Brides Ship ‘Uninviting’
Further discouragement to wives of American servicemen anxious to get to their husband’s home at all cost is offered in a letter from a Perth girl who was one of them.
Writing from her new American home, “in the most heavenly situation I could have dreamed of,” with her husband’s family, Mrs. Perrian R. Henry, formerly Joy Chapman, of Perth, tells an uninviting story of bride ship experiences.
As Miss Chapman, Mrs. Henry was well known as a member of the Prime Minister’s staff in Canberra, was in Darwin on the Administrator’s staff at the time of the evacuation, worked for the U.S. authorities in Rockhampton, where she advised bridges of U.S. servicemen about travel possibilities.
She met her husband first in Darwin, later married in Rockhampton, “The day before the sailing from Australia the inevitable queuing up (with approximately 250 girls, and a fair percentage with children) at the shipping company for our tickets had to be got through,” Mrs. Henry writes.
“When your turn came after about two hours you were told that in addition to the fare they had receipted you for the previous day they now require another £30, and could not accept American money. By that late stage we had converted all our Australian money into American dollars, and so hours of queuing up at the bank again for most, then back to the chipping company.
“The ‘last straw’ for most of the girls was the four hours endurance test through the Customs at the wharf. Some had had no food since 7:30 a.m. until night. No water, no facilities of any kind. Reminded me a little of the pathetic scene on the wharves at Darwin during the evacuation.
“Never have I seen such a dejected mass of girls. However, there they were with their babies, others without babies, feeling the partings from their home and country, and putting up with all this – the pettiness of officialdom.
“A weary girl was made to answer for four tea coupons that were missing from jer book when we had to give in our ration books and identity card – hours of […ng] there, too, and her people cont…ed and mother’s address taken ‘for action.’
“For two days we were confined to the ship – no one to leave, nor any contacts made; so we acquainted ourselves with our hip which was to be out prison for the sect sixteen odd days – a pre-war luxury liner, now a troopship.
“Our hundred odd pounds worth consisted of a stateroom with nine iron bunks in it, three deep, so close together that one could not turn over at night nor raise one’s elbow, but our own bathroom and toilet facilities helped a lot.
“The second we boarded the ship the most rigid military discipline was enforced; we were confined to certain passageways and the boat deck, solely for the girls, ‘cept for two hours midday when the officers played sport. Anyone caught out of bounds was confined to quarters, under military guard, for the rest of the voyage.
“Life jackets, large heavy black things, to be worn 24 hours of the day – at night we lay them at the foot of our bunk, of course – no rugs, chairs, reading material, books or papers allowed on the open deck for security reasons. A trail might be left behind by refuse.
“Slacks with cool blouse, were the order of the day – breakfast, dinner and tea at night. A warm pair of slacks and jumpers needed for the cool days just outside Australia, and then just outside San Francisco, but over the tropics, linen with light blouses most desirable.
“Nothing good, because the wearing of the life jacket leaves black stains, and clothes were ruined through sitting on the boards of the deck of the ship.
“Army officers and enlisted personnel with their wives on board were permitted only to be with them after sunrise and before sunset, then only on the open boat deck, and to carry written permits with them.
“Any soldier being found near the cabin where this wife was billet would forfeit his permit to see her in the daytime and be under guard permitted to speak to us in the corridors, and we like the fresh water taps, were guarded night and day by military police.
“Anyone who ever thought that the trip would be a pleasure trip was getting a rude awakening.
“At night the closed-in atmosphere caused by the black-out requirement of the potholes being closed, [...] crowded stateroom, the crowded ship made sleep impossible, and in the tropics, those five days while crossing the equator, were a nightmare that I could hardly bear. No military police would permit a girl off deck even if she were fainting for wa… of air.
“And so after many days of being reminded our comfort was secondary consideration, the first consideration being that they get us there safely, we passed under the Golden Gates of San Francisco in one of the densest fogs I have ever seen.”
“The troops cheered, the Australian girls looked despondent (they did not know what was before them) and with one look at the spectacular city before us we murmured as with one breath, ‘Thank God we are going to the country.’
“Our thanks cannot be too great to extend to the women of the American Red Cross.
“The C.I.B., Customs and Immigration channels took again almost eight hours to weather and we were the last off the ship.
“And there they were, these grand women with their many babies’ cots so clean and white and babies’ bottles, waiting for the tired mothers to relieve them of their children while we yet went through the interminable ordeal of the customs.
“Hours again on a wharf.
“Surviving that the Red Cross again were waiting for us with their cars, arranged hotel accommodation contacted our in-laws by telephones sent cables to our husbands, and I… us with their telephone numbers and instructions for us to ring for help that we required.
“Then the Travelers’ Aid took over and got us train accommodation right to the minute – ordinarily a mont... booking would be the least … would be required.”
Found: Name: Joy Vivian Henry
Arrival Date: 28 Sep 1944
Age: 28 years 11 months
Birth Date: abt 1915
Birthplace: Geraldton W Aust, Australia
Ship Name: Lurline
Port of Arrival: San Francisco, California
Port of Departure: Brisbane, Australia
Friend's Name: Alma