A War Brides Passage to America, 1946
by Joan Stubbs
How I became a War Bride, and my journey aboard the S. S. Argentina Jan 26, 1946 a cruise ship pre-war, and troop ship during the War years. 1939 - 1945.
My sister and I were evacuated with my school Brockley Central, August of 1939 and billeted with families in Surrey for a few weeks and later moved to a small dairy farm with the Day family at Holland, Oxted, Surrey. We kept in touch with our parents once a week by public telephone in the village. We could see the German planes flying high above us on route to bombing London and spent many nights in Mr. Day’s air raid shelter which was dug out of the hedge row. After one heavy raid on London when we could see the skies red with the fires, I tried to call home and could not get through.
This was the time my parents had driven out to the countryside to avoid the heavy bombing in the London area. An incendiary bomb landed on the slate tiles of our house and St Catherine’s Church that was situated behind our house this was the night before, breaking the tiles, which caused a small fire in the wood rafters beneath them. My father and other volunteer Air Raid Wardens put out this fire. We were fortunate that they were not home when a German plane bombed our home and seven others, they were completely destroyed, it was Oct 16, 1940.
Our neighbour, a retired stockbroker Mr. Basson and his housekeeper Miss. Ethel Fairbairn were killed. My parents were forced to evacuate themselves to the village of Bourne End and once they were settled decided that we would not be separated again. It was not long after this episode my parents took us out of school and we lived for a while in a moving van that had been made into a camper in the village of Bourne End, Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
My father owned his own Out Door Advertising business and soon built another shelter, with materials salvaged from his work, a wooden bungalow, in the village for the family. This was all new to us after living in a two-story brick home with all modern conveniences. Here we had a well, pump and outhouse, cooked on a wood stove and Primus, and our lighting was by oil lamps. We missed having a bathroom and discovered that there were only three full bathrooms in the village. We soon made friends of the owners due to water shortage during the war one was only allowed 5 inches of water in the bath tub, many homes resorted to marking a 5-inch line around the tub to meet the government’s required water restrictions. If we had not had our home destroyed, I would have stayed with the school and never moved to Bourne End or met an American named Walter.
Walter Moody Stubbs and I met in England in the fall of 1942. He was a Corporal in the United States Army Air Corps stationed at Bovingdon, a RAF Base near Bourne End, Herts. He came over on the troop ship West Point with the 92nd Bomb Group, August of 1942. Our first meeting was at Fred’s Café in the village of Bourne End, where the off duty airmen would meet for newspapers, coffee etc. Mrs. Maloney an Australian native was part owner and welcomed the young airmen so far from home.
One evening while helping my father, who was air raid warden, to check the black out of the village, I found the curtains at the café showed a light and so cautioned, Mrs. Maloney who invited me in to meet the airmen. This was the first time that I met Walter. The second time was at Mrs. Maloney’s daughter's wedding and we sat next to each other at the reception, Walter met my parents. We then went to the White Horse Inn with my sister and another airman, my first time to visit the Inn and first whisky sour.
Soon after we met, Walter went on TDY (Temporary Duty) and we wrote to each other and to his parents. His mother expressed her thanks to my parents for giving Walter a family to visit and later he would spend occasional weekend leaves with us. Walter's sister Betty was my age and we enjoyed exchanging letters. Time went by and would enjoy movie dates and walks by the Grand Union Canal, whenever he could manage leave. We decided to get married in December 1944. By this time he was a T/Sgt. and Crew Chief for the B- 17. Due to what was happening with the war, our plans changed and we were married September 2, 1944. at St Johns, Bourne End Church with the blessings of both our parents.
Getting married to a United States service man was not too easy, many forms and requirements had to be met. I also had an interview with the Canon of the Church.
Our Banns were called and the wedding went off without a hitch. My cousin Vera managed to talk the family into give their clothing coupons to buy material for my wedding gown and two bridesmaids dresses. My Dad arranged for nice reception and our honeymoon was split between Maidenhead in Berkshire at my aunt's flat, and in Cirencester, Gloucestershire with my Great Aunt and Uncle. In February, we “honeymooned” in Scotland and were caught in a blizzard in Aberdeen.
Walter was sent to Istres, France, May 1945. This meant that the 92nd Bomb Group was attached to the Army of Occupation and even though they had a higher priority than most, they had to help return troops to the states by using the bombers as transports. Remember the war with Japan was still going on. Once he knew when he was to return to the States, Walter applied for my passage to the United States.
