My name is Gerald Hill. I was born in Bristol in England. My vivid memories are still attached to the Blitz which we had in 1940 to '42. I can talk at length about the Blitz, but we'll pass over that.
I was sent in 1942 to a naval college called HMS Conway, which was situated in north Wales. We were enrolled as Royal Navy Cadets, and the idea was that we were to be given the elementary rudiments of sea-going, and then sent to sea in either the Royal Navy or the Merchant Navy. After two years, I was offered a very good position with the Union Castle Mail Steamship Co. It was a very well-known company that ran from Britain down to South Africa, and it was very well established, with beautifully shaped ships. So I jumped on that one and I became a cadet in the Union Castle Co.
To tell you the truth, we didn't see too much action. In 1944, when I first left England in the Union Castle, the convoys mainly started at Liverpool, around the coast of northern Ireland, out into the middle of the Atlantic trying to dodge submarines, and then into the Straits of Gibraltar, and to the supply lines that were required for the fighting in Italy at that time.
We had lots of scares as far as submarine activity was concerned – that's U-boat activity – and in the Mediterranean, we were attacked quite a bit by German fighter-bombers. People who were operating from Italy at the time into these convoys that were going to the Anzio beachhead and Naples. That was pretty much my excitement.
After that, we used to be running from Liverpool in these beautiful ships through the Suez Canal, dodging submarines all the way, and then into the Indian Ocean to Bombay to support the anti-Japanese effort. The war ended in May of '45, and at that time I had left these rather nice passenger ships, which were troop carriers, and had been put into a cargo ship that was taking grain to North Africa from Canada. Then, for two more years after that, we pretty well toured the globe, inasmuch as I went back to the passenger ships after a few more months, and we were engaged in taking war brides to Australia. Now, eight hundred and fifty war brides and about a hundred and fifty men was quite a challenge.