Sentimental Journey Continued
Thursday, Sept 27th 1945
Rotterdam Harbor — The Netherlands
Though rather inaccessible, Bremen is the only German Atlantic sea port. In September of 1945 the Nuremberg trials were looming in the coming year and Rotterdam, Holland had become the most convenient sea port for the panicky Nazi hierarchy to flee from Europe. The red tape of personal travel was very complex, extremely uncertain or even impossible. Rotterdam was inundated with both the reality, and the rumors of bogus passports, invalid visas, and counterfeit documents, as an everyday challenge. As all of that vague intrigue could not be easily determined, preventative restrictive regulations would predominate, and that was the nemesis of us eight inexperienced, unsophisticated and naïve travelers of our 40-member horse crew. The only minor thing of help to us was the compact Rotterdam harbor was less than three blocks long, and contained most of the entities we would need to consult with, and so could be walked to quickly.
On Thursday Sept 27th, the eight of us awoke to feed our remaining horses at 5 AM and then faced the stressful news that the Mexican would be leaving Rotterdam on Saturday 29th at noon. We had only 2 days to establish legitimate discharges from the Mexican. We all got passes from the purser and then fanned out to search for a solution.
One of our 8, Jerry Horran, invited me to go with him to the British Transit House for British soldiers, who then sent us on to the primary focus of hopeful assistance, the British Consulate, where we expected probable immediate approval. However, our hopes were immediately shattered. In essence they said, “You are Canadians, on an American ship, with a contract with the Dutch government, and you are trying to get to Great Britain. You have no ship discharge, and there is absolutely no transportation from Rotterdam to England anyway, so you might as well quit trying.” They did not explain that the rules were stringent because of the threat of escaping Nazis. Their authoritative statement was crushingly conclusive information.
We continued on to the American Consulate where we were told, “You are on an American ship but you can only go to Great Britain if you have the stamp of approval from the British Consulate.” Zero progress there!
Back at our ship, others of our 8 horse crew members had gone along the docks, inquiring of smaller coastal boats about transportation to Great Britain. All skippers had said, “Sure. But only with the British Consul official approval.” Meanwhile Captain Grundy, captain of the Mexican, assured us that he would issue discharges, but ONLY when we had the rubber stamp approval of the British Consul.” It had become starkly clear, that passports or not, the British Consul was the major obstacle.
I had met Dave Miller when we had been initially assigned to look after the same horses back in Montreal. To fill our idle hours we had played Cribbage, Poker, or Bridge, watched the dolphins playing in big waves, watched the ship crew work, enjoyed our not-too-bad meals, and reminisced. Dave had a camera and I didn’t. He had been with the Canadian Army in the Netherlands in late 1944 and early 1945. He appeared to speak Dutch fluently. He was working his way across the Atlantic to his own romantic tryst in Great Britain. So, with merging interests, we continued to cooperate in Rotterdam.