He was shipped back to the States in September, 1945 aboard the S.S. Burnside, which blew a boiler half way across the Atlantic and limped into Halifax, Nova Scotia for repairs. They finally made Boston, and then on to Washington D.C.
Walter wanted to surprise his parents and asked that I not write of his return. However, when the ship took so long, his mail from home was returned, and his mother questioned me as to why his letters had been returned and did I know where he was.
Not hearing from him, I went to the Embassy and inquired as to where he could be. They were not helpful, thinking, I expect, "Here is another bride left behind". We finally received this cable "Longest crossing since Columbus". Walter was safely home. Walter was home for six months before I was able to join him.
I received a letter requesting that I present myself at the American Embassy in London to be interviewed and receive the necessary documents. We had so many physicals I can't remember if one was required that visit. I also had tried to arrange passage myself, but no civilian transportation was available at this time. Walter's parents had to send a statement of their finances, whether they owned their home, and that they were willing to sponsor and guarantee to look after me and support me, as long as necessary, as their own daughter. Which they did, dated Dec 23, 1944, to the American Embassy, London. Smallpox vaccination was required and I then went to our London Doctor C. Vaughn Henriques, for smallpox Vaccination on Dec 31, 1945
On Wednesday, Jan 2, 1946, I received a letter from Embassy to prepare for voyage to the States, also a parcel from Walter's family, along with a letter from Walter written Christmas night. On Jan 4, 1946 Walter's cousin Charles came over from France on leave. I had not met him but he had received our wedding photo from his mother so he said he would recognize me. We met at Kings Cross Railroad Station and shopped in Oxford St, and stayed in London with my sister Cecilia. Her husband was still with the British Army stationed in Holland. Charles stayed for few days to shop and see some movies, we also went to the American Embassy and put calls in to his mother and Walter. Charles returned to Paris, Jan 11th. More Christmas cards and gifts arrived from Walter's aunts and uncles. I was really feeling quite welcome to the family.
Jan 12th, 1946
Received another Embassy letter advising me to be prepared to leave and be at Waterloo Railroad Station on Jan 17th, 1946
Jan 13th, Sunday
My arm was red and painful from vaccination on Dec 30th. and I was feverish, not a very good day for company. My relatives came to tea and to wish me "Bon Voyage" etc. How I wish all the goodbye's were over. I am going to miss everyone so much. We have always been a close family.
Jan 15th, 1946
Another letter from the Embassy, stating that the ship would be delayed and the date to leave from Waterloo would be Jan 22, instead of 17th. Perhaps they needed this time to clean up and change the cabins for the trip with women and children. The postman arrived with a package from the USA. Walter had sent my Christmas gifts, a suit, stockings and gloves.
Jan 16th, 1946
Decided to visit Dr. Henriques and check on my arm. He suggested keeping arm in sling. Spent some time with Cecilia then back to Bourne End on 18th and nearly froze waiting for 1.40 p.m. train. Sent birthday cable to Walter, caught bus to Berkhamsted for a visit to hairdresser for shape and set.
We celebrated Walter's birthday with my parents. I decided to take a last trip around the village and visit the old church, the watercress farm, and Winkwell where the 15th century pub, “The Three Horseshoes” so beautifully located on the Grand Union Canal. I will miss the British countryside.
It was a very excited, time to leave Bourne End, a picture postcard village. We took luggage to be held overnight at Waterloo Railroad Station. I visited London Aunts and my childhood school chum Lana. [It was] my last night with my sister Cecilia and my baby niece, Carolynn.
Up at 6:10 am, breakfast with mum and dad, then off to Waterloo where we collected luggage and have it weighed. Photos were taken and group press interview. [I received ] a corsage of carnations and violets from my parents. Final, hugs and kisses goodbye. I boarded the train with some 400 other young brides, waved goodbye from the train and we were off to Andover, and to an Army Base at Perham Down.
This was the letter that I received prior to my travels.
From the Area Transportation Office, Duke St. London:
Arrangements are now being made for your passage to the United States, and you should immediately prepare yourself to travel at short notice. In order for us to proceed with the arrangements, it is vital that the enclosed Questionnaire be completed and forwarded to this office in the enclosed self- addressed envelope within 48 hours.
We will endeavor to make your passage as comfortable as possible. It must be remembered, however, that many wartime restrictions upon travel are still in effect, and therefore your wholehearted co-operation in following our instructions will greatly assist in making your move a smooth one.
We have enclosed with this letter a set of instructions for your guidance in preparing for the move. We also have enclosed a letter of authority to allow you to make the necessary financial arrangements.
