And then it came. A clear Lower
Deck that this writer will never forget. It was his
Birthday and what a present to receive. "Before you go ashore after this spell at sea"
began the Captain , gravely, "I must warn you that I shall believe all that the shore
patrols say about you. The war against Japan has a long way to go. There is much to be
done. I shall give you our next movements..." The hush was death like "We are staying
here for four days, storing ship. Then we shall proceed to the Panama Canal, make two
calls on the East Coast, and then HOME to U.K.! The cheers of frenzied enthusiasm
smote to the hangar roof. The Commander's order of dismissal was swept away in the
tide of jubilation.
Another chapter was ended. We had
ferried 300 aircraft and 100 passengers, and had
sailed 36,000 miles. Incidentally, the Commander and his Seamen had not idled away
these Pacific hours. The interior of the ship looked finer than at any time in her
commission, every inch having been newly painted.
Some heroic members of the ship's
company received draft chits to H.M.S. "Atheling"
just before we sailed. They relived those due for release from Service, for the Age &
Service Release Scheme was now beginning to affect even the men of the Royal Navy.
These draftees took their profound disappointment in fine spirit.
So on Friday 13th we sailed from
San Diego. Balboa saw us again in eight days. We
swept majestically through the now non combatant Caribbean, with all lights blazing,
ports open, letters uncensored. What a contrast to that first Caribbean trip , preceded by
a pep talk to look outs! We reached Norfolk on 27th July, stepping ashore to gather the
rabbits, and those who had money left did the same in New York on July 30th. Here we
left eighteen good men and true, the last of the "Newflies" grand fellows all They were
bound for home leave, and probably demobilisation.
During the first forenoon of August,
the statue of Liberty faded astern. Once again the
faithful "Tracker" turned her bows to break the Atlantic rollers. Many strange sights had
the old ship seen- a spaniel looking for his master on the bridge, a Pigeon [P.O.
Walker's Peppy"] landing aft.But now women and children stroll happily through the
hangar, and schoolboys chirrup in the Ready Room. For we are bringing home evacuees,
and American wives of British Naval personnel. There are a hundred members of a
F.A.A. station in New Brunswick also with us.
As I write, the once familiar Clyde
- blessed river - lies 1'000 miles ahead, and our E.T.A.
is August 9th. By that time H.M.S."Tracker" will have sailed 103,000 miles since day
this story began. For all of us, re-union with home is waiting, For some, it is the end of
the war, peace, civilian life, career... But for the "Tracker" for those who will sail again,
Nearly three years have passed
since they barked the name "Tracker" over the speakers
at R.N.B.Chatham. At least she will have helped us in the learning of life's most
important lesson, the art of living together. I have said little about the way we lived
together. Both the life of the ship and the men who lived it, the interplay of varied gifts
and personalities, the endless store of character, humour, and paths sandwiched
between these welded decks, could make a whole book. Perhaps it will be written one
day. At Least I've made a list of the names!
If a man is as old as he feels,
a ship is as happy as ordinary Seamen John Smith. And
what does John Smith say? He is busy with his rabbits now. But ask him in ten year's
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