I’ll get back to Abbott’s Mill next week, but last Saturday was Veteran’s Day and yesterday, Nov. 16th, was my father’s birthday, so I was thinking about him. He died nineteen years ago at 89.
Daddy was raised on a small farm just outside of Ashland, Oregon, but didn’t much like watching “the south end of a mule heading north,” as he put it. He quit Ashland High School early because he was needed on the farm, but returned to finish three years later. No GED back in the 1930s. A few more years working the farm and then his Grandma Maggie Morse sold it. Daddy was in the Oregon National Guard in the late 1930s but in 1938 he got hired to take care of a herd of dairy cattle being shipped to Singapore.
He caught a train to Seattle where he met the ship, a Norwegian freighter named the “S.S. Granville”.
They sailed down the entire west coast to San Pedro, near Long Beach, where they picked up more cargo, and then headed west across the Pacific Ocean on Christmas Eve. First of several ports was Manila, then Cebu, Hong Kong, Singapore, Penang, Java, Zamboanga, back to Cebu, and Manila, and Hong Kong, and about the middle of March 1939 they headed back to San Pedro. From there it was up the California coast to San Francisco. What an adventure for a young man in his mid-20s that had never been out of Ashland. But not enough for him.
Shortly after getting back home, Daddy rejoined the National Guard and trained on 6” disappearing Coastal Defense Guns at Ft. Stevens.
In the summer of 1940, on a whim, he and a friend took the train up to Vancouver, B.C., and joined the Royal Canadian Army. In basic training they had to un-learn the American Army way and re-learn everything military the Canadian Army way. He said that was the hardest part of RC Army basic training.
By fall they were headed across Canada on their way to England. They left Halifax the 5th of November on the “Duchess of Athol” and arrived in Liverpool five or six days later.
I recently found through my research that both ships, the Granville and the Duchess of Athol, were later sunk by U-boats. Daddy would have found that very interesting.
He got to England just after the Battle of Britian and was re-trained on 25-pound field artillery, but when he got an opportunity, he volunteered to be a Batman. In the British and Canadian military, a batman was an officer’s orderly. In our military they’re called “Aides.” Daddy said he enjoyed being that close to the “brass,” and the job came with advantages, like special shopping privileges. He was assigned to Colchester, about 50 miles NE of London.
The first part of May he went on a blind date to Seven Kings, Ilford, where he
met a 17-year-old British young lady
On the 4th of July they became engaged and were married on Christmas Day, 1941.
This was just three weeks after the
United States had joined the war.
I was born in March 1943 and Mum and I lived with Nanny, Mum’s mum, at 53 Breamore Road, Ilford. (As a little side note, English actress Maggie Smith -Harry Potter, Downton Abbey - is also from Ilford, but she lived on the other side of the tracks, of course.) In March of 1945, just before my second birthday, a V-2 rocket completely destroyed the entire block just to our east. Our house was the last one on our block that still had all four walls standing, even though the roof was completely missing. I was unhurt and mum suffered only bruises externally, but fought what we now call PTSD for the rest of her short life.
As the war wound down, preparations were made for us to come to the United States. Daddy was still in the Canadian Army and had to travel on a troop ship, the
Mum and I shortly followed on the S.S. Drottningholm, a 538 foot Swedish American Line ship that had served the International Red Cross during the war.
We left Liverpool on Aug. 7th, landed in Quebec and then took a steam train all the way across Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia. We finally re-met daddy in Oregon on my Mum’s birthday, Aug. 22nd. Two weeks from Liverpool to southern Oregon! We stayed for a few months with Daddy's Aunt Mildred (she and I shared a birthday) and Uncle Ray in Phoenix, Oregon, while daddy helped pick Uncle Ray's pears.
As another side note, every January I had to register as an alien and didn't get my U. S. citizenship until I was 16.
Thanks for listening to my war story,