As soon as arrangements are fully completed, we will forward to you your movement instructions, giving specific details on how to move, i.e. from where to where, and baggage tags to attach to your baggage.
We shall be looking forward to receiving your reply immediately. Should you be unable to accept this offer, we would like advice by telegraph (enclosed) stating the reason and when you expect to be ready to travel.
Signed James L. Barley
Lt. Colonel. T.C.
Instructions. Letter of Authority.
Questionnaire. Self -Addressed stamped envelope.
And so this was the beginning of my journey from England to the United States at the young age of 18. You can imagine how the family felt at the actual time of my leaving, and mine, of being reunited with my husband and his family and yet leaving all I had ever known.
As it happened, I had corresponded with Walter's parents, sister and brothers, so we were quite thrilled with getting together at long last. I also had a writing acquaintance with several of his Aunts, which turned out to be a blessing, when I reached New York.
The instructions were as follows;
A: Passport and visas: These are to be held by this office and will be forwarded to the Reception Area at the proper time.
YOU WILL TRAVEL TO THE RECEPTION AREA WITHOUT PASSPORT AND VISA.
B: Personal Documents: Baptismal. Marriage & birth certificates should be in your possession when you go to the United States.
C: Immigration. Declaration and Embarkation cards will be filled out at the Reception Area and aid of the local staff will be available.
D: Ration Books: Ration Books and Clothing Books must be kept in your possession as these books will be collected just prior to your embarkation by British Immigration Authorities.
A: British: Your baggage is subject to inspection by British Customs before leaving this country.
B: U.S: Personal & household effects will be admitted free of duty in the United States if shown to have been actually used in a household while the passenger was a resident in this country for more than one year and if they are not intended for any other person or for sale. Articles of adornment, including jewelry, toilet articles & similar personal effects that are necessary and appropriate for the personal use of the immigrant will also be admitted free of import duty provided that the effects were in his or her possession prior to the owners departure from this country & that they are not intended for other persons or sale.
Enclosed herewith is a letter giving information and authority for the transfer of sterling to dollars. The transfer of bank accounts, postal savings, defense bonds, life assurance policies and securities are matters on which this office cannot advise you. All financial matters of this nature should be taken up with your local bank manager who is thoroughly familiar with all the British regulations pertaining to such transfers. A few pounds sterling will be required for the purchase of necessities in the reception area.
Each adult is entitled to 200 pounds of luggage & each child, 50 pounds. In packing you must remember that all your baggage will NOT be available to you during the voyage. Due to limited space aboard ship such things as trunks, footlockers, prams etc. will be stored below decks. You will be permitted to keep two suitcases or small containers in your cabin with you. Therefore any clothing or other articles required on the voyage must be packed in your suitcase.
Do not attempt to send any of your baggage to the Port or to the Reception Area in advance. It must travel on the same train with you. It is your responsibility to care for your own baggage until such time as Transportation Corps personnel, who will probably take it from you, be on arrival at the Reception Area.
Baggage is carried at your own risk & is not covered by insurance. If you desire such protection, consult your local insurance broker.
Baggage information required is shown on the questionnaire & must be filled out carefully so we may be able to make the necessary accommodation for your baggage.
Facilities at Reception Areas:
MEDICAL: Medical Dispensaries are operated at each Reception Area for care of dependants. Upon reaching Reception Area dependants will immediately have vaccination certificate checked & approved by dispensary officials. Dependants who have not been vaccinated for small pox will be so vaccinated before called to embark.
MEALS: Food for yourself and your children will be your responsibility from your home to the Reception Area. Special formula for infants, who require special feeding should be provided to last (21 ) days. Provision will be made at Reception Area & aboard ship for infants feeding, but your special brand or formula may not be available.
All meals will be furnished at army expense, from the time you arrive in Reception Area until you arrive at your final destination in the U.S.
POST EXCHANGE: Cigarettes & similar items will be on sale at the Reception Area PX.
BILLETING: Suitable accommodation will be available for you and your children in the Reception Area.
Children Carry cots for infants are recommended, also restraining harness or reins for very young children.
Ocean travel requires that adults and children should be warmly clad.
All arrangements for your travel will be made by this office. Upon receipt of your questionnaire, properly filled out, a movement instruction will be mailed to you with a Railroad Warrant & Schedule of trains & the Reception Area to which you are to report. We will also include with those instructions, baggage tags for your baggage. Necessary instructions for properly filling out those tags will also be mailed to you at that time.
