Seafarer falls for woman's charms

Name: MorrisĀ Ochert
Date: 1942
Unit: Merchant seaman
Location: Canada

It was in the fourth year of World War II. The oiler on my watch on a merchant navy vessel went missing for the entire time we were in a Canadian port. He showed up on the last morning just before we were due to leave.

He should have lost his job and his back pay and he could have faced other penalties. However, in wartime, experienced engine room crew were hard to replace.

He told us of the girl for whom he risked those penalties - that she possessed every virtue, including great beauty. She had told him that she was a virgin prior to their meeting in a dockside bar - he must have been naive!

They had "made for the hills" where they "shacked up" and they were "a-gonna marry and be together forever". A small white cottage with roses round the door and many beautiful babies were on their agenda.

He had trustingly transferred his allegedly large life savings into an account in their joint names. She was to use the funds to buy all they'd need in their marital bliss - linen, baby-wear, furniture, a down payment on the cottage of her choice - the mind boggles!

Two days after we left on our return voyage he was stricken by a particularly virulent strain of social disease. Soaring temperature, nausea, suicide attempts, hallucinations, discharges - he had them all!

He had to be locked in the sick bay for his own safety, but he managed to escape and jettisoned all his luggage over the side and, stark naked, was about to follow it. He was only stopped with great difficulty.

A letter awaited him in Sydney from - guess who? She was "sorry to do this to such a nice guy, but this is what I do for a living," she wrote. "I enclose your Pass Book and you will see that I have left you $50. Don't waste it trying to find me as I have gone to a distant part of USA where I am supporting my two daughters and my old mum. I hope you don't get sick - I carry an illness - that was the risk you took. Don't trust any girl on the basis of a casual date. No - there won't be any little white cottage."

As the ambulance pulled away he was screaming that he'd find her and murder her, etc. But that option should have been very low on his order of priorities, for anti-biotics were then only in their infancy.

He was not the first trusting seafarer, nor will he be the last, to lose his health, his job, his money, his dignity and his faith in human nature.

This article was written by Morris Ochert of Queensland, who served in the Merchant Marine throughout World War II


Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Seafarer falls for woman's charms, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 29 September 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/seafarer-falls-womans-charms
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