The United States (Part 7)
Down we went to the bottom of the ship into a cubbyhole grandly labeled
"G" Deck, 150 men [see deck plan below].
The 250 of us assigned there dropped our packs, duffle bags, rifles, barracks
bags and musette bags. Then acting on the advice that it would be O. K.
to sleep until called we put up our hammocks and settled down. Twenty
minutes later (about four o'clock) we were told to strike hammocks; a
general reshuffling had been decided upon. So began our trip on the Strathnaver,
former British Luxury Liner (it said on the Bulletin Board) and not once
did our experiences fail to live up to this promising beginning. The strip
| HMS/RMS/SS Strathnaver
The Strathnaver was a P&O liner of 22,000 tons launched in February
1931 for the the Australian route, and pressed into service as a troopship
in 1940. For more information see the Resources
Picture a can of sardines . . . one sardine lies snugly against the next,
not a bit of room is wasted in that can. But sardine packers are amateurs
compared to the genius who figured the shipping arrangement of "G"
Hold of the S.S. Strathnaver. We slung hammocks suspended from the ceiling,
and before the end of the trip we were in three layers . . . woe to the
man who had to visit the latrine after lights out. That was "G"
Deck. But Able Battery and the Officers slept in luxury on A Deck -- plenty
of room and superior chow. Of course extra duty went with the quarters
(as ye sow so shall ye reap); A Btry manned the AA guns aboard and the
officers were busy with whatever officers busy themselves with.
The food was good ... if you had been two weeks without a meal. Fortunately
for us chow was served only twice a day (we ate in the same place we slept
in) so that our sleeping quarters were fairly aired by the time we were
ready for bed. It was not surprising, considering the conditions under
which we lived, that after the first three days most of us could be put
in one of three categories: The "Always-OverThe-Rail" type (or
nearly dead), the "In-The-Bunk-All-Day" type (or won't someone
kill me, please), and the two men who were in the "Look-At-The-Landlubber"
Most of our time was spent in writing letters, walking on the deck, watching
the skies for enemy planes, searching the horizon for enemy warships,
and watching the escorting destroyers racing over the choppy seas like
sheep dogs around a herd. All the aforementioned activities being done
only on the calmest days. We survived by sending the fittest man among
us to "D" Deck where the Ship's Store (PX) sold an unlimited
supply of cokes, cookies and Hershey bars. These were our main sustenance
without which we would have all arrived at Liverpool "gaunt, grim
and ghostlike". We had calisthenics, too, and guard duty, and police
details as well as the ever-present poker, black-jack and crap games (all
strictly forbidden). The trip did finally end, although there were some
of us who believed it never would, on the 16th of December 1943. Our first
sight of land was celebrated by a spontaneous movement to the still bulging
food lockers in the lower holds where oranges, cheese and pound boxes
of corned beef were stealthily snatched and hysterically devoured by the
starving E. M. (The British black market suffered a terrific loss that