WARNING: You are to proceed to the Reception Area without being accompanied by friends or relatives. No facilities of any kind are available in the Reception Area for friends or relatives.
I last saw my parents at Waterloo Railroad Station on the 22 of January 1946 and recall hanging out of train window waving goodbye. My parents did come to the States in the summer of 1947, but I did not return to England until June 1960.
Our children were 9 and 11 years old when they met their Grandparents for the first time.
My next document from Area Transport Office:
Enclosed you will find a railway warrant covering your fare from your present home to ANDOVER, SALISBURY
ARRANGEMENTS ARE NOW COMPLETE FOR YOUR PASSAGE TO THE UNITED STATES. IT IS VITAL THAT YOU FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IMPLICITLY. YOUR FAILURE TO ARRIVE AT THE DESIGNATED POINTS ON TIME MAY FORFEIT YOUR EARLY PASSAGE.
Movement in U.K.
You will not need any additional train tickets for your trip as warrant is used instead of ticket and will be collected at the end of your journey. You will report with all baggage to U.S. R.T.O. at Waterloo Station at 9:00 AM on 17 January 1946
Upon arrival at London & Reception Area you will be met by U.S. Army Transportation Corps R.T.O.'s who will assist you & arrange for your further movement.
We suggest you supply yourself with enough food & drink from your home to your destination.
Upon your arrival at your destination you will be the responsibility of the U.S. Army & all arrangements from that point to actual embarkation will be made by the U. S. Army. All further instructions for movement out of England will be forthcoming in the Reception Area.
It is recommended etc. (Having no children I will skip this.)
DO NOT COME IF YOUR BABIES ARE ILL, YOU CAN GO LATER.
Baggage same as before.
Enclosed you will find baggage tags, please print your name in block letters on the line "name of owner ". Also in the place marked "Forwarding Address " or "Home Address" print the address to which you
Are going to in the U.S. Attach one tag marked hand baggage to the handle of each of the pieces of baggage
Which are to accompany you as "Cabin baggage". The other tags are to be attached to the handle of each piece
Of " Hold " baggage.
ALL BAGGAGE MUST ACCOMPANY YOU ON THE TRAIN TO THE DESTINATION. YOUR BAGGAGE MUST BE MARKED PRIOR TO DEPARTURE FROM YOUR HOME. WHEN CHANGING TRAINS MAKE CERTAIN YOUR BAGGAGE ACCOMPANIES YOU. YOU SHOULD HAVE A FEW SHILLINGS FOR TIPPING PORTERS.
One copy of the official travel order, which is the authority for your entire journey, is enclosed & should be Carried with you at all times.
EARLY OR LATE ARRIVALS:
No accommodations will be available until the date shown in these orders. Therefore it is impossible to accommodate you sooner. If you arrive late you risk being returned to your home.
Same as before. Facilities for changing sterling to dollars at the Reception Area.
If you are unable to travel at this time, send the enclosed Post Office Telegram.
Or phone London, Regent 8484 Extension 2174 or 2259. Be sure to verify rail timings and if you need to change trains etc.
Signed. James L. Bartley
Lt. Colonel, T.C.
The letter written the 11 January, 1946
To be ready and on time, I decided to leave Bourne End and go to London to stay with my sister until time to leave for the station. My parents met me and we had a last breakfast together and went by taxi with my hand luggage and suitcase to Waterloo Station. We must thank the British Post Office for getting these letters to us in time for us to get ourselves ready. Can you imagine the havoc if these letters had arrived late all over England?
This is to notify you that the arrival of the first ship to lift dependants of the U.S. Military and Naval Personnel will arrive (5 ) five days later than originally scheduled. You will, therefore, delay leaving your home (5) five days, which means that you will report, according To the Movement Instruction that you have recently received, on the 22 January instead of the 17 January.
For those of you that live a great distance from London and your movement indicates that you should leave your home the 16 January, you will not now leave until the 21st January.
IF YOU RESIDE OUTSIDE OF THE GREATER LONDON AREA YOU HAVE RECEIVED A TRAVEL WARRENT. PLEASE RETAIN THIS WARRENT AS YOU WILL NEED IT TO TRAVEL ON THE DATE ADVISED ABOVE.
Please co-operate with this office by not making further inquires as you can rest assured that we will keep you fully advised and give you sufficient notification at all times.
Most sincerely yours,
Lt.Colonel, T. C.
