« Home | Cairngorm view » | Sunrise over Eathie » | Shaft of Sunlight » | 2001 A Space Odyssey » | Reflected Rig revisited. » | Reflected Rig » | A Frosted Family Tree » | Pebbles and Shadows 2004 » | Just before the Bells » | Straw coloured morning »

Demob Leave 1946

Demob Leave 1946, originally uploaded by ccgd.

My father has written the following for The Australian Clan Davidson Magazine. A great piece of prose, worth recording under this photo of him in 1946, just returned home to Scotland after three years of war.

Return to Australia

It was almost mid 1945 when , bound for the Pacific War, we, sailors of the Royal Navy. stared at trees with the leaves staying on but with the bark peeling off. We heard the wailing of a train like the sound in an American Film , and glimpsed white girls in summer frocks.

We had landed in Jervis Bay, New South Wales from the carrier HMS Vengeance and could not quite believe what we saw. There were street and house lights everywhere, there was no blackout. There was food galore in the mess, even fresh fruit juice.

It’s not that we were unused to strange sights. We knew bombed London and stark war airfields near smoky industrial towns of the English Midlands. We had sailed, in and out of the Clyde, with its odd night ‘run ashore’ in dour Glasgow, through heaving seas of the Western Approaches of the Atlantic as the carrier squadrons flew and operated.

We had lined the flight deck and scanned the crowded shipping in Gibraltar, confined without shoreleave to the iron restraints of a carrier run with exact Naval discipline. We had accepted minimum rations as the planes flew in and out of the airfield called "Hellfire" [ Halfar] in Malta.

The war in Europe was drawing to a close and we had sailed eastwards through the Suez Canal in and out of the ports of Alexandria. and Aden, of Madras and Trincomalee and had sweated in the jungle airfield of Katakarunda in the then Ceylon.

Now, after years of wartime Britain, and months of seatime, we just could not believe this - Australia.

It was like a pre war film, or glimpses of a way of life that was lost in our youthful memories.

A weeks leave, train to Sydney, and the incredibly friendly welcome of the Australians to us young men, mostly teenagers, was tremendous and left a warm glow in our hearts. It was so marvellous that it could not really be happening.

But the interlude was too brief. We sailed north to Manus, to Leyte and through into the Jap war in the Pacific, leading to the surrender of the Japanese Forces in Hong Kong to the British Fleet, and to four months of nominally peace time duties based mainly at Kai Tak Airfield.

Afloat again and south to Borneo to embark and repatriate Australian Army Veterans of the New Guinea campaign, landing them at Sydney. A welcome ashore again and we were based at Schofields Airfield.

After Hong Kong and famine in the crowded streets, with Jap P.O.W.sC amps and, Chiang Kai Chek’s eight man wide Army Columns pouring at the double through the streets for embarkation in American Liberty ships en route north to then named Peking, Australia was again a ‘ too good to be true’ paradise.

The helpings of food were more than our concave stomachs could take. There was ‘ no cockroaches in the jam ‘. There was shore leave and the afternoon train to Sydney, and on to the Dance Halls and cinemas, to house parties and Bondi Beach, and everywhere a open welcome from Australians of all ages.

‘All good things come to an end ‘ and , as HMS. Vengeance wallowed westwards through the Tasmanian Bight bound for the Indian Fleet, I received a telegram from my father’s cousin Bill Davidson and his wife, whom I had briefly visited in Melbourne, wishing me a Happy 21st. birthday!

I had forgotten what day it was after some three years of naval service.

But I, and thousands of young men from Britain, would never forget as the years passed by, the magnificent welcome that we had received the people of Australia. and our glimpses of the flora and fauna of a corner of that vast continent

I had however a continuing link with Australia.

In pre war years there were two surviving strains of one branch of the Garioch Davidsons descended from one mid 18th. C. Gardener and Land Measurer in Glack Daviot, Aberdeenshire .

One strain came from James Davidson, Engineer and Bridge builder in India . The other was that of his first cousin, Charles Davidson, Chief Engineer on a Merchant Navy Indiaman sailing in and out of Calcutta. They were close friends

Each had a son of the same name as the father. The eldest by a year or so was Jackie, born in India and, on the early death of his mother, spent his boyhood with his grandmother and aunt in Airdrie in Scotland.

The younger, Charles, the writer, was born and brought up in Aberdeen and was to be orphaned within the year of his meeting with Jackie in 1938 at a family wedding. Both were offered the opportunity to emigrate to Australia with Jackie’s uncle Bill Davidson, who was married and already settled in Melbourne.

Jackie opted to go with his uncle to Melbourne served throughout WWII with the Australian services in Borneo. Charles remained with his sisters and aunt in Aberdeen joining the Royal Navy. and by 1945, was a 20 year old Petty Officer [Air Wireless] in the Fleet Air Arm.

Sixty years pass, and a belated thank you was offered by the British Government to the dwindling remnants of WWII service personnel in the form of a grant to them and their partners to aid them to revisit the scenes of their Service years. It was called " Heroes Return " !


My wife and I flew to India then Thailand and on to New South Wales where we were guests of our Australian cousins. Jackie had not survived the passing years but had left a flourishing and scattered clan. Merilynn, one of his daughters, were to be our principle host and had organised a NSW circuit tour including revisiting Jervis Bay where I had first set foot in Australia. What an organisation, what a tour and what a welcome, a welcome that echoed my previous visits to ‘Down Under’

I can only make brief references to all that we saw and did – to our stay in Camden with Merrilynn and her husband David, - to the days exploring Sydney especially the view from the Opera House of the waters where the Vengeance was moored, of the drive by Merrilynn north , almost to the Queensland state line, to visit and to meet and stay with another Davidson sister in a country town where younger members of the family came to view these odd Scots relatives. To the drive by Ruby the eldest sister to spend the night at her sea side bungalow, and on to lunch with yet another sister and her husband in their wood sculpture studio in an old mining town

On through Armidale to stay with Ruby’s son and his wife and family in a spacious newly built house on a farm a few miles out of that pleasant University town and its extended campus.

In Armidale we were made welcome by Jackie’s widow, the Australian girl whom he had married after New Guinea. We did enjoy making her acquaintance. She was intrigued to meet a cousin of her husband from his distant Scottish boyhood.

Waterfalls and ravines, Gum trees and gorges, kangaroos and kookaburras, ferns and spacious farms – everywhere a mixture of British customs, food and names coupled with strange plants and flowers, and adaptations and developments of the UK way of life to suit the different climate and circumstances.

Three lots of Davidsons lunched at the RAC Club in Sydney when Frank Davidson, the Australian Clan Davidson Association President with his wife and stepson met our hosts Merrilynn amd David and Nancy and I.

My wife loved it all and was fascinated to see in the Australian Museum of Flight on the airfield near Jervis Bay where I had served, a Fairey Firefly aircraft, the same model which I had flown over Sydney Bridge in early 1946. I was transported back through 60 years to that formative period of my life.

I write this in wintery Scotland. Australia may be very far away, but Oz and its people and our family there, are near in our thoughts.

Charles G Davidson January 2006

What an evocative piece of writing! It brought a tear to my eye and feelings of longing for home.
What an amazing life your father has had/is living.

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link