26 January 2004
I sailed from Southampton to Singapore in 1948 on a troop ship named the “DUNERA” Is this the same ship as is associated with the plight of the Jews and Australia?
Any help will be appreciated. Thanks,
I hope we sent some useful links….
21 February 2004
Thank you for getting back to me on the M S Dunera story. I reviewed the “log” stories on your site and found them very interesting. They are all about the ship’s final trips as an educational cruise ship and not about her use as a troop ship and her use as a transport for Jewish refugees in 1940 as to which, see below.
I found a web site called “Britain’s small wars THE WEB MUSEUM” with several pictures of the Dunera and a couple of the Nevasa referred to in one of the log stories as a sister ship but a link gives the sister ships as Devonia and Dilwara.Their names may have been changed to Nevasa and Ettrick, respectively in their final years at sea. Dunera was originally built as a troop ship for 990 passengers. In an Australian web site-Jewish Ozzies’ Inter.net-I found a story dated 6th Sept 1996 listing the Dunera sailing from Liverpool on 10th July 1940 with 2,542 men aged between 18 and 45 which arrived in Sydney on Sept 6. 80% of the men were Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany but the article states that the ship’s maximum capacity was 1600 including crew! The writer describes the ship as a “Hired Military Transport” so I suspect that this is one of the Dunera stories nobody wants to talk about.
These Jews were destined for internment and were treated as “enemy aliens” and the story of this injustice is a black mark for both the UK and Australia. Around 1994 “A plaque depicting the Dunera was placed on a wall of the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney as an acknowledgment of the contribution which the Dunera fellows have added to the multicultural fabric of Australian society” (a quote from Letters from Jewish Australia-No 39).
I did my National Service from 1947 to 1949 and was a 2nd Lt. in The Royal Army Service Corps.I shipped out from Southampton in the summer of 1948 on the M.S. DUNERA with a load of troops and military families-mothers and children.We entered the Mediterranean at Gibraltar and stopped at Port Said where we had our first encounter with the bumboats. Going through the Red Sea the heat of the sun and the lack of a wind forced the skipper to turn the ship around and head north in order to ventilate the ship. In an attempt to develop a black and white negative a fellow officer turned a cabin into a dark roomand he obtained a block of ice to bring down the temperature of his solutions all to no avail and I lost all my negative with precious pictures of the Suez Canal and the ANZAC memorial which we could see clearly from the ship.
Next stop was a shore trip at ADEN followed by another shore trip at COLOMBO all very interesting for a twenty year old especially one who had never traveled much further than the Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow, my home town! I was appointed Entertainment Officer for the voyage and used my listener experience as a teenager when I listened to the American Forces Network and became acquainted with “Disc Jockeys” – a breed of folk unheard of on the BBC in these far off days.
I rounded up 78rpm’s from the families and found a trove in the ship’s stores and set up a record request program every day for one hour from noon when the troops were having lunch etc. All I had for a mike was a telephone set wired into a small cubicle with a turntable but I had no way of knowing how to control the volume being distributed below decks! I had to wait until I got a complaint before I could make the necessary adjustments. The programs were a huge success even if we all got tired of some of the material being played and played! I also ran dances for the civilian passengers (only officers could attend!).
I failed to keep a diary of this voyage but one thing I do remember was the food. After the deprivation of the war years and the food rationing-no white bread was another factor- I was stunned by the quality of the food, the service and the variety so-much-so that I gorged myself.
I hope some of the above may be of some interest. As for me it has been a welcome opportunity for me to relive a bit of my past and, who knows but I might just recall other events linked to my trip on M.S. DUNERA in the weeks ahead. Thanks.
David A. W. Young.
22 February 2004
I think one of the log stories mentions the bum-boats. My Ox Dictionary gives it as “plying with fresh provisions for ships” In the case of Suez etc these boats could supply fresh melons that we were warned not to buy since they may have been “fattened up” in the canal and its back waters-full of bilharzia worms (not sure of the spelling)! Very dangerous disease-causing microbe. These boats also peddled camel leather bags and other trinkets and thieves! Since most passengers were on deck, if they found an open porthole in they would go and take whatever they could find. I have nothing more to add at the moment so let’s see what it brings from your readers.
David A. W. Young.