- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Joe Average (Ronald Baldry)
- Location of story:
- SydneyThis story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by CSV storygatherer Lucy Thomas of U3A Callington on behalf of Ronald Baldry. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site., Austrailia
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 November 2005
This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by CSV storygatherer Lucy Thomas of U3A Callington on behalf of Ronald Baldry. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.
JOE IN OZ
Once settled in to his quarters, Joe lost no time in finding out from his friends what life in a transit camp entailed. With upwards of a thousand men housed in what was really no more than a collection of huts, it came as no surprise to learn that only a small number of them could be allocated jobs of any kind; the others were left, more or less, to occupy their time as best they could. No problem after two o’clock, when shore leave started, as Warwick Farm station was no more than two hundred yards from the gate and a frequent train service to Sydney.
Mornings, however, were different altogether; brushing out the hut, doing a little washing or ironing and writing home could only be made to fill a few hours and, once the novelty had worn off, Joe found that time dragged so, having been allocated a Divisional Officer, he went to the Offices and asked to see the Lieutenant Commander. The DO, with very little to occupy himself, suggested that the staff at the Baggage Room might possibly find him something to do. They could not. Next stop the ‘Schoolie’ where he met with better luck — after answering enquiries regarding his educational achievements to date — it was suggested that he might like to sit an H.E.T. exam which was to take place in just over a week’s time. The next six week-day mornings were spent looking over past papers and Joe sat the exam. If he ever got called into the Navy again he was now educationally qualified to join the officer ranks.
At last the day arrived; around the middle of December practically the whole camp was bussed to the docks at Sydney to take passage on the ‘Aquitania’ a Cunard liner that had been converted to troop carrier early in the war. Organisation was minimal; every individual was told what deck he would be on and then it was up to him to find a berth. Consequently, the decks soon resembled disturbed ants’ nests with men scurrying in all directions. Having found their bunks, they returned to the open deck to experience something that they would never forget; the dockside was crowded with Aussies waving and shouting their goodbyes. Bands were playing and, as the ship cast off, the ‘Maori Farewell’ - Now is the Hour - was played, the strains of which followed them as they passed towards the open sea.
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