Jan 22nd, 1946, Tuesday
So now we have said our Good Byes at Waterloo and are on our way to Tidworth, many of us had never been far from home and our loved ones. But were full of excitement and looking forward to seeing our husbands once more. We made new friends exchanged addresses and promised to keep in touch. I do not think the enormity of what we were about to do really hit us until the ship started to leave the dock at Southampton.
The arrival at Tidworth went well. We were bussed to the Camp and duly sorted out, wives with children went one way, and girls without children, another. Each assigned quarters, 16 to a room, in a barracks, which I assumed, were used for soldiers that used to be stationed there. I was assigned to building "K", bed 59, the beds were quite comfortable. After lunch we had time to settle in and write home, tea at the Red Cross unit and supper at in the mess hall. After a long day we were ready for bed at 8pm.
Jan. 23rd, Wednesday
Up at 7.45 time for the usually toiletries and breakfast in the no.2 mess. The beginning of a weeks orientation, finger printing, luggage to be claimed and censored, another Medical where we all lined up in army bath robes. Then time to change our sterling to dollars. Visit to PX, the days were busy with talks of what to expect in our new country, naturalization and so forth. We were able to take showers with no water restriction. During the war our baths were only allowed 5 inches in the tub, many tubs had a line painted in them. The visit to the PX was special and we bought things we had not seen during the war years or had been rationed, like soap, and chocolate. I did not smoke, so cigarettes did not interest me, but many did, and they enjoyed the freedom of being able to purchase them. Time has dulled a few things, but as I recall some things return. I think the physicals we all hated and wondered why we were sorted out so many times. My vaccination was fairly new. It had been done Dec 31, 1945, several weeks before leaving, and it did not heal before we left, so my arm was sore the whole trip.
After supper we went to a movie "Penthouse Blues" I wrote my parents and was in bed by 9:30pm.
I think we did a final sorting of luggage for Customs and sent it to the truck to be put in the hold and we repacked our cabin bags. By this time we had added a few things from PX, we had more forms to fill and another set of instructions.
Jan. 24th, Thursday
Life at the army base was quite different but we all managed quite well. Up at 7:30 am. Bath at Red Cross Area, breakfast in the mess hall, time to relax I read "Claudia", wrote Walter & mummie. Went to PX and fetched rations. Attended USO show, quite good. Tea at Red Cross Unit. Bed 10pm.
Jan. 25th, Friday
Up at 7:20 am breakfast, visit Red Cross Unit. Registration and berth number assigned. A usual day with time for lectures and letter writing. Evening movie was "Bewitched", wrote mummie. I am missing the folks. In my diary, "something or someone could not come, upset us all." Do not recall what it was. Meeting 7.30 PM.
Jan. 26th, Saturday
Up at 6:30 AM, breakfast, collect our gear, caught 11:15am train to Southampton. Finally the day to leave arrived and we were taken to the dock. Seeing the ship for the first time, it looked huge, and this was a big adventure for those who had never been to sea before. Some had never seen the sea.
Boarded the ship at 2:15 pm. The S.S. Argentina, 33,375 tons, Gross tonnage of 20,614, Length 613-ft. Beam at widest part 80 ft. Built in 1928 at Newport News, Virginia. Driven by Turbo-electric engines, a cruising speed of 18 I/2 knots averages at times more than 19 knots.
And so we were all taken up with the excitement of boarding, getting to our assigned decks and finding our cabins. As the ship pulled away from the shore at 4:30 PM. January 26, 1946, we had no idea of what we had in store for the next nine days or how long the voyage would take. Our thoughts were many, happy & sad, a new life ahead of us. We all lined the rail and many a tear was shed, no one knew when they would see England or their families again. There were few families to wave Good Bye to for most had been told that they could not visit their daughters and multiply the confusion of boarding with children and luggage.
We turned to the new friends aboard with whom we would spend the next days, and then took time to write home. It was hard to leave the family and see the English shore fade away. The Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth were in dock getting ready to leave in a few days.
The ship had been a cruise ship pre-war and then a troop ship, so it was painted Grey now as it was to be a bride ship the interior had been cleaned and painted and the smell of fresh paint was still lingering. I imagine that did not help those who became seasick after their first day at sea and all the fresh food so nicely prepared. The evening meal was first class, food we had not seen in 4 years, fresh fruit, and eggs with shells, beef, chicken, or ham, bacon, bread not made with chalk and wood chips.
A typical day’s menu was as follows;
Grapefruit juice, chilled oranges, stewed fruit
Boiled oatmeal with milk
Broiled Beechnut Bacon
Boiled or scrambled eggs fried country sausages, sauté potatoes.
