Never had Merseyside seemed more colourful or serenely beautiful than that early June morning in 1940. Our ship lay calmly in the river, whilst all around flew seagulls like crumpled pieces of white paper tossed in the sky. Above us floated huge dolphins – great silver barrage balloons.
All day we stayed sleepily in the river watching the noisy activity of the shipyards on either bank until the sunset hues of a lovely summer evening cast a warm glow over the sober grey of the ship. At last, slowly, almost imperceptibly, we slipped outwards towards the bar, escorted by two planes dipping and searching the water in front of us. Meanwhile, the ship’s marine crew stood silently by their guns. The sombre bulk of another large ship moved with us churning another creamy foaming trail. I lay back in my deck chair languid and tranquil, the pain of leaving England in such a bitter hour softened by the beauty of the scene.
Soon we had crossed the bar and were churning a passage off the coast of Northern Ireland. The sea grew choppy and the wind began to blow keenly. My head began to ache – it felt rather water-logged as if I had been diving too long.
There was quite a motion from the ship and my inside adopted a nautical roll. Willpower would conquer – I would remain on deck.
Just then the ship gave a shudder and something very unpleasant happened to the passenger in front of me. It was too much, my unhappy inside lurched, I leaned over the side with a swimming head…
Every step an agony, I fought my way down by the hand rail to my cabin. What a long way it seemed right into the grim bowels of the ship. When I flung myself at last onto my bunk, every throb of the engines went shattering through my senses. The flopping sound of the water seemed very near. Supposing there was a submarine warning – how would anyone so sick stagger up those steep companion steps?
The gong clanged for Life Boat Drill and we were all ordered to our stations. Feebly clutching my life-belt and with legs like macaroni sticks, I followed the green arrows in a nightmarish trance and joined the other green and yellow faces on a cold, sloppy portion of the deck where a smart young officer gave instructions to at least one incapable of caring.
Once more I crawled into my cabin and flung myself onto an ever-retreating and heaving bunk. The lights were dim, the porthole blacked out, the screw of the propeller throbbed and twisted in my reeling brain, continuous waves of sickness took charge of my inside. My limbs became swollen balloons and floated away from my leaden, nauseated body, my lips were parched and peeled – they felt thick as life-belts. Only purely destructive thoughts passed through my head. I was of no use to anyone. Could someone throw me overboard and end this agony or would some wicked- eyed octopus claw me back with greedy tentacles. How welcome a torpedo would be to end this bestial sickness.