H.M.C.S. NIOBE: The Week After VE Day

16 May, 1945

Further to my last, I shall now carry on with the happenings following VE Day. The next morning, 9 May, I arose in no great frame of mind, even though it was Sunday routine. There was to be a small Victory parade in town, so I bummed a lift with two other officers who had got the use of a Navy station-wagon to go into Greenock, and watched the parade from a safe distance. We had intended to get closer, but the Captain saw us and made it clear we were not wanted. Although the show was sponsored by the RN, five of the seven divisions of men and one of the two divisions of Wrens were NIOBE's, and it was NIOBE's band that led the parade. It was raining, as usual, and all personnel were wearing slickers, thus their Canada badges did not show, so all my way back to the bus stop I heard Greenock civvies saying how nice a show the RN had put on with their route march. (!)

In the afternoon I went with Marion Coote for company to Kilmacolm, a small town near where our High Mathernock Wrens' quarters used to be. It's now stripped clean, the Army pulled it down as soon as it was abandoned. Kilmacolm itself is pretty much a a counterpart of Victoria's Oak Bay district, the home of retired millionaires with a small RNİhospital inhabited by senior brass hats with anything from appendicitis to D.T.'s, also a couple of hoity-toity girls' schools. We wandered around for half an hour, had a cup o' tea and returned to NIOBE for supper. Went to bed early, for a change.

Thursday was a return to normal routine. The ban on drinks in the Wardroom bar was finally lifted at supper time, and there was a cocktail party to celebrate and set the ball rolling. I understand the ball kept rolling until two-forty Friday morning; fifty-six quid was spent in the bar quite apart from the fifteen bottles of gin that went in the cocktails, and you will appreciate that one hellov a time was had by all the participants.

I was in a sour and ungracious mood myself, had three cocktails before supper, then packed it up and sent to the office to work on the Wardroom books for half an hour, then hiked uphill to the Cut for a solitary walk along the path beside the canal from Loch Thom. Getting sidetracked by an intriguing path leading uphill from the far side of the Cut, I branched off and discovered a series of six reservoirs - vast stone structures they were - and followed their interconnecting ditch to its source at the top. The view from this peak was glorious; it was just sunset exactly, and the hills were all dim and purple with heather; the wind was strong and bluff and fresh off the sea. It was like home. One of the things I have missed most in NIOBE was a resounding sea breeze. Then I had some difficulty in getting back in the gloaming for the moors are full of small bogs, and floundering through and around them took time. Arrived at eleven-ten and was fortunate enough to find one cup of coffee left in the urn in the Sisters' ante-room. Swiped it, went to our block for a hot bath (went to sleep in the tub, briefly) and so to bed.

Friday, most of the Wardroom was going around with heads like melons. For my part, I was still dead sober and dead fed-up. The former was because of the latter, and the latter was because I had been as much as told that despite the fact I should have been appointed home after the usual two years maximum overseas, all such moves had been set aside and the members of NIOBE staff, especially writers and storekeepers, would have to remain until transients had been sent home and the buildings could be handed back to the civil authorities.

So despite all my promises to you that I would be home in July, and despite my desires to celebrate VE Day in a tremendous party style, I am in no mood to celebrate anything. Maybe I'd feel better if I could get a few days in Dartford and could drag a cousin or two down to a local pub to tie one on in good company. (I know, I'm dreaming.)

Saturday, went to Largs in the afternoon just for a change of pace, go caught in a rain-storm and returned early; worked without enthusiasm on some fag-ends of this-'n-that in the Stores office, read part of a Readers Digest, wrote three letters down South and generally put in time for the evening.

Sunday was probably the wind-up of the VE stuff. We had church parade in the morning to a civvy church on the outskirts of Greenock, not far from NIOBE. it was quite showy, drums beating, band playing, and several hundred men and Wrens marching down the main drag. When the service was over and the troops were assembling for the march back, the Captain saw some sort of a troop in uniform with a flag standing at the bottom of the hill, a few hundred feet away. He sent me to ask them to stand fast while our parade went past them. When I got down there, I found they were a group of Girl Guides, seemingly about aged five to ten (they must have been older, or they would have been still in Brownies). I asked them to stand fast, and self ducked behind a blast wall to hide. The whole durn church parade came marching down the hill and each division as it passed gave the Guides an "eyes-right". The oldest girl, who was holding the ensign in a long staff, hung onto it as if her life depended on it, and some of the others were shivering. I'll bet that every one of those kids will remember the incident for many a day to come!

In the afternoon, took bus to Ardrossan, on the coast about fifteen miles west of Largs, with a couple of others for company. It rained and blew like billy-o, and we failed to see anything of the town at all, except a few glimpses through the rain.

So back to supper, then to write to you about all the tumult and the shouting of VE Day (whut a bloody great gefuffle! Doubt I'll forget it as long as I live) and so to bed. It's been quite a week!

Love and kisses to you and Babygirl.

Send comments and questions to Randy Vickers

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