Goodbye to Blighty
On Sunday 23rd August we left West Kirby. We boarded the train at about 23.00 hours and there we heard our last air-raid siren. When we awoke we were in Avonmouth and we went from the train to the “Highland Brigade”, (our home for the next six weeks). Everything was rather crowded and not at all comfortable. We wrote our farewell letters and that evening left port and anchored in the Bristol Channel. We stopped there all day and started out in the evening, arriving two days later in the Clyde.
We started out “proper” the next evening and took a last look at the country we love. Then came ten days, the first three of which were very miserable ones, not being able to eat and feeling queer inside. When that had passed I had a fairly enjoyable time. The canteen was fairly well stocked and the weather was lovely.
The next sixteen days we saw nothing but the sea. Each night my pal (Max) and I would buy a mug of beer, some biscuits and cheese and then retire to the aft boat deck to study the stars. I was mess orderly and so spent most of the day guarding the mess tins and keeping a place in the queue.
Dad's diary tells its own story of the beginning of their journey to the far off lands of Africa!
On the tenth day we sighted land – a strange land to us – and we came to rest in the harbour of Freetown. Everything seemed queer, no black-out and the wearing of long clothes and mosquito ointment. We spent hours on the decks watching the natives. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour and a misty rain fell all the time.
Everyone was very pleased when the rhythmic beat of the engines was felt once more and we lost sight of land.
On the sixteenth day we sighted land once more and everyone was much happier. By breakfast we had docked in Durban harbour and were preparing to leave the ship. Several days previously we had drawn South African money and got our kit bags from the hold. In the evening we got from the ship onto a train and left Durban and so faded all our hopes of having a leave there. The next two were marvellous ones. The food was wizard, the beds comfortable and all through the day we played cards or watched the landscape of Natal, Transvaal, Bechuanaland and finally Rhodesia passing by.