Assorted Marmalade, assorted Coffee rings
Bread, jam, butter, Hot rolls, tea and coffee
Mustard pickles, pickled beets.
Yankee bean soup
Broiled fresh salmon, lemon, butter sauce.
Roast sugar cured Ham, sweet sauce, green peas, braised white cabbage, parsley potatoes.
Lettuce salad, French dressing.
Bread, butter, tea and coffee.
Sour mixed pickles, preserved tuna fish.
Cream of celery soup.
Roast top sirloin of beef, au jus.
Waxed beans, broccoli, mashed potatoes. Lettuce salad, French dressing.
Custard pudding, ice cream.
Cheese & crackers. Tea & coffee.
Too much for some stomachs, and to get to the mess hall one had to pass through an area where there were large tubs with taps (perhaps to wash dishes ) the only use I saw was girls heaving, which did not help. Those who were able toured the ship, found the Canteen, a treasure trove. We could buy make up, sweets, cigarettes, lighters, toiletries, soap. There were bathtubs and a community washroom where we queued to wash and clean our teeth etc.
The rooms or cabins assigned were not all alike and mine was set up for 12 to 16 people, the bunks were held up on metal pipes and could be folded up to make more room. Every other bunk was folded up, but it still did not leave much room between the bunk above or below you. However we had a good group and enjoyed our new friends. I remember an Irish lass named Esher, and another named Mary, but the others escape me. Those few who were not sea sick would walk the children of sick wives until the weather got to rough, and then even the hardy were not allowed on open decks.
There were many news reporters aboard who took pictures every where. The Life Magazine. did an article and six from our cabin were photographed, as were Mary, Esher and myself while on deck walking other mother’s children. Others who were able to leave their cabins were huddled in the deck chairs.
Jan. 27th, Sunday
We had boat drill several times during the voyage, but now some 53 years later I do not recall much about them. The Chaplain John M.Eggen
held Sunday services and we were invited to visit him at anytime, His office was on "B" deck, aft, Portside, Cabin 174. He held a daily hymn sing 10:45 to 11:15 am. He broadcast evening vespers at 7:45 PM each evening over the P.A system.
Spent day on deck, food was really marvelous, Capt. Breeze appointed me on her staff of area representatives. The movie of the evening was "Rhapsody in Blue". The daily newspaper was born and named "Wives Whispers", that gave daily update on the ships progress and tid bits from wives and news.
Jan. 28th, Monday
[I] really enjoying the trip, especially the food, PX & library. Mary, Esher and I enjoy strolling the deck and exchange stories, etc. Found where the bathtub rooms were and arranged for use of one. We had the usual meetings and were introduced to the Captain Thomas Simmons, our Chaplain John M. Eggen, TSO. Lt. James H. Heburn, Transport Commander. Colonel Lyle, Woman's Staff Director. WAC. Capt. Beatrice Breese. The American Red Cross Representatives. Barbara Lincoln, Mary Blake, Ethel Lord.
Our radio Station, “WARG” on "A" deck forward was manned by Sgt. James King and Lt. James Hepburn. The Crew worked hard to keep us involved and busy plus we had the daily newspaper, movies, library, religious services, gatherings in the lounge to meet and exchange stories and learn about the different states, etc.
The ships position was at noon, Latitude 49 40' N Longitude 20 30' W rolling along gracefully. It all seems like a wonderful dream. We found that some famous people had cruised on this ship, when she was a luxury liner and not Army Grey for wartime security. . Bing Crosby, Duke & Dutchess of Windsor, Gen. Spaatz, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, Simon Simone.
Jan. 29th., Tuesday, STORMY
[I] wrote mummie & Cecelia. And now we begin to find out what it is like to be at sea in a storm, weather reports were given out over ship radio and we were not allowed on deck. When walking the corridors we had to hold a handrail. The outside decks were awash with the seas that we were plowing through, the crossing was beginning to get rough, even though it was said the Capt. had gone off course some 500 miles to try to avoid the worst weather.
Looking at the stormy seas and high crashing waves one has to wonder how they found those pilots downed during the war floating in life rafts. Such huge waves crashing over bow of ship, and yet strangely enough, I did not feel scared or uncomfortable. Stewards had to wet down tablecloths to help keep dishes on the tables.
Food fell to floor, which made a slippery mess, not many girls are making it to dining room, most too seasick. Heavy weather, wind at times 65 mph. One really needed sea legs to get from cabin to lounge.
Life aboard continued and we had movies and other entertainment to keep us occupied. Helping those mothers that were sick, we cared for their children. Girls in my cabin now down with sea- sickness, fetched meals to those who could eat. It is best to keep something in your stomach.
