R.M.S. Duchess of Bedford
Mid Atlantic 14-IV-40.
This is Sunday morning - we have just finished breakfast, and a major event has just happened - we have passed another ship - quite close on our port side - a Norwegian freighter "Janna" She is headed for America - she is nearly empty for she is riding high - slouching along in the characteristic unhurried fashion of freighters. There is an atmosphere of sadness about her - those poor sailors probably getting farther & farther from their home-land - with heavy hearts - how many of them are leaving a wife and baby - and a little home - wondering when they will be reunited and if their loved ones are safe and unmolested - I am so glad that you and Mary are safe where you are - far from the Menace. This thought is very comforting to me - and makes this whole business much easier. After all, we, that is you, Mary & I, have little to fear - compared to the poor victims who have all their stakes in the path of the invader.
We have had calm weather - and no seasickness - it is getting warmer too, each day. It was an unexpected item of interest to call at Halifax. Apparently we went in there to take on oil, and were moored on the opposite side of the harbour from the main part of the city. No one was allowed on shore, but we had plenty of interest to look at from the ship. We left there about 2 p.m. sailing straight out to sea. A destroyer escorted us till sometime during the night - and until sundown we had a spectacular escort of 3 fast hurricane fighter planes which kept zooming back & forth in perfect formation Also there was a slower & bigger flying boat which stayed with us till almost dark. We suspect some of this show was for the benefit of the minister of defense, Mr. Norman Rogers - who is on board - bound for the U.K. with us. We also have 2 generals, 2 colonels, 3 majors - a sprinkling of captains and a few lowly lieutenants.
The other first-class passengers include a number of wives going to England to join their soldier husbands -and a handful of civilians. Second-class seems to have about an equal number including a group of N.C.O.'s a few more children - and then there are a few 3rd class.
Apparently vessels like this one which are fairly fast, do not wait for convoy. We are over Â½ way across now, the theory is that we can put on enough speed to out-manoeuvre a sub - should one appear. Also we carry a 6-inch gun and an anti aircraft. We were entertained yesterday morning by a firing practice - during which the ship followed the approved zig-zag course. It was quite exciting.
This is quite a fine ship - she is about the size of the two older Empress boats on the Pacific, although she only had to gunnels. They set the clocks forward an hour each night, so that we have to roll out progressively an hour earlier each morning in order to make an appearance at breakfast at a respectable hour.
I am not sure which of the U.K. ports we are bound for, but some think we will put into Liverpool. At any rate we have to go down to London first thing. We have been getting the Empire news broadcast - (the one that comes in at noon at home) so have been following developments in Scandinavia. Apparently both sides have taken some hard smacks - but it would seem that so far the advantage has really been to the Allies. It would be wonderful if Hitler has at last got himself into a compromising position - I really think if we can once get him on the run, and follow right up with our advantage - that he should be quickly struck down.
We have met two very fine officers Lt. Col. Currie, and Major Ross of the R.C.A. - they are building up a Survey company - and are scouting around for some good men, and were quite disgusted to learn that Bill & I are headed for the R.E. 's - However we gave them Lorne Swannell's name - and there may be some developments for Lorne. If so he is lucky - because he will have two splendid commanding officers.
Well Jean - I'll continue this anon - I LOVE YOU
Well dear, a couple of days have passed without much of interest, except a turn for rougher weather - and some bad rolling which have interfered with uninterrupted sleep. However by taking a cat-nap during the day it helps make up for the loss at nights from rolling and from the change of time. We have now made up 9 hours, since leaving Victoria - This puts us on British daylight saving time, and thank goodness we have completed that part of the trip. When you and Mary come over, it's a good idea to advance your watch an hour immediately after dinner each evening, that makes it a bit easier to get to bed on the same basis of time as you rise on next morning.
This morning when we got up, we had the pleasure of seeing the North coast of Ireland on our starboard beam, about 30 miles off. You can imagine how good it was to see the first landfall. This coastline is quite rugged, with hills simulating mountains - and even snow on the higher levels. It reminded me of home - and my wife & baby.
We are now in the Irish Sea having sneaked around between Ireland & Scotland and are heading for Liverpool - It was quite a narrow passage in one place, with high headland about 10 miles off on each side. We have passed several small ships - possibly trawlers - or patrols. The ship has been taking zig zag course since day before yesterday. this is a precaution against submarines - We carry our life belts with us at all times - even to meals. We have also been supplied with gas masks, It's quite thrilling - however when you and Mary come over, I hope these measures will not be necessary.
I am writing a family letter to the various branches - starting with Nora, at Toronto and to be shunted around gradually westward, to Gertrude - and finally to you. Some of the news in there will probably be repetition of what I write to you directly, but I thought you would like to have them, even if they travel on a rather slow schedule.
We expect to disembark at Liverpool tomorrow morning - and probably will entrain directly for London. I am sending a short cable as soon as we land, and will also write again as soon as we get settled.
I am getting most impatient to hear from you - but I guess mail will be rather slow. Airmail from Victoria to the Atlantic would speed things up a little. That will only take 6Â¢. The mail from here is censored, I believe, and I may unintentionally occasionally give information which may be considered indiscrete - so don't e alarmed if the odd item is struck out.
All my love to you both -