- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Harry Greening- Staff Sgt REME
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 August 2005
The following story appears courtesy of and with thanks to Les Jones and Robert Kennedy
The 23,722 tons liner: the SS Strathallan was built at Barrow-in-Furness and owned by the Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation Company Ltd and requisitioned by the War Office as a troopship during the war. Its last Captain was J.H.Biggs CBE.
Transcripts from Harry's Diaries
Our sincere thanks go to Alan & Georgina Greening for sharing Harry's Diaries
Fri 15th Aug.
Sea dirty but weather still hot. Pay day (cheers) 10/- this week.
Bren gun duty from 8 am (24 hours). Must be getting somewhere near land, seen a swallow & a few gulls. Passed a school of porpoise, must be hundreds, sea is thick with them. Passed a big convoy, all merchantmen, they look grand, all in formation, probably going to dear old England , Bon Voyage.
Sun 17th Aug.
Land sighted between 5 & 6 o'clock. Coast of Africa, Freetown . All getting excited, it's good to see a bit of land but we know we won't be allowed off the boat, they say there's too much fever etc in the place.
Dropped anchor just after 10am, Swarms of natives coming out in canoes (looks like an invasion). It's surprising how they keep them afloat. The lads are throwing coppers in the water & they dive out of the canoes into the water after them. The boys wouldn't half like to see them, its great fun. They are trading bananas for cig & biscuits & choc or anything the can get hold of. Selling them 1d each. They sling a rope aboard with a basket on the end & so it goes up & down with the goods. They look some devils, absolutely jet black and they can curse as well as us, the lads are having a great game with them. It doesn't look a very big town but it's rather mountainous, you can't see the top of some, they seem to go right in the clouds.
Mon 18th Aug.
It's been pouring in rain all day. It gets dark at 6pm; we pull the shutters up at 7 but don't close port holes until 10. There's no black out here, the ships are all lit up and there must be dozens of them, it looks like a big city lit up in peacetime like the embankment.
Filling up with fuel and water. The natives are still trading their fruit.
Tue 19th Aug.
Still raining, we've just come in time for the rainy season.
Weather still wet but it doesn't stop the natives coming out with their fruit. Sunderlands are flying around & flying boats from H.M. Ships. Sunderland base here. Two fighters flying round, crazy devils just missing the ships masts.
Bren gun duty.
Thur 21st Aug.
Absolutely teeming in rain this morning. Natives are out here again. They must be hard they only wear an old shirt or part of one & a rag tied between the legs & stop out here all day. It isn't cold at all but ever such a clammy atmosphere. The natives speak good English especially the boys, they must be taught it at school.
We are just getting ready to sail. Testing depth of water. Weighed anchor at 2.30pm & just moving, getting in formation. Cheerio Freetown & West Africa.
Weather has cleared & sea not too bad. I hope we take a quicker route when we come back. I've got a stock of green bananas I bought off the natives; they won't take long to ripen on the ships.
Frid 22nd Aug.
Remembering it's your birthday. Many happy returns of the day Sweetheart, I hope the next one we will spend together. Clocks are put on 1hr that makes us 1hr behind G.M.T.
Sat 23rd Aug.
Sea choppy and a big swell. Quiet day.
Sun 24th Aug.
Crossed the equator line just about 2 o'clock. We had some real fun. A crowd dressed up and painted, including officers, old Neptune & the Queen & court. They tried the prisoners & then wiped fish round their chops, lathered and shaved them, cut some of their hair off and then threw them in the bathing pool. When they had all been treated like this they turned round and threw king, queen & all the court in. Then they grabbed hold anyone they could get hold of & threw them in, clothes & all on. I thought it time to make myself scarce & I had to run for it, but I just made it & got below deck just in time for our 4 o'clock cup of char.
Mon 25th Aug.
Bren gun duties are finished for a while but the crew are having instructions again. M.T lectures & P.T in the afternoon.
I have had my usual blow on deck in the wind about 8 o'clock. It's darker tonight & you wouldn't believe how fascinating it is to look in the water. It's just looking into the stars, but these are moving. The boat washes up a lot of small jelly fish & they are luminous. It proper lights the side of the boat. We have lost the destroyers even the 85 that's been with us all the time. there is only the cruiser(s) here now. By the way I forgot to say that I heard Churchill's speech on the wireless last night. My thoughts were home imagining you sitting down & listening to it. But you may be still at Portland . Clocks are advanced 1hr tonight.
Tues Aug 26th.
Sea very choppy & it's much colder, in fact we've had to leave off tropical clothes & wear khaki again. Cheers, we are allowed to write a letter, so first, I will write to my darling Wife, bless her, & the boys.
Wed 27th Aug.
Showery and sea choppy. Bren gun instruction for crews on mechanism, all the week. I just written to Mum, & Mum at Portland.
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