Winnie’s Journey to Australia!

Week 3: #52Ancestors52Weeks – Namesake

It was during the years after the end of the World War 2 that Winnie was feeling most unhappy and saddened by the impact of war on her family. Rationing and scarcity had tested her resilience and she was tired of trying to make ends meet for her large family of six.

Her eldest daughter, Pamela, had begun to make her own way in the world as a nurse. Her eldest son John, after a short stint in the Navy. was finally getting paid employment as a bus driver. The rest of her tribe were still at school, except for her youngest, born in 1945.

But Winnie wished for something different, a new life, a new start somewhere fresh. A place as far away from death and destruction that she had endured in the last stages of the war. She had given birth to her twin sons whilst the family was fleeing for safety during the London blitz; and she had given birth to her youngest daughter in the safety of Cardiff, Wales at the end of the war.

What she longed for was peace and calm, and a new place for her children to grow up freely without fear.

Strathaird

Cecil and Winnie made the momentous decision to emigrate to Australia. Cecil made the first journey alone; travelling on the Strathaird in 1948, so that he could find work, establish a business, and buy a house. He was a pioneer for the family, paving the way for Winnie and the tribe of six to travel to Australia on board the Orcades in 1949.

Orcades

Winnie knew that she would need all her reserves of strength to maintain the family for 12 months alone, while Cecil sailed to Australia. She and the children lived at ‘Rose Nook’ in Surbiton where the idyllic life of post-war England began to emerge.

Passports had been arranged for her and her eldest children before Cecil left for Australia, so at least she did not need to worry about that. Tickets for the sea journey had also been arranged, so she did not need to worry about that either.

What she did worry about, and she was a great worrier, was how Cecil was getting on in a new country and how she was going to manage the long journey by sea with her tribe.

Letters were sent and some of her fears abated when she learned that a Bicycle Shop and Dealership had been purchased in Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds, and that a new house had been obtained not far from there at 11 Laura Street. Winnie was bemused by the strange sounding names of places in this foreign country and wrote back to ask questions about what their new home was like.

She was the one who now had to face Great Grandma Harriet and tell her that they were all to sail to Australia in April 1949. It was going to be hard to leave the old country and her family and friends!

Winnie needed to put on a brave face and to implement all the planning necessary for shipment of furniture, packing of trunks, finalising the exit papers, and notifying schools, businesses and family of their departure.

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Now that it was finally time for boarding the Orcades at Tilbury, Winnie began to have doubts about their big adventure. She watched as the twins excitedly ran about the decks and argued over who was to have which bunk beds. She watched closely as her eldest son quickly noticed all the pretty girls on board. Her own fears carefully masked she reassured her daughters that all would be well. She held on tight to her four-year old’s hand during this turbulent embarkation time.

Winnie was often called upon to ‘sort out her sons’ as they continued to cause havoc on A deck, thinking it fun to heave the deck chairs into the adult pool, and were continually being asked to exit the pool and return to the children’s area.

She relied upon her three eldest children to look after the three younger ones, especially during the festivities on board for the crossing of the equator. Mealtimes were also a struggle as she attempted to round up the whole tribe to dine at their designated table at their designated time.

There was a moment of panic when her youngest child became lost in the crowd during the lifeboat drills at Muster. All was well when she was found safe in the arms of a sailor who had rescued her. From that point on all that her daughter wanted was a Sailor of her own – a sailor doll was purchased as the next best thing.

Arrival in Melbourne was a huge surprise for the entire tribe. The temperatures, the smells, the sights, and the milling of thousands of people was overwhelming. Winnie was desperately seeking Cecil and was anxious that he was not there to greet them. 

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Cecil was there at the dock to greet his family, and he had gone a step further and alerted the media to the arrival of his tribe. As soon as they had moved through customs, retrieved their luggage, and walked to a taxi they were exhausted. The taxi was driven by Cecil, another of his ventures in making a new life in Melbourne, and he quickly negotiated the bustling traffic from Station Pier to Moonee Ponds. One hour later they had arrived at the front door of their new home in Laura Street, and there to greet them was a journalist and photographer from the Herald Newspapers. 

The photo of their arrival appeared in the Newspaper on the next day, and for a short time Winnie felt uncomfortable knowing that their family was in the limelight. Something she was not used to. Cecil, on the other hand, was over the moon that he had his family back with him once more.

Together they named the house ‘Elsinore’, a castle that appeared in the play Hamlet, written by Shakespeare. Cecil always knew that this new home, on the other side of the continent, would be their castle.

Digital Story (narrated by Carole)

Digital Story created 25 January 2021

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