The Mediterranean


John Vassiliou, Staff Writer

Waiting for the next convoy to come through, James was stuck in Oran in North Africa. His time here was busy, and his entries became more scattered, at one point even skipping a whole month, but his experience was nonetheless captured.

Mar. 4th – Tough day ate “C” rations out of cans – sick of beans & meat plus concentrated lemon powder poured into cold water for drinks. 

Oran, a town of much vice, shoe shine boys all over the streets. Arabs & French – shortage of food. Much money paid for necessities. The remark “Hello Joe” universal, it seems used to call any American Soldier, or “Cigarette Joe” asking for cigarettes and begging for candy – many types running around the streets in rags use these expressions. 

The night before departure cots had to be turned in. Slept on the ground before retiring however, we approached an Arab lad who seemed to know his way around, gave him money for purchase of champagne as we couldn’t leave the area. I saw one of these boys with as much as $1,500 dollars in his possession, smart operators.

April 3rd – Monday- Boxes, etc. shipped out. Couldn’t write letters.

April 4th – Turned in our cots + blankets.

April 5th – Left staging area [at] 7:45 – in trucks left off on further end of docks – walked approx. 2 miles to ship – last one in line at the wharf. Boarded ship at 2 0’clock S.S. Volendam – Dutch ship manned by British. 

Apr. 6th – Left docks at 6:00 P.M. anchored in the harbor sailed at 6:45 P.M.. 

April 7th – Cloudy – overcast – all large ships in convoy – Greek destroyer – large one of the escort through the Mediterranean. Greek crew manned by British officers. 

April 8th Feeling of tension and nervousness prevalent among the troops, due to sub – reports throughout the Mediterranean. 

April 9th – Easter Sunday – cloudy 

April 10th – Passed by island of Crete 30 miles off weather in our favor – foggy and cloudy doing 16 knots. Hard for Germans to spot us under these conditions. 

James would have probably left this to be his entry for the day, but then something nerve-wracking happened that he wanted to add. He was most likely so shaken that he forgot he had already done an entry for that day.

April 10th Saw depth charges being dropped by destroyers.

April 12th – Approached Port Said 2 ships sunken in waters just before entering harbor. One ship completely broken in two – looked like a tanker. Upon entrance of harbor of the port side of the Volendam 2 warships flying the Greek flag lay at anchor – one battleship – the other a light cruiser. Went right through Port Said – entered the Suez Canal – many natives living on beaches in earthen & straw huts – fishermen. 

By 1944, Greece’s navy had lost all of its battleships, so James probably mistook took the ships he saw. The ship that James most likely thought was a battleship was the RHS Georgios Averof, a heavy cruiser which was designated to convoy escort and the protection of Port Said. Coincidentally, my other great grandfather served on this ship during the interwar period.

April 13th – At 10:00 P.M. we arrived at Port Suez 

Port Aden – arrived around 3:00 P.M. going through Red Sea. A small port outlet to the Arabian Sea & Indian Ocean – ships stop there for re-fueling-supplies etc. 

This was the end of James’ European leg. He now looks forward to Asia, his next stop being Bombay, India.