Yes, I know: it should be a 48-star flag... The 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, 1943 to 1945

The United States (Part 7)

TRANSPORT

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 stank.

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 page.Strathnaver poster

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" class.

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 night!)

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pack themselves aboard HMS Strathnaver just before dawn, 5 December 1943. Overcrowding, poor food and choppy seas make for an unpleasant crossing. "The trip did finally end, although there were some of us who believed it never would, on the 16th of December 1943."
 
Updated Tuesday June 07, 2005 09:11:38 PDT
The original text of The Story of the 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, published by the unit in 1945, is in the public domain. So how, you may ask, can I claim that the contents of these web pages are protected by copyright?

The answer is that it is my own transcription of the text and images into electronic format, and compilation into these web pages that is copyrighted. In addition, the web design, art, and annotations, plus all material from my father's personal albums are copyrighted original works. I reserve all rights to how all these materials are used. You may not copy them or store them in any retrieval system without permission.