07 January 2009

Sgt. Hanson's Clandestine Journal

In 1942, Sergeant Gerald Edward Hanson of the Royal Air Force (RAF) kept a journal as he journeyed on board the Queen Mary from Greenock, Scotland to the Middle East. As secrecy was strictly enforced, this wasn't allowed, but he managed it by writing 1,600 words to a page on both sides of the paper. The diary was only four pages long, but it covered a little over a month, from December 21 to January 25. It's a fascinating record, even in its mundane aspects, of a tense time for England and the world--a time in which the Queen Mary played an invaluable role as a troopship. 

The officers on board were given various duties, mostly involving controlling the movements of enlisted men throughout the ship (which was carrying an astonishing 10,669 troops--her peacetime capacity was only 1,957 passengers). When they weren't on duty, they passed the time sleeping, playing games, and in Sgt. Hanson's case, writing a clandestine diary. On this day in 1943, as the ship rounded the southern side of Africa, he wrote: 

"Awake this morning 5:30am, jump into lukewarm bath & then back into bed again. The ship is tossing a little but not so much as I had expected. Up on boat deck after breakfast & during boat drill it was very chilly indeed but the suns rays are warm. Soon after 11.0am I go below & play Blondie "Battleships." I haven't come across the game before although I am assured its quite an old game. I must each Renee [his wife], it's the sort of game we'll be able to play with Malcolm [their son] later on. Dinner & back on top where I spend the afternoon playing the same game with Lionel. The wind is very strong & the sea quite choppy but much to my surprise I am not disturbed, at any rate up to the moment of writing 5.45pm. After tea, with Lionel again on boat deck where we play two more games & then have a read. As it gets more & more cold I retire to my cabin 8.30pm where I prepare for duty at 9.30pm. Same post tonight ATS quarters."


  1. I dreamed of my uncle, a US Air Force, after watching the Queen Mary on youtube last night as part of the Most Haunted episodes uploaded there.

    I asked my mother if she knew whether he'd been deployed via the ship before being shot down and imprisoned by the Germans. He never spoke of the war, and passed away a few years ago.

    In my dream, I saw through him a tramway, someone mention the British and felt his sore feet, bypassed a crater...

    Thanks for uploading this. I suppose if the British Air Force travelled on it, it's likely he did now.

  2. So many great stories from that time - thanks for your comment. If you want to do some digging and find out which unit he was in and when it departed, you may be able to find which ship your uncle traveled overseas on at this website: http://ww2troopships.com/crossings.htm

    If it was the Queen Mary, come back and share what you find (or even if it wasn't).

    Good luck!