soon have that out.' So I said 'Well, if you get it out, you
can have it' and he said 'Next time the train stops, we'll go down to the
luggage van and find it.'
It was the middle of the night in the middle of Germany
somewhere; we didn't know where we were at all. But the train stopped and
we leapt out, went down the train and into the luggage van, grabbed the
kitbag - and the train began to move! He said 'Quick! Get in this
carriage. We mustn't be left out here' and he opened the door and more or
less pushed me in and scrambled in behind me.
We were in a first-class compartment with two British
officers in it, and they looked at us as if to say 'And where have you
come from?' I said 'We've just been down to the luggage van for my kitbag.
We have to go back now, because the rest of our girls are further up the
train and they'll wonder what on earth's happened to us. He's only come to
help me find this kitbag, because there are some bottles in it.' They said
'Well you might as well sit down.' They had some very nice ham sandwiches,
pork pies and a bottle of wine and they said 'Come on, help yourselves.' I
don't know to this day who that lad was, but he sat there enjoying himself
as we helped ourselves to this food. Then, when the train stopped again,
we jumped out, he carried the kitbag and we flew up the platform and into
the carriage where we ought to have been.
Ivy said to me 'Ooh I am pleased to see you. I've been worried
to death. I thought we'd left you in the middle of Germany in the
middle of the night and you wouldn't know where you were.' I said
'Well, this lad realised that the train was on the move again and
he just pushed me in somewhere and we've been in a first-class compartment,
eating pork pies and talking to two British officers.' Ivy said 'Trust
you to fall on your feet like that! If it had been me, I
would have been left out on my own in the middle of Germany.'The
train arrived in Ostend and we were ushered out and into a wooden
hut. It was pouring with rain and a gale was blowing; it was a horrible
night. We were told 'We'll give you a shout when we need you', so
we sat there, waiting to be called, and eventually walked out onto
the platform and there was the boat. It was the dirtiest looking scrap
heap that you ever saw in your life. It had been a troop ship going
back and forth across the Channel. You could just about read its name
on the side - and it was called 'The Drowning Maid'. That was all
we needed, 'The Drowning Maid'!
We boarded this boat and every bit of furniture had been
done away with; there was a vast open space with a little form round the
edge that people could just about sit on. That was all there was, nothing
else. I said 'Well this isn't going to be a nice crossing on a horrible
night like this on a horrible poor thing of a ship called "The Drowning
We decided we'd go scouting round to see what we could find. We discovered a pile of mattresses, but they were dripping wet. We pulled the top one off and the next one was dripping wet as well, and the next one and the next one, but eventually we found one that was reasonably dry, pulled it out and someone took it into the cabin. In fact, a few were reasonable, and we put them together on the floor. Everyone had a blanket, so we put the blankets down and lay on those. At least eight of us, if not more, all lay on the floor on these half-wet blankets, and when we woke up we were in Tilbury.
We never thought we'd arrive in England alive, coming back
on a boat with a name like 'The Drowning Maid', through all the mines that
were chained together in the harbour. But we were safe as houses at