Off to England

August 31, 1940

August 2nd – Kingston

Bert Campbell & Cha[rle]s Chapman boarded & both passed.

August 3rd – Kingston

Don McNiven, M[ember of] P[arliament] for Regina was in Kingston – Renie & I visited him in La Salle Hotel.

August 10th – Kingston

Brown, McKinnon & I were warned for overseas draft.

August 12th – Kingston

Seven O.M.E.’s [?] warned for overseas draft and boarded same day. McArthur, Quarce [?], Sentence [?], Smith passed but Hastings, Moore & D. A. Campbell failed & had to study & pass again. Brown, McKinnion [?] & I were boarded and all passed. I was told confidentially that I passed with a mark well over A or 80%. Thus the three of us became full lieutenants.

August 15th – Kingston

Pay parade.

August 16th – Kingston

Clothes allowance $150.

August 17th – Kingston

I was warned for move overseas to take effect at 21.00 h[ou]rs on 19th.

August 18th – Kingston (Sunday)

Packed trunck [sic] – (Renie did it) for overseas.

August 19th – Kingston (Mon[day])

Bought Renie Wedgewood brooch. Entrained at 22.00 hrs. Renie gave me beautiful travel clock just as I left. Renie & all ladies were very brave – no tears except Bobbie Chapman. R.C.O.C. had 12 Off[icers] & 24 men.

August 20th – On train to Halifax

Route march at Riviere du Loup for 20 minutes. I had charge of car No 2. Route march at Campbellton in afternoon. I had charge of Car 2 again. Found a civilian on train but he said he was some sort of electrical inspector so Col[onel] Laurie, Corps Signals, in charge of train, let him off.

August 21st – Halifax (Wed)

Arrived in Halifax at 08.40 hrs. Board HMT Scythia (Cunard) Pier 27 at 09.45 hrs. Chapman, Hastings & I in cabin A53. I had single outside bed. Hastings had bunk over Chapman. Campbell, Brown, McKinnon and I at table 16 in dining salon. Lunch was our first meal aboard ship. My bath overflowed & flooded the hall and other cabins also. All dug in & helped to clean up. I bought a round of drinks for 9/6.

August 22nd – Halifax (Thurs)

Route march – 9.30-12.00.

August 23rd – Halifax (Fri)

1st orders and 1st boat Drill.

August 24th – Halifax (Sat)

Another route march in city. While men were in Y.M.C.A., I & other officers did a little shopping. I bought running shoes & papers. 17 freighters & 1 aux[iliary] cruiser left port in line. [Convoy HX.68]

August 25th – Halifax (Sunday)

Pulled out of docks to Bedford Basin.

August 26th – Halifax (Mon)

Wrote 2 letters to Irene, Nos 6 & 7. Last one, 7, because we heard mail would be collected at 7.00am on 27th.

August 27th – Halifax & on sea (Tues)

Capt[ain] of ship addressed officers on abandoning ship etc. Left Bedford Basin at 12.15, passed submarine boom at 13.00 hrs & last saw land at 16.00 hrs. Scythia, Georgic, Empress of Australia, Oronsay, Pasteur & Dutchess [sic] of York, with two destroyers & battleship Revenge in convoy. Planes stayed with us until nearly sundown. Sea calm & ship very steady. Saw a freighter on N[orth] horizon. [This is convoy TC7]

August 28th – At Sea (About South of Cape Rose) (Wed)

Only one destroyer & the Battleship Revenge visible, convoying us. Bombing planes were with us flew very low back & forth over surface of sea. During the night the Empress of Australia had engine trouble and fell behind but caught up at dawn. The weather was very fine, except for a few showers. All ships in complete blackout after 20.00 hrs. Taught first lesson in P[hysical] T[raining] to R.C.O.C. draft – 2 men absent due to sea sickness. A number of O.M.E.’s have machine gun posts on deck. Brown was ships orderly officer & remained up all nght. Clocks are moved ahead 40 minutes per day at 23.40. The convoy is travelling at about 15 knots in a zigzag course (made 320 miles 1st day). We, the Scythia, remain in centre, I suppose because we have planes aboard, 3 of which are uncrated bombers. We are also supposed to have steel rails & explosives aboard. Ship is quite steady but throb of machinery is felt everywhere. Saw a small sailing vessel on W[est] horizon.

August 29th – At Sea (Thurs)

We made 360 miles the second 24 hrs at sea. Weather fine, few showers. Gave P.T. to men at 10.00 hrs. Saw porpoises. no planes with us today. Had action station & boat drill. All lights on board turned off from engine room, thus we see need for flash lights. We carry them all the time as we do our lifejackets. Sea very blue – in Gulfstream now. Very little sign of seasickness today. I have not had the slightest discomfort myself. Nearly all our draft (24 men) are “broke”, so with no pay until we land, we came to their rescue by each officer (R.C.O.C. 12 in all) giving 2 shillings to buy smokes for them. This evening lightning was seen ahead & as I write this the ship rolling somewhat more than usual. Clocks moved ahead another 40 minutes.

August 30th – At Sea (Fri)

Weather fine but more swell & wind than previously hence more roll & pitch to old Scythia. Made approx 365 miles in 3rd 24 hrs at sea. This morning we were out of our place in the convoy & found that we had got to the north of the convoy during the night. We are supposed to have 15,000 men on the 6 ships which with their cargoes are valued at $100,000,000. Clocks moved ahead another 40 min[ute]s. Chapman was ships orderly officer.

August 31st – At Sea (Sat)

Weather fairest yet, especially in morning. Sea beautiful & calm but quite a swell. Several signals from the Revenge gave orders for A[nti] A[ircraft] practice from the Empress of Australia. She fired some smoke shells high into the air & then fired at the smoke patch with machine guns which fired with trip hammer speed. This was done on three occasions. I don’t know why the Empress was the only boat of the 6 troop ships to have this drill. About 6.15pm a series of blasts from the Revenge’s siren was the signal for a complete reversal of our course. In fact for about 15 minutes we sailed due west & then turning north we finally fell into our N[orth] E[ast] route. At 10 pm or 22.00 hrs the sunset was still visible in the North West so we must be much further N[orth] than many of us suppose. About 8pm we sighted a sailing ship on the northern horizon, which with the freighter on first day & sailing vessel on second day makes only 3 ships which have been visible & these were only just visible. Judging from our speed we must be several hundred miles past the mid point of our journey. It is generally considered that we shall arrive in Glasgow some time on wednesday next. Discovered the Revenge to be carrying 15″ guns, 8 of them, which is very comforting indeed when one nears the danger zone. In future we must wear (or rather carry) our respirators at all times as well as our life belts. Clocks advanced another 40 min[ute]s.