Ella Buuck's wartime diary: View pages | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Ella Buuck's wartime diary: View pages

Finally on June 29th we saw the Asama Maru coming over the horizon. What a thrill!! We were on the house tops to see it.

Finally the day came when our ship came in. Three times we were put off: first it was to be the 16th, then the 23rd and again we had to wait.

But here we are on the Asama Maru now, sailing for Saigon. What an experience to be taken from an internment camp onto a repatriation ship! Our big baggage went a day ahead ((on the 28th June)). It was examined in the dining room block by block. The inspection that everyone feared was not so bad at all, but they threatened such severe punishment that no one dared pull anything. Then all was loaded onto trucks and put into lighters to wait for further transportation.

Lorenz being sick with a bad ear, I was quite busy, but all went well. On the final day ((yesterday, the 29th June)), we were all up early for the last packing. The British cooked our breakfast for us at 9:30 am. At 3 pm the bugle called us to order and we Americans marched down Roosevelt Blvd. and out of Stanley Camp. The British waved good bye with sad hearts. Some dared walk along until the soldiers turned them back.

We were put into small ferries in alphabetical order. Then into a larger one farther out, finally again to be transferred to the big ship. What a hot day and how we did drip. At 6pm we reached our end and were handed our cabin tickets. Lorenz and Leonard in one cabin, the rest of us ((children Elaine 4 and Bobby a toddler)) in another.

We are in third class. There are 14 bunks in this room. One family with 4 girls, another mother with two children and Mrs. Knipp and daughter.

We have restrictions as to water:  only ½ hour in early morning and again ½ hour at suppertime. No bath tubs to be found. I have a kettle in which I save fresh water for Bobby’s wash bowl bath and then after his bath I wash our sunsuits.

Lorenz eats third class mess. Leonard and I in second and Elaine and Bob in first Class. What a business. We are always losing each other on this immense floating hotel.

Meals are grand and what a treat to have potatoes and egg, etc. Our first night on the ship was very hot but we did get some sleep. Many people go up on deck to sleep!

We sailed at 6pm ((they sailed at 6pm on the 30th, ie the previous day)).

I couldn’t help but think of all our Stanley friends whom we left behind. They must have felt sad. Their ration having been cut and we are having wonderful food.

We hear lots of stories from the passengers who were interned at Japan, also the folks from North China ports. We now can’t wait until we meet the Conte Verde ((another ship)), from Shanghai, hoping to see the Zimmermanns, Thodes etc. ((These were fellow Missionary colleagues)).

We are really having smooth sailing, grand meals and a nice time.

My cabin isn’t too hot and now that we’ve discovered the elevator, I'm not too tired from carrying Bobby up and down steps. It's quite something to be able to take an elevator up and down the 5 decks from A to E. The ship is the most elaborate one we’ve seen.

The Japanese style bathroom here in 3rd is fun, a small pool fashion with another basin in the opposite corner with fresh water. The children love it.

Today the folks at Saigon ((Now called Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam)) came on.

The scenery there is beautiful, and it was interesting to see all the sampans come selling fruit. We bought bananas and what a treat. The first in 9 months. They also have pomelos, papaya, mangos, loquat, cherries, etc. in this neighborhood. If only we could send some to our hungry Stanley friends.

The folks getting on all looked well and also well dressed. All agree that we Hong Kong folks look toughest and suffered most. What a gang of people on board, it’s really buzzing. I have a lady with three children at our table with us now. They came from Thailand. It’s all very interesting to hear the stories.

Not much reason to think that this is a holiday for us. ((Independence Day in the U.S.))

We did have some excitement. We hit a sand bar and had to go back up river and wait for high tide.

The scenery is beautiful.

Sunday. First of all I had a shampoo and set. Then we had services at 10:30 in Mrs. Ziegler’s room. There seemed to be singing and services in a number of places.

There is a plan to have all the children play at certain times and places on board. It’s causing quite a stir.

We anchored this a.m. when we reached the outskirts of Singapore where the Shanghai Conte Verde was anchored. She is also covered with white crosses and it’s exciting to see it so near. We shall make the trip together to Africa. We wonder if we can obtain any information as to whether our folks ((fellow Missionaries)) are on board.

We had to fill out papers to say who would pay our passage. What a business where one has no choice.

We are still here and is it hot! What a relief it will be when we once get moving.

They took on fresh water and allowed us to use it all day. They warned us that it would be our last chance for a bath. All people were busy washing etc. Only salt water baths in the future.

The white crosses are big and plain to see.

They fixed up slides on top deck for the children and they do have a swell time now. Bobby would go up and down for hours if I’d help him and stay with him.

We had a long talk with Mr. Arndt last night. ((Was Mr Arndt from Hong Kong, or had he joined from one of the other locations?))

It was a hot night. The fans stopped working in the dining room while we were eating and we just about passed out.

Many planes flew over us, 61 in all, Lorenz said, also claims they dropped bombs near Singapore. We are anchored 30 miles out. Don’t know whose planes they were.

Finally we are on our way. It’s grand to be moving. The trip is very interesting for one sees islands.

They say we are going through some dangerous waters. The ship has slowed down and moves carefully. Everyone talks of the volcano and tries to figure out just where it ought to be. Passing through the Straits is quite an interesting experience. The scenery is grand.

((The volcano is probably the famous Krakatoa volcano. Then "the Straits" means the Sunda Strait between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. Krakatoa is located in the Sunda Strait.))

Boy, we know now that we are in the Indian Ocean. The swells are doing things to people. Down here in 3rd and way at the end it’s awful. I felt bad but kept my head up, but how grand it is to get up on deck and breathe fresh air.

Sunday. We had services in 3rd class dining room, nice attendance.

One is getting used to the rocking and swaying. I can take it alright now.

It has been raining and it’s a rough sea. We had some engine trouble and the Conte Verde got way ahead of us, but we are going full speed ahead now.

We had to have our porthole closed all night and it was more than stuffy.

Rain and rough going and colder weather. Otherwise no break in the monotony.

James Ward was born today. Everybody is happy with them. The baby is fine and we heard the NYK Line would give him a free pass on any ship the rest of his life.

The news also was spread around that we would be at our destination on the 23rd and due in New York on August 19th. We are certainly looking forward to solid ground once more.

Lorenz’s birthday. No presents to give so Elaine gave him her orange and Leonard a pocket comb which he had found.

We played pinochle in the evening and Mrs. Dunnett ((Was she in Stanley?)) and I had arranged a lunch in her room at 10 o’clock. It was a pleasant surprise and a tasty one, too. The first sandwiches for ages.

It is still rough going and quite cold when the sun is down. Sunsets are perfect and moon rise is also very pretty. We sat and looked at the beautiful starlit sky last night. Also heard Mrs. Roetz’s most exciting experiences during the war.

It’s getting warmer and the crisp air is grand. It’s perfect to sit out on the open deck and soak up air and sunshine. The children all have a cold, but this grand air should cure it quickly.

Someone gave me a pair of brown suede shoes and they fit fine. Boy what a different feeling to have shoes on that look like something! I also received a pair of hose from some kind lady, but one hardly dare wear them lest we have nothing when we land. I have gone without for almost 6 months so I hardly miss them.