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More Stories - The Way We Were

Hi Bess:   This is Eddie, Hilda Graham`s husband.  Here is my memory of Hilda and Yvonne's voyage from England to America in 1946.   (See After the Wedding for the first part of this story from Hilda.)

I intended to get this to you earlier but we had unexpected emergencies which kept me from sending it. Sorry for the delay, I hope you can still use this.  Sincerely,  Eddie

Hilda's Voyage to America February 1946

After receiving a telegram about February 3rd, 1946 from Hilda. I was so excited that I would soon see her and our new daughter Yvonne.  It seemed such an eternity since we had been together.  I missed Hilda so very. very much.  I estimated the time it would take for her to arrive on the Queen Mary and I arranged to go to San Angelo to meet her,  as I was working with my father in his restaurant in Alice, TX.

The government made the travel arrangements for the G.I. brides and said Hilda would be coming to San Angelo by train from New York.

She thought that she was going to come over on the Queen Mary as they notified her on such short notice, and the news said that the QM would be taking many war brides to the states.  Hilda wired me that she would be coming on the QM, but alas, they put her on another ship (boat) which was very small, a Liberty ship converted to a hospital ship, named the Zebulin B. Vance, which was very inadequate for bringing over young mothers and babies, it did not have the right equipment etc.

Incidentally Hilda was met in London by American authorities who took all the brides to Tidsworth by train where she spent about a week getting all papers in order.  Tidsworth was about 80 miles from Southampton, where they boarded the ship.  Hilda had been gone from her home in Corby for over a week with no way to notify her parents or me.

After boarding and leaving the dock they soon served the first meal which was pork.  The girls had not eaten for several hours, and then they ran into a storm in the English channel.  Consequently everyone became seasick, even some of the crew.  It took them 14 days to make the crossing and Hilda was sick the first 8 days and now wonders how she was able to care for our daughter Yvonne, who also became ill because of the formula.  Each mother was supposed to fix her child's formula but so many were seasick and could not fix it themselves so some of the crew did it.  Soon they discovered that some of the mothers were drinking the formula.  To prevent this they started putting cod liver oil in every bottle instead of one bottle each day.  This made the babies sick.  A lot of the mothers could not eat for several days as they were too sick.  Hilda lost 16 pounds during this trip.  Dysentery also broke out during this time due to the deplorable conditions.

When they finally arrived in New York Feb. 22, the boat was quarantined for 2 days as they thought typhoid fever had broken out.  They got off the ship on Feb. 24th. (Hilda's birthday) and then started the long journey from New York to San Angelo, TX. where I was anxiously awaiting for them, and my father waiting for me to return to Alice with my family. They came by train to Dallas, TX. and would have had to lay over for a day to catch a train for the rest of the trip.

Travelers aid came to the rescue and got them booked on a bus and within a few hours they were on their way to San Angelo.  These people were very kind to them; they took Yvonne and bathed her and took Hilda to lunch and stayed with her until she was safely on the bus.  I was notified what time the bus would arrive, about 4 PM.   You know I was there anxiously waiting with my stepmother Julia and her brother George. 

The bus arrived about 15 minutes late.  We were all keyed up waiting to see Hilda and the baby, who I had not yet seen.  When the bus pulled in and started unloading passengers I finally saw my sweetheart Hilda with Yvonne who was in a carry cot, which she handed to the bus driver as she was coming down the steps.  I could hardly wait until I could hold Hilda and hug her and see my baby daughter, it had been such a long time.

After introducing her to Julia and uncle George, we were busy talking and all excited heading for the car when a voice yelled out "HEY, HAVEN'T YOU FORGOTTEN SOMETHING?" and there was the bus driver holding Yvonne in her carry cot.  We had just walked off and left her.  <G>

We were all embarrassed but then had a good laugh over it when we got home.  Hilda was so surprised to see a beautiful birthday cake waiting for her, as we had planned a little party. 

Hilda was so tired, for it had been a terrible ordeal for her.  The first thing we had to do the next morning was call the Doctor. as both Hilda and Yvonne were ill.  When the Dr. got to the house (good old days) the first thing he said to Hilda was "say something,"  I don't know what language he was expecting!

It took a couple of days until they were feeling better.  It was during this trip that Hilda wrote her poem about being seasick.  We heard a news report in April 1946 that aboard the same ship 6 babies had died, and we never heard any further reports about this. 

There is a lot more to this story.  For instance there were 350 war brides and most had babies ages 6 to 18 months old.  No facilities for proper care - this was before disposable diapers and no place to wash the diapers and clothes except late at night when the bathrooms were clean.  Hilda managed to rinse the clothes and hang them on the bunk bed rails to dry.

Hilda has said that if she had known this, I would have had to go to England.  This was truly a nightmare.  It took over three weeks for them to make this trip from her parent's home in England to her new home in Texas.

Several years later we found out our family doctor in Midland, TX. Dr. Barney Grafa, was the only doctor aboard this ship and he was very young at the time.  He remembered that voyage very well and agreed that it should never have been used as it was to transport children.  Oh, well, we all survived.  I might add that if I had gone back to England I would have been happy living there; I have enjoyed the trips we have made since I retired.    Copyright Eddie Graham 10-6-97

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