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Sentimental Journey Continued

David Meakes March 28, 2018

Friday, September 28th, 1945

Rotterdam Harbor, The Netherlands

 

On Friday we were paid our wage of $50 each for our one-way trip (18 days).  Then Dave Miller and I went to an Information Office, where we were sent to the USWSA (United States Wartime Shipping Administration). They had already been told about us but could not help us. However, a Captain Schumalt told us that he was going to the British Consulate Saturday and will talk to the British Consul on our behalf. However, his appointment time would probably end only an hour before our ship pulled out.  Out-right failure loomed. When we returned to the ship we were told the welcome news that the Mexican would not be leaving until 4AM Tuesday October 2nd. The ‘time-crunch ‘ was temporarily over.

Saturday, Dave Miller and I returned to the USWSA, waited anxiously for about 2 hours, and on Capt. Schumalt’s return were told that the British Consul had decided to accept the 3 of our 8 who were born in Great Britain, but had said that the remaining five Canadian born were “out, passports or not.” To put it mildly we were disappointed.  We returned to the Mexican and as offices were all closing over the weekend, we phoned to the Canadian Consulate and made an appointment for Monday 10AM October 1st in Holland’s capital ‘The Hague’.

The forced weekend inaction became a frustrating, suspenseful, gut-wrenching time. The five of us huddled every few hours to ponder, still again, what action might be left for us to take. The contract that we had all signed back in Montreal seemed to offer some feeble hope. Quote:

 

Heading:  “An agreement between the Undersigned and the Donald Munro and Son acting for and on behalf of the Economic, Financial, and & Shipping Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

I, the undersigned, agree to sign on the ship S. S. Mexican as a livestock attendant at a wage of $50.00 U.S. Funds, for the voyage Montreal to Rotterdam or other port designated on, or about, Sept 13th, 1945. Should I be discharged from the ship on arrival at Rotterdam, or other port designated, to await another vessel for repatriation, I agree to accept a sum of $4.00 per diem, U.S. Funds, for board and subsistence, plus $2.00 per diem, for personal expenses. Should I not be available to sign on the repatriation vessel when required, this allotment is to cease immediately. I also agree that I will receive a further sum of $25.00 U.S. Funds for the return trip. All payment of wages will be subject to approval of the master of the vessel. Decision by the master of the vessel shall be considered mutual consent for discharge at port of arrival.

Donald Munro and Sons Ltd.

per——————————–.”

This last sentence brought us a shaky hope, because Capt.  Grundy had already said he would do so — BUT only with signature of the British Consul.  The fixed British Consul versus the flexible Captain Grundy. Discussions didn’t help. It couldn’t be our decision.

One more hopeful factor was, that as Canada was a member of the ‘British Commonwealth’, and as our Canadian passports also referred to us as British citizens — that fact might prevail. Clearly the British Consul didn’t agree.

So, we went to the United Nations Seaman’s Club which bordered on acres of building remnants.    No food ration cards available for us, and no restaurants in any case, meant that war food shortages meant we could only eat on board the Mexican. However, the U. N. Seaman’s Club which had been a German Officer’s club during the war was comfortable furnished, served ‘blah’ tea, nondescript sodas, and “bare” bread rolls — all without ration cards. They also had a mediocre 4-instrument band, which provided us with a change of location in which to continue the futile discussions about our mutually uncertain futures. We were becoming resigned to Tuesday’s Canada-return.

For more stories of the follies of war, grab a copy of my book, Perspective: The Golden Rule. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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    David Meakes

    David Meakes

    David Meakes is a Canadian-born World War II veteran. He is ninety-five years old and a retired podiatris... read more

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