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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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VJ Day - All at Sea

by sydashby

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Sydney Ashby
Location of story: 
Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) and at sea
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 September 2004

As the war was drawing towards a successful conclusion, the number of trainee pilots was decreased and the number of personnel who had been in Southern Rhodesia for nearly five years were being sent back to the UK. As a result the SNCO in charge of instrument servicing with No 20 SFTS was posted home at very short notice and I ,being without a section, was selected to replace him. I therefore found myself with 1 corporal and 14 men responsible for the instrument servicing of 136 aircraft: quite a formidable task. There were quite a few problems, technical, administrative and welfare. I slowly got to grips with them and within a few weeks everything was running smoothly. A few weeks after VE day I received notice that I was posted back to the UK.
Departure day from Cranborne arrived and with many others from Southern Rhodesia I was moved to a transit camp near Cape Town. There was a wait of about two weeks before I embarked on the MV Stirling Castle which set out for the UK. As the war in Europe had ended there was no convoy. While at transit camp we were free for most of the day. I used the time to visit most of the sights of Cape Town and the surrounding area. This was when I made my only trip to the top of Table Mountain.
The Stirling Castle was also a Union Castle Line ship, like the Durban Castle on which I had arrived in South Africa in September 1940. At the time I boarded her she bore little or no resemblance to the glory of her passenger liner days. She had been converted to a troopship. I, with some 80 other SNCOs was accommodated in what had formerly been the first class swimming pool. We each had what was known as a standee bunk. These were rectangular frames of tubular steel with canvas strung to the ends and sides. Six such bunks were stacked at about 18 inch intervals from floor to ceiling. When all six were occupied it was impossible to turn in your bed unless the other five turned at the same time. There was just sufficient space to walk between each stack of bunks. We were packed in like sardines - how different from the Durban Castle.
The Stirling Castle called at St Helena and Freetown and it was while the boat was between these two places that the Japanese war ended. In late August 1945 we docked at Southampton. I had been abroad for almost exactly 5 years.

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