DIARY OF DONALD ALCOCK
ON HIS VOYAGE FROM ENGLAND TO THE GOLD COAST (age 10 years)
Friday, June , 7th, 1940.Before we got on the ship we had to wait hours in queues, and asked what you had in your bags, and they even read your private letters, and at last we got on the ship, then I went up some steps into a nice lounge where I read a comic while waited at the Purser’s office to get the number of our cabin. She called me and we went to tidy up when we tidied up we went on deck and watched our luggage upon a moving belt and we spotted our luggage, and then we thought it was time to get gone tea only we were too late and we couldn't get a meal until half past seven so then we to muck about until then. When we had dinner it was eight o’clock and time for me to go to bed. By this time the ship was moving down the Mersey to get front of the convoy as our ship was the Commodore’s. So we were in front just behind the naval cruisers and sloops. Well as soon as I got into bed Mummy came in and said “it's life boat drill would you like to come?” Well I said yes so I put on my life belt and went up to life boat station No.6 and there we stopped. The Captain came and told us to carry our life belts everywhere (but not wear them). He told us not to strike matches at night as it can be seen 3 miles away, and not to drop anything overboard as it gives the position of a ship; then I went to bed but I could not sleep and I could feel the throb of the ship's engines, and then Mum came in at eleven o’clock and she gave me glass of liver salts. I counted sheep and had a pillow down my side to keep cool; only had one sheet on. I went at last to sleep. (Here follows a drawing of Mummy in her her life belt)
Saturday:"Are you awake Don" The speaker was Mummy “Yes I am
I said, and she said there was some fruit for me. I looked up and there was apples, oranges, and grapes so I ate them then I got dressed and went on deck and counted the convoy.
I got up to 17 counting ours then went down to our cabin and told Mummy we had a big convoy of 17. CRASH, BOOM, BANG, DINGLE, DINGLE the gong went for getting up but I was up already. Then I went up on deck again with Mummy and we counted 19 ships. Convoy forming up from different ports down the English coast then we went in for breakfast as the gong went. After breakfast we went in to the barber’s shop.
They not only cut hair but sold toys and all sorts
of things, but the barber’s shop wasn’t open so I had to write this …. Diary; then the barber’s shop open and Mummy made an appointment to have my hair and her own done and then we wandered about and played with a building set of mine with real little stone bricks and mortar. Then it dinner time. It was a very nice dinner. After that we had a little round the decks and then we rested until tea time. We didn’t hear the gong so Mummy went to see and came back and said “Hurry up your wash, we’ve nearly missed tea" so I washed quickly. The we played games until my bath time. We always have salt water baths with enormous taps. You can’t make soap with salt water so give you a bath of fresh water to make the soap lather. After my bath I went to bad and had some supper brought to me by a very nice stewardess.
Snore ZZZZ Snore ZZZZ ZZZZ Sorry I’m asleep.
Good night all, Good night.
Here follows a drawing of Mummy in her salt water bath.
Sunday:Same as yesterday but I lost my mortar to my building set. We gave our cabin a real turn out and my mortar isn’t found yet. (Here follows a picture of Don looking for mortar with torch)
Monday:I got out my bunk and opened the cabin windows and saw there were lot more ships had joined the convoy as I mucked about until I had to get up and dressed and went on deck. The deck steward (Called Decks) told me there were 58 ships so we counted them again to see if he was right. Bang! Crash! Boom! Breakfast time.
After breakfast went on deck again and then we walked around deck and I played with a little "Schuco” car which I let run under people’s feet when they weren’t expecting it.
Then I played cards until dinner time. After dinner the usual walk around deck and rest until tea.
I’ll tell you what I do and then write this ere diary. After tea I played deck golf. Instead of a ball they give you a wheel that is hit sideways so that it does not roll on the deck. They mark out rings with numbers in and if you get the wheel into ring without a number you are bunkered and have to count two.
And now for bed.
(Here is a picture of Mummy and Don playing golf:
Tuesday:Before I do Tuesday I will tell you that I am going to put only the important parts in.
We had meals as usual, we played deck golf which I like very much. 1 have entered for the competition, the deck games are already in progress. All sorts of rumours that we are going into Dakar, French West Africa.
Smallish children on board; all very good.
Wednesday:Up and doing more golf. Mrs. Crawford played cards with me at 6 p.m. then bath and supper and bunk.
