John Cummins - Life on the ship

Running time
5 min 5 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I was as sick as a dog. Very seasick. And it wasn't until after we'd been to America, that I started to get over it.

The ship I was on was an ex-American built ship that was taken over during the war. The accommodation was nothing very much. There was bunks, four bunks in a room. About the size of this. We ate and slept and did everything in that room.

Excuse me.

The bathroom consisted of a metal room at the end of the alleyway leading on to the deck. There was no shower in it. We had to get a bucket of water, warm water, and just stand in the middle of the tiles, the floor was tiled, and we had to wash ourselves there.

Go down and get hot water. There was a steam pipe in the bathroom to heat the water a little bit more if you wanted. But it wasn't luxury, believe me.

You'd have cereal for breakfast, and maybe eggs and bacon. Maybe. Every Sunday and every Thursday, I think we got eggs and bacon for breakfast. But the other meals were just the same. Cooked beef, potatoes, we carried a store of potatoes on board the ship. And all the other, carrots and all the rest of it. Coffee was shocking. It was horrible coffee. Tea, we got so much. The Board of Trade in England, they made out a supply, and that's what we stood to. We got eggs on Sundays and Thursdays. Things like that. We got so much butter allowed to us, and we got milk, condensed milk. Tins of condensed milk, that was the best way of carrying it. You couldn't carry fresh. Only when you crossed to port. So they've done condensed milk. The potatoes usually went bad halfway across the Atlantic.

I can't… We had steam heat because she was a steamboat. We just had radiators, the engine room supplied the steam to keep us warm. And the bunks were just metal bunks with metal springs and a thin mattress. Didn't matter too much to me, because I was dead tired by the time I got to bed. My father had to supply me with a uniform. And waterproof gear, sea boots, bedding. Some of our bedding was not supplied by the ship. As I said before that, you used to supply the purchasing, used to supply themselves with a bed, bedding and all the clothing. And we were on the same, virtually, except that we slept in a separate room. Crew slept in the accommodation down aft, the aft end of the ship. And we slept amidship

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