Extracts from the Diary of Howard Baker (RAF) Air Craftsman
December 12th 1942
Boarded the Strathalan troop ship at 4 am. Sea very rough.
Still very rough, waves 60ft high everyone sick, Chaps washed overboard.
Still very rough. Sick
Feeling much better today, still heavy rollers.
Very pleasant, sea calm, sun warm, feeling much better now, sunbathed on deck.
Weather good, we are all feeling much better now.
Fine day, moonlight night, stayed on deck all evening. very warm.
Passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, very warm. Feeling fit now.
Hit by torpedo from enemy U-boat at 2 25am.2 50 ordered to abandon ship, Went overboard down rope ladder, someone fell and knocked me off into water, went down long way, lost my wedding ring as I came up. Swam away from the ship. Looked for my friend. Heard two gun shots from the ship. Lots of noise, rafts with dead bodies. Held onto the side of a boat full of nurses, eventually they pulled me in and one put her cape around me. Someone in another boat called out on a tanoy do not light cigarettes or talk there is another U- boat near by. picked up by the destroyer Verity at 10 30am .a sailor took my clothes away to dry wrapped me in a blanket and gave me his rum ration .1 30pm arrived at Oran,clothes lost had to land in blanket, saw a plane fly into a mountain, transferred to The Duchess of York for the night.
Left Oran in The Duchess of Richmond at 5am, chased by U-boats.
Arrived at Algiers 8am, Hussinday Cavalry Camp. Issued with Army clothing. Slept in a large marquee.
25th December CHRISTMAS DAY.
Went to Hussinday Dinner Party given by French Army Music Camp.
Worked in the yard. Started work in the orderly room.
1st January 1943
5 letters from Florrie (my Wife) received posting to Bone.
Left Hussinday, travelled by train 3 Days and 2 nights from Algiers to Tunis, no sanitation, no food. Flown in DC10 to mobile unit near front, very bad back.
From there went to an island called Cuce,to track invasion of Italy for 6 weeks.
Moved on to Sicily Palermo. Attached to American unit, Hotel good, food good, Steak for breakfast. On to Italy ,Torino, then to Barry. Passed out on parade, sent to hospital put on liquid diet for 3 weeks, discharged.
Passed out boarding ship, spent Oct to March 1943 in Hospital with Hepatitis, Dysentery, and bad back. Returned to UK by Ship to Wilmslow Hospital. Discharged Sent to Stanmore to plot invasion of DoodleBugs.
1 years office work at Insworth.