in Wartime Britain and my National Identity Card
next job was to obtain my Identity Card after which I was given some provisional
ration cards to keep me going until I received my calling up papers. In the meantime,
I went to visit my girl friend, Nona Shaw, whom I could only see at weekends as
she was working at a branch of Martins Bank.
next called at the Booth Line office in Cunard Building in Liverpool. They did
not seem overjoyed to see me and wanted to know when I would be having an eye
examination, my excuse to come to England.
seemed to be taking a long time to receive my "papers" so I decided
to pay a visit to my grandparents in Westcliff-on-Sea. Although non essential
travel was not supposed to be undertaken, I decided to go anyway. I found them
both well although much older looking and grandma was rather deaf. Whilst there,
a loud noise brought me out into the street where I witnessed overhead 1000 Hercules
bombers going to bomb Germany. I spent the night with them leaving the next morning
that Lieut Pullen, whom I met in Rio de Janeiro in 1940 when he was Naval Attache
at the British Embassy, was now at the Ministry of the Navy, I decided to call
upon him to see if he could arrange for a good place in the Navy. Not thinking,
I boldly entered the Ministry where a sailor was on guard at the sandbagged entrance.
I waved my arm at the armed sentry on duty with a cheery " ' Morning".
He smiled and saluted. Then pased a desk with several officers around and further
into the hall. Seeing an officer coming the other way, I asked him where Lieut
Pullen's office was. "Upstairs on the left", he replied. Upstairs I
saw a number of doors. In the first I opened, there were several officers or Admirals,
I don 't know which, having a discussion. "Beg your pardon", I said
as I shut the door. I opened the next door. Lieut Pullen was sitting a desk. He
looked up, a surprised look on his face. ""I'm Trevor Stephenson. We
met in Rio in 1940" I cheerily told him. "How the hell did you get here?
Didn't the guard stop you? Nobody is supposed to come up here without being checked
and word sent to me first?" I told him that I had just walked inside and
an officer had indicated where to go. He almost exploded. "Don't you know
that this place is high security. Nobody is supposed to get past the front door
without full searches being made."
After he had calmed down, he asked
me what I was doing in England. Then he told me that Brazil had come into the
War on our side, that the United States air force had a base at Val de Cans in
Belem and that Booths had been ordered to attend to all the US Troop ships on
their way to and from Africa. He said I should return immediately and await orders.
in Hoylake, Nona and I discussed this change in our plans and we agreed that we
should get married as soon as possible. Then, when I received my orders to return
to Brazil, Nona, as my wife, would be able to return with me.
were married one Saturday morning
were made accordingly and we were married one Saturday morning on the 17th October
at a Registry Office in Chester in the presence of our respective families and
my brother Andrew. Afterwards we all had lunch at a restaurant. Then we went to
the Queens Hotel. In the evening we went to the Royalty Theatre to see Ralph Lynn
and Tom Walls. Sunday, we had to return to Hoylake as Nona was due at work on
22nd November came a letter from Booths that I was to proceed to Immingham to
board the s.s."Basil" for New York. Nona was not allowed to accompany
me as she did not have permission to leave the UK. If, at a later date, she was
able to arrange such permission, then Booths would see she travelled out to me
left Liverpool by train for Hull on 1st December, Nona coming to see me off. The
Booth Agent met me at Hull. My cabin trunk with all my clothes and wedding presents
could not be found. It had been placed in the guard's van. Fortunately the trunk
had the round Booth Line label with a large S in the middle. It turned up some
ten days later and was delivered to my father. All I had was a small case with
a change of clothes, my shaving kit and a clean shirt. I spent the night at a
hotel in Hull. During the night there was an air raid warning. I slipped out of
bed and went into the corridor. All was silent . Nobody was to be seen. I decided
to go back to bed. My room was on the first floor so I reckoned I was more or
less safe. In the morning, I learnt that everyone had gone downstairs to the basement.
