Monday, January 19, 2009

Wednesday 22nd December 1943

It is dusk and through the portholes beside me, I can see the coast of Anglesey. That's all very well but we've been looking at that damned piece of our “precious stone set in the silver sea” ever since we first lifted the deadlights this morning...

At 8p.m. last night (or 9p.m. by English time) I saw three lights flashing to starboard, through the salt spray which was blowing up into my eyes. “Ah!” I thought exultantly, “Not long now!” At bedtime our hospital blues were changed for khaki. “This is it!” everyone said. We turned in at 9 o'clock, as usual.

(“Your last night on board, boys!” cried the orderlies, thinking of their Christmas leave.)

The weather got worse – and worse. Naval ratings described it as a gale and it surely seemed so, from the wind's screaming in the rigging and around the sides, and the crashing of the seas against the hull. The ship bobbed about like hell; I nearly got knocked out of my bunk. Fell asleep in the early hours.

We were supposed to have docked at 2a.m. but were still plugging along at breakfast time. Up and down the coast all night we think. Apparently it was too stormy to anchor. The first thing we saw when the deadlights were opened was a pilot's cutter and two men in a motor boat returning to it from the “Atlantis.” A very dismal, cold, grey scene.

A few moments later we dropped anchor. And here we have remained all day – no one knows why. First we thought this was the Mersey, then some said it was Morecambe Bay, but apparently it's a bay on the north side of Anglesey, some 40 miles from Liverpool. Unless other accidents intervene, we move in to Liverpool in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

At 6 o'clock this morning we stripped our beds and handed in everything that was ship's property. This afternoon however, our blankets and life-jackets were re-issued. Poor William said, “I knew it!” took his blankets, wrapped himself in them (it's very cold) and sank upon his bed, wrapped in profound and doubtless gloomy reflections, besides the blankets.

NB: I continue writing after an interval of several days. It is in fact, now the 2nd of January 1944. Until now I have been unable to obtain pen and ink in the institution at which I am detained. Notes in pencil were taken on scraps of paper and I will now copy these in as they stand, although changes have occurred and viewpoints been modified from time to time since the notes were made.

My own pen and ink (with all the rest of my Army and personal kit except for greatcoat, boots, tobacco and pipe) is still under lock and key, quite unavailable.
I brought ink today however and managed to borrow a pen in the ward.

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