German uboats were a constant threat on the journey
home from India to the United States
From Chapter 10: Westward Bound I
- March to April 1943
warning leaflet given to all ship passengers, cautioning
us about the dangers of discussing ship movements
no idea of our immediate destination....
of course, it would be the United
States, but which port, or even which coast, Atlantic
or Pacific, was not specified by the British naval
The ship simply put out to sea, into submarine-infested
waters. Because of its speed we sailed alone, without
the protection of a convoy or naval escort. Our wake
that we were following an evasive zigzag course. As
the coastline of India disappeared over the horizon
stern, we wondered what coastline would appear next,
and how soon?
skill of the gun crews was reassuring. In practice
they hit and sank a target raft being towed far
off the stern with the first round fired!
Life on board
was stressful despite first class amenities and a
good dining room, and the usual shipboard games and
amusements of the sort enjoyed by traveling missionaries.
There were about one hundred and twenty-five of us
missionary types on the ship, families and individuals.
But the ocean was a dangerous place. The captain
received his coded sailing instructions by ship's
radio hourly and didn't know his destination until
almost there. The ship observed strict blackout at
night. It was heavily armed with deck guns and antiaircraft
guns mounted in open turrets, in which some of us
did lookout duty in shifts, day and night. We carried
lifejackets with us at all times, and went through
lifeboat drill at unannounced times almost daily.
The skill of the gun crews was reassuring. In practice
they hit and sank a target raft being towed far off
the stern with the first round fired!
Get the whole story! Read Stan Brush's Memoir
of His Boyhood in India, "Farewell
Several of us volunteered for watch duty. Unfortunately,
Cabin No.1 was assigned to night duty, to be performed in two-hour segments with
a military partner in the turret. We were told to look for the telltale V-shaped
wake on the surface of a submarine's periscope moving through the water, and
sound the alarm if we saw it. I described the experience in a letter to Lewin: "It
wasn't so pleasant being awakened from a warm bed to grope blindly through the
wet blackout with the wind tearing at one's clothes, climbing up to the lonely
turret and gazing for two hours into the teeth of the wind for nothing."
farewell in New York: Chapter 11