breakfast I went with our Agent to Immingham where the Booth ship Basil
was alongside. Aboard, the immigration officer stamped my passport, took away
my remaining ration coupons and told me that I must not leave the ship. However,
it was still being loaded with aviation gasoline and the Chief Officer told me
the vessel would not sail until the 4th. I decided to return to Hoylake to spend
at least a few more hours with Nona. Asking the crew not to give me away, I caught
the first train back to Hoylake. Next day I called at the office where salvaged
clothing was stored for bombed out persons and saying I had been ship wrecked,
was given a very warm navy jersey, some underwear, a couple of shirts (a little
too big) and a balaclava. On the 3rd December, I had to leave again. When I reached
the quay at Immingham, the Basil was several metres away from the quay
wall. Fortunately a motor launch was alongside and one of the officers ordered
it to pick me up and take me alongside where i climbed up a rope ladder. Just
Balloons [Ed: Huge balloons tethered on heavy wires and raised into
the flight path of enemy aircraft - the wires formed a terrifying obstacle]
had two barrage balloons tied to the railings to serve against airplane attacks
but once out at sea, they both broke adrift. We sailed from Immingham to Grangemouth
where we arrived on 9th December. Next day we left Grangemouth sailing round the
north of Scotland, past Cape Wrath and into Greenock. Here we loaded a 6 inch
cannon. We spent quite a long time in Greenock so I again went off to visit Nona.
On two occasions I managed to stay over night. Then on Christmas Eve we set sail
for San Miguel of the St Vincent Islands. . We sailed in convoy. There were two
young radio chaps aboard and we soon became very good friends. Everyone had to
do a job aboard. I was detailed to keep a lookout for submarines. . We arrived
at Horta on 13th January. Here we unloaded the gasoline, then had to await another
convoy for New York. Meanwhile we went ashore as much as possible, going to the
cinema, eating at cafes and exploring the island. Then came the order to sail
and join the convoy. There were some 20 vessels of all sorts and sizes. The weather
was not particularly good and with little cargo aboard, our ship was light and
moved up and down in a horrible fashion so had to forego various meals., Then
one morning there was no sight of the convoy. Apparently our ship was so slow
that the Commander had ordered us to proceed alone. We were all alone in the North
Atlantic. We prayed that no submarines would come our way. Two days before reaching
New York the weather was bitterly cold and wet. The rigging became thickly coated
with ice so myself and some others were detailed to hack off the ice.
arrived at New York harbour on Saturday morning, 20th January. The immigration
officers came aboard and stamped everyone's passport except mine. Apparently passengers
were not expected in wartime. I was told that I would have to remain on board
until Monday morning when another immigration officer would come aboard and allow
me to enter the United States.
crew were given green cards allowing them to come and go whilst the ship was in
port. My two radio pals plus three other young sailors decided to go ashore, have
lunch there and then see the town. I wanted to go but how to do so without a green
card. Then the purser found a piece of green cardboard not too different a green
from the official cards so he cut it to size and with black ink wrote some letters
on it. No trouble going down the gangway as the guard presumed we all had cards.
When we neared the exit gate, I walked at the end of our bunch of youngsters.
We called out "Is this the right way for Fifth Avenue?" The guard on
the gate shouted "Keep straight on" and waved us on obviously presuming
that we were all crew from the ship and therefore with a permit to go.
had a wonderful time seeing the shops, Fifth Avenue, cafes etc. At one place,
a young girl with her parents, saw us and asked if this was the first time we
had come to New York, what ship we were on etc. Then she invited us all to visit
her flat the following afternoon.
to our ship, there was the problem of how I was to enter. In the end we decided
that as sailors are notorious for getting drunk ashore, we would act drunk. We
linked arms, myself on the outside. Then swaying from side to side, singing and
shouting, we waved our green cards in the air. The guard waved us through saying
"Careful you don't fall into the water". And so I went in and out as
well as on Sunday.
