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Return of Autralian and New Zealand Prisoners of War

by redcarcleveland

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Archive List > Royal Navy

Contributed by 
redcarcleveland
People in story: 
Kenneth A Tratthen
Location of story: 
Australia and New Zealand
Article ID: 
A5186568
Contributed on: 
18 August 2005

On the 3rd of July 1945 I was a Naval Petty Officer ERA on passage to Australia to the British Pacific Fleet on board the troopship "Maurentania". Also on board were a few hundred Australian and New Zealand ex prisoners released from the German prison camps.
We travelled through the Panama Canal and arrived at Pearl Harbour for replenishment passing close the the wreck of the "USS oklahoma" The shattered upperworks were in the same condition as when she was sunk and it was hard to realise that there were over a thousand sailors down below still.
We sailed for Wellington next day and left 186 troops behind, however the US airforce flew them on to Wellington and they were on the dock waiting when we arrived. Upon arrival there was to be a civil reception on the dockside by the Mayor etc. a military band scheduled for 09.00, when the first NZ troops would march down the gangway and into the ecstatic arms of their loved ones, from whom they had been seperated for many years. There were also many tears shed for those who were not on the ship and lay in the vatious cemetries abroad. Incidently Gracie Fields was at the opera house performing whilst we were there, when she heard for the first time the song "Now is the Hour".
We had a marvellous time and were sorry to say farewell to the many friends we had made during our short stay.
We approached Sydney on Augest 8th and lining up for the harbour entrance the famos Sydney Bridge came into view and the tough Aussie troops were spellbound and not a few tears were observed from them. We anchored outside the harbour whilst they opened the boom and General Blamey the Aussie C in C hove along side in an army launch with a band playing and after a few words of welcome which could not be heard for the boos and hundreds of coins were thrown at the band who soon packed up and sailed back into the harbour. We had a triumphant sail up the harbour with every hooter and hoen blowing. The radio was telling everyone to go to the cricker field where troops would be bussed to and according to the radio the welcome was jut as ecsatic as wellington.
we had to wait untill all the troops were offloaded then we had to make our way to HMS "Golden Hind" for whatever fate awaited us.
HMS Hospital Ship "Oxfordshire"
In September 1945 I was located in Brisbane when the "Oxfordshire" entered the port bringing the first load of sick Aussie ex POWs from the Far East, the local radio requested all persons with open top cars to proceed to Brents Wharf and take the Aussies who were sailing onto Sydney and Melbourn for a run around the city as the ship was replenishing.
Aprocession of cars and one of two troops were carried in each one, I had a vantage point and point and was able to look down on the procession as the car slowly passed alond the river frount and around the city. Whereas up to now I had witnessed ecstatic reunions fo the ex German prisoners, this was different and we saw sunburned wrecks of once proud soldiers shrunken into their new oversized greatcoats with their slouch hats covering their heads,just a "Good on yer Dig" from one or two, they were mostly in tears. The soldiers now and then gave a feeble wave and just sat not quite believing that they were at last free from their tormentors, news of the atrocities were just becoming publicised and in frount of then was the proof.

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