Quebec in Sight - Alister’s Letter 28th April 1941

Hullo Connie,
In just about half an hour we will be opposite a bronze plate welded into the side of a hill; this plate, is supposed to mark the place Wolf was mortally wounded storming the Heights of Abraham.

Yes! We have been fifteen days at sea and will be up at Montreal in about 12 hours, after a passage of snow, fog and heavy seas, but with little or no action from Gerry.

Well Connie this letter is partly about the car and I’ill let you know the position. We are going to get some more of that stuff so I don’t think you should bring it up till we reach Argyllshire as from there I can let you know when we will arrive. I don’t know anything about a garage, but you can find some place; but if its expensive your going to bail it out.

By the way the car could be parked outside Uncle Sandy’s garage and the green tarpaulin thrown over it; however I will leave the subject.

Tomorrow we will drop into Montreal for a few days, this time not all alone in a foreign land, but with the knowledge of a friend I can see – however I was taking mother home some stores.

I hope George got my Camera and Provisional liscence which I left up in his office. You see I bought a camera the night before we sailed and I was told I could not carry it so I dashed up town, the following morning, and left it there.

Well, Connie the tea-bell has just gone so I will have to stop, but before I do so convey my wishes to all at ‘86’ and may all be in the best of health.
Your loving brother

The letter itself shows no indication of being screened by a censor. Alister has not said anything about his health on the voyage, just a mild complaint about the weather and an observation that Gerry gave no trouble.

The problem with the car is on his mind. Clearly the car needs repair and he thinks his sister has to take any major cost. Is this because she is the main user or because he thinks she was responsible for the damage, he does sound tetchy, but then he is writing to his sister. As Alister turned 17 on the voyage and has just received a provisional license you would not expect him to be driving the car, but he was driving it in 1939 and obviously he will want to drive it now he has the license. In 1941 it was not necessary to pass a test to get a full license.

What is the ‘stuff’ he obtusely refers to? Probably he means the weather will make his arrival date uncertain.

Strange paragraph about the “foreign land”, sounds like he is looking forward to his visit, he expects Connie to understand his comment but skips away onto another subject without even starting a new sentence. He may be hinting at romance.

A source of ‘stores’ must have been a great luxury for a sailor’s family during the war and for some time afterwards until rationing ended. He told me that once he brought home some bananas and gave them to the local shop; they displayed them in the window as a curiosity so everyone could see them. Bet they ate them in the end though.

I wonder why he thought he could take a camera? Did he see anyone else with one?

OB-309 To Montreal - Not So Good

The Sixth Voyage

We have said a lot about the Dorelean and speculated about what it may have been like for Alister but not heard from him directly. He is still 16 and has crossed the Atlantic and returned five times while under frequent threat of attack. This, Alister’s sixth voyage was really unpleasant for him for a number of reasons and we will hear from him for a change. He left Glasgow on 12th April 1941 joining convoy OB-309 which dispersed on 19th April about 500 nautical miles out from Ireland. This is further south than usual presumably for the benefit of a number of ships in the convoy that were heading South for places such as Durban.

Assuming 9 knots I estimate that Alister spend his 17th birthday in the Atlantic 1,500 nautical miles out from Scotland with 600 miles still to reach the safety of the Gulf of St Laurence. Away from the U-boat threat so it could have been a good birthday if he had been well, unfortunately he was not. The Dorelian's log has an entry about him on his birthday "~, apprentice: complaining of pain in lower part of abdomen. Placed off duty and treated as per medical guide."

The Dorelian reached Montreal on 28th April. It had last been there in October so I assume that in 1941 Montreal was closed because of ice in the winter.

Though the Dorelian reach Montreal safely as did all the West bound ships two of the Southbound ships starting with it in OB-309 were sunk by U-boats; both South of Cape Verde Islands, the Lassel on 30th April with the loss of one life and the Queen Maud on 5th May loosing two lives.

View Convoy OB-309 in a larger map