After the cargo was unloaded at last (thank heaven’s!!) we were directed to Bunbury. Where on earth was Bunbury? Even the most travelled on board had never heard of it and shrugged their shoulders. It turned out that it was about two hundred kilometres south of Perth.
The entrÃ©e into the little harbour was very nice. In a long line of sandy dunes there was a gap with a creek flowing out into the sea. Along this creek was a stout wooden wharf where our ship could easily tie up. At the end of the wharf was a large village with ,if I remember correctly, a long street with the necessary shops, homes and one hotel. At the end, across the street there was a small hospital. A very picturesque little village nestled amongst the sand hills where there were many holiday homes. It was a holiday village except it was not yet holiday time. You could hear the quiet. What an oasis, how restful. Again here after dark all the lights went on. The necessary shopping was done and we found a friendly bar in the lounge of the hotel. We were immediately accepted by the local population and particularly by the bar patrons!
It was about this time that the Dutch Government, exiled in London, found it desirable that with one stroke of the pen, all crews on all the ships in the Merchant Navy were conscripted. We had been in a war situation for two and three quarter years and had already suffered many casualties. We saw this as a cheap shot from the Government which we could not take very seriously at all, so this latest indignity we accepted on top of everything else.
After a few days our Radio Officer came into the mess room for breakfast. We asked if he had heard any news, and looking most amused he said: ‘I have and this time, fellows, I have good news for a change’.
This was most unusual and we were all very keen to hearit. ‘Well’ , he said: ‘I have just received the message that the officers on the ships of the Holland-America Line had written a request to The Dutch Government in exile. It requested, now that they were all conscripts that all officers in the Merchant Navy were to be issued with a sabre’.
It was the first time during the war that I heard a group of people having breakfast laugh so loudly and heartily.
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