My Mother’s Crossing, December, 1944

I FOUND IT!  The ship my British mother traveled on when she arrived in New York on January 4, 1945. Here’s a picture of the Royal Mail Cargo Ship DARRO.  I’ve been looking for it for days and finally, thanks to that great invention, the World Wide Web and to websites like Shipspotting and their dedicated volunteers, I found her!

The Darro

A little back story.  My mother and father were married in London on June 20, 1944.  Then my father jumped into France to fight with the French Resistance while my mother worked as a decoding agent for MI5, a division of the British Secret Intelligence Service.  In November, when my father came back from Paris, my mother announced she was pregnant. They wanted the baby born in America and so, tough as it was in wartime, they managed to get her a berth on a ship crossing the North Atlantic in convoy.  My mother thought the ship was called the S.S. Orion, but my research revealed that the Orion never traveled to America.  And the ship manifest on Ancestry lists it as the Darro.  Not the S.S. Darro which was scrapped in 1933, but this Darro, a much more humble refrigeration ship.

Here’s a little bit of the story of the crossing from my mother.  “And the ship casts off and we start to trickle down the Thames River.  So at least it didn’t sink.  There was no planking on the deck because we had run out of wood at the end of the war so it was iron girded. ..Then the pea soup fog came down. This was in the estuary.  The U boats didn’t get up there. The place was mined so you went down a channel.  We sat there for ten days.  Ten days.”

Meanwhile, all the people she loved, including her new husband, were sitting in London where the V-2s had begun to wreak havoc all over again on England.

I always thought she’d exaggerated, but no indeed, thanks to this website, Arnold Hague’s Convoy Database, I learned that her convoy did sit in fog for ten days. She’d boarded that ship on December 14, 1944 and it did not leave the UK until December 24th. So my eighteen-year-old pregnant mother who’d survived four years of war in England crossed the North Atlantic in a convoy dodging U-boats in the hopes of starting a new life in a new country.

I don’t think I could have done it.

Leave a Message for Elizabeth

  1. Tom Palaskas :

    Hello Elizabeth,

    I am interested in this photo because my family and I immigrated to New Zealand in 1954. The final leg was from Sydney to Wellington on the Darro. I do have other photos of the vessel but none as clear a this one. Would you know where I can get a larger version of the image on your blog?

    Thanks, Tom

    • Tom, I found that picture on the web and never was able to get a larger one. Please let me know if you are more successful.



  2. Gee, I have tried to locate the Darro for some time, my elder brother was the ships head chef when she sailed mainly to Australia during the war. She was a Royal Mail ship, and he sailed on her when she was first built. Alas he passed away in 1998 age 85. It was nice to see what his ship looked like, best wishes (His younger brother)