Monday 14 January 2013

7th December, 1946 - In which Ron and his comrades embark on their journey and Ron finds out about the "joys" of hammocks...

Saturday, 7th December, 1946
We were awakened this morning at the unearthly hour of half past four.  It was still dark outside and it had been blowing a gale all night and continued still.

Braving the intense cold we went to the open sheds in which we performed our ablutions and washed, scantily I must admit, in icy water which was the hardest nature I had ever met.  After this we had breakfast, packed our hut and at 8.30 paraded for roll call and inspection.  This over we were marched to the dispersal square where, with the army fellows who were to travel with us we were loaded into trucks which took us from the camp to Toulon Port where we were to embark.  This truck ride over the cobbled stones was very rough but it afforded us a good opportunity of seeing a little of Toulon with the surrounding Alps.  The town has been pretty badly knocked about during the war, particularly the Port area.  Partially, this was done by our ships and may account for the dislike its inhabitants have for us.

We boarded our ship with about 1500 troops at 4pm and set sail at half past five.  The ship is the M.V. “DUNNOTTAR CASTLE” of 15,007 tons, a ship of the Union Castle Line.

Photo of the aircraft carrier "Colossus" now under French.
In Toulon Harbour alongside "Dunnottar Castle" just
before we sailed for Port Said

I'm guessing this is a shot taken in Toulon
harbour prior to embarking

" 7.12.46.
Toulon Harbour taken from the Deck of "Dunnottar
Castle" as we left Toulon en route
for Port Said and Palestine. "
We, as civilians, were expecting other accommodation to that enjoyed by the troops but
our great expectations were not fulfilled.  On our deck were about 350 people and we found it difficult to stow all our kit.  We had a meal soon after boarding then boat drill with our life jackets.  While in the middle of our drill, the ship cast off, drifted away from the quay and out into the bay.  We now obtained a much better general view of Toulon harbour and could see the partly submerged vessels lying awash in several places.  I took a few snaps of the harbour with my recently purchased film.  When we were well out to sea the wind whistled along the decks but the sea was calm.

It was now late evening and after seeing all the signs of land disappear I decided to retire for the night.  Apparently, everyone entertained the same idea and there followed a mad rush for hammocks and mattresses.  I secured a hammock and with the two blankets issued to Palestine Policemen for use on the ship, started a hunt amidst a forest of swinging hammocks for a convenient place to sling mine.  I found a space and after lashing up the hammock somehow managed to climb into it.  I had many misgivings about my strange position.  The floor seemed so far away and the ropes so thin.  However, I soon went to sleep even in so foul an atmosphere as soon existed in that crowded space.

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