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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


Live after the war














The S.S. Arawa

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‘D Day’ (6 June1944) when the British and American forces landed in France was the beginning of the end of the War, and in 1945 some of the prisoner-of-war camps had been reached by American forces, and they were released and arrangements made for them to be returned to England. John arrived home in April, but had to spend some time in hospital in Gosforth with stomach trouble etc. After a spell there, he was convalescent and discharged from the army. The Red Cross arranged for him to have an outside job in a garden nursery, and shortly after that, the War ended.

Dick Ewen arrived back in England in 1946 for a short holiday. He came on a cargo ship, but didn’t find it very easy to get back to New Zealand where he had a wife and children waiting for him to return. Instead of a few weeks, he had to wait about twelve months, because they were sending all the Forces home, and all available ships were in use. He got very angry and used to write letters to his Member of Parliament, saying his wife and children would soon be out of money and starving.

However, in the meantime, he was persuading John to settle in New Zealand. He said he’d be better off, and that there was a baker’s job going in the Runanga Co-operative Store Bakery, which he would be able to get: the miners would no doubt go on strike if they didn’t get someone to bake their bread. He said it would be a better life, and John would be better off financially. It was the same year as Mam took ill and went into hospital; after twelve weeks, she died with cancer. Dick and John started making enquiries about getting us to New Zealand on a priority passage. At first, it seemed that only John could go and Jack and I would follow later. However, when things were finalised, we were able to travel at the same time, leaving 15 March 1947, two weeks after Dick had been able to get a place on a ship; with the help of his M.P.

I may have been reluctant to go had Mam still been alive. Now she was no longer with us and my brothers and sister Maggie were married and had their own homes, the parting did not trouble me the same as it would have done. We spent our last two weeks in England with John’s sister Ann and her husband David McLeod: the snow was the worst they’d had in many years. Trainloads of people were lost in snowdrifts and traffic was held up for days, the snow being three feet deep. They had the army out trying to find them; most of England was affected. It took three men to pull the barrow of our things to the station and much longer than in normal weather. They were exhausted when they came back. John walked the floor all night, worrying that because of the weather and snowdrifts we might not get to Liverpool where the ship was leaving. The ship, S.S. Arawa, took 5 weeks to get to New Zealand. It was newly converted back from being a troopship and it was all very nice. After two weeks of rough weather, which I spent mostly in the cabin with seasickness, I really enjoyed the rest of the trip and it was a great experience for both Jack and I.

Cissie died aged 95 on 12 August 2007 following a stroke. Many thanks to Cissie's family for giving us access to her insightful memoirs.

© The family of Cissie Ewen 2007-8

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