(Here is a drawing of Don and Mrs. Crawford playing cards)
Thursday:To-day we have left the convoy and are speeding up, a terrific roll going on; the speciality of the Abosso. The Commodore is in civilian clothes taking a rest and our captain in charge. We are now passing Gibraltar and the Canary Islands. We had boat drill again and one of the officers told us to keep a lookout for any suspicious objects floating about and to report to the Bridge.
Italy has now come in to the war. There is a play called “Adolf Popoff” in the lounge at 5 o’clock. The actors have strange names like P.C.Never there, Sergeant, Jamaica Rum, Sonny June.
The swimming pool has been put up this morning and I watched the powerful crane hauling the wooden sides in position and I watched the canvas bag that holds the water being roped into position. Mummy won 5/- in the sweep.
Friday:To-day I went to the pool and bathed twice. The pool is deep everywhere except when the boat rolls then gallons go over the side. Beaten In golf.
Saturday:Same as Friday; played more golf, swam, rumours going round we are going to Dakar. Good night.
Sunday:Church, but I didn’t go. More swimming and golf, and that’s all of the importance. (here is a picture of Don in the pool)
P.S. Adolf Popoff was on after dinner tonight; he was arrested in the dining room, and tried later (Very funny)
Monday:Owing to the International situation we can't go
to Dakar. Mummy in the finals of golf but unfortunately beaten. Mummy went in the pool to-day. A grown up could stand and a little baby went in and was held by the arms by a grown up. The baby was about two, and can a say a few words.
Tuesday:Lots of people wearing toupees and it is too hot to bathe during the day after 9 o'clock and before 4 p.m. Rumours that we shall get to Freetown tomorrow. Mummy threatens to bathe after tea. Mummy did go to the pool, and went to the barber’s shop to get some sweets and a balloon elastic.
Wednesday:Meals as usual and sad news. The swimming pool was taken down and will not be put up again as it us near the hatch and the pool would get in the way of unloading cargo and the cranes. I played a new game with my ball and it was very nice. Mummy drew the sweep to—day and got a box of 5/— chocolates which she is keeping for Kumasi. Mummy and I played ping pong. We don't know who won because we didn't keep the score. Well I have saved the exciting bits for you. “Land sighted” “What” Yes, eat tea quickly as soon as I finished I went to see the land. It looked like a great big mountain rising into the air, and soon we could see the green trees and the houses, then a rope ladder was let down for the pilot to climb up to the bridge to guide us though the boom.
This is Freetown, Sierra-Leone. We don't, get off until Takoradi the next port. Then Mummy told me something I didn’t know before, that as that a submarine had chased us, and when the convey broke up, got three of the other ships.
Went up on deck and saw native boys diving for pennies from their canoes. You throw them from the deck but once they get it it is theirs, and some of them didn’t say thank you. A great big oil tanker came alongside and gave us oil. “John Brown” the lender of the penny divers came out from the shore. Had collar and tie on, a silly top hat and a little pair of trunks. When he didn't get the pennies he said “O.K!” “God bless you and give you a father”.
Friday:Boring, no swimming, no golf, as we are out at sea again and heading for Takoradi; sea calm.
Saturday:They fired both guns twice, every one longing to get to Takoradi.
Sunday 23rd June.I’m out of bed looking for the Gold Coast though the window not that we are there, but I can see it in the distance. Getting dressed and then for breakfast. Seeing this is the last day of my diary, I am making it long.
Had a nice breakfast and thinking it's the last Elder Dempster meal I shall have for long time. Up on deck watching them get the anchor ready to go down. We are now going through the mole, and go alongside the wharf. Mummy saw some friends she knew and started to wave to them; then we had to wait in a queue for our papers and passports to be examined and then we walked down the gangway to dry land again and away from the ship. Then all our luggage had to go though the Customs and our train was waiting for us.
A little boy came and talked to me whilst Mummy was in Custom shed. He is a little white boy and his father is the Prison Superintendent. He said he liked “Fighting and knives”. Now the train is off on a long journey. We passed lots of stations, with heaps of natives about, through the manganese mines, and the gold mining towns and reached Kumasi at 7 p.m. and found Daddy and lots of friends waiting. Daddy's labourers all said “Welcome” and “I salute you”. Then we reached our bungalow which was a blaze of light and very nice. It is so funny to see lights everywhere after the blackout in England.