|K e n s m e n : 4 3 r d B o m b G r o u p (H), 5 t h A A F|
|The sea was becoming more rough
and the temperature was dropping as we travelled southeast. Our net
port of call became known during this sprint across the South Atlantic.
It is Cape Town, South Africa!
We docked in Capetown, a friendly area, where there was much activity taking place. One of the Queen Mary crews was relieved and would return to England; an American Field Service (Ambulance) Unit in British service disembarked and Australian General Blamey, his wife and staff came on board. So it became pretty obvious that our destination would be Australia.
While all of this was happening, an interesting activity could be observed out my port hole. A very large barge was secured alongside (by the way, it was about 90 feet from my port hole to the water line) of the ship. Mutton carcasses were stacked on the barge like cord wood, six to eight carcasses deep. Bare-footed black men were off loading from the outside of the barge, which meant that they were walking on the ship's food for coming weeks.
This was my 20th birthday. Not much of a celebration, but at least I can always claim to have done it at the very tip of the Dark Continent!
We left port the following afternoon and started across the Indian Ocean. In this area, some of the roughest seas existed. As we progressed south and east, we encountered huge waves and very high winds. It as during this time that the gyros of the stabilizing system failed. The ship rolled so badly that when you walked a passage you would be on the floor., then walk up on a wall, then back on the floor and then on the opposite wall. This was the way we had to go around the ship. It was quite uncomfortable and frightening. It was later revealed that if the roll had increased by more than 5 more degrees, the Mary would not have righted herself! There were several days of this weather.
On the eighth day after leaving Capetown, we started entrance to Perth/Freemantle, Australia. We had picked up our normal escort and were proceeding at a brisk pace when a small speed boat came roaring out of the harbor. A man standing on the bow of the little boat was waving a series of flag signals as the Mary started to run aground! He was signalling that the harbor was too shallow for the Mary. The Captain must have called for all screws and full power, for he cut a path 180 degrees, cleared the port and dropped anchor out in deeper water. The Perth harbor now has a 35 foot channel carved by the Queen Mary. There were great volumes of sand, fish, shells and debris left in her wake.