. . . After Sea Journey
On a foggy, damp night in July, 1943, a few thousand soldiers asleep in crowded three and four-tiered high bunks of a troop ship were awakened by a series of bumps not long before midnight.
Earlier this entourage had been ordered to sleep in uniform that night with duffle bags at the ready. A sharp voice over the ship's loudspeakers explained the bumps - " we have docked." It became obvious the bumps wre not anticipated explosions but just the sounds of the ship hitting a mooring.
Emotions exploded as the soldiers cheered, men hugging each other whether they knew each other or not, exclaiming "they didn't get us, we're still OK." One could feel a tug of relief, knowing their Lord had brought them safely to Scotland.
It was a time when prayer was free, when men of all religons, expressed their TIES publicly to whatever diety they embraced, thanking GOD under whatever name for caring for them and keeping them safe.
I was one of the shipmates that night thanking my GOD for saving us all from the terrible fate that might have claimed us if a German U-boat had managed to torpedo our troopship during the ten days or so it followed our zig-zagging vessel across the north Atlantic Ocean from New York .
It was not long before dis-embarking began but before the orders came to leave the ship, Scottish welcomers swarmed aboard. GIs began yelling into the night "girls, girls, look at 'em, girls!"
By the dozens, Scottish lasses boarded the ship armed with tea cakes, and drinks for the soldiers. The ship's captain blared the announcement "no touching the girls, just take what they hand you and say thank you" but the announcement was lost in the frenzy of hugging and kissing that commenced.
The welcome party soon was over as town police escorted the girls from the ship. A few soldiers managed to learn the identities of their gift-givers and at least two that I know of maintained TIES that resulted in marriages after World War II.
The first land the soldiers saw after a perilous sea trip was the beautiful hills of Grennock, Scotland, as the early dawn light exposed the view when
the long troop train pulled away from the station en route south to England. About half the number of GIs left the ship that night, the rest bound for Africa.
Various units of men were dropped off in villages along the way in the following two days. This soldier was dropped off with two hundred others in Thatcham, in the county of Berkshire in southern England, home for the next three years.
Sometime later we learned that the troopship that carried us to Scotland, had continued its journey to Northern Africa with the remaining soliders aboard but never reached the destination - the U-boat had caught up with it. We prayed again for having been saved.
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