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Diary from America

by ActionBristol

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18 May 2005


She was an officer in the A.T.S during the 2nd World War, and I have found her diary recording her visit to the USA where she went to instruct a Staff Course at Fort Worth in Kansas in 1945, she would have been 26. She travelled with two other A.T.S officers. I have not included all the information about the course, the parades and inspections, the people she met, etc, but picked out snippets that might be of interest.

She records a train journey to Glasgow on 13th February 1945, sitting up all night, followed by a morning train journey to Gourock to board '021' - The New Amsterdam.They saw submarines, Sunderlands and Catalinas at Gourock.

I know from conversations that the crossing of the Atlantic was grim, in a convoy and with six sharing a cabin meant for two.2 meals were provided each day, and my mother spent much of the time huddled under a tarpaulin on deck. There are no diary entries during the crossing until she arrives in Canada with five frigates and liberators as escort. The frigates are flying American flags." Saw three depth charges explode".

From Canada they travelled by train to New York and Washington, and eventually to Fort Leavenworth. Many of the entries are full of wonder at the food - eg; Wonderful selection of food; waffles with maple syrup, 2 eggs and potatoes fried all over ie; on both sides'. The shops also caused great excitement, so much so that she spent too many of her American dollars, got concerned that she was running out of money and had to sell her precious purchases to other people.

A taxi ride in Washington D C proved difficult when a 'hater of the British' got into the same taxi. His remarks included 'Drop me anywhere here, I am thankful to be getting out and I have no time for the British, A little more fair play and less dirty double crossing is what we want to see;. She says 'the only reaction to prevent a breach of Anglo American relations was to take it all silently. Bah!'

An entry for March 3rd says ' See in tonights paper Princess Elizabeth joined the A.T.S. What a party they'll be having at Windsor. How the WRNS will hate us!.

On one train journey; 'German P.O.W on train. Gaurds talked to us. P.O.W le ft unguarded. Heavens! P.O.W turned out to be a marine.

'7th May. Unofficial news of Germany's unconditional surrender released by Associated Press. By noon on Monday everyone sure war was over. Uncondition surrender signed 2.41am 7th May at Reims.'

8th May. V.E Day. President Truemans speech 8a.m relayed in AL (Barrack block). Churchill broadcast immediately after President, but we didn't hear it until it was recorded and replayed at 1.50 and then only heard the tail end. Saw excellent film, Two Down and One to Go, now to be shown and released to public. It was made for release on V.E Day. At 1300 listened to broadcasts of celebrations in London, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly fireworks.

Crowds singing round Buckingham Palace. King speech relayed direct from London, excellent... heartfelt thanks to people- short rejoicing and firm resolution to continue struggle with Japan.

Party in KC ( Kansas City I presume) Officers Club and, Phillips Hotel with..... (long list of people). Lots of champagne. Streets thick with litter at midnight. Got back about 2a.m.

My mother also records the Order of Events form Time Magazine including the names of all the negotiators. 'Finally at 2.41a.m on May 7th at a long wooden table in the bare mapped walled 'war room' surrender was signed. Then and then only were German envoys escorted down the hall to meet General Eisenhower.

She also lists 'Hitlers most prized captives liberated from (?) IIter Castle.'
These included King Leopold fo Belguim, Austria's Chancellor and Lt Viscount Lascelles. 'Well clothed and mostly in good health. Not broken men like Dachau and Buchenwald'.

My mother returned to the U.K in June, sailing from New York on the Queen Mary - Elizabeth in the next dock. She comments the Queen Mary may continue to be used as a troop ship in the Pacific, or she may be converted to a luxury liner. Semi peacetime conditions. First large civilian passenger list - children and families returning to the U.K after 5 or more years. Two families liberated from the Phillipines after 3 years in a concentration camp. Father of one said he had put on 50lbs since then.

One man profoundly worried over declaring 150lb bag of sugar for his mother to preserve the fruit. Customs thought it most sensible!.

My mother came back into Gourock, and then went by train from Glasgow to Euston. Large numbers of troops got in at Carlisle. Men being released after 5 years service in Middle East. Looked lovely coming down, green and fresh, rolling hills of Scotland, hedges, sheep and cows. Nothing brown or remote about the land.

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