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More Stories - The Way
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
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
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