A Perilous Voyage
As the Battle of the Atlantic waged on, three ships carrying refugees set sail to Canada in June and July of 1940. While German U-boats posed grave risks from the sea, refugees onboard the S.S. Duchess of York endured harassment and threats from Nazis on board. Clive Teddern, a German Jew and only 16 years old at the time, remembered: “It wasn’t the submarines we were worried about. It was the danger from the people we were with.” The refugees feared being thrown overboard or that the ship would be commandeered by the Nazis and re-routed to Germany.
Conditions on the S.S. Ettrick were so crowded that the refugees, unprotected by the Geneva Convention that applied to Nazi prisoners of war, were consigned to the bowels of the ship. Surrounded by barbed wire, they nicknamed their quarters “Torpedo Class.”
The S.S. Sobieski offered safer passage. Escorted by destroyers, it was one of five vessels involved in the largest overseas transfer of wealth ever seen – 450 million pounds sterling in gold and securities. In contrast to the other ships, conditions on the Sobieski were tolerable, the refugees had the run of the ship, and food was sufficient.
A collection of images relating to the Atlantic crossing.