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- 23 August 2004
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Jane Otto of East Berkshire Colelge on behalf of Bill Davis and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was told to report to Euston station at 12 midnight and be prepared to go to sea. I was given a warrant (train tickets) and a pass. When I got there it was a troop train and we travelled all night long into Scotland and were transported from the train to the docks at Greenock. When I got to the docks and looked up it was the biggest ship I had ever seen. It had four funnels and it was a cruise ship that had been transformed as a troop carrier.
Unceremoniously, we were herded on board with the Army and Air Force personnel. We learned that our destination was New York, America.
We eventually arrived and docked in New York. There were big banners and streamers to welcome us and the Red Cross gave us chocolates, cigarettes and coffee.
The Merchant Navy were separated into coaches and sorted us out before taking us to hotels. We were then informed that we had to wait there until the ship was ready for us. It wasn't completely built at this stage.
We were put into hotels and given $2-3 a day for food and had the freedom of New York.
We were then moved to Baltimore ready to pick up the ship. It was a liberty boat and we were the first crew on board.
The parts of the ship were made all over America and welded together in Baltimore. These ships were called 'Sam boats' and the names of each ship began with 'Sam___'. My ship was the Samburgh.
After the sea trials and duly went to sea, I was on board for a year and it was the best ship I was ever on. I was away from England for a year.
The Americans lived differently and for a year I enjoyed the luxuries of the American way of life - thick mattresses, lights over the bunks, beautiful mess rooms - this was not known on the English ships.
From Baltimore we sailed to India. Some of the highlights of the voyages while with this ship were going through the Panama Canal, Suez Canal. We called at many countries and many ports. We got as far as the Pacific Ocean.
...but all good things come to an end.
I returned to England and back to the English ships. I had six ships after the Samburgh.
One of the most important parts of the return journeys was to bring back supplies that England needed. When we came back from the Pacific we brought lamb and anything else that was needed.
I remember bringing back a case of bananas and on another occasion 'nylons'.
Today, there are no liberty ships. They have all been scrapped except one that has been preserved and travels the world as a museum piece.
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