Bill Goodall's Diaries: 1941/1945

14 October 1941 to 25 October 1941

Tuesday, 14 October 1941, 1am. Paraded at Wilmslow near Manchester in full kit and marched to the station in pouring rain carrying kit bag. Train left at 3am and arrived in Gourock at 11am after a stop in Carlisle station where the whole train of RAF cadets disembarked for tea on the platform. We were taken out to the French liner 'Pasteur' by an old cross Channel steamer 'Biarritz' and given quarters on E deck just above the waterline. My immediate companions are Flett from Buckie, Grant from Edinburgh, Hollins (Richmond) and Forbes (Doune). We are confined in a very small space where about 60 eat, live and sleep - some in hammocks, some on the mess tables and others on the deck.

Friday, 17 October 1941, 11pm. Moved away down river in a gale.

Saturday, 18 October 1941. All crowded on deck to see the last of Britain for a few months and very soon many chaps were seasick. There are about 5000 on board including crew, civilian passengers, 3000 RAF personnel, Dutch soldiers going to the E Indies, Canadian troops returning home, Norwegians, French sailors and our own Navy men going to join ships in America. We are a small convoy consisting of 'Pasteur', 'Avila Star' escorted by aircraft carrier 'Indomitable', 'SS Canton' (Armed Merchantman) and five destroyers. I soon began to feel uneasy and after the evening meal I was sick but quickly recovered and was not troubled by seasickness for the rest of the voyage.
Conditions on board throughout the following week were difficult with little to do and very cramped quarters; meals too were a problem as they had to be fetched from the galley by six orderlies who worked in a rota system. Some famous RAF officers were on board and each morning they gave lectures to sections of the troops - they included Tuck, Malan, Boothman and Edwards of whom we heard the middle two. There were some cinema shows and two evening concerts organised by Michael Redgrave who was an Ordinary Seaman in the Navy.

Thursday, 23 October 1941. A pay parade was held in the afternoon at which we surrendered English currency but no Canadian money was issued until we land in Canada which must be soon. But Friday came and went with the everlasting sea surrounding us in all directions - everyone will be glad when the voyage is over but it seems that little thought has been given by us to the danger of submarine attack. This must have been a real threat and we have been very lucky to avoid it.

Saturday, 25 October 1941. Land was sighted just after midday and it was quite exciting to see the dim outline gradually taking shape together with various indications which showed the proximity of land. An RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] plane circling overhead, seaweed, fishing boats and then a light vessel close to the shore.
Soon after arrival we were allowed to disembark for a few minutes but this was only to hand in our respirators and we were quickly shepherded back on board. About 8pm we finally left the 'Pasteur' and 400 Aircrew cadets boarded a train for Moncton, New Brunswick which we reached at 4am on Sunday morning. This first journey in a Canadian train was not very comfortable and in the dark we could see nothing of the country through which we passed.


© 1995 William Motion Goodall & Ian William Goodall 

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