Joan Zilva

Text Box: An  account of a 14 year old’s WW2 overseas evacuation based on her letters home
Text Box: I kept a “Log Book” for the journey and first part of my stay.  Most of it duplicates my letters, but the first part seemed worth reproducing

Sadly I have lost my passport, with my schoolgirl picture and my entry and exit stamps for Canada and Britain.  Until recently I kept it with all my other expired passports, but have now sought high and low without success.  I found many unexpected things, such as short stories I started when I was resident in hospital (showed promise!) and old love letters - but not a sign of what I sought.  I can only hope that it didn’t get thrown out in error during one of my very  rare “tidying-up” sessions.  It is an historical document in every way.



Chapter Two—The Journey Liverpool to Toronto. July 19th to 31st, 1940

Text Box: “Difficulty” is putting it mildly.  Liverpool hotels were fully booked and we wandered from place to place.  My father got very angry with my mother (it wasn’t her fault).  The three of us ended up sharing a small room.  As a final treat I was taken to Lyons Corner House for their orangeade (for which I had passion) and ice cream.
Text Box: I remember saying goodbye, fighting back the tears, aware that my mother was doing the same.  I stuck to the teaching that I must not cry and went up the gangplank without looking back. 
Records show that the ship of 20,119 tons had over a thousand passengers, about a third of whom were aged under  15.  Compare this with the size and  passenger list on my return journey

We did not know about the Titanic.  For us icebergs were exciting but not dangerous, even in a fog.

Text Box: I was sent because of fear of invasion, which, if successful, would have meant a concentration camp for us all because my father was Jewish.  I do not think that the bombing was a factor in my parents’ decision. 

We boarded on the 19th, but did not sail until the 21st .  In fact, we travelled to Liverpool separately and I only met the others on board
Text Box: When I retired, about 50 years later, an older artist neighbour, gave me painting lessons.  We discovered that she, too, had been on the Duchess of Atholl taking groups of children out and dated it to the trip after mine.  As a birthday present she gave me some of the sketches she had made of the crew.
Text Box: I was always a great one for diagrams, as will be seen later.
Text Box: We had replaced gas masks for lifebelts as our constant companions
Text Box: Anne’s surname was actually Massey.

In those days there seemed to be no problem about 13 and 14 year old girls sharing a cabin with an 11 year old boy.  Certainly I was ignorant of sex as, I am sure, were the others. 
Text Box: July 19th 1940
Text Box: I was obsessed with food .
Text Box: Greta and I felt very responsible for Anne.
Text Box: I was a keen Girl Guide. Much more of that later.
Text Box: I believe that our parents had been assured that we would be safely convoyed.  The later sinking of the City of Benares referred to more fully later, proved how much at risk we were.  We, of course, were happily oblivious of the danger. 
Text Box: Refrigerators and, certainly freezers, were far from the norm in British homes then, so “iced” food was a novelty for us.

The portraits by my neighbour reproduced earlier, show both the cook, who put up with our “help”  patiently, and the Chief Steward.  We three seemed to have the run of the third class areas and everyone was very kind to us. The ship was torpedoed in 1942 and I fear  some of them may still have been serving on her and have perished. 
Text Box: We did not know about the Titanic. For us icebergs were exciting but not dangerous, even in a fog.
Text Box: Greta was what we would have called “a brick”.  It was not pleasant for her!  There should have been a stewardess available.
Text Box: At the beginning of the war we had turned a room with a flat roof, abutting the garage, into an air raid shelter and I enjoyed climbing up the garage door with bucket after bucket of soil and spreading it to absorb (we hoped) shrapnel.  I did my bit for the country's self-sufficiency drive by planting runner beans in this soil, climbing up with watering cans and finally harvesting my crop.  These are the beans mentioned. 
“Pussy” was, of course, the cat.
Text Box: This extract from the “Log” was slightly fuller and more “romantic”