"He slumped in his chair like a hung-over walrus,
but even in the queasy grip of seasickness his presence
still dominated the heaving room."
Above and below are excerpts from AND NO BIRDS SANG by well-respected Canadian writer Farley Mowat (age 93, living in Port Hope, Ontario). He was aboard the heaving Derbyshire in July, 1943 as the largest armada in history, up to that time, approached the island of Sicily, itself slumbering and unaware of an impending invasion. Official start time of Operation Husky was but hours away.
Those Metal Boxes Would Have Swamped
Beyond the ship
the scene was something to behold.
The sky was as harshly bright and clear as ever,
for the sirocco brought no clouds in its train.
The sun streamed down
upon a waste of heaving seas,
foaming white to the horizon.
And the great invasion fleet
- that irresistible weapon -
was in total and almost helpless disarray.
The largest warships were being swept
by breaking seas until they looked like
half-awash submarines. The big troopers
were being staggered by the impact of the
greybeards that broke over their heaving sterns.
Most of the smaller vessels had turned about
and were hove-to, head to the sea and wind,
and some of them - particularly the square-nosed
tank landing craft - were obviously nearing
the limits of their endurance. If the gale had
increased its strength only a little more, many of
those metal boxes would have swamped and sunk.
I thanked my stars I wasn't aboard one of them...
and then remembered that in less than twenty-four
hours we were due to be cast into that turmoil
of white waters in tiny assault boats which were
little more than sardine cans and
not much more seaworthy.
Photos by GH
Link to Ten Poignant Stories 6