09 September 2010

We'll Blast His Blinkin' Skiffs

From the St. Petersburg Times on this day in 1939:

British Seamen Would Rather Talk About Baseball Than War in Europe

NEW YORK.-(AP)-British seamen of the Queen Mary are singularly unworried over the war with Germany. In fact, they'd rather talk about baseball than bombs.

Taverns along the waterfront did a heavy over-the-bar business yesterday as members of the crew prepared to ship home as passengers aboard the liner Georgic. A skeleton crew remained with the Queen Mary which was receiving a gray camouflage.

War talk was practically nil. British soccer standings got a big play. Inevitably the talk veered around to America's baseball and barkeeps expanded nobly on the Yankees' chances in the World Series. One flaming-haired Welshman wanted to know more about "this Di Maggio fellow."


Pinned down to actual discussion about the war, crew members presented a solid front of mingled fatalism and quiet confidence.

Steward David Williams said: "It's a nasty situation but it can't be helped. I'm going home to do my bit just as I did in 1914."

Williams, like most of hte others, has a family. Before he left England it was arranged what they were to do if war came. His wife will be an ambulance driver. She's already on the list. His son, 14, is a Boy Scout and he's standing by for duty of any kind.

"There," said Williams, "is a lad with spirit. He's full of it."

"It's just a job we've got to do," said First Class Steward Henry Griffith. "It's been a long time comin' and now it's here and we'll have to clean up the bloomin' mess. But it'll be done, never fear.

"I served in the air corps in the last one and I'll join up again in a minute to stop this maniac, Hitler."

One grizzled old fireman remarked:

"It had to come by and by and it might as well be now as then. It's good to know where you stand."

Edward Saunders, a waiter, said the British people had no quarrel with the Germans, but with Hitler and his Naziism.


"He's got to be stopped and we're the lads to do it," he said. "It might take a month, it might take a year, or it might take four years, but we'll lick the tar out of him. We'll blast his blinkin' skiffs right out of the sea."

Sam Roberts, another steward, said the British people were happy war was declared. The constant crises had made the people jittery, he said.

"We were glad that at last the time had come to take this bloody chap in hands," he said.

The crew of the French liner Normandie, which is also docked here, was more reticent.

Stewards stopped chattering among themselves and one of them said:

"The war. No, it is forbidden for us to say anything."

But one cook grinned and shrugged his shoulders.

"If it must be, it must be," he said. "We can't live forever. Be happy while you can. Viola! [sic] Why worry?"

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