|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|
|I think we were originally
scheduled to leave Perth and head for Java, but the Japanese had taken
this area while we were on the high seas. So we set sail the evening of
the second day from Perth. The east south east course continued and we
were briefed on Australia. The briefing included discussions on
customs, money, the geography and the climate. The following day we got
our instructions; the 63rd Squadron would be one of the earliest to
leave the ship.
During the voyage, I had observed an older crewman and a young crewman who were on watch duty every day on the fan tail. There was a large gun mounted on the very end of the fan tail and I assumed that they were part of the crew that would put this gun into action if it became necessary. They were resplendent in their white shirts, shorts, stockings and shoes as they walked in perfect marching order with perfect turns. They always seemed to be talking and enjoying the duty. On this day we learned that the older man had passed away and there would be a burial at sea. He went into the Southern Ocean under the Union Jack. An impressive but sad ceremony.
For three days we sailed under Australia and Tasmania, finally turning north. On the morning of March 28, 1942 we finished policing and cleaning our area, assembled on the Promenade Deck in full winter uniform, back pack, rifle, helmet, and barracks bag. When I boarded the Mary I weighed 175 pounds and I could pick up my "B" bag and walk up the gang plank without problems; as we prepared to depart the Mary, I weighed 150 pounds and the "B" bag did not wish to come off the deck!
At approximately 5:30 we arrived in Sydney Harbor. The Queen Mary could not enter the dock area because of her size. So she anchored in the harbor just outside of the beautiful Sydney Harbor Bridge. The trip into the docks was to be by small ferry boats. There were wooden floats attached to the side of the Mary on which we waited to be picked up. The ferry boats could carry 21 men per trip. Although there was a large number of these small ferry boats, it was obvious that unloading was going to require a long time. I was very glad that my squadron drew an early time. I knew that the Queen Mary was a large ship, but as we pulled away, one could become overwhelmed. The ship just grew and grew. It was immense. As we came on the dock and boarded trolley cars, it became obvious that there was an enthusiastic crowd waiting to greet this first American troop arrival. Even though it was very early and raining (it was reported that it was the first good rain in seven years), the streets were lined with people who were cheering and clapping as we rode out to the Randwick Race Course, which was to be the 43rd's bivouac while in Sydney.
Some items of interest concerning this voyage of the Queen Mary: at that time it was the largest (9000 men) troop transportation, the longest (19000 miles) in distance, the longest (40 days and 40 nights) in time, and she was reported sunk five times in the Atlantic.