Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Scraper's Diary, March 5th 1947

Somewhere in the North Sea.

There are six hundred troops on this ship; about twenty officers and twenty women are crushed into half the available space while we lounge in the rest. I quite sympathise with the troops who walked off ships lately, the accommodation is rather inadequate. However, for a short crossing like this it isn't too bad.

This ship is the "Empire Cutlass". To a landlubber like me, it seems colossal, except when the other five hundred and ninety nine are also moving about.

We left the quay at 15.30 hours yesterday, and the sunless land slowly moved behind us. As we got out to sea, so the weather deteriorated. I got quite a thrill out of realising that the swaying motion of the walls was not a product of my inebriation.

We settled down to a long session of solo. About half the band was seasick to some degree.

We all wished that we were in the Navy when our ration of twenty "Greys" cost only eightpence, but most of us changed our minds later, when the sea grew rougher.

There is what seems a mild gale to me blowing, and frozen snow bombards the face of anyone who ventures on deck. The sea is dark green, whipped to a dirty cream as the ship pushes its blunt way through he rollers.

Altogether an interesting crossing, although quite uninspiring, quite unromantic.

Visibility can't be more than a hundred yards.

We were confined to our bunks for half an hour after we boarded ship, and I fell into an idle musing and reverie. The bloke in the bunk above me seemed to be most peculiarly shaped, judging from the bulges in the canvas. I picked out his head and hips easily, but then he had a big bump halfway down his spine, and, apparently, two treble-jointed legs. When we got down I was surprised to find him quite normal and well-proportioned.

0 - 0 - 0 - 0

I was in the luggage van coming to the docks. Just before we drove off, the B.S.M. handed his case over the tailboard; his blanket was strapped onto it. We drove away.

"That Buck's case?" said Bill.
"Yeah", I said.
"Fuck Buck", said Bill, and kicked the case forward.
"What the bloody hell are you doing?", said Harry and kicked it back.

This went on for some time. Bill had drunk fourteen pints of wallop before we started.

"Here, hold on", said Pop, "you've kicked the bloody side in".
"Christ!", said Harry, "put it out of the way."
"Fuck that", said Bill, "I don't want his bloody case on here" - and he wiped his boots carefully on Buck's blanket.

"Here, mine are dirty too", said Pop, and wiped his.

I was killing myself laughing.

Order was eventually restored, and the case, - with a hole in its side, and a soaking wet, filthy blanket tied to it - was passed back to a safe place.

At the quayside, Buck was standing by the lorry. He saw his case.

"What the fuck's been happening", he asked. "Have you been using my blanket for a bloody doormat or what?"
"I don't know Sir". I said. "it must have fallen over".

Later he came up to me. "What happened to my case", he said, "there's a bloody great hole in the side".
"I don't know, Sir," I said, " I passed it back. You know these great bumps in the ground just after we started? "Yeah", said Buck. "Well, several cases fell down there", I said. " and one must have fallen on yours."

"I've had that bloody case for years", he said, and his eyes did not believe me either.


  1. Ooh, this is very descriptive writing! I love the sense of this journal giving me a look-see into a time I wouldn't know otherwise. I think your observations of the shape of the man in the top bunk are mysterious and funny! And Buck....well, he didn't seem too very popular with any of you!

  2. The Scraper has given me this short diary to put into my blog. It so happened that he was in Germany as a conscript when I was a very small girl there, very much on the other side.
    My reminiscences are in the blog too, rather gloomier though.
    There's plenty more to come.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.