the one suitcase and a duffle bag. The limit was 186 lbs of luggage. That is why the Book was left behind.

Packing Up

Returning home happened all of a sudden. I was at boarding school in Vermont and my brother was at Phillips Academy, Andover Mass. Our American family were dispersed. Mrs. B. was managing the farm in Norwich Vermont, Mr. B was in Lynn, living in the family home in Swampsott and going to the office each day. The elder daughter was in Italy with the American Red Cross, and the younger daughter still at Smith College, Mass. Our possessions were scattered between the two residences. There was little time to organise a party. My recollection is more hazy than that of our departure to America. As you say 186lbs is a lot of weight. I thing the other restriction was we had to be able to carry it ourselves. My brother and I had a duffle bag and our original suitcases. I was sad to have to leave my skis behind. I had three pairs, Jumping, X-country and slalom/downhill. I loved them and spent much of the summer stripping off the old wax, renewing the metal edges, checking the bindings and painting the tops. They were there still in the barn when I revisited in 1948.

Boston and New York

We said our farewells at the Station at Boston where we were marshalled by members of the Evacuation Committee. I don't think we were labelled this time. We took the train to Grand Central Station, New York City amd and then bussed to the Docks.

Crossing: RMS Samaria

Our ship was the RMS Samaria. This did not have the luxurious fittings that the Duchess of Atholl had in 1940. It had been fitted out as a troop ship and we slept in metal frame bunks. There were 20 of us to a cabin. Fortunately the occupancy was low and I think there were no more than 8 or 10 of us in our cabin. Food was served cafeteria style and was pretty basic GI fodder. Although we were supposed to have a councellor to look after us, we only found out who it was went he introduce himself as we docked and started to pack our things. We must have been pretty wild. It beggars belief that there were several hundred teenagers loose on the ship, with minimal supervision. I can't remember much of what we did. I know my brother got drunk on one occasion. (He was 16 then.) Where the alcohol had come from I don't know. There was certainly no bar to which we could access. There must have been organised entertainment for us, films etc. but I don't recall such. The boys and girls didn't fraternise much which seemed strange. I must ask Clare about her recollections. She travelled on our ship, but her brother had returned earlier on a warship. he was of military age. Although the war in Europe was over, there were still hazards. When we got into British territorial waters, we had to wear lift jackets again at all times. The danger was from unbouyed ship wrecks and unswept mines.

Liverpool

We arrived in Liverpool in the late afternoon. There was double summer time in operation so it was light until 10 o'clock at night. I was impressed with the devastation of the dock area. There were the masts and funnels of sunken vessels everywhere. We didn't disembark until the following morning. One of the last things we did on board was sell our dollars to the British crew. They bought them from us at the 'black market' rate of $2 to the pound, whereas the offical rate then was about twice that. The reason they were willing to pay over the odds was because if they bought dollars officially they were limited to 25 pounds worth, per voyage. Most of us had about one or two hundred dollars each. I seem to remember that the onboard currency was in dollars and not Sterling.

Customs

Because of limited baggage, we could take only a few gifts for my parents. Mrs. B had packed silk underwears for my mother and sister, and Mr. B a box of gold balls for my father. I remember being scared stiff in Customs Hall having to explain to a customs officer why my suitcase contained ladies underwear! Luckily the customs search was not too thorough.

London: St. Pancras

Our parents met us at St. Pancras station in London. We recognised them immediately. They greeted us with hugs and kisses. My sister looked bemused; my parents seemed so small.






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Created: 10:07 AM 9/23/2009
Last updated: 10:07 AM 9/23/2009