Only once did I feel queasy, but managed to eat something and it passed. Took bath, washed hair, water kept sloshing to one end of tub. The stewards aboard are a happy lot and do little dance like jigs along the corridors, while mopping or sweeping.
Jan. 30th, Wednesday
Stormy, gale. We are not allowed on deck, girls in cabin feel bad, a few made it to the lounge. I had a meeting with Capt. Breeze at 2:30 p.m. to report on conditions in my area. Movie of the day, "Out of this World". Very appropriate.
Now running into snow and fog, decks icy, ship now progressing slower. We were advised that we should radio our husbands not to meet us in New York as they would not be allowed to travel with us on same train to whatever states we were going to.
Sent Walter a radiogram (Asked Walter not to meet me in New York, see you in Norfolk). Disappointed at thought of not meeting in New York but expected to be put on train and arrive Norfolk in about 6 hours.
THIS IS THE LETTER.
That changed our plan to meet in New York. When you arrive at the United States Port, you will have to go through certain formalities with the Immigration, Customs, & Public Health Officials. Their meetings with you will be held on the ship. It is important that you have readily accessible your printed landing card. You will be debarked in-groups according to your destination and the make up of the trains. In order to prevent inconvenience & difficulty because of the extreme shortage of railway accommodations in the United States, railroad reservations & other arrangements have been made by the army in advance of your arrival. You will be expected to use this transportation. Since similar arrangements cannot be made for your husband, he should not be requested to meet you at the port. However, if for some urgent reason this is necessary, or if you do not intend to use the above transportation, please inform the Transport Commander of this ship at least 4 days before the arrival in the United States so your reservations may be cancelled. In such a case all further travel in the United States will be made without the aid of the army. At the overseas port you were given a tag showing your name and destination. Please fasten it securely to you outer clothing, & let it remain there until arrival at your destination. This will assist you & will also assist the people charged in helping you to your destination. After necessary processing aboard ship you will be asked to assemble on the pier at the place where your hold luggage will have been assembled according to the first letter of your last name. There you will be given your railroad ticket & baggage check for your hold baggage. This baggage will be checked on your ticket through to your destination. The conductor on the train will claim your baggage at your final destination.
ENROUTE FROM PORT
The train which you board at the port may not take you directly to your home but any further transportation you will need, such as local train or bus, will be arranged for you prior to the time you depart from the United States port. At points where change of trains is made, if you need assistance, look for a Military Police, a Red Cross, or Travelers Aid Representative. Although transportation charges are paid by the United States Government, you will have to pay for meals in the U.S. after departure from the ship.
February 1st, 1946, Friday
Check up on cabin baggage, cabins B 120-142. Report to Capt. Breeze and attend meeting and film lecture, did washing, had facial, hair washed and set, everyone getting ready for the big day when we are all reunited with our husbands. Slight sore throat and cold, took bath spent evening reading in cabin and writing home.
- BBC news flash. “British housewives will receive no more dried eggs”, for financial reasons, the biggest blow to housewives breakfast table since 1939.
Feb. 2nd, Saturday
Had throat checked by ship's doctor and painted. Returned books to library. Molly, Esher & I took a short walk on deck.
Ships position at noon today. Longitude 50--W Latitude 42--37 N
Weather: Cloudy, Westerly Gale. Rough Westerly Sea. 697 miles to go.
Weather permitting, the S.S. Argentina will arrive at New York on Sunday - Midnight.
Physical scheduled 3 to 5 PM today.
Throat still not better, went to bed early.
Feb. 3rd, Sunday
Meeting with Capt. Breeze who gave girls final debarkation instructions. Dinner that night was chicken, finished packing and took bath. Tonight we saw the "Argentina Antics show" which went off very well thanks to the Producer, Mrs. Winans and all her helpers.
Tap dancer, Mrs.Youngkin; pianist, Mrs. Dickinson; who had performed at Albert Hall. Mrs. Goss, Mrs. Bender, Mrs. Goldstein, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Strunk, Mrs. Beers, Mrs. Murray, Mrs. Holt, and the wardrobe ladies, Mrs. Sassi, Mrs. Sanderson, and Mrs. Atkinson.
Bed by 9:30pm
Feb. 4th 1946, Monday
We are in U.S. waters. Up at 2:45 am, we had to see it all.
We lined the rails to see the Statue of Liberty at 5 am. It was alight and such a wonderful sight to see in the early hours after so many years of blackout.
