D +12 Sunday 18.6.44
Aroused early this am. by loud speakers, (about 4.0am, I imagine) calling certain craft numbers to parade. Not ours, thank goodness, – but the numbers are getting very close: Heard later that it was the 7th. So our Br. has started to go at last! Believe they ultimately got away about 7.0am. The loud speakers less welcome than ever now: at any time they may now call our numbers. Day fine & warm: hot shower before lunch. Read most of morning.
Lecture from O.C. this morning, reminding us of procedure for crossing, & on arrival. Thinks we may go today. Somehow, I don’t think C will go today.
Later. I was wrong. Loud speakers announced our craft numbers about 4.30pm…whole battn. Much excitement: news greeted with roar of cheers…don’t know why.
Blankets, palliasse etc retd. to stores. Tea & wash & ready for departure about 5.30. Transport to tanks… & then we moved off… about 6.15pm. Did a circuit along front & back via rear of L/S. Seemed to be people waving from every house: also many people in streets waving to us: quite a send off.
Eventually reached area of “hards” & held up for some time whilst others loading. 12, 13, 14, 15 Tps. finally loaded on same ship, an L.C.S….U.S.A. (Believed to be an LST or landing ship tank which held at least 18 tanks.) Must have been midnight. Final sealing on board…& then bed. Comfortably housed in bunks. Believe we are due to sail in the morning…about 10.0am. Managed to send letter to Jess just before leaving camp.
D +13 Monday 19.6.44
Reveille 6.0am – breakfast 7 – excellent meal. American food. Still off G… pt. Day warm, but fresh breeze. Good to be on ship once again: everywhere clean: decent wash bowls: H & C water: showers: lavs: American crew: seem very free & easy. This ship has been in other campaigns – Algiers, Sicily, Salerno & now the fifth trip to Normandy.
Later. 2.0pm. Still here: awaiting storm anchor: presume rest of unit have already gone this morning. Excellent lunch – pork cutlet etc – & real coffee. Notice the crew eating ice cream!
7.0pm. Tea – another good meal: If todays menu is typical, the US. Navy is being better fed than the British Army. The food we have had today is probably in keeping with what the average civilian thinks we get normally. At tea meal we had “hamburger”, potatoes etc, – tinned fruit salad, jam etc: coffee with brown sugar ad lib. Still no signs of moving.
11.30pm. We have moved at last – still without our storm anchor. Soon after 10.0pm commenced journey to join convoy. Gazing at the receding shore-line, an American sailor said “have a good look at it while you can, buddy – it will be a long time before you see England again!” I felt resentful, but said nothing. The fellow could have been more tactful… altho’ he couldn’t be expected to know how much I was leaving behind.
Passed Nelson’s “Victory” in the river. It only reminded me of the ghastly folly of mankind: that ship was in action 140 years ago… & even then we were supposed to be civilised. A few minutes later passed close to the “Ramillies” in harbour. Her 15″ guns were still uncovered & the muzzles black & sooty. Presume she had just returned from bombarding France. Lovely sunset as we sailed south from Portsmouth. Didn’t feel so good: can’t help thinking of Jess. Saw a huge collection of ships in the Solent, but we didn’t join them. Shortly, another large group of ships became visible E of I. of W. Our convoy?
Later. Yes…our convoy apparently: we took up a position to the S. & dropped our fwd. anchor. Nearly midnight: believe the convoy is scheduled to sail at 1.0am. Almost dark now: plenty of lights on buoys along channel, & lots of “winking” lights from signalling lamps. It all seems rather weird & terrifying.
It is difficult to believe that I am now en route for France – & action. Surely it cannot be possible that I may never see my love again. It is much more boisterous out here. The ship is rolling appreciably: nearly everyone is asleep.
Will we sail at 1.0am? I dread the thoughts – but I can do nothing…nothing. May as well go to bed: expect we will be in mid channel by reveille. Believe we are due at the beach 12.0 noon tomorrow. Have to wear “Mae Wests” now all the time. Supposed to sleep in it, but don’t think I will.