January 14th 1941 – S.S. “Barpeta”, at sea


S.S. “Barpeta” at sea – a party on 12th with Pete, Allan, self, Simon, Joan and Mary. A bit low. We go to the boat club and have supper and play the fool. Pete hurdles the chairs and tables and holds Mary upside down so that her knickers become exposed. Low talk by Simonson’s concerning bananas. I get Mary on my knee and give her another of my “let me be your father” talks, which are quite good. In bed by 1am. Irwin, brother of Pat in Madras, was at Delhi some time ago and saw in Hyderabad House (Army HQ) a list of our 8 names, with columns etc – age, regiment, qualifications. It read “A” License for most but by Pete’s was “court marshalled for attempting to join the RAF”.

We reach the harbour at 9.30am yesterday after calling at 2 Bath Island Road on the way, and beating the girls under the bedclothes, and embark without fuss or formality. “Barpeta” BISN, 3000’ tons, with four other first class passengers and alot of deck passengers, is a “slow” gulf boat. Calls at all the ports, Ormara at 4am this morning, 150 miles from Karachi, and so on. Bed bugs and blackouts…

Out of India at last, but for how long? I suppose I shall be back in Abbottabad in a month or so, or even less, looking a damn fool. We are given 30 days advance pay before we leave. British rates less Indian income tax so we lose about 200/- on the deal. At Pasmi half a dozen bunderboats descend on us like vultures and fight for places alongside. Bales of Japanese cotton are unloaded by Baluchis and some sort of black Africans. Small boats sell fishes, some as long as four feet. Two old Sinbads with beards keep alongside for some hours selling fish, holding the tiller lines between their toes to keep their hands free for paddling. A barren coastline like the Red Sea. Pasmi was a great smuggling port as it’s duty free. The Jap cloth goes to Quetta, duty here being only 18%, whereas in Karachi it’s 98%.

Boats alongside

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