Monday as I was now legally in the country, I called at the office of Booth American
Shipping Corporation for instructions. I was told that the Norwegian vessel Rio
Branco would be sailing in a few days time and I was to proceed to Pará
by her. Meanwhile, I was put up at the Harvard Club and told to go to the office
each day to talk about the North Brazilian Agencies.
Rio Branco..on the command ' Abandon ship'....
22nd February I boarded the Rio Branco. Shortly after embarking, a sailor
knocked at my cabin door to say there was lifeboat drill, to don my life jacket
and assemble on deck. Everyone was lined up. Then the order came "Abandon
ship" We all climbed down netting hung over the ship of the vessel and into
lifeboats. When all were accounted for, the order was given to climb back on board.
A good exercise.
sailed in an American convoy patrolled by two corvettes. We zigzagged our way.
The Captain, a very nice fellow, advised me to wear my life jacket most of the
time. Before dinner each evening, I would sit with the captain on the deck by
his cabin, drinking beer and playing cards. Then, one evening, one of the corvettes
signalled that we were showing a light. The Captain called a sailor to find where
it was and to extinguish it. "But it is your light, "Captain".
We had a storm lantern lit so we could see to play cards. It was extinguished.
13th February we arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad. After the visit, the Captain
and I were invited to tour the Angostura Bitters Plant. We had a most interesting
tour of the works followed by a delicious Planters Punch. We were each given a
small bottle of bitters and a book all about the history of Angostura and many
interesting recipes not only for cocktails but also for culinary dishes. I still
treasure the book.
Branco is torpedoed
after leaving Trinidad, we heard several loud noises and felt some jolts. The
Captain reported that a submarine had been spotted and that our depth charges
were being dropped. We were told to scatter so we increased speed and zigzagged
away and nearer to the coast of Venezuela. All was quiet and a few days later
on 24th March, we entered the Amazon and tied up to the dock. Macrae came aboard
to greet me saying that I was to sail the next day for São Luís
by the Lloyd Brasileiro ship Pará At São Luís I was
to take the train for Teresina and then to Parnahyba. He also informed me that
the news in Belem was that the Rio Branco had been torpedoed and sunk with
large loss of life!
Pará had just landed a group of families from Ceará in the
Brasilian northeast where a drought had caused much suffering. The families were
moved to the interior of Pará State and to the Island of Marajó
in the mouth of the Amazon. The ship smelt and the stink in my cabin was awful.
At Sao Luiz I was met by Leigh Bryan and I spent the rest of the day and night
at the staff house. Early next morning I went to the railway station and boarded
the train which left at 7 am. Not long afterwards, the train stopped by some straw
huts. The Driver and Engineer got off the locomotive and disappeared into one
of the huts. Twenty minutes later they reappeared swiping their mouths. They had
stopped for breakfast. It was very hot in the train even though all the windows
were open. Then suddenly the train stopped. Smoke was coming from the axle boxes.
A number of second class passengers got off the train and started gathering bunches
of grass which they stuffed into the axle boxes. We continued on our way. One
of the passengers sitting in front of me said that the engineers often sold any
grease over and used grass to see the train to its destination.
5 pm, the train again stopped. This time the guard came through the carriages
telling everyone to sit down, not to move and to keep all windows shut and the
blinds drawn. Then the train crept forward. Looking out of a corner of the blind,
I saw we were crossing the river but the veranda of the bridge was so close to
the side of the train that I feared we might scrape it at any moment. I learnt
later that on windy days, passengers cross the river by canoe whilst the train
remains behind. At the station I took a taxi. The driver asked whether I was married
or single. I decided to say "single" as I thought I might get a cheaper
Hotel. Next morning early, I went to the station and boarded the train for Parnahyba.
I was not feeling too well so ate nothing on route. I guessed that I might have
caught malaria aboard the Raul Soares. After a hot and weary trip, we finally
arrived at Parnahyba where I was met by R.J.Smith who took me to the staff house.
And so ended my trip to the UK in war time, getting married but having to return
I did not realise at the time was that I was suffering from para-typhoid and would
end up in hospital.