We left camp at Ubon, Siam for the last time on the 24/8/45 never to return. We crossed the river and got on the train bound for Bangkok. Bangkok is called the ``Venice of the East", we weren't travelling in cattle trucks this time. I will never forget the journey, what a reception we got from the people of Thailand and the Chinese all the way to Bangkok. They couldn't do enough for us. At every station we got hot meals, whisky, fruit, eggs and flowers. All this found our soft spots, it was the first feeling of humanity we had felt for 4 years.
We arrived at Bangkok on the 26th, we went to the aerodrome and spent that night in one of the hangers. Next morning we were put into parties of 25 and given the number of a plane. I was to go in No 36 plane. We were taken in lorries onto the runway to board our plane, when we got there we saw one of the air force lorries and a Jap loading it up with boxes. It felt good to see one working for a change. I got onto my plane, it was a Dakota, a massive thing with twin engines. We had an extra passenger with us, a pilot who was going with us to Rangoon. We had to sit on the floor as we had no seats in like the others had. We took off and I was in the air for the first time in my life, what a thrill! We soared above the clouds to a height of 18,000 feet, I was very cold and we had to breathe quickly. I looked out of the window and saw nothing, only clouds. It just looked like a plain covered with snow. One lad was sick 3 times. I was alright except for a terrible headache, the pilot called it ``atmospheric headache". We ran into an air pocket of which there are plenty in that country, you just have to drop cery sharp till you get out of it. Then we ran into a storm and had to go out over the sea to avoid it. I couldn't hear the engines or anyone speak as I had plugged my ears with cotton wool. While we were over the sea I saw our extra passenger rush to the window looking pale and worried, I thought everyone was going to panic. A few minutes later he sat down and smiled. That was the only time I felt scared. We dropped below the clouds and could see the rice fields miles below. They just looked like crazy paving, it's a wonderful sight to see. We were getting lower and lower watching the earth coming up to meet us, I expected to be sick but I wasn't. We finally landed at Rangoon, 650 miles from Bangkok. Our passenger told why he had rushed to the window. He said the pilot had to switch our engines to emergency petrol which caused the engines to stop. We lost 2 planes, one was forced down over the jungle and no one was hurt, but the other one crashed into the sea and went straight under. All lives were lost.
We got off the plane, straight onto the lorries and were taken to a canteen. Here we saw our first white woman in 4 years. The first thing they gave us was cigarettes and matches. They served us with tea, cakes and fruit. We were so choked up we couldn't eat much and had to make excuses. I think we were all suffering with mental strain, although some of us looked well. One of the boys was waited on by a girl and it was his sister. She had been looking gout for him.
We left here and went to a transit camp a few miles away and for the first time in 4 years we had a soft bed and white sheets, mosquito nets up and electric lights. You can imagine how we felt, it was enough to make the toughest man weep after what we had been through. I had been without glasses for 3 years and here I got new ones and was able to read again. I was like a child with a new toy. The smallest thing to us was a luxury. It felt like being transported out of hell into heaven. We had cinema shows, good food and had a visit from Gracie Fields. We got some more clothes for the journey to Port Suez. We lost 30,000 lives building the railway, a life for every sleeper laid. Out of the 65,000 taken prisoner at Singapore, I think roughly 35,000 had died up to August 15th 1945.
We should have sailed on the 4th Oct but it was cancelled till the 8th. We finally got on board our ship on 11th Oct, The Orbita. She weighed 18,000 tons, was built at Belfast & her average speed was 13 knots.
Orbita was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast. She was the sister ship to the Orduna.
She weighed 18,000 tons, her average speed was 13 knots.
In WW1 she entered service as an auxiliary cruiser/ troopship. In 1921 she was chartered for the Royal Mail Line. Later she was sold with the Urduna to the Royal Mail Lines. She was requisitioned as a troop ship in WW2 untill 1946. She was scrapped in South Wales in 1950.
Sat 13th Oct
We are well at sea having good weather and good food. We get a cinema show twice a week, all lights on at night.
Tuesday 16th Oct
Arrived at Ceylon, Columbo at 6 o'clock morning.
Wed 17th Oct
We left Ceylon and ran into a storm. The Orbita tossed about like a cork. We travelled over 3000 miles to Port Said.
At 3 am we passed Perim, Straight of Bab El, Madreb. The Gateway of Tears, arriving at Port Said at 5.30 pm, we anchored. On one side of the ship we could see Egypt, on the other side Arabia. All we could see was miles of desert sands, camels and caravans. We went ashore.
Set sail again on our last 3427 miles to Blighty and home sweet home. It took us 24 hours to go through the Suez Canal.
Feeling the cold now. Had to change from tropical clothes into winter clothes. Sea rough in Mediterranean, alter clocks one hour. We have to keep altering clocks because Siam is 9 hours ahead of English time.
Friday Nov 1st
Sea rough, weather fine. Alter clocks 1 hr
Sat Nov 2nd
Weather fair. 6 am passed Pantillaria Island 2730 ft high.
8 o'clock passed Tunisia
9 o'clock passed Cape Bon. Here the 8th army launched its attack on Sicily.
9.45 passed Island of Lambretta.
10 o'clock Passed Lembra
10.30 crossed gulf of Tunis
12.30 passed between Lebib and Cani Rocks
1 o'clock passed town of Bigerta
1.15 passed Cape Blanc
1.30 Passed Cape Ras Angela
3.00 Passed Frutella Rocks
Sat Nov 3rd
Clocks back 1 hour. Weather fair but cold. Sea calm.
8 am passed small island
4pm passed Port of Algiers
Sunday Nov 4th
Bitter cold, sea rough. Passed mountains covered with snow. Arrived at Gibralter at 9.10 evening. Mail came on board, got 8 letters, left again at 10.10.
Monday 4th Nov
Sun shining sea rough. 12 noon passed Cape Saint Vincent 12 miles off corner of Portugal.
6pm passed Cape Sprickel (spelling?)
7.45 passed Cape Da Roca
8 passed Bay of Lisbon
Tues 6th Nov
1.30 Passed a school of whales
2 passed cape Torinana
Wed 7th Nov
Fair, sea very rough.
We are having to go round the south coast of Ireland as there are still large mine fields in St George's Channel.
Arrived at Liverpool at 12 o'clock, got ashore at 4 o'clock, went to a camp.
Got on a train for home sweet home. I have seen some wonderful sights but the most wonderful sight of all was the shores of dear old England.