14 October 1941, 1am.
Paraded at Wilmslow near Manchester in full kit and marched to
the station in pouring rain carrying kit bag. Train left at 3am
and arrived in Gourock at 11am after a stop in Carlisle station
where the whole train of RAF cadets disembarked for tea on the
platform. We were taken out to the French liner 'Pasteur' by
an old cross Channel steamer 'Biarritz' and given quarters on
E deck just above the waterline. My immediate companions are
Flett from Buckie, Grant from Edinburgh, Hollins (Richmond) and
Forbes (Doune). We are confined in a very small space where about
60 eat, live and sleep - some in hammocks, some on the mess tables
and others on the deck.
17 October 1941, 11pm.
Moved away down river in a gale.
18 October 1941.
All crowded on deck to see the last of Britain for a few months
and very soon many chaps were seasick. There are about 5000 on
board including crew, civilian passengers, 3000 RAF personnel,
Dutch soldiers going to the E Indies, Canadian troops returning
home, Norwegians, French sailors and our own Navy men going to
join ships in America. We are a small convoy consisting of 'Pasteur',
'Avila Star' escorted by aircraft carrier 'Indomitable', 'SS
Canton' (Armed Merchantman) and five destroyers. I soon began
to feel uneasy and after the evening meal I was sick but quickly
recovered and was not troubled by seasickness for the rest of
Conditions on board throughout the following week were difficult
with little to do and very cramped quarters; meals too were a
problem as they had to be fetched from the galley by six orderlies
who worked in a rota system. Some famous RAF officers were on
board and each morning they gave lectures to sections of the
troops - they included Tuck, Malan, Boothman and Edwards of whom
we heard the middle two. There were some cinema shows and two
evening concerts organised by Michael Redgrave who was an Ordinary
Seaman in the Navy.
23 October 1941.
A pay parade was held in the afternoon at which we surrendered
English currency but no Canadian money was issued until we land
in Canada which must be soon. But Friday came and went with the
everlasting sea surrounding us in all directions - everyone will
be glad when the voyage is over but it seems that little thought
has been given by us to the danger of submarine attack. This
must have been a real threat and we have been very lucky to avoid
25 October 1941.
Land was sighted just after midday and it was quite exciting
to see the dim outline gradually taking shape together with various
indications which showed the proximity of land. An RCAF [Royal
Canadian Air Force] plane circling overhead, seaweed, fishing
boats and then a light vessel close to the shore.
Soon after arrival we were allowed to disembark for a few minutes
but this was only to hand in our respirators and we were quickly
shepherded back on board. About 8pm we finally left the 'Pasteur'
and 400 Aircrew cadets boarded a train for Moncton, New Brunswick
which we reached at 4am on Sunday morning. This first journey
in a Canadian train was not very comfortable and in the dark
we could see nothing of the country through which we passed.