England & France 1945

The Queen Elizabeth

John B. Campbell embarked from New York on the Queen Elizabeth on January 30, 1945.  Luxury ocean liners belonging to the Cunard Line, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, were put to service during WWII.  An informative piece on The Magnificent Queens provides interesting background on their usefulness during the war.   It shed light on why my father's notes indicate he was a table waiter part of the way:  "The preparation of over 30,000 meals a day was a colossal task for the kitchen staff who were commonly assisted by fatigue parties drawn from among the passengers. The troops themselves provided their own eating utensils and were additionally required to assist the kitchen staff by doing their own washing up in specially installed equipment."  The troops obviously assisted in multiple ways.  

I don't know when JBC received the letter from President Roosevelt, but it was sometime during the voyage; note that the second line reads, "You have embarked for distant places where the war is being fought."  The word "freedom" is used four times.  I found this sentence especially moving:  "You will be supported by the whole force and power of this Nation."

Dad noted that the American Red Cross package was received February 1, 1945.  I wonder which items he kept and which he traded?  Dad had no connection to Michigan; I imagine chapters all over the country prepared packages for the embarkation of troops.

Haddix was a friend from Youngstown, Ohio.  He is mentioned in the induction and basic training stories.

This voyage must have been memorable for an 18-year-old who, to the best of my knowledge, had never been away from home.  Grandson Alex interviewed Dad in ~2002 regarding his WWII experience, and Dad provided quite a bit of detail about his trip across the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter:  "We were shipped overseas in '45.  In the process of going overseas, I feel it is important to mention that I traveled on the Queen Elizabeth I, which in those days was the largest ocean liner.  When I came over on the Queen Elizabeth, I was a waiter for most of the time.  They had gutted the ship and the eating/dining halls were basically filled with bunks.  I can't give you an exact figure, but thousands and thousands of soldiers were on the ship.  I had an upper bunk.  If I sat on my bunk, all I could see were heads.  It was just loaded.  We zigzagged back in those years because there were [German] submarines.  The trip took approximately six to seven days.  It was fast, but we were zigzagging.  You could tell because if you were on deck, you could feel the turn and then an hour or so later, you would turn again.  That was all due to those subs."  

The Magnificent Queens piece mentions red, white, and blue zones aboard the ship, but Dad's messing card and sleeping quarters card only make reference to Sections, not colors.  Note the messing card specifies two meals a day, not three.  

When I read Dad's comments to Alex about thousands of soldiers aboard the ship, I wondered if there was a way to determine how many.  A troop ship crossings database was helpful, although incomplete.  It seems likely there were 15,000 troops on the Queen Elizabeth when Dad crossed the Atlantic.  No wonder all he could see from his upper bunk were heads!

Disembarkation: Scotland

Dad's notes mention both Glasgow and Firth of Clyde for disembarking.  Glasgow isn't on a coast, so they must have disembarked at Firth of Clyde and proceeded to or through Glasgow.  Wikipedia's Firth of Clyde page states, "During World War II, Glasgow and the Clyde became the main entry point in Britain for the Allied forces’ merchant shipping, military personnel, and equipment, and for the assembly, despatch, and control of their ocean convoys."

Dad's interview with Alex:  "We landed at Glasgow, Scotland, and immediately boarded a train and went on through England down to Southampton [a 7-8 hour drive today] where we crossed the English Channel.  When we landed and went down through England by train, I did not see a lot of damage from bombing because it was at night.  When we got off of the trains, we were loaded onto the ships to cross the Channel.  I was told we had a smooth ride.  Fortunately, I did not get sick, but a lot of the guys did."  

Dad's notes indicate he crossed the English Channel on the Empire Lance.  I find it touching how he continues to comment, "Haddix still along."  I believe it indicates not homesickness but rather the comfort of familiarity.

France: Port Le Havre and Givet

John B. Campbell was in France for about a day, according to his records -- long enough to pick up several Franc notes.  The "forty and eights" Dad mentions were railway goods wagons, designed to hold 40 men or 8 horses (Wikipedia).  They were drafted into military service by the French, then used by the Germans, and finally by the Allies.    

There is one piece of currency from the Netherlands, which Dad reached later in February.  

Everyone in the family will remember that Dad collected coins.  His mother collected stamps.  In addition to this paper currency, Dad brought home various coins from Europe; my sisters and I each have some.

This image of bomb damage from Le Havre, France, is the earliest photo in Dad's WWII collection.  He didn't have any images from his very short time in England.

At some point (I assume shortly after arriving in Continental Europe), Dad acquired a map, which he used to track all of the locations that he passed through during his time in the U.S. Army.  He numbered the locations.  On the map below, Le Havre is underlined with a "1" next to it.  Small print on the map reads, "This edition for use by War and Navy Department Agencies only -- Not for sale or distribution."  Dad misspelled Le Havre (as Le Harve) in his notes and on the rear of the photo.

Givet, France, is very close to the border with Belgium.  It's understandable that Dad would have confused which country it was in.  Dad would soon be placed into the 102d Infantry Division, so Detachment 102 may be indicative of this.  (A detachment is a military unit broken off from a larger unit.) GFRC stands for Ground Forces Replacement Center.  APO stands for Army Post Office.  Haddix is still along :)  A white arrow shows Givet, France, with Dad's "2" noted next to it. He stayed there for a week.  I wonder if the stay was welcome, after being on the move constantly since landing in Scotland on February 6.

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