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Merry Old England
 

On April 21, the 702nd entrained at 5:00 P.M. and headed for the N.Y.P.E.  From 7:30 P.M. until midnight they prepared for embarkation.  From midnight 'till 7:30 A.M. on April 22, they embarked and final preparations were made to set sail.  At 7:30 A.M., their ship, the H.M.S. Mauritania set sail.

 

While in New York, the battalion made final medical preparations such as immunizations, etc., before leaving the States.  A measure of Military Justice training was also received.  Lt. Blaesing got a chance to go to Times Square only to be accosted by a lady of the night.  He declined her proposition.  One other matter that was finalized was the Table of Organization and Equipment for the 702nd. 

 

From the diary kept by Private First Class Edward P. Wizda:

 

 April 20:  "Passes to the Big Town are canceled.  It could only mean one thing, tonight or tomorrow the gangplank.  The banana boat is the topic of the day. Supply is doing a last minute job seeing that we have everything from buttons to shoelaces.  We're all sitting in for the night writing our last letters on this side of the Atlantic."     

 

April 21:  "Some of us had never been on a ferry, but it wasn't a treat because we were loaded down with full field packs plus that packed duffel bag.  As much as we know, this ferry is taking us down to the boat or convoy, whichever we'll get.

 

Evening - off the ferry, on the docks, coffee and doughnuts by the Red Cross, wait, wait, wait!  The full field becomes heavier and finally the first group starts up the gangplank.  Our equipment is too heavy a burden to make one think of what a momentous affair this is.  We're given a ticket - Promenade Deck, sleeping quarters, number so-and-so.  Then comes a meal ticket.  From what we believe was the bottom hull of the ship to the promenade Deck was one 'helluva' trip.  Too tired to look around us, we set up the hammock (something new to us) and bedded down for the night.  'All Aboard!  For a trip across the blue."     

 

April 22:  "At 6 A.M. the boat moved away from the Statue of Liberty, away from the ones we love, away from the good old USA.  Watching Miss Liberty become smaller and smaller was a mental picture in itself.  No doubt all the thoughts on board reflected one thing: 'I'll Be Back."'     

 

April 23:  "Second day out!  Now we've managed to get as much information as we possibly could from the British sailors.  We were on the Mauritania, a British liner loaned to the U.S.  We'd probably land in 6 or 7 days but didn't know where.  It was something new to hear the British dialect.  Already a few of the boys are beginning to mimic them.  Regulations were issued today - so I suppose we're going to settle down to routine."    

 

 April 24:  "The blaring sounds of 'Blackout restrictions are now lifted.  All troops may proceed to the upper decks', awakened us on our third day from 'terra firma'.  From every morning on now we are going to do some housecleaning.  Details are picked and the remainder had to proceed to the top deck.  It's nice being out there when it's warm, but when the wind blows, wow! After the cleaning is over, down go the blankets on the floor again and card games are in full swing.  We must have played everything from hearts to old maid.  The PX was open from early afternoon 'till blackout time, but it was an ordeal to 'sweat out' such a long line.  Then comes the surprise of all surprises, 'mail call'."

 

April 25:  "Out on the high seas now, submarines is the latest topic.  A new order came out, no gambling on board ship.  You can always put the money under the blanket though."     

 

April 26-28:  "The remainder of the voyage was beginning to get tiresome.  Men complained of the food and in many cases it was terrible.  Facilities for cleaning mess kits were poor."     

 

April 29:  "Land at last!  All of us felt as though we had discovered a new world as we watched the tiny green specks in the distance.  Everyone was impatient for the next day to arrive. We were going to dock at Liverpool."     

Somewhere In England

 

April 30:  "It was a sunny Sunday morning when we reached the docks; birds were numerous and already G.I.'s were throwing cigarettes, coins, candy, etc. to the dockhands.  About noontime we were off the boat and on the waiting trucks.  We were all eyes; this was England, something new, somebody different.  We traveled through the Mersey Tunnel and on to Birkenhead; then to Camp Bidston, our own little tent land.  After being assigned our tents, we walked around our new area, talked to some of the passing kids who were ever so anxious to have gum."

 

 

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