Now came the reporters and Customs, Public Health & Immigration. There was a tugboat strike and we were unable to dock right away. Army tugs came and took over and saved the day, pushed the ship into the N.Y. pier. Our ship was covered in ice and ice was floating in the harbor. Even though we had had a physical on board Saturday, when the Public Health and Immigration boarded, we were told to remain in our cabin for a further physical. This group of wives was well and truly checked out. Once our physical was over and papers found in order we were able to leave the ship in an orderly fashion and claim our luggage.
To my great surprise I was informed to go with group getting on buses as my husband was in New York to meet me at the Red Cross Center, 315 Lexington Ave. And so I did, only to arrive there and found there had been a mix up. Several other girls also found that their husbands were not there either. All had been called at home and advised not to come. This mix up was very up setting for the husbands, especially Walter.
However I decided to call Aunt Madeline in Brooklyn and see what she suggested as the Red Cross did not seem to offer a solution to my getting to Norfolk. Aunt Madeline was member of Red Cross and was meeting a troop ship but her daughter Beth said she would call back. Meantime we watched the reunions of other couples and saw them on their way together. Aunt Madeline arrived and she had to sign papers before they would release me to her custody. We then were off by bus and train to Brooklyn.
And so Aunt Madeline, Uncle Will & Beth were the first of Walters’s family to meet me. After a nice relaxing bath and dinner we tried to arrange a flight to Norfolk, Virginia via Eastern Airways.
Feb. 5th, Tuesday
After a good night rest and enjoyable breakfast with my new relatives, Cousin Beth gave me a tour of the City, Rockefeller Center and took me to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes.
The skyscraper buildings were something else. I had never seen such tall buildings. When we arrived back at the apt we found that the flight had been cancelled due to snowstorm in Washington D.C. We called Walter with the bad news, by this time he was very anxious to get me home we then decided to try the train and I caught the 11:15 PM from Pennsylvania Station.
So, here I am alone in a strange country and told to stay on the train to the end of the line and to follow the crowd to a ferry boat which would take about 3 hours to Norfolk, Va.
It was a long tiring night; the train was over heated and crowded. I am not sure what time the train arrived but it was early morning. I followed the crowd onto the ferry and found the dining room and managed to buy my breakfast. The ferry was the "Elisha Lee" from Cape Charles, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia.
I suppose the trip took two to three hours and when I arrived there was no one to meet me. There was some mix up in time of arrival, looking around I saw that I was in the baggage room at Boush Street Station, Norfolk, Virginia.
I then called Walter, who was getting ready to come to meet the ferry. He told me not to move from there, he would be right down. When he arrived, he did not see me at first, and found me sitting on a bench marked "Colored" in the baggage room. This was when they had everything marked colored or white, and the colored people had to sit in the back of the bus, something I thought very strange.
You might imagine how really thankful we were to see each other it was a joyful time.
Walter’s mother asked him to give her time to get the house in order, so we delayed going home by taking a tour of City Park and parking. Arriving at his parent’s home, I found the family just as I had expected and felt very welcomed but realized how much I missed my own family. It is now Feb 6th. a lot has happened since Jan 22. the date I left home.
We found that we were very well suited to each other and although' jobs were hard to find at the end of the war and some rationing was still enforced in the USA, we managed very well, living with Walters family for a year.
Walter went to night school at William & Mary College and in March he was advised of a job opening as Aircraft Mechanic at the Norfolk Naval Air Station. We were on our way. My parents came over for a visit in the summer of 1947. We bought our first car, drove to New York to meet them, explored some of New York and then took them to Virginia and on to Florida for a sight seeing trip. They were well pleased to meet Walters’s family and stayed several weeks longer.
Our first child was born in February 1st, 1949, a son Stephen, a joy to everyone. Being such a good child we decided it was a good time for a second child. Marilynn was born October 12th, 1950 and so the good years came. Walter's promotions, we bought a house, the children started school, and I became room mother, PTA, Cub Scout Leader, Brownie Leader, Girl Scout Leader and so on. Stephen enjoyed sports baseball, football and played throughout his school years. Other than scouts, Marilynn was into horseback riding and school activities.
Our first visit back to England was in 1960, the children were 11 and 9 and it was many firsts for them, a wonderful trip to be with my family. The children were old enough to remember and enjoy it.
We would have celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary on Sept 2, 2004. Our children and grandchildren are a blessing we have been very fortunate throughout the years to have had a close and happy family.
With Best Wishes,
Joan Stangroome Stubbs